Athens: Its Rise and Fall, Complete
by Edward Bulwer-Lytton
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[231] A brilliant writer in the Edinburgh Review (Mr. Macauley) would account for the use of dialogue in Herodotus by the childish simplicity common to an early and artless age—as the boor always unconsciously resorts to the dramatic form of narration, and relates his story by a series of "says he's" and "says I's." But does not Mr. Macauley, in common with many others, insist far too much on the artlessness of the age and the unstudied simplicity of the writer? Though history itself was young, art was already at its zenith. It was the age of Sophocles, Phidias, and Pericles. It was from the Athenians, in their most polished period, that Herodotus received the most rapturous applause. Do not all accounts of Herodotus, as a writer, assure us that he spent the greater part of a long life in composing, polishing, and perfecting his history; and is it not more in conformity with the characteristic spirit of the times, and the masterly effects which Herodotus produces, to conclude, that what we suppose to be artlessness was, in reality, the premeditated elaboration of art?

[232] Esther iii., 12; viii., 9: Ezra vi., 1.

[233] Herod., vii., 100.

[234] About twenty-nine years younger.—Fast. Hell., vol. ii., p. 7.

[235] Cic. Acad. Quaest., 4, Abbe de Canaye, Mem. de l'Acad. d'l* *crip., tom. x. etc. (*illegible letters)

[236] Diog. Laert., cap. 6., Cic. Acad. Quaest. 4, etc.

[237] Arist. Metap. Diog. Laert. Cic. Quaest. 4. etc.

[238] It must ever remain a disputable matter how far the Ionian Pythagoras was influenced by affection for Dorian policy and customs, and how far he designed to create a state upon the old Dorian model. On the one hand, it is certain that he paid especial attention to the rites and institutions most connected with the Dorian deity, Apollo— that, according to his followers, it was from that god that he derived his birth, a fiction that might be interpreted into a Dorian origin; he selected Croton as his residence, because it was under the protection of "his household god;" his doctrines are said to have been delivered in the Dorian dialect; and much of his educational discipline, much of his political system, bear an evident affinity to the old Cretan and Spartan institutions. But, on the other hand, it is probable, that Pythagoras favoured the god of Delphi, partly from the close connexion which many of his symbols bore to the metaphysical speculations the philosopher had learned to cultivate in the schools of oriental mysticism, and partly from the fact that Apollo was the patron of the medical art, in which Pythagoras was an eminent professor. And in studying the institutions of Crete and Sparta, he might rather have designed to strengthen by examples the system he had already adopted, than have taken from those Dorian cities the primitive and guiding notions of the constitution he afterward established. And in this Pythagoras might have resembled most reformers, not only of his own, but of all ages, who desire to go back to the earliest principles of the past as the sources of experience to the future. In the Dorian institutions was preserved the original character of the Hellenic nation; and Pythagoras, perhaps, valued or consulted them less because they were Dorian than because they were ancient. It seems, however, pretty clear, that in the character of his laws he sought to conform to the spirit and mode of legislation already familiar in Italy, since Charondas and Zaleucus, who flourished before him, are ranked by Diodorus and others among his disciples.

[239] Livy dates it in the reign of Servius Tullus.

[240] Strabo.

[241] Iamblichus, c. viii., ix. See also Plato de Repub., lib. x.

[242] That the Achaean governments were democracies appears sufficiently evident; nor is this at variance with the remark of Xenophon, that timocracies were "according to the laws of the Achaeans;" since timocracies were but modified democracies.

[243] The Pythagoreans assembled at the house of Milo, the wrestler, who was an eminent general, and the most illustrious of the disciples were stoned to death, the house being fired. Lapidation was essentially the capital punishment of mobs—the mode of inflicting death that invariably stamps the offender as an enemy to the populace.

[244] Arist. Metaph., i., 3.

[245] Diog. Laert., viii., 28.

[246] Plut. in vit. Them. The Sophists were not, therefore, as is commonly asserted, the first who brought philosophy to bear upon politics.

[247] See, for evidence of the great gifts and real philosophy of Anaxagoras, Brucker de Sect. Ion., xix.

[248] Arist. Eth. Eu., i., 5.

[249] Archelaus began to teach during the interval between the first and second visit of Anaxagoras. See Fast. Hell., vol. ii., B. C. 450.

[250] See the evidence of this in the Clouds of Aristophanes.

[251] Plut. in vit. Per.

[252] See Thucyd., lib. v., c. 18, in which the articles of peace state that the temple and fane of Delphi should be independent, and that the citizens should settle their own taxes, receive their own revenues, and manage their own affairs as a sovereign nation (autoteleis kai autodikois [consult on these words Arnold's Thucydides, vol. ii., p. 256, note 4]), according to the ancient laws of their country.

[253] Mueller's Dorians, vol. ii., p. 422. Athen., iv.

[254] A short change of administration, perhaps, accompanied the defeat of Pericles in the debate on the Boeotian expedition. He was evidently in power, since he had managed the public funds during the opposition of Thucydides; but when beaten, as we should say, "on the Boeotian question," the victorious party probably came into office.

[255] An ambush, according to Diodorus, lib. xii.

[256] Twenty talents, according to the scholiast of Aristophanes. Suidas states the amount variously at fifteen and fifty.

[257] Who fled into Macedonia.—Theopomp. ap. Strab. The number of Athenian colonists was one thousand, according to Diodorus—two thousand, according to Theopompus.

[258] Aristoph. Nub., 213.

[259] Thucyd., i., 111.

[260] ibid., i., 115.

[261] As is evident, among other proofs, from the story before narrated, of his passing his accounts to the Athenians with the item of ten talents employed as secret service money.

[262] The Propylaea alone (not then built) cost two thousand and twelve talents (Harpocrat. in propylaia tauta), and some temples cost a thousand talents each. [Plut. in vit. Per.] If the speech of Pericles referred to such works as these, the offer to transfer the account to his own charge was indeed but a figure of eloquence. But, possibly, the accusation to which this offer was intended as a reply was applicable only to some individual edifice or some of the minor works, the cost of which his fortune might have defrayed. We can scarcely indeed suppose, that if the affected generosity were but a bombastic flourish, it could have excited any feeling but laughter among an audience so acute.

[263] The testimony of Thucydides (lib. ii., c. 5) alone suffices to destroy all the ridiculous imputations against the honesty of Pericles which arose from the malice of contemporaries, and are yet perpetuated only by such writers as cannot weigh authorities. Thucydides does not only call him incorrupt, but "clearly or notoriously honest." [Chraematon te diaphanos adorotatos.] Plutarch and Isocrates serve to corroborate this testimony.

[264] Plut. in vit. Per.

[265] Thucyd., lib. ii., c. 65.

[266] "The model of this regulation, by which Athens obtained the most extensive influence, and an almost absolute dominion over the allies, was possibly found in other Grecian states which had subject confederates, such as Thebes, Elis, and Argos. But on account of the remoteness of many countries, it is impossible that every trifle could have been brought before the court at Athens; we must therefore suppose that each subject state had an inferior jurisdiction of its own, and that the supreme jurisdiction alone belonged to Athens. Can it, indeed, be supposed that persons would have travelled from Rhodes or Byzantium, for the sake of a lawsuit of fifty or a hundred drachmas? In private suits a sum of money was probably fixed, above which the inferior court of the allies had no jurisdiction, while cases relating to higher sums were referred to Athens. There can be no doubt that public and penal causes were to a great extent decided in Athens, and the few definite statements which are extant refer to lawsuits of this nature."—Boeckh, Pol. Econ. of Athens, vol. ii., p. 142, 143, translation.

[267] In calculating the amount of the treasure when transferred to Athens, Boeckh (Pol. Econ. of Athens, vol. i., p. 193, translation) is greatly misled by an error of dates. He assumes that the fund had only existed ten years when brought to Athens: whereas it had existed about seventeen, viz., from B. C. 477 to B. C. 461, or rather B. C. 460. And this would give about the amount affirmed by Diodorus, xii., p. 38 (viz., nearly 8000 talents), though he afterward raises it to 10,000. But a large portion of it must have been consumed in war before the transfer. Still Boeckh rates the total of the sum transferred far too low, when he says it cannot have exceeded 1800 talents. It more probably doubled that sum.

[268] Such as Euboea, see p. 212.

[269] Vesp. Aristoph. 795.

[270] Knight's Prolegomena to Homer; see also Boeckh (translation), vol. i., p. 25.

[271] Viz., B. C. 424; Ol. 89.

[272] Thucyd., iv., 57.

[273] See Chandler's Inscript.

[274] In the time of Alcibiades the tribute was raised to one thousand three hundred talents, and even this must have been most unequally assessed, if it were really the pecuniary hardship the allies insisted upon and complained of. But the resistance made to imposts upon matters of feeling or principle in our own country, as, at this day, in the case of church-rates, may show the real nature of the grievance. It was not the amount paid, but partly the degradation of paying it, and partly, perhaps, resentment in many places at some unfair assessment. Discontent exaggerates every burden, and a feather is as heavy as a mountain when laid on unwilling shoulders. When the new arrangement was made by Alcibiades or the later demagogues, Andocides asserts that some of the allies left their native countries and emigrated to Thurii. But how many Englishmen have emigrated to America from objections to a peculiar law or a peculiar impost, which state policy still vindicates, or state necessity still maintains! The Irish Catholic peasant, in reality, would not, perhaps, be much better off, in a pecuniary point of view, if the tithes were transferred to the rental of the landlord, yet Irish Catholics have emigrated in hundreds from the oppression, real or imaginary, of Protestant tithe-owners. Whether in ancient times or modern, it is not the amount of taxation that makes the grievance. People will pay a pound for what they like, and grudge a farthing for what they hate. I have myself known men quit England because of the stamp duty on newspapers!

[275] Thucyd., lib. i., c. 75; Bloomfield's translation.

[276] A sentiment thus implied by the Athenian ambassadors: "We are not the first who began the custom which has ever been an established one, that the weaker should be kept under by the stronger." The Athenians had, however, an excuse more powerful than that of the ancient Rob Roys. It was the general opinion of the time that the revolt of dependant allies might be fairly punished by one that could punish them—(so the Corinthians take care to observe). And it does not appear that the Athenian empire at this period was more harsh than that of other states to their dependants. The Athenian ambassadors (Thucyd., i., 78) not only quote the far more galling oppressions the Ionians and the isles had undergone from the Mede, but hint that the Spartans had been found much harder masters than the Athenians.

[277] Only twelve drachma each yearly: the total, therefore, is calculated by the inestimable learning of Boeckh not to have exceeded twenty-one talents.

[278] Total estimated at thirty-three talents.

[279] The state itself contributed largely to the plays, and the lessee of the theatre was also bound to provide for several expenses, in consideration of which he received the entrance money.

[280] On the authority of Pseud. Arist. Oecon., 2-4.

[281] In the expedition against Sicily the state supplied the vessel and paid the crew. The trierarchs equipped the ship and gave voluntary contributions besides.—Thucyd., vi., 31.

[282] Liturgies, with most of the Athenian laws that seemed to harass the rich personally, enhanced their station and authority politically. It is clear that wherever wealth is made most obviously available to the state, there it will be most universally respected. Thus is it ever in commercial countries. In Carthage of old, where, according to Aristotle, wealth was considered virtue, and in England at this day, where wealth, if not virtue, is certainly respectability.

[283] And so well aware of the uncertain and artificial tenure of the Athenian power were the Greek statesmen, that we find it among the arguments with which the Corinthian some time after supported the Peloponnesian war, "that the Athenians, if they lost one sea-fight, would be utterly subdued;"—nor, even without such a mischance, could the flames of a war be kindled, but what the obvious expedient [Thucyd., lib. i., c. 121. As the Corinthians indeed suggested, Thucyd., lib. i., c. 122] of the enemy would be to excite the Athenian allies to revolt, and the stoppage or diminution of the tribute would be the necessary consequence.

[284] If the courts of law among the allies were not removed to Athens till after the truce with Peloponnesus, and indeed till after the ostracism of Thucydides, the rival of Pericles, the value of the judicial fees did not, of course, make one of the considerations for peace; but there would then have been the mightier consideration of the design of that transfer which peace only could effect.

[285] Plut. in vit. Per.

[286] "As a vain woman decked out with jewels," was the sarcastic reproach of the allies.—Plut. in vit. Per.

[287] The Propylaea was built under the direction of Mnesicles. It was begun 437 B. C., in the archonship of Euthymenes, three years after the Samian war, and completed in five years. Harpocrat. in propylaia tauta.

[288] Plut. in vit. Per.

[289] See Arnold's Thucydides, ii., 13, note 12.

[290] "Their bodies, too, they employ for the state as if they were any one's else but their own; but with minds completely their own, they are ever ready to render it service."—Thucyd., i., 70, Bloomfield's translation.

[291] With us, Juries as well as judges are paid, and, in ordinary cases, at as low a rate as the Athenian dicasts (the different value of money being considered), viz., common jurymen one shilling for each trial, and, in the sheriffs' court, fourpence. What was so pernicious in Athens is perfectly harmless in England; it was the large member of the dicasts which made the mischief, and not the system of payment itself, as unreflecting writers have so often asserted.

[292] See Book IV., Chapter V. VII. of this volume.

[293] At first the payment of the dicasts was one obolus.—(Aristoph. Nubes, 861.) Afterward, under Cleon, it seems to have been increased to three; it is doubtful whether it was in the interval ever two obols. Constant mistakes are made between the pay, and even the constitution, of the ecclesiasts and the dicasts. But the reader must carefully remember that the former were the popular legislators, the latter, the popular judges or jurors—their functions were a mixture of both.

[294] Misthos ekklaesiastikos—the pay of the ecclesiasts, or popular assembly.

[295] We know not how far the paying of the ecclesiasts was the work of Pericles: if it were, it must have been at, or after, the time we now enter upon, as, according to Aristophanes (Eccles., 302), the people were not paid during the power of Myronides, who flourished, and must have fallen with Thucydides, the defeated rival of Pericles.

[296] The Athenians could extend their munificence even to foreigners, as their splendid gift, said to have been conferred on Herodotus, and the sum of ten thousand drachmas, which Isocrates declares them to have bestowed on Pindar. [Isoc. de Antidosi.]

[297] The pay of the dicast and the ecclesiast was, as we have just seen, first one, then three obols; and the money paid to the infirm was never less than one, nor more than two obols a day. The common sailors, in time of peace, received four obols a day. Neither an ecclesiast nor a dicast was, therefore, paid so much as a common sailor.

[298] Such as the Panathenaea and Hieromeniae.

[299] From klaeroi, lots. The estates and settlements of a cleruchia were divided among a certain number of citizens by lot.

[300] The state only provided the settlers with arms, and defrayed the expenses of their journey. See Boeckh, Pol. Econ. of Athens, vol. ii., p. 170 (translation).

[301] Andoc. Orat. de Pace.

[302] These institutions differed, therefore, from colonies principally in this: the mother country retained a firm hold over the cleruchi—could recall them or reclaim their possessions, as a penalty of revolt: the cleruchi retained all the rights, and were subject to most of the conditions, of citizens. [Except, for instance, the liturgies.] Lands were given without the necessity of quitting Athens—departure thence was voluntary, although it was the ordinary choice. But whether the cleruchi remained at home or repaired to their settlement, they were equally attached to Athenian interests. From their small number, and the enforced and unpopular nature of their tenure, their property, unlike that of ordinary colonists, depended on the power and safety of the parent state: they were not so much transplanted shoots as extended branches of one tree, taking their very life from the same stem. In modern times, Ireland suggests a parallel to the old cleruchiae—in the gift of lands to English adventurers—in the long and intimate connexion which subsisted between the manners, habits, and political feeling of the English settlers and the parent state—in the separation between the settlers and the natives; and in the temporary power and subsequent feebleness which resulted to the home government from the adoption of a system which garrisoned the land, but exasperated the inhabitants.

[303] Nor were even these composed solely of Athenians, but of mixed and various races. The colony to Amphipolis (B. C. 465) is the first recorded colony of the Athenians after the great Ionic migrations.

[304] In the year in which the colony of Thurium or Thurii was founded, the age of Lysias was fifteen, that of Herodotus forty-one.

[305] Plut. in vit. Per. Schol. Aristoph. Av., 521.

[306] Viz., Callias, Lysippus, and Cratinus. See Athenaeus, lib. viii., p. 344. The worthy man seems to have had the amiable infirmities of a bon vivant.

[307] Plut. in vit. Them.

[308] Historians, following the received text in Plutarch, have retailed the incredible story that the rejected claimants were sold for slaves; but when we consider the extraordinary agitation it must have caused to carry such a sentence against so many persons, amounting to a fourth part of the free population—when we remember the numerous connexions, extending throughout at least four times their own number, which five thousand persons living long undisturbed and unsuspected as free citizens must have formed, it is impossible to conceive that such rigour could even have been attempted without creating revolution, sedition, or formidable resistance. Yet this measure, most important if attended with such results—most miraculous if not—is passed over in total silence by Thucydides and by every other competent authority. A luminous emendation by Mr. Clinton (Fast. Hell., vol. ii., second edition, p. 52 and 390, note p) restores the proper meaning. Instead of heprataesan, he proposes apaelathaesan—the authorities from Lysias quoted by Mr. Clinton (p. 390) seem to decide the matter. "These five thousand disfranchised citizens, in B. C. 544, partly supplied the colony to Thurium in the following year, and partly contributed to augment the number of the Metoeci."

[309] Fourteen thousand two hundred and forty, according to Philochorus. By the term "free citizens" is to be understood those male Athenians above twenty—that is, those entitled to vote in the public assembly. According to Mr. Clinton's computation, the women and children being added, the fourteen thousand two hundred and forty will amount to about fifty-eight thousand six hundred and forty, as the total of the free population.

[310] Thucyd., i., c. 40.

[311] See the speech of the Corinthians.—Thucyd., lib. i., 70.

[312] Who was this Thucydides? The rival of Pericles had been exiled less than ten years before [in fact, about four years ago; viz., B. C. 444]; and it is difficult to suppose that he could have been recalled before the expiration of he sentence, and appointed to command, at the very period when the power and influence of Pericles were at their height. Thucydides, the historian, was about thirty-one, an age at which so high a command would scarcely, at that period, have been bestowed upon any citizen, even in Athens, where men mixed in public affairs earlier than in other Hellenic states [Thucydides himself (lib. v., 43) speaks of Alcibiades as a mere youth (at least one who would have been so considered in any other state), at a time when he could not have been much less, and was probably rather more than thirty]; besides, had Thucydides been present, would he have given us no more ample details of an event so important? There were several who bore this name. The scholiast on Aristophanes (Acharn., v., 703) says there were four, whom he distinguishes thus—1st, the historian; 2d, the Gargettian; 3d, the Thessalian; 4th, the son of Melesias. The scholiast on the Vespae (v., 991) enumerates the same, and calls them all Athenians. The son of Melesias is usually supposed the opponent of Pericles—he is so called by Androtion. Theopompus, however, says that it was the son of Pantanus. Marcellinus (in vit. Thucyd., p. xi.) speaks of many of the name, and also selects four for special notice. 1st, the historian; 2d, the son of Melesias; 3d, a Pharsalian; 4th, a poet of the ward of Acherdus, mentioned by Androtion, and called the son of Ariston. Two of this name, the historian and the son of Melesias, are well known to us; but, for the reasons I have mentioned, it is more probable that one of the others was general in the Samian war. A third Thucydides (the Thessalian or Pharsalian) is mentioned by the historian himself (viii., 92). I take the Gargettian (perhaps the son of Pantanus named by Theopompus) to have been the commander in the expedition.

[313] Plut. in vit. Per.

[314] Alexis ap. Ath., lib. xiii.

[315] At this period the Athenians made war with a forbearance not common in later ages. When Timotheus besieged Samos, he maintained his armament solely on the hostile country, while a siege of nine months cost Athens so considerable a sum.

[316] Plut. in vit. Per.

The contribution levied on the Samians was two hundred talents, proportioned, according to Diodorus, to the full cost of the expedition. But as Boeckh (Pol. Econ. of Athens, vol. i., p. 386, trans.) well observes, "This was a very lenient reckoning; a nine months' siege by land and sea, in which one hundred and ninety-nine triremes [Boeckh states the number of triremes at one hundred and ninety-nine, but, in fact, there were two hundred and fifteen vessels employed, since we ought not to omit the sixteen stationed on the Carian coast, or despatched to Lesbos and Chios for supplies] were employed, or, at any rate, a large part of this number, for a considerable time, must evidently have caused a greater expense, and the statement, therefore, of Isocrates and Nepos, that twelve hundred talents were expended on it, appears to be by no means exaggerated."

[317] It was on Byzantium that they depended for the corn they imported from the shores of the Euxine.

[318] The practice of funeral orations was probably of very ancient origin among the Greeks: but the law which ordained them at Athens is referred by the scholiast on Thucydides (lib. ii., 35) to Solon; while Diodorus, on the other hand, informs us it was not passed till after the battle of Plataea. It appears most probable that it was a usage of the heroic times, which became obsolete while the little feuds among the Greek states remained trivial and unimportant; but, after the Persian invasion, it was solemnly revived, from the magnitude of the wars which Greece had undergone, and the dignity and holiness of the cause in which the defenders of their country had fallen.

[319] Ouk an muraisi graus eous aegeitheo.

This seems the only natural interpretation of the line, in which, from not having the context, we lose whatever wit the sentence may have possessed—and witty we must suppose it was, since Plutarch evidently thinks it a capital joke. In corroboration of this interpretation of an allusion which has a little perplexed the commentators, we may observe, that ten years before, Pericles had judged a sarcasm upon the age of Elpinice the best way to silence her importunities. The anecdote is twice told by Plutarch, in vit. Cim., c. 14, and in vit. Per., c. 10.

[320] Aristot., Poet. iv.

[321] "As he was removed from Cos in infancy, the name of his adopted country prevailed over that of the country of his birth, and Epicharmus is called of Syracuse, though born at Cos, as Apollonius is called the Rhodian, though born at Alexandria."—Fast. Hell., vol. ii., introduction.

[322] Moliere.

[323] Laertius, viii. For it is evident that Epicharmus the philosopher was no other than Epicharmus the philosophical poet—the delight of Plato, who was himself half a Pythagorean.—See Bentley, Diss. Phal., p. 201; Laertius, viii., 78; Fynes Clinton, Fast. Hell., vol. ii., introduction, p. 36 (note g).

[324] A few of his plays were apparently not mythological, but they were only exceptions from the general rule, and might have been written after the less refining comedies of Magnes at Athens.

[325] A love of false antithesis.

[326] In Syracuse, however, the republic existed when Epicharmus first exhibited his comedies. His genius was therefore formed by a republic, though afterward fostered by a tyranny.

[327] For Crates acted in the plays of Cratinus before he turned author. (See above.) Now the first play of Crates dates two years before the first recorded play (the Archilochi) of Cratinus; consequently Cratinus must have been celebrated long previous to the exhibition of the Archilochi—indeed, his earlier plays appear, according to Aristophanes, to have been the most successful, until the old gentleman, by a last vigorous effort, beat the favourite play of Aristophanes himself.

[328] That the magistrature did not at first authorize comedy seems a proof that it was not at the commencement considered, like tragedy, of a religious character. And, indeed, though modern critics constantly urge upon us its connexion with religion, I doubt whether at any time the populace thought more of its holier attributes and associations than the Neapolitans of to-day are impressed with the sanctity of the carnival when they are throwing sugarplums at each other.

[329] In the interval, however, the poets seem to have sought to elude the law, since the names of two plays (the Satyroi and the Koleophoroi) are recorded during this period—plays which probably approached comedy without answering to its legal definition. It might be that the difficulty rigidly to enforce the law against the spirit of the times and the inclination of the people was one of the causes that led to the repeal of the prohibition.

[330] Since that siege lasted nine months of the year in which the decree was made.

[331] Aristophanes thus vigorously describes the applauses that attended the earlier productions of Cratinus. I quote from the masterly translation of Mr. Mitchell.

"Who Cratinus may forget, or the storm of whim and wit, Which shook theatres under his guiding; When Panegyric's song poured her flood of praise along, Who but he on the top wave was riding?"

* * * * * * *

"His step was as the tread of a flood that leaves its bed, And his march it was rude desolation," etc. Mitchell's Aristoph., The Knights, p. 204.

The man who wrote thus must have felt betimes—when, as a boy, he first heard the roar of the audience—what it is to rule the humours of eighteen thousand spectators!

[332] De l'esprit, passim.

[333] De Poet., c. 26.

[334] The oracle that awarded to Socrates the superlative degree of wisdom, gave to Sophocles the positive, and to Euripides the comparative degree,

Sophos Sophoclaes; sophoteros d'Euripoeaes; 'Andron de panton Sokrataes sophotatos.

Sophocles is wise—Euripides wiser—but wisest of all men is Socrates.

[335] The Oresteia.

[336] For out of seventy plays by Aeschylus only thirteen were successful; he had exhibited fifteen years before he obtained his first prize; and the very law passed in honour of his memory, that a chorus should be permitted to any poet who chose to re-exhibit his dramas, seems to indicate that a little encouragement of such exhibition was requisite. This is still more evident if we believe, with Quintilian, that the poets who exhibited were permitted to correct and polish up the dramas, to meet the modern taste, and play the Cibber to the Athenian Shakspeare.

[337] Athenaeus, lib. xiii., p. 603, 604.

[338] He is reported, indeed, to have said that he rejoiced in the old age which delivered him from a severe and importunate taskmaster. —Athen., lib. 12, p. 510. But the poet, nevertheless, appears to have retained his amorous propensities, at least, to the last.—See Athenaeus, lib. 13, p. 523.

[339] He does indeed charge Sophocles with avarice, but he atones for it very handsomely in the "Frogs."

[340] M. Schlegel is pleased to indulge in one of his most declamatory rhapsodies upon the life, "so dear to the gods," of this "pious and holy poet." But Sophocles, in private life, was a profligate, and in public life a shuffler and a trimmer, if not absolutely a renegade. It was, perhaps, the very laxity of his principles which made him thought so agreeable a fellow. At least, such is no uncommon cause of personal popularity nowadays. People lose much of their anger and envy of genius when it throws them down a bundle or two of human foibles by which they can climb up to its level.

[341] It is said, indeed, that the appointment was the reward of a successful tragedy; it was more likely due to his birth, fortune, and personal popularity.

[342] It seems, however, that Pericles thought very meanly of his warlike capacities.—See Athenaeus, lib. 13, p. 604.

[343] Oedip. Tyr., 1429, etc.

[344] When Sophocles (Athenaeus, i., p. 22) said that Aeschylus composed befittingly, but without knowing it, his saying evinced the study his compositions had cost himself.

[345] "The chorus should be considered as one of the persons in the drama, should be a part of the whole, and a sharer in the action, not as in Euripides, but as in Sophocles."—Aristot. de Poet., Twining's translation. But even in Sophocles, at least in such of his plays as are left to us, the chorus rarely, if ever, is a sharer in the outward and positive action of the piece; it rather carries on and expresses the progress of the emotions that spring out of the action.

[346] —akno toi pros s' aposkopois' anax.—Oedip. Tyr., 711.

This line shows how much of emotion the actor could express in spite of the mask.

[347] "Of all discoveries, the best is that which arises from the action itself, and in which a striking effect is produced by probable incidents. Such is that in the Oedipus of Sophocles."—Aristot. de Poet., Twining's translation.

[348] But the spot consecrated to those deities which men "tremble to name," presents all the features of outward loveliness that contrast and refine, as it were, the metaphysical terror of the associations. And the beautiful description of Coloneus itself, which is the passage that Sophocles is said to have read to his judges, before whom he was accused of dotage, seems to paint a home more fit for the graces than the furies. The chorus inform the stranger that he has come to "the white Coloneus;"

"Where ever and aye, through the greenest vale Gush the wailing notes of the nightingale From her home where the dark-hued ivy weaves With the grove of the god a night of leaves; And the vines blossom out from the lonely glade, And the suns of the summer are dim in the shade, And the storms of the winter have never a breeze, That can shiver a leaf from the charmed trees; For there, oh ever there, With that fair mountain throng, Who his sweet nurses were, [the nymphs of Nisa] Wild Bacchus holds his court, the conscious woods among! Daintily, ever there, Crown of the mighty goddesses of old, Clustering Narcissus with his glorious hues Springs from his bath of heaven's delicious dews, And the gay crocus sheds his rays of gold. And wandering there for ever The fountains are at play, And Cephisus feeds his river From their sweet urns, day by day. The river knows no dearth; Adown the vale the lapsing waters glide, And the pure rain of that pellucid tide Calls the rife beauty from the heart of earth. While by the banks the muses' choral train Are duly heard—and there, Love checks her golden rein."

[349] Geronta dorthoun, phlauron, os neos pesae. Oedip. Col., 396.

Thus, though his daughter had only grown up from childhood to early womanhood, Oedipus has passed from youth to age since the date of the Oedipus Tyrannus.

[350] See his self-justification, 960-1000.

[351] As each poet had but three actors allowed him, the song of the chorus probably gave time for the representative of Theseus to change his dress, and reappear as Polynices.

[352] The imagery in the last two lines has been amplified from the original in order to bring before the reader what the representation would have brought before the spectator.

[353] Mercury.

[354] Proserpine.

[355] Autonamos.—Antig., 821.

[356] Ou toi synechthein, alla symphilein ephun. Antig., 523.

[357] Ceres.

[358] Hyper dilophon petras—viz., Parnassus. The Bacchanalian light on the double crest of Parnassus, which announced the god, is a favourite allusion with the Greek poets.

[359] His mother, Semele.

[360] Aristotle finds fault with the incident of the son attempting to strike his father, as being shocking, yet not tragic—that is, the violent action is episodical, since it is not carried into effect; yet, if we might connect the plot of the "Antigone" with the former plays of either "Oedipus," there is something of retribution in the attempted parricide when we remember the hypocritical and cruel severity of Creon to the involuntary parricide of Oedipus. The whole description of the son in that living tomb, glaring on his father with his drawn sword, the dead form of his betrothed, with the subsequent picture of the lovers joined in death, constitutes one of the most masterly combinations of pathos and terror in ancient or modern poetry.

[361] This is not the only passage in which Sophocles expresses feminine wo by silence. In the Trachiniae, Deianira vanishes in the same dumb abruptness when she hears from her son the effect of the centaur's gift upon her husband.

[362] According to that most profound maxim of Aristotle, that in tragedy a very bad man should never be selected as the object of chastisement, since his fate is not calculated to excite our sympathies.

[363] Electra, I. 250-300.

[364] When (line 614) Clytemnestra reproaches Electra for using insulting epithets to a mother—and "Electra, too, at such a time of life"—I am surprised that some of the critics should deem it doubtful whether Clytemnestra meant to allude to her being too young or too mature for such unfilial vehemence. Not only does the age of Orestes, so much the junior to Electra, prove the latter signification to be the indisputable one, but the very words of Electra herself to her younger sister, Chrysothemis, when she tells her that she is "growing old, unwedded."

Estos'onde tou chronou alektra gaearskousan anumegaia te.

Brunck has a judicious note on Electra's age, line 614.

[365] Macbeth, act i., scene 5.

[366] See Note [376].

[367] Sophocles skilfully avoids treading the ground consecrated to Aeschylus. He does not bring the murder before us with the struggles and resolve of Orestes.

[368] This is very characteristic of Sophocles; he is especially fond of employing what may be called "a crisis in life" as a source of immediate interest to the audience. So in the "Oedipus at Coloneus," Oedipus no sooner finds he is in the grove of the Furies than he knows his hour is approaching; so, also, in the "Ajax," the Nuncius announces from the soothsayer, that if Ajax can survive the one day which makes the crisis of his life, the anger of the goddess will cease. This characteristic of the peculiar style of Sophocles might be considered as one of the proofs (were any wanting) of the authenticity of the "Trachiniae."

[369] M. Schlegel rather wantonly accuses Deianira of "levity"—all her motives, on the contrary, are pure and high, though tender and affectionate.

[370] Observe the violation of the unity which Sophocles, the most artistical of all the Greek tragedians, does not hesitate to commit whenever he thinks it necessary. Hyllus, at the beginning of the play, went to Cenaeum; he has been already there and back—viz., a distance from Mount Oeta to a promontory in Euboea, during the time about seven hundred and thirty lines have taken up in recital! Nor is this all: just before the last chorus—only about one hundred lines back—Lichas set out to Cenaeum; and yet sufficient time is supposed to have elapsed for him to have arrived there—been present at a sacrifice—been killed by Hercules—and after all this, for Hyllus, who tells the tale, to have performed the journey back to Trachin.

[371] Even Ulysses, the successful rival of Ajax, exhibits a reluctance to face the madman which is not without humour.

[372] Potter says, in common with some other authorities, that "we may be assured that the political enmity of the Athenians to the Spartans and Argives was the cause of this odious representation of Menelaus and Agamemnon." But the Athenians had, at that time, no political enmity with the Argives, who were notoriously jealous of the Spartans; and as for the Spartans, Agamemnon and Menelaus were not their heroes and countrymen. On the contrary, it was the thrones of Menelaus and Agamemnon which the Spartans overthrew. The royal brothers were probably sacrificed by the poet, not the patriot. The dramatic effects required that they should be made the foils to the manly fervour of Teucer and the calm magnanimity of Ulysses.

[373] That the catastrophe should be unhappy! Aristot., Poet., xiii.

In the same chapter Aristotle properly places in the second rank of fable those tragedies which attempt the trite and puerile moral of punishing the bad and rewarding the good.

[374] When Aristophanes (in the character of Aeschylus) ridicules Euripides for the vulgarity of deriving pathos from the rags, etc., of his heroes, he ought not to have omitted all censure of the rags and sores of the favourite hero of Sophocles. And if the Telephus of the first is represented as a beggar, so also is the Oedipus at Coloneus of the latter. Euripides has great faults, but he has been unfairly treated both by ancient and modern hypercriticism.

[375] The single effects, not the plots.

[376] "Polus, celebrated," says Gellius, "throughout all Greece, a scientific actor of the noblest tragedies." Gellius relates of him an anecdote, that when acting the Electra of Sophocles, in that scene where she is represented with the urn supposed to contain her brother's remains, he brought on the stage the urn and the relics of his own son, so that his lamentations were those of real emotion. Poles acted the hero in the plays of Oedipus Tyrannus and Oedipus at Coloneus.—Arrian. ap. Stob., xcvii., 28. The actors were no less important personages on the ancient than they are on the modern stage. Aristotle laments that good poets were betrayed into episodes, or unnecessarily prolonging and adorning parts not wanted in the plot, so as to suit the rival performers.—Arist. de Poet., ix. Precisely what is complained of in the present day. The Attic performers were the best in Greece—all the other states were anxious to engage them, but they were liable to severe penalties if they were absent at the time of the Athenian festivals. (Plut. in Alex.) They were very highly remunerated. Polus could earn no less than a talent in two days (Plut. in Rhet. vit.), a much larger sum (considering the relative values of money) than any English actor could now obtain for a proportionate period of service. Though in the time of Aristotle actors as a body were not highly respectable, there was nothing highly derogatory in the profession itself. The high birth of Sophocles and Aeschylus did not prevent their performing in their own plays. Actors often took a prominent part in public affairs; and Aristodemus, the player, was sent ambassador to King Philip. So great, indeed, was the importance attached to this actor, that the state took on itself to send ambassadors in his behalf to all the cities in which he had engagements.—Aeschin. de Fals. Legat., p. 30-203, ed. Reiske.

[377] The Minerva Promachus. Hae megalae Athaena.

[378] Zosimus, v., p. 294.

[379] Oedip. Colon., 671, etc.

[380] Oedip. Colon., 691.


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