Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/489

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joy and triumph to be buried with their ancestors, to whom was offered a worship second only to that paid the gods. The shield was used as a bier on which the dead were carried home from the battle-field and from this custom tradition has handed down the famous appeal of the Spartan mother to her son, on his departure to the conflict, girt with this defensive arm: "Bring it with you or be brought on it," or better still "It or upon it."[1]

Though the Spartans never wrote the history of their wars, fragments of their war-bard, Tyrtæus, singer of the Marseillaise of Greece, seven centuries before our era, ring with tones of Dorian loyalty and scornful pity for the recreant in battle:

Up! Youths of the Spartan nobles,
Ye citizen sons of the elders!
With the left hold out your targes,
And fling your spears with boldness.
Spare not your lives. To spare them
Was never known in Sparta.

How glorious fall the valiant, sword in hand.
In front of battle for their native land!
But oh! what ills await the wretch that yields,
A recreant outcast from his country's fields!
The mother whom he loves shall quit her home,
An aged father at his side shall roam;
His little ones shall weeping with him go.
And a young wife participate his woe;
While scorned and scowled upon by every face
They pine for food and beg from place to place.


But we will combat for our father's land
And we will drain the life-blood where we stand
To save our children.

A beautiful custom at Athens by which national gratitude was paid to the memory of her noble sons who fell in battle, was the solemn interment of their ashes in a public tomb in the National Cemetery, situated in the most beautiful portion of the outskirts, near the "Double Gate." This public distinction of the men who freely and deliberately offered up their lives on the field for the freedom and renown of their country and the maintenance of her constitution was considered by the nation a sacred duty not only of gratitude, but of justice. She therefore made provision that the memory of such citizens be fittingly celebrated by orations and perpetuated by monuments. Whether this custom originated at Athens with Solon, the sixth-century lawgiver—as seems very probable—or shortly after the Persian Wars (478 B.C.), it was, beyond question, the most laudable and val-

  1. Plutarch, "Apothegm."