1902 Encyclopedia > Dorians


DORIANS, the name by which one of the two foremost races of the Hellenic or Greek people was commonly known, the other being the Ionic. These two races, if the term may here be rightly used, stand out in marked con-trast, as exhibiting different types of character, which have their issue in different modes of thought and forms of government. But when from a consideration of their political and intellectual development we endeavour to work our way backward to the origin and early history of these races, we find ourselves confronted by traditions which show little consistency, or which even exclude each other. The writer who speaks with the greatest confidence on this subject is the perfectly truthful man who well earned his title to be known as the father of history; but Herodotus, although thoroughly to be trusted as to all that he relates from his own experience, could not rise much above the standard of his age in dealing with alleged matters of fact, nor could he see that the eking out of theory by conjecture is an illegitimate process. Herodotus then, in speaking of the Athenians and Spartans as standing at the head severally of the Dorian and Ionian races, states positively that the Ionian was a Pelasgic, the Dorian a Hellenic people ; that the former had always been stationary, while the latter had many times changed its abode. In the time of Deucalion, he asserts, the Dorians, or rather the tribe or tribes which were afterwards to be called Dorians, inhabited Phthiotis, by which he probably understands the southern portion of the great Thessalian plain. After-wards, under their eponymus Dorus, they occupied Histiseotis, which he describes as the region under Ossa and Olympus. They had thus migrated from the most southerly to the most northerly parts of the great plain which is drained by the Peneius. The next migration was to the highlands of Pindus, the chain which runs down at right angles from the Cambunian range, or the westward extension of Olympus. Here, he says, they were known not as Dorians, but as Macedonians. A later southward migration brought them into Dryopis, whence they made their way into the Peloponnesus, and it would seem were then only first known as Dorians (Herod, i. 56).

If we examine the statement thus boldly advanced, we shall find at each step that the ground becomes more uncertain. We may indeed, in order to explain it, assume that the Pelasgic race was closely akin to the Greek, and that their language stood midway between the Hellenic and the Latin ; but if we do so we are reasoning strictly from the point of view of modern philology, and really abandoning that of Herodotus, who says that, if he may judge from the Pelasgian populations which he found at Placia, Scylace, and Creston, the Pelasgians generally must have spoken a barbarous dialect, i.e., a dialect unintelligible to a Greek. He is thus driven to assume, first, that the Attic tribes had been Pelasgic before they became Hellenic, and that the change was accompanied by a change of language (Herod, i. 57). Elsewhere (ii. 51) he speaks of the Athenians as being already Greek or Hellenic before

the Pelasgians became their neighbours, and adds that the latter came in time to be reckoned Hellenic also. We thus see, _without going further, how vague and misty were the notions of Herodotus ; but we have to note further that the account here given of the Dorians and Ionians is said to apply to the time of Croesus, and thus, down to his age, the Ionians had been stationary in their original abodes, these abodes in his day being assuredly not in the Peloponnesus. Yet he can assert elsewhere that the Peloponnese had been their original home, and that they had been expelled from it by the Achaians (i. 145). But, apart from the fact that the poets of the Iliad and the Odyssey know nothing of any expulsion of Ionians from Peloponnesus, the difficulties are increased if we betake ourselves to the tribal genealogies which the Greeks regarded as undoubtedly historical documents. We have then, on the one side, the assertion that the Ionians were originally non-Hellenic and Pelasgian ; on the other, the Iapetid genealogy speaks of Dorians, Achaians, Ionians, and /Eolians, as being all sprung from Hellen,—Xouthus, the son of Hellen, being the father of Ion and Achaius. If, therefore, we were to argue from these data, we should have to conclude that, as the tribes just mentioned were all Hellenic, and as the Ionians were Pelasgians, some Pelasgians at least were Hellenes. But the whole process would be deceptive, for as Ion and Achaius are here the sons of Xouthus, the Ionians would be expelled from the Peloponnesus by their nearest brethren. It is, however, more important to note that the opinion of Herodotus respecting the Pelasgi was distinctly contradicted by another, which had the countenance of Strabo, Plutarch, and other writers. Strabo speaks of them as virtually nomadic tribes ; and the story even went that theyTeceived their name, Pelasgi = Pelargoi, or Storks, from their wandering habits. It is difficult to resist the inference of Sir G. Cornewall Lewis that this radical inconsistency in the views respecting the Pelasgians is a proof that they rest on no historical basis (Credibility of Early Roman History, i. 282). Further, there is the extreme unlikeli-hood that the tribes afterwards known as Dorians should for a certain period have been called Macedonians, or rather, as Herodotus implies, that they should more than once change their name. The assertion that they were called Macedonians involves a fresh contradiction, for elsewhere Herodotus asserts that the Macedonians were not Hellenic at all, although they were governed by chiefs of genuine Greek descent. Nor is our position improved if we choose to prefer the statements of the genealogies in preference to those of Herodotus or other historians, on the ground that the national tradition by which these genealogies were handed down must be trustworthy, for the descent in one genealogy is often directly contradicted by that of another, and not unfrequently, and indeed even generally, the genealogy betrays the nature of the materials from which it has been made up. Thus, for instance, Dorus, the eponymus of the Dorians, has as his sister Protogeneia (the Early Dawn), who, being wedded to Zeus, the god of the gleaming heaven, becomes the mother of Aethlius, the toiling sun, who is the father of Endymion, that is, of the sun-god who sinks to sleep in Latmus, the land of forgetfulness. Finally, we have to note the fact that, in the Hellenic world as elsewhere, tribes bearing the same name were found separated by great distances ; and in such cases traditions always sprang up, not merely asserting their connection, but accounting for it. Thus they found Achaians in Thessaly and Achaians in the Peloponnese; and it was said, not merely that the former passed south-wards across the isthmus of Corinth, but that they were led by the barbarian Pelops from Phrygia. The same process connected the Peloponnesian Dorians with the Dorian clans who dwelt between QSta and Parnassus, and spoke of the latter as the stock from which the Spartans sprang, to the great benefit of the insignificant clans, who thus acquired a foremost rank in the Hellenic world.

All that we can do, then, is to bring together the genealogies which refer in any way to Dorus and his supposed descendants the Dorians, and then gather from historians and geographers the various regions in which Dorians were found during ages which may reasonably be regarded as historical. The result of the former process will scarcely appear satisfactory. We have noticed one genealogy which represents Dorus as the son of Hellen ; but in the Etolian genealogy he is the son of Apollo and Phthia, and is slain by iEtolus in the land which from him was called Etolia (Grote, Hist. Gr., i. 140). The great tradition which connects the Dorians of the Peloponnesus with their more noteworthy namesakes is the legend which relates the return of the Heraclids, or descendants of Hercules, who, after the death of that hero, had been compelled to take refuge in Athens. Hyllus, in his exile, is adopted by the Dorian king iEgimius, the father of Pamphylus and Dymas, who with Hyllus become the eponymi or name-givers of the three tribes found in Dorian communities generally, and known as Hylleans, Pamphylians, and Dymanes, Hyllus being more particularly illustrious as the forefather of Eurysthenes and Procles, the progenitors of the two houses from which the Spartan kings were always elected. But this legend, like the rest, was variously related, and, according to the version of Plato, the return of the Heraclids would be rather a return of the Achaians to the Peloponnesus.

We cannot, however, question the fact that the Dorian race was widely extended, that it was found, like the Ionians, in various portions of the Hellenic world, separated by considerable distances of land or sea, and that the people who bore this name were singularly active in the work of colonization. They are found not only in all parts of the Peloponnese but in the islands of the iEgean, and on ths coasts of Asia Minor ; and from the foremost Dorian cities went forth, it is said, the colonists who were to carry the Hellenic name and Hellenic culture far to the east and the west. Thus Corinth became the mother city of Corcyra and Syracuse, and from these sprang Epidamnus, Camarina, Ambracia, Potidaea. The Dorians of Crete and Bhodes sent forth the settlers of the Sicilian Gela, and Gela in turn be-came the parent of the mightier Acragas, or Agrigentum, while to Megara is assigned the origin of Byzantium, the future home of Roman Cassars and of Ottoman Sultans. These several communities exhibit a general likeness in their dialect, their art, and their polity. Their civilization assumed a magnificent phase in the splendour of Corinth and the great Dorian cities of Italy and Sicily. Their powers of resistance were attested by the success with which their colonies were planted in regions occupied by powerful and hostile tribes, who failed to overthrow them simply because they lacked the Dorian power of cohesion. Yet with the Dorians this power was subjected to strictly defined bounds of action. All Dorian cities might feel a pride in belonging to the great Dorian stock, and the parent city might claim certain prerogatives in its colonies ; but each city was for them nevertheless an absolute unit, with whose independence no other city had any right to interfere, even though this interference might have for its object the establishment of a pan-Hellenic union. Any movements in this direction were sure to rouse the keenest and most persistent opposition of the Dorian Greeks ; and thus we can understand the nature of the quarrel which was fought out between Sparta and Athens, and which ended in the ruin of the great Ionian city, whose imperial rule must otherwise have checked, and may perhaps have rooted out, this fatal instinct of isolation. The Spartans, who stood at the head of the Dorian portion of the Greek world, are regarded by K. O. Miiller, in his History of the Dorians, as exhibiting in their institutions and government the true type of the race. This theory is strenuously combated
by Grote, History of Greece, pt. ii. ch. 6 ; and at the least it must be said that if they displayed the true Dorian type, that type must have been completely lost among all the other Dorian tribes. The Spartans occupied Laconia strictly as an army of occupation, and carrying out inflexibly their rigid system, they opposed an uncompromising resistance, not only to luxury, but generally to art, refinement, and speculation (Cox, History of Greece, i. 72). No such condition of things is found even in Crete, from which Sparta was supposed to have derived her special institutions. Not only is their reputation as models of Dorism altogether undeserved, but it probably would have been exceedingly distasteful to the countrymen of Leonidas, Archidamus, and Agesilaus. (G. W. C.)

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