GREECE. THE HELLENIC DAWN.
violence ceased. No act of hostility was permitted in all Greece. The
territory of Elis became sacred, and the marching of any armed force upon
it was an act of sacrilege. Every thing that could add to the interest of
the great celebration was carefully attended to. With the progress of the
contests the enthusiasm of the throng rose to the highest pitch, and a
feeling of unity and good fellowship, most essential to the welfare of
the Hellenic states, was generously cultivated. Especially was this true
after artistic, musical, and poetical contests were added to those of
mere bodily skill and endurance. The humanizing tendency of the festival
was felt as a creative force in all the highest branches of human
achievement, and not a few of the great works of the Greek mind might
without sophistry be traced to the influence of the national games.
After the Cirrhaean war, in B. C. 585, a new festival called the Pythian
was instituted by the Amphictyonic Council. It was celebrated once in
three years in the Cirrhaean plain, and was on the same general plan as
the Olympic games. The Amphictyons presided, and, since the festival Was
in honor of Apollo, music and poetry, as well as bodily contests, were
from the first a part of the exercises. So great was the success of the
institution thus established that the Pythian games became second only to
those at Olympia.
The Nemean festival was, as indicated by its name, celebrated in the
valley of Nemea, in Argolis. It was instituted in the fifty-second
Olympiad, B. C. 572, and was held in each alternate year. Before this
time there had been local games at Nemea, running back in their origin to
the mythical ages. The celebration was in honor of the Nemean Zeus, and
was at the first open only to warriors; but afterwards this restriction
was removed, and all Greeks might participate. In the contests, however,
some military features were preserved, such as that between foot racers
clad in armor. But in general the competition was like that in the
Olympic and Pythian games. At the beginning, the victor in a Nemean
contest was crowned with a chaplet of wild olive, but afterwards the
olive was replaced with parsley.
The Isthmian games were celebrated on the Isthmus of Corinth, in the
month of April, on each second and fourth year of the Olympiad. They are
said to have been first instituted by Athamas, king of Orchomenus.
Afterwards they were revived by Theseus in honor of Poseidon, and
finally, in the sixth century before our era, were made a national,
festival for all Greeks. The celebration was conducted under the auspices
of the Corinthians and the Athenians, but at a later period the
Sicyonians held the exclusive right of presiding and deciding the
contests. After Greece had fallen under the dominion of the Romans,
gladiatorial shows were introduced, as were also contests of wild beasts-
a kind of sport always repulsive to the refined tastes of the Hellenes.
The prize offered for victory in an Isthmian contest was a garland of
pine leaves, and to this a law of Solon added a reward of a hundred
In connection with these great games, considered as institutions
calculated to create and foster a pan-Hellenic spirit, mention should
also be made of the Amphictyonic Council. Its general character was that
of a kind of sacred congress. It had a mythical and religious origin.
Amphictyon, the reputed founder, was one of the heroes. The association
was in the first place a religious body, which met at stated intervals to
perform sacrifices and supervise the rites of the country. Having their
head-quarters in the great temple at Delphi, to which all Greece was wont
to look for the omens of prophecy, the Amphictyons gradually acquired an
ascendancy over other associations of like sort in different parts of the
country. Influence grew into authority, and the Council came to be
recognized as a determining influence in the weightiest affairs of the
Greeks. It was the great court of appeal to which interstate disputes
were referred for settlement; but its power to regulate and determine
questions of national importance never rose to true congressional
proportions, else the destiny of the Hellenic communities, resolved into
a Union, might have withstood both Philip and the Romans.
The Council held two sessions annually, the first in the spring at the
shrine of Apollo,