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which were employed upon hitherto untrodden and unheeded ground. Throughout the world, which was not so thickly peopled by the living as it was haunted by the mysterious and the fearful beings whom every race conceived, there had been no direct attempt to exorcise the spirits that were ever more unknown and more unknowable; much less had any hope appeared of bringing to light the realities of creation and of life. Six centuries before our era,” a man was living at Miletus, on the Asian shore of the AEgaean, whose interest in the common affairs of his countrymen" might have led a stranger, or even a neighbour, to suppose him one of those most satisfied with the times which made him active and respected. He was Thales, the first wise man,” as he was called of old, to whom the wants of his age, which came to other men like dying puffs of wind, were unceasingly speaking as with the imploring breath of the pine-breeze, or the commanding voice of the ocean-gale. He turned back, boldly and far, to the origin of things, that he might free the world from the hidden agencies by which it had been long alarmed. It was the effort of a wise mind, one might almost say, of a wise heart; and though neither Thales nor any other man could form a true conception of the Great Original that had long since been unknown, the murmurs which fell from him are like the promises of better times. Imagining moisture to
or 636. Diog. Laert., I. 22. 10. See Herod., I. 75, 170.
WOL. I. 20
be the principal agent in creation,” he spoke besides, and may have dreamed much more than he told, of the Divinity which was, in his own words, without beginning and without end." His earnestness” to solve one kind of doubts led him to fathom other mysteries; and the two words, “Know thyself,” which are ascribed to him, mark the deeper feelings of his life, and perhaps we may add, of his age. Thales was esteemed the first” of the seven sages, men of activity as much as of wisdom," whose contemporaneous renown is perhaps the most illustrious monument of the fervent age in which they had their lives. An account remains of a conversation between them, in which each expressed his opinion concerning the best constitution of a free state. Solon spoke first, saying he admired the republic in which they who beheld a wrong committed were as eager for its punishment as they who actually suffered from the
Bias, of Priene, declared he was most satis
* IIávrov rôv čov i yov) dpx? earriv trypt, oùora. Plut., De Plac. Phil., I. 3, ed. Reisk., Tom. IX. p. 472. Cf. Ritter et Preller, Hist. Phil. Gr. Rom., Sect. 15.
194 Tö 6etov rô puffre dpx|v <xov Hire rexevrov. Diog. Laert., I. 36.
105 Not too strong a word, I think, to use, though it be perfectly true, as Mr. Norton observes, that “reasoning upon the higher and more important subjects of thought was a far less serious thing with the ancient heathen philosophers
than it is at the present day.” Evid. of the Gen. of the Gospels, Vol. III. p. 71, 1st edit.
106 “Unuse septem, cui sex reliquos concessisse primas ferunt.” Cic., Academic. I., Lib. II. 37.
107 Diog, Laert., I. 40. “Wisdom,” says Plutarch (Them., 2), “was then nothing else but the knowledge of managing public affairs and the power of judging practical matters; as if of a school beginning with Solon,” etc. See Sol., 3, likewise.
fied where all men feared the laws as they would dread a tyrant. Thales preferred the state in which there was neither too great opulence nor too great poverty. A stranger, Anacharsis, gave the praise to that people amongst whom vice had the lowest and virtue the highest place. Cleobulus, of Lindus, esteemed that nation most advanced which feared censure more than any law. Pittacus, of Mitylene, thought the good government to be that under which good men only were in authority. Chilon, of Lacedaemon, said that laws were most, and public speakers least, heard in his model of a commonwealth. Last of all was the opinion of Periander, of Corinth, that the soundest state was that nearest to aristocracy; but Periander was one of the tyrants yet remaining.” In hearing these judgments upon a cause of so great interest, we seem to obtain the full measure of the knowledge which the Greeks possessed concerning liberty. These names of places and of men must be observed, in indication of the extension as well as the expansion of Grecian civilization. Two of the seven sages belonged to Sparta and to Athens; but the philosopher and the poets of whom mention has here been made were of neither city, nor even of the Grecian continent, but of its outskirt islands and colonies. Nevertheless, the greater work of legislation begun in Sparta was continued in Athens; and it is thither that we now need to turn, if we would understand the rise of the freedom, for want of which the burning spirits of other regions were soon exhausted.
108 Plut., Sept. Sap. Conviv., ed. Reisk., Tom. VI. pp. 586, 587.
The city which Theseus ruled was not only at the centre of Greece, but, as its children fondly believed, of the whole world.” Its position, perhaps, in a territory barren of the richer productions of surrounding lands, had saved it from the invasions and the migrations by which other nations were wellnigh exterminated in the early periods." All the more precious was it to its own people, who labored in its cultivation, and who, without laboring, beheld in the sea encircling its mountain shores, and in the sky adorning it with glorious hues, the sublimest images with which any of the Greeks could attempt to bring themselves into harmony. If there were any spot in Greece where Minerva might still prevail against Mars," it was Athens. But the consecration of the city to the goddess of wisdom yet waited its fulfilment, when Solon was born. Some two centuries after Theseus, his successor, Codrus, sacrificed himself in the defence of his kingdom against the invading Dorians. In grateful admiration of their preserver, if not for reasons less pleasing to be told, the Athenians resolved to have no other king. A supreme magistracy, the Archonship, was established for the elder branch of Codrus's family; from whom there was successively ap109 Xen., de Vectig., Cap. 1. 111 As of old, in the Iliad, XXI. 110 Thucyd., I. 2. Herod., I. 56. 391 et seq.
pointed a single Archon who ruled the state for life. The power of the Archons afterwards became responsible, of course to the nobles, and was limited to a term of ten years, while, later still, the office was opened to all the noble families, and was finally divided among nine annual Archons of various functions and different names.” Besides these superior magistrates, the ancient tribunal of the Areopagus, composed of retired Archons, was undoubtedly in existence, judging in all cases of public importance” as well as in the criminal trials for which it may have been originally constituted. A senate, and an assembly also, as is probable, shared in part the management of national and local affairs; both these bodies, like the Areopagus and the Archonship, being in the possession of the higher orders alone. The lower classes make no appearance in the histories, until the mention of the embarrassments amongst the nobles conjures up, as it were, the image of a people insisting upon some rights, at least, that should protect them against the capriciousness of their superiors. Three figures succeed one another in this confusion. The first is that of Draco, who, a noble him
112 The first change took place in 118 Which is rather a matter of
A. C. 752, the second in 714, the third in 683. Of the nine Archons established at this later date, the first, called 'Em &vvuos, was what we should call the chief justice. The second, BaoriMečs, was the pontiff; the third, IIoMéuapyos, the generalin-chief; and the other six, esorpio6érau, were judges.
inference, however, than of positive certainty. Pausanias relates the proposal of the king of Messenia, before the first war with Sparta, to refer the quarrel to the Areopagus. IV. 5. 1.