Gateway to the Classics: The Story of the Greeks by H. A. Guerber
The Story of the Greeks by  H. A. Guerber

Hippias Driven out of Athens

F OUR years passed thus, and the Athenians were hoping that the time would soon come when they could get rid of Hippias. They were only too glad, therefore, when they at last found a way to drive him out of the town.

You must remember how Megacles had killed the men who came out of Athene's temple clinging to the cord they had fastened to her statue. Megacles, as you know, had been banished from Athens with all his family (the Alcmæonidæ) on account of this crime, but he had always hoped to be allowed to return.



Meanwhile the beautiful temple at Delphi had been burned to the ground, and the people were very anxious to rebuild it. They therefore voted a certain sum of money for this purpose; and, as the Alcmæonidæ offered to do the work for the least pay, the contract was given to them.

The Alcmæonidæ faithfully carried out the plans, and used the money; but, instead of building the temple of brick, they made it of pure white marble, paying for the more costly material themselves.

The priests of Delphi were so pleased with the handsome new building, and with the generosity of the builders, that they were eager to do them a good turn. So, knowing that the Alcmæonidæ wanted to get back to Athens, they told the Spartans who came to consult the oracle, that Hippias should be driven away, and the Alcmæonidæ allowed to return to their native city.

As the people believed all the oracle said, the Spartans armed at once, and, helped by the Alcmæonidæ, began to make war against the Athenians. By a clever trick, they soon managed to capture the family of Hippias, and they refused to set them free unless the tyrant left Athens forever.

Thus forced to give in, Hippias left Athens, and withdrew with his family to Asia Minor. Here he spent all his time in trying to persuade the different cities to make war against Athens, offering to lead their armies, for he still hoped to regain his lost power.

The Athenians, delighted at the expulsion of the Pisistratidæ, as the driving-away of Hippias and his family is called in history, now dared to make statues in honor of their favorites Harmodius and Aristogiton, and openly expressed their regret that these brave young men had not lived to see their native city free.

Many songs were composed to celebrate the patriotism of the two friends; and these were sung on all public occasions, to encourage other youths to follow their example, lead good and virtuous lives, and be ready at any time to die, if need be, for the sake of their native land.

Leæna, too, received much praise, for the Athenian women never forgot how bravely she had endured torture rather than betray the men who had trusted her.

The Alcmæonidæ, having thus found their way back into the city, now began to play an important part in the government; and Clisthenes, their leader, urged the Athenians to obey again the laws which had been made by Solon.

These were slightly changed, however, so as to give more power to the people; and the government thus became more democratic than ever. Then, too, Clisthenes said that there should always be ten Athenian generals who should hold supreme command each for a day in turn.

He also made a law, to the effect that no man should be driven out of the city unless there were six thousand votes in favor of his exile. These votes were given in a strange way.

When a man was so generally disliked that his departure seemed best, all the Athenians assembled in the market place. Then each voter received a shell (Greek, ostrakon), and dropped it into a place made for that purpose. All in favor of banishment wrote upon their shells the name of the man they wished to exile. The others left theirs blank.

When all the votes had thus been cast, the shells were carefully counted, and, if six thousand bore the name of the same man, he was driven out of the city, or ostracized, as it was called from the name of the shell, for ten years.

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