Then, there is something which some people find amazing: in every area, the Athenians assign more to the wicked and the poor and the populists than to the Good. In this way, they are actually preserving the democracy. In every land on earth, the Best are opposed to democracy…
The ‘Old Oligarch’, 1.4 (probably in 425 BC)
The years from the 450stothe 420s are cardinal years in the cultural history of ancient Greece. Tragedy flowered in the theatre at Athens, as we can follow in the dramas of the three great surviving tragedians (Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides). Athenian comedy followed suit, combining music and dance with jokes on political subjects. The Athenian art of this period is the supreme example of ‘classical art’. In sculpture and vase painting, the human form has an idealized realism; the proportions are finer, the poses more confident. The art in this period does not stand still, but the best of it has a contemplative naturalism which exists only in antiquity in Greek culture, and only elsewhere because of it. ‘Classical art’ is not always ‘severe’ or ‘austere’, labels which are suited only to a fraction of the art of the ‘classical’ era and are mostly applied because the surviving sculptures have lost their painted colour.
Since the Persian Wars there was also remarkable intellectual progress in a Greek world free of barbarian invaders. It was not even predominantly at Athens or from Athenian-born thinkers. In the Greek West, philosophy’s ‘way of truth’, with implications for language and reality, was explored by Parmenides in a poem of obscure, but profound, imagery. He raised sceptical problems about reality which were then addressed by two thinkers, Democritus and Leucippus, who postulated indivisible particles (‘atoms’, the origin of our word); they even argued that these atoms moved in empty spaces and by their collisions came together to form bigger objects. More mundanely, the symptoms and progress of diseases were described with careful observation in a book of medicalEpidemics, composed between c. 475 and 466 BC.1 It contains an exact description of mumps, including its familiar effect on young males, as observed on the island of Thasos (females were not so readily infected, a fact which says much for the absence of close contact between the sexes there at a young age). Mathematics also found their first theoretical exponent, Hippocrates of Chios. In Athens, the architectural plan of the Parthenon temple combined exact ratios between its parts and its whole with subtle adjustments for the visual effects of regularity. In the 440s, perhaps first in ‘east Greece’, unknown thinkers invented political theory and pursued the abstract avenues which it opened. Above all, a new type of prose-writing began, ‘enquiry’ (historiē) into the past, what we now know as history.
Unlike writers about the past in Near Eastern societies (including the writers of Hebrew scriptures), the first surviving exponent of ‘history’ wrote overtly in the first person, weighing evidence and expressing his own opinions. Herodotus was born in the 490s and was busy with his great enquiry into the conflicts of Greeks and Persians at least until the early 420s BC. He was born not in Athens but in south-west Asia, at Halicarnassus, where Greek and non-Greek cultures coexisted under the wavering control of the Persian Empire. He was well born, with literary relations in his family. He is credited with political action against a tyrant in his home city, followed by exile abroad. Eventually he settled in Thurii in south Italy, a city whose foundation in the late 440s was organized on the former site of luxurious Sybaris by the Athenians. In the Greek world, historians were so often to be exiles, cut off from the daily exercise of politics and power which was so much more interesting than writing a book.
Herodotus set out to explain and to celebrate the great events of the Persian Wars against the Greeks. The enterprise led him on long digressions, both literary and personal. He travelled widely to ‘enquire’ and, if possible, find the truth. He went to Libya, Egypt,northern and southern Greece and even east into Babylon. He did not know any foreign languages and of course he had no convenient reference books with numbered dates which would place events in different countries side by side. He noted quite a variety of inscribed objects and monuments during his travels, but he did not always describe every detail of them correctly and he did not engage in searches for locally preserved documents. Nonetheless, he came across several written sources, including what he took to be a ‘list’ of Xerxes’ great invading army in 480. His main evidence was oral, what people in different places told him when he questioned them. Out of it he devised a story, but he was not simply another raconteur. Here and there, he used existing written sources, particularly the work (now lost to us) of his great predecessor, Hecataeus of Miletus, who was more inclined to ‘geographic’ detail than to political ‘history’. He also seems to have used the poem of Aristeas, the Greek who had travelled into Central Asia c. 600 BC. Herodotus was explicitly critical of many of the oral stories which he himself reported from his oral sources but could not endorse.
Herodotus brought strong, personal interpretations to the complex sources he interrelated. The great themes of freedom, justice and luxury are very prominent in his ‘enquiry’: he shared the Greek view of the battles of 480/79 between Greeks and Persians as battles for freedom and for a life under the impersonal, just rule of law, and it is his history, above all, which has immortalized them in that light. The final speech in his ‘enquiry’ dwells on the contrasts between the hardy, impoverished Persians who had embarked on an age of conquest and the ‘soft’ luxury of peoples who live in the ‘soft’ plains and become others’ subjects. Particular themes were evident to him in human life: that ‘pride goes before a fall’ and that extreme good fortune leads to a debacle, that truly outrageous behaviour often gets its deserts, or retribution, that human affairs are very unstable, that the customs of different societies differ and that some, but not all, of our cherished behaviour is therefore relative to the society in which we happen to live. These beliefs are still valid in our own world.
However, Herodotus also accepted that the gods are active in human affairs and that, through oracles, they speak truly to men. Dreams and visions are very important for individuals in his history: he knows that some of his contemporaries refuse to accept the truth of oracles, but he is most indignant at their refusal. He accepts, as oracles did too, that the gods may punish a descendant for the deeds of an ancestor. This belief in ‘hereditary guilt’ is most centrally associated with the idea of an ‘archaic age’ (‘archaic’ otherwise being an art-historical term for the sculptures and paintings before the more ‘human’ classical style of the 490s onwards). ‘Retribution’, therefore, and ‘inevitability’ are still independent forces in Herodotus’ way of writing and thinking. But they coexist with a dense range of human motives, including spite and covetousness of which he is a connoisseur. Herodotus can also relate a community’s development to its physical setting, its laws and customs and its rising population. But he thinks more readily in individual, human terms.
The results are amazing in their range and human variety. Like eastern Greek settlers and travellers in the previous century, Herodotus accepts that Libya, Egypt and the world of the Scythian nomads are the extreme points of contrast with the world of the Greeks. He digresses on all three, while returning, justly, to his main theme of the Persian expansion which touched on these peoples too. He is interested in so much in other cultures, in their marriage-practices, in questions of health and diet, religious rites and styles of burial. In Egypt, especially, he reasons with cogency from his evidence, though he tends to see the Egyptian world as a polar opposite to Greece and thus misunderstands it. As we have lost so much other east Greek debating and writing conducted c.480–460, we have to compare him with later writers, thereby making him seem more ‘modern’ than he probably seemed to his contemporaries. His religious outlook and language would suggest otherwise. So, too, would his politics, for Herodotus sympathized with the passing ‘Panhellenic’ world of an international Greek upper class, Cimon and his like. To them, the enemies were treachery, spontaneous violence and the lower classes: the wars between Greek states since the 460s were a profoundly regrettable outcome. Admiring liberty, Herodotus was not an uncritical democrat: the Spartans are frequently seen in a favourable light in his ‘enquiries’.
Naturally, Herodotus visited Athens, probably in or just before 438/7 (to judge from a comment about the entrance-way to their Acropolis). He is even said to have received an enormous cash prize for his Histories, as voted by the Assembly. He talked with important Athenians, but he was already in his mid-fifties. By the early 430s abstract theorizing about power and inter-state relations was current in the city among members of the younger generation, but it was not Herodotus’ way of looking on the world. Nor was the new subject of political theory, although Herodotus had picked up one example of it, a clever ‘debate’ among Persians about the merits of alternative constitutions, including democracy, set in 522 BC; it was a witty fake, but old Herodotus believed it.2This new, hard cleverness underlies an accelerating change in the intellectual and cultural outlook of the big names in Athens.
The victories over the Persians, then the years of expanding empire had helped to root Athenians’ self-confidence and trust in their democracy. How far, then, was the culture of the Athens which Herodotus visited a democratic culture, shaped by the equalities of a political system based on equal popular voting? It was certainly not a level, egalitarian society. Culturally, it was still a place where the upper class enjoyed their hunting and cultivated their sexual advances with gifts and protestations to the ever-fickle young boys. Hunting scenes and hunters’ ‘love gifts’ happen to disappear from Athenian painted pottery after c. 470, but this change is only a fact about a taste in pottery decoration; it is not evidence for a new caution and a lack of openness about these old aristocratic pursuits. In the evenings socially select groups of males still dined and drank luxuriously in their ‘men’s rooms’ and sang the aristocratic anti-populist songs of the past. Were these old-style symposia, though, on the defensive in the new age of ‘mob-rule’? A much-discussed group of Attic drinking-cups, dated to the early fifth century, shows paintings of men wearing effeminate dress, apparently as cross-dressers. They have been interpreted as a reflection of an upper-class social life which had adopted this transvestite style as a symptom of ‘anxiety’, now that its own supremacy was under stress. But ‘anxiety’ was not obviously the mood of Athenian aristocrats at the time. Taking the long view, they believed they needed only to wait until their political hour dawned again. Militarily, meanwhile, they were indispensable members of the cavalry which even the most committed democrats were about to increase sixfold and honour with provisions for a public ‘insurance-repayment’ on any registered horse which an upper-class warrior lost in battle. Probably, the cross-dressing simply portrays revels in honour of Dionysus.
On other cups, we see the young differently, as owners of exotic cheetahs and hunting leopards. These superior young shockers were not ‘anxious’: even in the democratic age, the cultural life of the theatre and the festivals still depended on the spending of their male upper class. In Attica’s social infrastructure, too, not so much had changed since the aristocrats of the sixth century BC. If Herodotus had asked a male Athenian who he was, he would have named his father and his deme, as Cleisthenes’ reforms had emphasized. But he would also have named his ‘phratry’, or ‘brotherhood’, as in the older times, and only then, if at all, his membership of one of the democracy’s new ten tribes. Even under the democracy, aristocratic families retained a significant power of veto on candidates for inclusion in ‘brotherhoods’.
In the early 430s Herodotus would have talked to young Athenians of noble birth, people who still styled themselves the ‘good’ as opposed to the vulgar ‘bad’. Not so very far below the surface, these people hoped that one day democracy would simply go away, but from the 470s to the 430s conquest abroad and the huge increase in the numbers and tribute of Athens’ allies helped meanwhile to compensate for their discontent. The gains of Empire blurred class-tension for both the rich and the poor. Empire brought new land-holdings and revenues abroad for both classes of Athenian, and, as the rich well knew, it was on the poor and their hard days as oarsmen that this Empire’s safety rested meanwhile. Vital though the cavalry might be against the Theban ‘pigs’ and their horsemen or scattered Spartan ravagers of the land, horses, as Homer’s Odyssey remarked, were no use on islands overseas. For the ‘island empire’, what mattered was the trireme. Fleets of a hundred ships or more were now a commonplace in most years. Although some of the rowers were hired foreigners, the bulk were lower-class Athenians who had amassed years of practice beyond any possible enemy’s. On midsummer expeditions these rowers were far tougher than anyone nowadays. Their modern re-creators had to drink about two pints of water for each hour of rowing (the modern oarsmen of a trireme would thus need nearly two tons of water in a ten-hour day, and yet an ancient trireme could not carry a big water supply). ‘Almost all the water consumed’, writes the modern trireme’s mastermind, ‘was sweated off, with the rowers feeling relatively little need to urinate. Much of this sweat dripped onto the lowest row, making life particularly unpleasant for them. The smell in the hold became so unpleasant that it had to be washed out with sea water at least once every four days (but ancient Athenians may have been more tolerant).’ The body must evaporate fluid to stay cool and so ‘ventilation is an absolute necessity, but it is barely adequate for the lower of the three rows’.3 None of the noble ‘fine and fair’ would have lasted in this heat for long. Those who did were the Empire’s ultimate sanction, and it was no use calling them a ‘naval mob’ and expecting them not to vote when they came home.
For us, the most distinctive fact about the Athenian culture Herodotus visited is that it was a slave-society. Some 55,000 adult male citizens owned some 80,000–120,000 other human beings, ‘objects’ whom they could buy and sell. These slaves (almost all non-Greeks) were central to the Athenians’ economy, working in the silver-mines (often down appallingly narrow tunnels) and also in agriculture where contemporary comedies present them to us as a normal part of quite modest Athenian families’ property. The prices of untrained slaves appear to have been low, because supply was abundant, from war or raids on barbarian Thrace or inland Asia Minor. Cheap slavery was a major support to the class-distinctions and the purchasing-power for luxuries among the better-off Athenians. However, Herodotus would not have remarked unduly on this fact of life. Slaves were andrapoda, ‘man-footed beasts’; they were ubiquitous in the Greek communities into whom Herodotus enquired. He never queried the justice of this fact.
To many of us, the absence of political participation for citizen-women would also be striking. The Athenians were typical among Greeks in ensuring that women could not vote; women could not even give evidence in a law court in their own person. Among the Athenians, their capacity to buy or sell was exceptionally limited; their choice in marriage was not entirely free and, essentially, they were in the power of their male ‘guardian’, or kyrios. These rules were for women’s ‘protection’ (although modern women look on them from a different perspective). On a longer view, it is a real question how far an everyday Athenian woman’s status differed from a slave’s. Unlike a slave, she could never escape her condition. She did, however, bring a returnable dowry with her, whereas slaves were bought for a non-returnable price. A woman’s relative degree of ‘freedom’ depended greatly on her social class by birth or marriage. Humble women did work visibly in the fields (they had their own harvesting-songs and there were women calledpoastriai, who were grass-cutters and perhaps weeders),4 but, as in many modern societies, the visibility of women outdoors was not at all a sign of social equality. They did not sit outdoors at leisure, drink in a shop or hang around in public spaces, any more than the hard-working Berber women in modern Morocco who work in the fields, return home through the village and cook, weave and cope with children indoors. In Attica, respectable households in any case kept their women indoors, to dreary tasks like weaving and spinning. ‘Shopping’ was left to slaves, although a free woman might go out to fetch water from a public spring: we hear of a ‘women’s agora’, or market-area, but it was a market where a man could buy a woman, as a slave and sex-object. When Pericles told Athenian war-widows in his great Funeral Speech ‘not to prove inferior to their nature’ and to be talked about as little as possible, he was not being idiosyncratic. Respectable Athenian women did have important roles as priestesses in some of the Athenian cults of the gods. But the political limits were absolute. They did not belong to a phratry, although their fathers did want them to be married off to an Athenian citizen-husband. Since 451, therefore, a man’s Athenian citizenship depended on having both a citizen-father and a mother of citizen-birth too. But this new requirement did not bring women a new freedom of action. It simply ensured that Athenians’ daughters were seldom ‘married out’ to foreigners or left as spinsters, a burden on their brothers and fathers. In public, a married Athenian woman was still only called ‘the wife of…’; to use her own name would imply she was a prostitute.
In the late 340s we find an Athenian orator reminding a citizen-jury that ‘we have “courtesans” [hetairai] for pleasure, prostitutes for everyday attention to our bodies and wives for the production of children legitimately and for being a trustworthy guardian of the contents of our household’.5 Unlike some of his modern readers (in England, not France), the jurors were expected to take him literally. Some husbands did, of course, love their wives, but the orator Lysias (a foreign resident) loved his hetaira enough to have her initiated into the Eleusinian mystery-cult for her own good beyond the grave (it was, nonetheless, considered a mark of a ‘complaining man’ to wonder, when a hetaira kissed him, if she was kissing him sincerely, from the heart). Those Athenian males who could afford all three types of woman would have agreed with the orator in question, while adding that in youth (and, perhaps, still), they had young boys for competitive pursuit, idealization and quick sexual pleasure without the risk of a baby. They never met an educated Athenian woman, because no women were taught in an Athenian school with the boys. No Athenian women joined in the all-male discussions of philosophers and their pupils. A few women did learn to read and write; hetairai could pick up more, but only like many Edwardian aristocratic ladies, by listening to male talk at parties. Only the most eccentric philosophers, like Pythagoras in the Greek West, were credited with having female pupils as regular hearers. Like vegetarianism, it was a sign that they were dotty.
Outside Athens, by contrast, Herodotus’ Histories are full of stories of active women, wise or vengeful, but their setting is usually in a monarchical (or ‘tyrannical’) family world. In the different setting of a democratic community, the restrictions on Athenian citizen-women would surely have impressed him, as they were such a contrast with the Spartan women whom, as a visitor, he would have seen dancing naked. Among the male Athenian citizens, Herodotus would have noted the time given freely to democratic business, to assemblies (about four times a month), to the yearly council (up to twice in a lifetime) and to jury-service (for those on the yearly list of 6,000 volunteers). He did not think especially highly of the wisdom of a democratic crowd, but he would have had to respect the citizens’ dedication. When he visited, the Athenians’ Acropolis was being lavishly rebuilt with the support of the annual tribute received from their allies. Yet publicly elected committees were supervising all these public works and upholding the details of financial accountability on which the democracy insisted. Nothing so thorough and public would have been going on in his own Halicarnassus or in aristocratic Thessaly.
Nonetheless, the architecture and the sculpture were not celebrations of democracy. A strengthened sense of political freedom underpinned their artists’ reasoned vision, but it did not provoke ‘political sculptors’: there were no representations of mass-meetings or ‘crowd solidarity’. Up on the Acropolis, the female supporting figures of the ancient Erechtheion temple are a famous image of classical Athens nowadays, but arguably they were sculpted to represent women pouring libations to the dead of Cecrops, the Athenians’ legendary king, whose tomb lay below them. The Parthenon’s fine sculpted frieze did not celebrate democracy. It showed elements of a festival-procession which had begun long before Cleisthenes: it included the mythical hero, Erichthonius, and, on one modern view, one section showed the heroic sacrifice of the legendary king’s mythical daughters who had died to save the city in war.
The religious life of the city also ran in largely pre-democratic channels. The Athenians, like all Greeks, had no weekend holidays (they did not even observe weeks), but they did have a calendar packed with religious festivals. By the 430s there were some 120 days of potential celebrations (the ‘festival city’, critics complained).6 Many of these days were long-established occasions and, in many cases, the families who provided the priests and priestesses were still the noble families of the pre-democratic past. Few of these jobs were filled by election or use of the lot. However, every Athenian male, female or slave could be initiated into the secret religious ‘mysteries’ at the nearby shrine of Eleusis, a rite which offered the promise of a happier afterlife beyond the grave. Yet this most inclusive feature of Athenian life went back long before the democracy too.
Democracy had, however, made two clear cultural marks: in oratory and in drama. The big meetings of the assembly and the new law courts with their big juries gave a new scope for subtle oratory, both civic and forensic. Nothing like it is known from a non-democratic Greek state, although unfortunately we have no surviving Athenian example, first-hand, until 399 BC. In the wake of the Persian Wars, there had also begun the practice of a glorious Funeral Speech which was spoken by a picked orator in praise of the war-dead and their city. The best-known of such speeches is the one ascribed to Pericles in winter 431/0 BC. We do not know of this sort of speech in a non-democratic state, either.
The relations between democracy and tragic drama have been much emphasized in recent cultural studies, but they are not at all direct. Indeed, the judges for the dramatic contests were now chosen by lot (to avoid bribery), but choice by lot was not exclusive to democrats. This theatre would be more ‘democratic’ if all citizens were receiving a state subsidy to enable them to buy theatre tickets, but the beginnings of this eventual Athenian practice are still disputed (in my view, the 440s are likely) and on any view, even the most optimistic, the free tickets only began when tragedies had been flourishing for some fifty years. Even when tickets were on offer, it is not at all certain that women could attend the performances too. But even if this eventual subsidy helped to broaden the social class of audiences, drama was not therefore ‘democratic’ by nature or unimaginable except as a democratic creation. The main festival for the god Dionysus had been introduced under the tyrants in the 530s BC and had begun with a simple programme of song and dance. No doubt it would have expanded under any form of government, even to the point (attained in the democratic era) when about a thousand male citizens sang and danced in the choral events each year. Probably, there would have been tragedies anyway under a different political system: they were, after all, dramas which explored the moral and religious conflicts not in everyday plots but in mythical tales from the ‘royal’ past. Certainly, Attic tragedy flourished perfectly well when it was composed or performed for non-democratic audiences abroad. If the Athenians had opted for an oligarchy of (say) 6,000 citizens in 508, surely they would have been enough of an audience to encourage dramatic contests (‘democratic’ audiences were probably often no more than 15,000 anyway, not all of whom were always citizens).
Herodotus would have seen these dramatic contests prefaced by religious sacrifices and by the display of imperial tribute which was brought to Athens by allied tribute-bearers. These ‘extras’ were appropriate items on the programme because the occasion was so big and public, the biggest Athenian meeting in the entire year. But the plays which followed were not therefore religious rituals or expositions or explorations of democratic or imperial ideology. Set in the mythical royal past, they explored issues of family and community, sexual relations, religion and the temper of heroes. They moved their audiences, as their minds and emotions ranged over the extreme moral events in the plays and the complex singing and dancing of their chorus. But they were not confirming, or questioning, a ‘democratic ethos’ in their spectators or instilling a lesson in civic duties, like a long ‘Marseillaise’. The tragedies which survive could perfectly well have been composed and performed before an oligarchy of richer Athenians only. Tragedy’s presentation of divine and human nature, especially the nature of great heroes, was wonderfully bleak and awesome. It deeply moved audiences and enlarged their horizons, but, two days later, had it not all been pigeonholed and worn off?
One possible link with democracy, however, lies in a formal aspect of some of the surviving tragedies. Since the 460s, in a democratic law court, Athenian orators debated the rights and wrongs of a case before citizen-jurors. In tragedies, a long debating scene then developed in the middle of the play (the agon), in which characters debated a case before the citizen-audiences, many of whom were jurors on holiday. This form had surely developed at such length in drama in response to the citizen-spectators’ own law-court experience. Otherwise, there was only one truly democratic art-form: political comedy. In it, prominent Athenian politicians were hilariously satirized and attacked. It would certainly not have arisen in a restricted and wary oligarchy, and when democracy was checked by Macedonian generals, after 322, dramatists close to the resulting oligarchy preferred to put on plays which were harmless, depersonalized ‘situation comedies’.
For us, Athenian democratic comedy is dominated by its one surviving genius, Aristophanes (active from the 420s to the 380s), but his own comments, and those of others, suggest that the plays of his older rival Cratinus are some of the saddest losses in all ancient literature. Aristophanes’ humour ranges from brilliant puns and wordplay through crude and sexual allusions (some of which are still being recovered) to fantasy, parody, jokes about drama itself and brilliant, but merciless, personal invective and satire. His plays’ combination of witty obscenity and sweet, agitated choral song is unique in all surviving drama. It is through him that we can best share the scale of the Athenians’ admirable self-awareness. They have a marvellous ability to enter into hilarious thought-experiments about gender-roles and male and female relations (the plots were even more hilarious when every part was played by male actors). They also have a complete callousness about slaves or about the battiness of philosophers (there is a really aggressive note in Aristophanes’ famous comedy, the Clouds, about Socrates and his influence).
The plots of Aristophanes’ comedies probably arose from specific news stories or public statements of the moment which are now lost to us, rather than from the sort of concern with abstract ‘issues’ which is familiar to us in the modern satires by Brecht. The surviving plays, nonetheless, span anything from a fond hope for peace during war to a sex-strike by women in order to bring it about, and a classic attempt to find and bring back the best dramatic poet from beyond the grave. Like Aristophanes, other contemporary comic dramatists were capable of almost any hilarious subversion. In 423 BC, old Cratinus’ play the Wine Flask showed himself married to Comedy as his wife, but Comedy was wanting a divorce as Cratinus cared more for being drunk than he did for her.7 This promising self-parody has sadly not survived for us in any more detail. In 421 Eupolis even staged a comedy whose chorus was divided into two halves, the rich and the poor, while the plot satirized a leading popular politician as the eunuch-slave of the Athenian people, presented as his ‘Persian’ master.8 The mercurial minds of Athenians in this era could subvert and enjoy almost any fact of social and political life: freedom is, above all, democratic, and the proof that it exists is whether or not an Aristophanes is politically and culturally possible. He is the true symptom of a ‘classical’ age.
If Herodotus had been in Athens in spring 438 BC, he would have appreciated Euripides’ enchanting drama the Alcestis, which was first performed in that year. He would readily have entered into its presentation of the dilemmas and devotion of a mythical king and queen, conducted under the kind patronage of Apollo. No doubt he would also have laughed at the year’s salacious comedies, although one side of him would have been telling himself that they went much too far. From his own ‘enquiries’, however, he would remember how he knew dozens of much more recent tragic ‘dramas’, reported to him as real-life conflicts between fathers, sons and wives all over the world, between gods and mortals, between people like the Lydian King Gyges or the blinded shepherd Euenius in north-west Greece, or Hermotimus the Chiote who had avenged his own awful castration with a similar act against his castrator and the cruel man’s sons. Outside Athens, there were so many real Greek tales in the recent past which contained the germ of real-life tragedies. Lacking Herodotus’ wide researches, the Athenians found this germ and darkened and deepened it, but only in the world of legendary myths.