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455 GREECE-THE COUNTRY.

latter being built as a defense against the Spartans. The first three never rose to great

importance, chiefly because of intestine disputes and quarrels, which, frequently

amounting to violence, destroyed their prosperity.

To the south-west of Arcadia, washed on two sides by the sea, lay MESSENIA. Here, too, is

a region of mountains. Only two plains of any importance are embraced. within the

territory. Of these the southern was called Macaria, meaning the Blessed, so named from

its exuberance and beauty. Some of the valleys further inland are also exceedingly

fertile, and the climate, being one of the mildest in the world, would have made life in

this region present a benign aspect, but for the native boorishness of the original

population and the oppressions of the Spartans.

Among the Messenian cities the principal were the seaport town of Pylos, Cyparissia,

Corone, Methone, Abia, Derae, Stenyclarus, and Messene, the capital. Besides these towns

there were two important mountain fortresses, It home and Ira, the former being regarded

as the stronghold of the nation. In the revolutions of the country the population of

Messenia was twice transformed, first from Argives to Aeolians, and then from Aeolians to

Dorians, who came in with the ascendancy of their race in Peloponnesus. Messenia was in

the course of her history the scene of some most heroic struggles, in which her own people

and the Spartans were the principal actors.

LACONIA was the south-easternmost division of the ancient Peloponnesus. It was the largest

state of Southern Greece, and, historically considered, by far the most important. It was

bounded on the north by Arcadia and Argolis, on the east and south by the sea, on the west

by the gulf and state of Messenia. At the lower extremity the country divides into two

branching peninsulas, including between them the gulf of Laconia, and terminating in the

two capes of Taenarum and Malea, the most southern points of land in Europe. Within the

limits of Arcadia the most important region is a long valley inclosed on three sides by

mountain ranges and open on the south to the sea. There is

thus prepared and fortified by nature that wonderful district in which Sparta had her

native lair. Across the north of this valley stretch the Arcadian mountains, from which

two ranges branching southward defend the two sides of the Spartan glen from almost every

possibility of assault. These two lateral chains are known as Taygetus and Pamon, the

former rising to the height of seven thousand nine hundred feet, and the latter to an

elevation of six thousand three hundred and fifty feet. On the slopes of these mountains

are forests of pine, evergreen, abounding in game, haunts of the huntress Diana. The

valley is drained by the river Eurotas, famous in song and story. Into this stream smaller

brooks, flowing down from the slopes of Taygetus and Parnon, pour their waters, forming an

ever-increasing volume to the sea. On the banks of this river stood the invincible

capital, known by its two names of LACEDAEMON and SPARTA- a town which has given to the

valor of the world an imperishable epithet. A few others of smaller note were Amyclae in

the plain south of Sparta, the old residence of. the Achaean kings; Helos, from which rose

the Helots, situated on the gulf of Laconia; and Gythium, a naval station on the same

coast. In the valley of the Eurotas there were considerable tracts of land susceptible of

cultivation, but the soil was not sufficiently fertile to encourage husbandry.

The remaining state of Southern Greece was ARGOLIS, lying between the Argolic and Saronic

gulfs. On the west it was bounded by Achaia and Arcadia; on the south the land limit was

Laconia. With the exception of the fertile plain of Argos the whole country is

mountainous, some of the summits rising to the height of more than five thousand feet. Two

small rivers, the Planitza and the Erasinus, are the only perennial streams. The coast is

indented with many bays, rendering Argolis especially favorable to navigation and

commerce. The state is one of the most ancient in the whole peninsula. In the earliest

epochs of history the term Argive was often used synonymously with Greek, such usage

extending even into the poems of Vergil. Argolis was divided into six petty king-