Passing from myth to semi-legendary history, we find frequent mention made of lovers in connection with the great achievements of the earliest age of Hellas. What Pausanias and Phædrus are reported to have said in the Symposium of Plato, is fully borne out by the records of the numerous tyrannicides and self-devoted patriots who helped to establish the liberties of the Greek cities. When Epimenides of Crete required a human victim in his purification of Athens from the Musos of the Megacleidæ, two lovers, Cratinus and Aristodemus, offered themselves as a voluntary sacrifice for the city. 2 The youth died to propitiate the gods; the lover refused to live without him. Chariton and Melanippus, who attempted to assassinate Phalaris of Agrigentum, were lovers. 3 So were Diocles and Philolaus, natives of Corinth, who removed to Thebes, and after giving laws to their adopted city, died and were buried in one grave. 4 Not less celebrated was another Diocles, the Athenian exile, who fell near Megara in battle, fighting for the boy he loved. 5 His tomb was honoured with the rites and sacrifices specially reserved for heroes. A similar story is told of the Thessalian horseman Cleomachus. 6 This soldier rode into a battle which was being fought between the people of Eretria and Chalkis, inflamed with such enthusiasm for the youth he beloved, that he broke the foemen's ranks and won the victory for the Chalkidians. After the fight was over Cleomachus was found among the slain, but his corpse was nobly buried; and from that time forward love was honoured by the men of Chalkis. These stories might be paralleled from actual Greek history. Plutarch, commenting upon the courage of the sacred band of Thebans, 7 tells of a man "who, when his enemy was going to kill him, earnestly requested him to run
him through the breast, that his lover might not blush to see him wounded in the back." In order to illustrate the haughty temper of Greek lovers, the same author, in his Erotic Dialogue, records the names of Antileon of Metapontum, who braved a tyrant in the cause of a boy he loved; 1 of Crateas, who punished Archelaus with death for an insult offered to him; of Pytholaus, who treated Alexander of Pheræ in like manner; and of another youth who killed the Ambracian tyrant Periander for a similar affront. 2 To these tales we might add another told by Plutarch in his Life of Demetrius Poliorketes. This man insulted a boy called Damocles, who, finding no other way to save his honour, jumped into a cauldron of boiling water and was killed upon the spot. 3 A curious legend belonging to semi-mythical romance related by Pausanias, 4 deserves a place here, since it proves to what extent the popular imagination was impregnated by notions of Greek love. The city of Thespia was at one time infested by a dragon, and young men were offered to appease its fury every year. They all died unnamed and unremembered except one, Cleostratus. To clothe this youth, his lover, Menestratus, forged a brazen coat of mail, thick set with hooks turned upwards. The dragon swallowed Cleostratus and killed him, but died by reason of the hooks. Thus love was the salvation of the city and the source of immortality to the two friends.
It would not be difficult to multiply romances of this kind the rhetoricians and moralists of later Greece abound in them. 5 But the most famous of all remains to be recorded. This is the story of Harmodius and Aristogeiton, who freed Athens from the tyrant Hipparchus. There is not a speech, a poem, an essay, a panegyrical oration in praise of either Athenian liberty or Greek love which does not tell the tale of this heroic friendship. Herodotus and Thucydides treat the event as matter of serious history. Plato refers to it as the beginning of freedom for the Athenians. "The drinking-song in honour of these lovers is one of the most precious fragments of popular Greek poetry which we possess. As in the cases of Lucretia and Virginia, so here a tyrant's intemperance was the occasion, if not the
cause, of a great nation's rising. Harmodius and Aristogeiton were reverenced as martyrs and saviours of their country. Their names gave consecration to the love which made them bold against the despot, and they became at Athens eponyms of "paiderastia." 1
11:2 See Athenæus, xiii. 602, for the details.
11:3 See Athenæus, xiii. 602, who reports an oracle in praise of these lovers.
11:4 Ar., Pol., ii. 9.
11:5 See Theocr., Aites and the Scholia.
11:6 See Plutarch's Eroticus, 760, 42, where the story is reported on the faith of Aristotle.
11:7 Pelopidas, Clough's trans., vol. ii. p. 218.
12:1 Cap. xvi. p. 760, 21.
12:2 Cap. xxiii. p. 768, 53. Compare Max. Tyr., Dissert., xxiv. i. See, too, the chapter on Tyrannicide in Ar. Pol., viii. (v.) 10.
12:3 Clough's trans., vol. v. p. 118.
12:4 Hellenics, bk. ix. cap. xxvi.
12:5 Suidas, under the heading Paidika, tells of two lovers who both died in battle, fighting each to save the other.