During the twelfth century before Christ there came a mighty upheaval, involving the fall of Mycenæand the final ruin of her splendid civilization. New adjustments of territory took place, and wholesale migrations of Greek-speaking peoples, calling themselves Achæans, æolians, Ionians, or Bœotians, to the littoral of Asia Minor. The stir and adventure of moving tribes, the prowess of their champions, the mingling of men of the same race, though of different clans, on the edge of a country where barbarians filled the hinterland, developed a new pride in national achievement and furnished, in fact, just the conditions most favorable for the development of the epic. Legends brought from home, where the fathers had lived a simpler life, began to expand to larger proportions. Achilles and Hector, who had possibly been rival chiefs on the border between southern Thessaly and Bœotia, now became, in the conception of the bards, magnificent princes, fighting, not for cattle, but for national existence. The scene of their exploits is shifted from the old homeland to the new, and as the imagination of the emigrants grew with their larger life in the new country, so their legends came to embody more incident, to take on more brilliant coloring, and to voice higher national pretensions.

Thus Agamemnon, whose power on the Greek mainland had by no means been limited to the one small citadel of Mycenæ, snugly built among the hills of Argos, had room to expand to something like imperial dimensions through the patriotic impulse of these later epic singers. Growing more skillful in characterization, they helped to rear the great antithesis between Achæan and Trojan, between Greek and barbarian, the West and the East; they founded Hellenism.

All Directories