Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

him, - Thucydides and Aristophanes. The assembly and the dikastery were Kleon's theatre and holding-ground: for the Athenian people taken collectively in their place of meeting, and the Athenian people taken individually, were not always the same person and had not the same mode of judgment; Demos sitting in the Pnyx was a different man from Demos at home. The lofty combination of qualities possessed by Perikles exercised ascendency over both one and the other; but the qualities of Kleon swayed considerably the former without standing high in the esteem of the latter.

THE CHARACTER OF SOLON.

(From "History of Greece.") The archonship of the Eupatrid Solon dates in 594 B.C., thirty years after that of Drako. ... The lives of Solon by Plutarch and Diogenes (especially the former) are our principal sources of information respecting this remarkable man; and while we thank them for what they have told us, it is impossible to avoid expressing disappointment that they have not told us more. For Plutarch had certainly before him both the original poems and the original laws of Solon, and the few transcripts which he gives from one or the other form the principal charm of his biography. But such valuable materials ought to have been made available to a more instructive result than that which he has brought out. There is hardly anything more to be deplored, amidst the lost treasures of the Grecian mind, than the poems of Solon; for we see by the remaining fragments that they contained notices of the public and social phenomena before him, which he was compelled attentively to study, blended with the touching expression of his own personal feelings, in the post, alike honorable and difficult, to which the confidence of his countrymen had exalted him.

Solon, the son of Exekestides, was a Eupatrid of middling fortune, but of the purest heroic blood, belonging to the gens, or family, of the Kodrids and Neleids, and tracing his origin to the god Poseidon. His father is said to have diminished his substance by prodigality, which compelled Solon in his early years to have recourse to trade; and in this pursuit he visited many parts of Greece and Asia. He was thus enabled to enlarge the sphere of his observation and to provide material for thought as well as for composition. His poetical talents displayed themselves at a very early age, first on light, afterward on serious subjects. It will be recollected that there was at that time no Greek prose writing, and that the acquisitions as well as the effusions of an intellectual man, even in their simplest form, adjusted themselves not to the limitations of the period and the semicolon, but to those of the hexameter and the pentameter. Nor, in point of fact, do the verses of Solon aspire to any higher effect than we are accustomed to associate with an earnest, touching, and admonitory prose composition. The advice and appeals which he frequently addressed to his countrymen were delivered in easy metre, doubtless far less difficult than the elaborate prose of subsequent writers or speakers, such as Thucydides, Isocrates, or Demosthenes. His poetry and his reputation became known throughout many parts of Greece, so that he was classed along with Thales of Miletus, Bias of Priene, Pittakus of Mitylene, Periander of Corinth, Kleobulus of Lindus, Chelion of Lacedæmon -- all together forming the constellation afterward renowned as the Seven Wise Men..

Of all grievances, the most urgent was the condition of the poorer class of debtors. To their relief Solon's first measure the memorable Seisachtheia or “Shaking off of burthens ” was directed. The relief which it afforded was complete and immediate. It cancelled at once all those contracts in which the debtor had borrowed on the security either of his person or of his land; it forbade all future loans or contracts in which the person of the debtor was pledged as security ; it deprived the creditor in future of all power to imprison, or enslave, or extort work from his debtor, and confined him to an effective judgment at law authorizing the seizure of the property of the latter. It swept all the numerous mortgage-pillars from the landed properties in Attica, leaving the land free from all past claims. It

ated and restored to their full rights all debtors actually in slavery under previous legal adjudication; and it even provided the means (we do not know how) of repurchasing in foreign lands, and bringing back to a renewed life of liberty in Attica, many insolvents who had been sold for exportation. And while Solon forbade every Athenian to pledge or sell his own person into slavery, he took a step farther in the same direction by forbidding him to sell his son, his daughter, or an unmarried sister under his tutelage — excepting only the case in which either of the latter might be detected in unchastity. Whether this last ordinance was contemporaneous with the Seisachtheia, or fol. lowed as one of his subsequent reforms, seems doubtful.

Lastly, Solon decreed that all those who had been condemned by the archons to Atimy (civil disfranchisement) should be restored to their full privilege of citizens - excepting, however, from this indulgence those who had been condemned by the Ephetæ, or by the Areopagus, or by the Phylo-Basileis (the four Kings of the Tribes), after trial in the Prytaneium, on charges either of murder or treason. So wholesale a measure of amnesty affords strong grounds for believing that the previous judgments of the archons had been intolerably harsh ; and it is to be recollected that like Drakopian ordinances were then in force.

CAREER AND CHARACTER OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT.

(From "History of Greece.”) ALEXANDER was at the time of his death a little more than thirty-two years old — the age at which a citizen of Athens was growing into important commands; ten years less than the age for a consul at Rome; two years younger than the age at which Timour first acquired the crown, and began his foreign conquests. His extraordinary bodily powers were unabated; he had acquired a large stock of military experience; and, what was still more important, his appetite for further conquest was voracious, and his readiness to purchase it at the largest cost of toil or danger as complete as it had been when he first crossed the Hellespont. Great as his past career had been, his future achievements, with such increased means and experience, were likely to be yet greater. His ambition would have been satisfied with nothing less than the conquest of the whole habitable world as then known; and if his life had been prolonged, he would probably have accomplished it. ... The patriotic feelings of Livy disposed him to maintain that Alexander, had he invaded Italy, would have failed, and perished like his relative, Alexander of Epirus. But this conclusion cannot be accepted. If we grant the courage and discipline of the Roman infantry to have been equal to the best infantry of Alexander's army, the same cannot be said of Roman cavalry as compared with the Macedonian Companions. Still less is it likely that a Roman consul, annually changed, would have been found a match for Alexander in military genius and combinations; nor even, if personally equal, would he have possessed the same variety of troops and arms, each effective in its separate way, and all conspiring to one common purpose ; nor the same unbounded influ

VOL. X. - 24

ence over their minds in stimulating them to full effort. I do not think that even the Romans could have successfully resisted Alexander the Great; though it is certain that he never throughout all his long marches encountered such enemies as they, nor even such as Samnites and Lucanians — combining courage, patriotism, discipline, with effective arms both for defence and for close combat.

Apart from the transcendent merits of Alexander as a soldier and a general, some authors give him credit for grand and beneficent views on the subject of imperial government, and for intentions highly favorable to the improvement of mankind. I see no ground for adopting this opinion. As far as we can venture to anticipate what would have been Alexander's future, we see nothing in prospect except years of ever-repeated aggression and conquest, not to be concluded until he had traversed and subjugated all the inhabited globe. The acquisition of universal dominion - conceived not metaphorically, but literally, and conceived with greater facility in consequence of the imperfect geographical knowledge of the time — was the master-passion of his soul. At the moment of his death he was commencing fresh aggressions in the south against the Arabians, to an indefinite extent; while his vast projects against the western tribes in Africa and Europe, as far as the Pillars of Herakles, were consigned in the orders and memoranda confidentially communicated to Kraterus. Italy, Gaul, and Spain would have been successively attacked and conquered; the enterprise proposed to him when in Baktria by the Chorasmian prince, Pharasmanes, but postponed then until a more convenient season, would have been next taken up, and he would have marched from the Danube northward around the Euxine and Palus Mæotis against the Scythians and the tribes of the Caucasus. There remained moreover the Asiatic regions east of the Hyphasis, which his soldiers had refused to enter upon, but which he certainly would have invaded at a future opportunity, were it only to efface the poignant humiliation of having been compelled to relinquish his proclaimed purpose.

Alexander's acts indicate that he desired nothing better than to take up the traditions of the Persian Empire: a tributelevying and army-levying system, under Macedonians, in large proportions, as his instruments; yet partly also under the very same Persians who had administered before, provided they submitted to him. It has indeed been extolled among his merits

that he was thus willing to reappoint Persian grandees (putting their armed force, however, under the command of a Macedonian officer), and to continue native princes in their domin. ions, if they did willing homage to him, as tributary subordinates. But all this had been done before him by the Persian kings, whose system it was to leave the conquered princes undisturbed, subject only to the payment of tribute, and to the obligation of furnishing a military contingent when required. In like manner Alexander's Asiatic empire would thus have been composed of an aggregate of satrapies and dependent principalities, furnishing money and soldiers ; in other respects left to the discretion of local rule, with occasional extreme inflictions of punishment, but no systematic examination or control.

The Persian empire was a miscellaneous aggregate, with no strong feeling of nationality. The Macedonian conqueror who seized its throne was still more indifferent to national sentiment. He was neither Macedonian nor Greek. Though the absence of this prejudice has sometimes been counted to him as a virtue, it only made room, in my opinion, for prejudices still worse.

. The substitute for it was an exorbitant personality and selfestimation, manifested even in his earliest years, and inflamed by extraordinary success into the belief in divine parentage ; which, while setting him above the idea of communion with any special nationality, made him conceive all mankind to be subjects under one common sceptre, to be wielded by himself. To this universal empire the Persian King made the nearest approach according to the opinions then prevalent. Accordingly Alexander, when victorious, accepted the position and pretensions of the overthrown Persian court as approaching most nearly to his full due. He became more Persian than either Macedonian or Greek. While himself adopting, as far as he could safely venture, the personal habits of the Persian court, he took studied pains to transform his Macedonian officers into Persian grandees, and encouraging and even forcing intermarriages with Persians, according to Persian rites.

At the time of Alexander's death there was comprised in his written orders given to Kraterus a plan for the wholesale transportation of inhabitants both out of Europe into Asia and out of Asia into Europe, in order to fuse these populations into one by multiplying intermarriages and intercourse. Such reciprocal translations of peoples would have been felt as eminently odious, and could not have been accomplished without coercive

« НазадПродовжити »