Montesquieu

It appears that in the time of Homer, the opu­lence of Greece was in Rhodes, Corinth, and Orchomenus. Jupiter, he says, “loved the Rhodians, and gave them great wealth.”1 He gives to Corinth the epi­thet rich.2 Similarly, when he wants to evoke cities that have much gold, he cites Orchomenus, which he joins with Thebes of Egypt.3 Rhodes and Corinth retai­ned their might, and Orchomenus lost it. The posi­tion of Orchomenus, near the Hellespont, Propontis,4 and the Euxine Sea, natu­rally gives the impres­sion that it owed its wealth to trade on the coasts of these seas, which had given rise to the fable of the Golden Fleece. And indeed the name of Minyan is given to Orthomenus5 and also to the Argonauts. But as these seas sub­se­quently became bet­ter known, as the Greeks esta­bli­shed a great num­ber of colo­nies there, as these colo­nies tra­ded with the bar­ba­rian peo­ples, and as they com­mu­ni­ca­ted with their metro­po­lis, Orchomenus began to fall, and rejoi­ned the crowd of other Greek cities.

The Greeks before Homer had tra­ded almost exclu­si­vely amongst them­sel­ves, and with some bar­ba­rian peo­ple, but they exten­ded their domi­na­tion as they crea­ted new peo­ples. Greece was a large penin­sula whose capes see­med to have made the seas recede and the gulfs open on all sides as if still to receive them. If we glance at Greece, we will see, in a rather com­pact coun­try, a vast expanse of coast­line. Her innu­me­ra­ble colo­nies tra­ced an immense cir­cum­fe­rence around her ; and in them she saw, so to speak, the entire world that was not bar­ba­rian. When she rea­ched the inte­rior of Sicily and Italy, she crea­ted nations there. When she sai­led towards the seas of the Pontus, towards the coasts of Asia Minor, towards the coasts of Africa, she did the same. Her cities acqui­red pros­pe­rity as they found them­sel­ves near new peo­ples. And what was admi­ra­ble is that islands without num­ber, situa­ted as if on the front line, still sur­roun­ded her.

What cau­ses of pros­pe­rity for Greece were the games she gave, so to speak, to the world ; tem­ples to which all kings sent offe­rings ; fes­ti­vals to which peo­ple came from all over ; ora­cles that attrac­ted the atten­tion of all human curio­sity ; in short, taste and the arts ele­va­ted to such point that to believe they can be sur­pas­sed is not to know them !

Iliad, book II.

Ibid.

Ibid. book I, v. 381. See Strabo, book IX, p. 414, 1620 edition.

[Today, the Sea of Marmara.]

Strabo, book IX, p. 414.