459 GREECE-THE PEOPLE.
oldest of the tribes and took so prominent a part in the Trojan war as to give their name,
even in Homer, to the whole body of the Hellenes. It is evident that during the Heroic
Period they were the dominant race in Greece, and contributed greatly to the warlike fame
which for hundreds of years made Greek and victor synonymous.
Although the Greeks regarded themselves as autochthones, or indigenous to Hellas, yet they
conceded to another people priority of occupation, at least in certain parts of the
country. These were the PELASGIANS, of whose original seats history is still m doubt. It
is certain, however, that in Attica, Argolis, Arcadia, Epirus, and several other parts of
Greece, this people was established and civilized before the Hellenes took possession. It
is said that the primitive name of the whole country was Pelasgia, and it is known that
this race were distributed as far west as Italy, forming, in a sense, the bottom
population of that country as well as of Greece. Nor do the Pelasgians appear to have been
a people very dissimilar to the Greeks who displaced them. Their religion was similar to
that of the Hellenes. Their chief god was Jove, to whom in Dodona the famous shrine was
erected, which retained its reputation during the whole period of the Grecian ascendancy.
To what extent this people was driven out or extinguished, and to what extent incorporated
with the conquering Hellenes, it is impossible to tell; but it is not unlikely that a
large per cent of the primitive inhabitants were allowed to remain in a subject condition,
and were gradually absorbed by the dominant Greeks.
Much space might be devoted to the personal character of the Hellenes. Their qualities of
body and mind were such as to fix upon them the attention of their own and after times. In
stature they were rather below than above the average of ancient peoples. They had not the
height of the barbarians or the muscular development of the Assyrians and Romans. It was
rather in symmetrical activity than in massiveness or gigantic proportions that they
surpassed the other races of their times. In beauty of body they were peerless. In agility
and nervous vigor they were the finest specimens of men that the world has produced. Not
that hardiness and endurance were wanting. Not that the bodily life of the Greek was
tender and unable to endure. Not that he was more susceptible to hardships and exposure,
less able to endure fatigue and combat exhaustion: for his body was capable of a
discipline and consequent endurance rarely equaled, never surpassed, in the ancient world.
But he was more alive in his physical being, more highly developed, more complete in his
nervous structure, than any other man of antiquity.
It was, moreover, in this high-wrought, perfectly finished physical manhood of the Greek
that were laid the foundations of his wonderful mind, of his energy of thought, his
reason, his imagination, his courage. Not only in the order of the world is the physical
man planted in nature, not only is he, so to speak, an indigenous shoot of his native
soil, drawing his saps and juices from that fecundity which is prepared by sun and air and
rain, but the roots of the mental man are in like manner plaited in his physical nature,
drawing therefrom the sustenance of thought, the elements of combination, the juices of
reason and imagination, the sap of hope or despair. In his perfect body the Greek had the
foundation of his strength. Nature here, under the free law of natural selection, wrought
out a finer organism than in other regions where her resources were fewer, her energies
trammeled with restrictions. In Greece she accomplished the finest Motherhood of Man ever
presented. In the Greek, with his fair complexion, blue eyes, beautiful body, and radiant
face, she held aloft the best gift of her abundant love.
No other people, indeed, were ever gifted with so great personal beauty as the Hellenes,
and no others ever so much adored the gift. At festivals and in public processions the
fairest was the first. Prizes were given to the handsomest man, the most beautiful woman.
In the Greek town of Siesta, in Sicily, a temple was built and sacrifices offered to her
who was adjudged most beautiful. The homage thus paid to personal comeliness was sincere