Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/488

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Persia, founds the so-called Athenian Empire. Revolution and interstate wars were rife, but were all for the one object—the leadership of Greece against Asia. In every war up to the time of Philip of Macedon, Persian gold and Asiatic sympathy had to be reckoned with. Greek unity was never attained and apparently hardly desired, but Greek supremacy was both desired and won. Greece was victor in the seven-century contest, and the gloomy conservatism of Asia yielded to the vitalizing progressiveness of Greece in the policy of Europe; the home triumphed over the harem; hierarchal dictation and monarch's whims gave way to national law on this side of the Ægean; and individual freedom was still possible.

Throughout military history, the volunteer has always fought the most momentous battles, and when the old Greek citizen-soldier drove back Asia he not only saved his people, but fixed the civilization of a continent. Great as was the warrior's service to his race, correspondingly liberal were the honors and awards bestowed by a grateful nation. By special decree of the Athenian Assembly—that national "town-meeting"—the soldier of conspicuous prowess was voted exemption from the financial exactions of state, which not only anticipated the exemption from taxes of estates up to $1,000 of our union soldiers—so patriotically granted by many of our states to-day—but extended further and covered all fiscal contributions imposed by government in either peace or war. Seats of honor at the national theater and great games were awarded; memorial statues were erected; and crowns for bravery, much like the Victoria Cross and Congressional medal of to-day, decorated the heroes of the Grand Army of the Republic of Athens.

And too, that martial state which bore the brave little band of Leonidas and the Spartan mother could hardly fail to do honor to her noble sons who fell fighting for their hearths and shrines. Lycurgus, the Spartan lawgiver, Plutarch tells us, ordered that none but soldiers who lost their lives in battle should have their names, origin and deeds inscribed on their tombs. With green boughs they were laid away and honored with an oration by their fellow-countrymen; but the champions of the host and those Spartan braves who were considered complete warriors were buried in their red coats, with their arms affixed upon their tombs.

How deeply the stern martial virtues of the old Spartan life were engraved on the hearts of her people the mother's treatment of her soldier-boy clearly reveals. It was customary for the Spartan matrons, after an engagement near home, to examine the dead bodies of their sons. Those who received more wounds behind than in front were carried away secretly or left in the common heap; but those who had the greatest number of wounds in their breasts were carried off with