Athens: Its Rise and Fall, Complete
by Edward Bulwer-Lytton
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[220] Plato de Legibus.

[221] Plutarch assures us that Solon issued a decree that his laws were to remain in force a hundred years: an assertion which modern writers have rejected as incompatible with their constant revision. It was not, however, so contradictory a decree as it seems at first glance—for one of the laws not to be altered was this power of amending and revising the laws. And, therefore, the enactment in dispute would only imply that the constitution was not to be altered except through the constitutional channel which Solon had appointed.

[222] See Fast. Hell., vol. ii., 276.

[223] Including, as I before observed, that law which provided for any constitutional change in a constitutional manner.

[224] "Et Croesum quem vox justi facunda Solonis Respicere ad longae jussit spatia ultima vitae." Juv., Sat. x., s. 273.

The story of the interview and conversation between Croesus and Solon is supported by so many concurrent authorities, that we cannot but feel grateful to the modern learning, which has removed the only objection to it in an apparent contradiction of dates. If, as contended for by Larcher, still more ably by Wesseling, and since by Mr. Clinton, we agree that Croesus reigned jointly with his father Alyattes, the difficulty vanishes at once.

[225] Plutarch gives two accounts of the recovery of Salamis by Solon; one of them, which is also preferred by Aelian (var. c. xix., lib. vii.), I have adopted and described in my narrative of that expedition: the second I now give, but refer to Pisistratus, not Solon: in support of which opinion I am indebted to Mr. Clinton for the suggestion of two authorities. Aeneas Tacticus, in his Treatise on Sieges, chap. iv., and Frontinus de Stratagem., lib. iv., cap. vii.—Justin also favours the claim of Pisistratus to this stratagem, lib. xi., c. viii.

[226] The most sanguine hope indeed that Cicero seems to have formed with respect to the conduct of Cesar, was that he might deserve the title of the Pisistratus of Rome.

[227] If we may, in this anecdote, accord to Plutarch (de Vit. Sol.) and Aelian (Var. lib. viii., c. xvi.) a belief which I see no reason for withholding.

[228] His own verses, rather than the narrative of Plutarch, are the evidence of Solon's conduct on the usurpation of Pisistratus.

[229] This historian fixes the date of Solon's visit to Croesus and to Cyprus (on which island he asserts him to have died), not during his absence of ten years, but during the final exile for which he contends.

[230] Herod., l. i., c. 49.

[231] The procession of the goddess of Reason in the first French revolution solves the difficulty that perplexed Herodotus.

[232] Mr. Mitford considers this story as below the credit of history. He gives no sufficient reason against its reception, and would doubtless have been less skeptical had he known more of the social habits of that time, or possessed more intimate acquaintance with human nature generally.

[233] Upon which points, of men and money, Mr. Mitford, who is anxious to redeem the character of Pisistratus from the stain of tyranny, is dishonestly prevaricating. Quoting Herodotus, who especially insists upon these undue sources of aid, in the following words—'Errixose taen tyrannida, epikouroisi te polloisi kai chraematon synodoisi, ton men, autothen, ton de, apo Strumanos potamou synionton: this candid historian merely says, "A particular interest with the ruling parties in several neighbouring states, especially Thebes and Argos, and a wise and liberal use of a very great private property, were the resources in which besides he mostly relied." Why he thus slurs over the fact of the auxiliary forces will easily be perceived. He wishes us to understand that the third tyranny of Pisistratus, being wholesome, was also acceptable to the Athenians, and not, as it in a great measure was, supported by borrowed treasure and foreign swords.

[234] Who, according to Plutarch, first appeared at the return of Solon; but the proper date for his exhibitions is ascertained (Fast. Hell., vol. ii., p. 11) several years after Solon's death.

[235] These two wars, divided by so great an interval of time,—the one terminated by Periander of Corinth, the other undertaken by Pisistratus,—are, with the usual blundering of Mr. Mitford, jumbled together into the same event. He places Alcaeus in the war following the conquest of Sigeum by Pisistratus. Poor Alcaeus! the poet flourished Olym. 42 (611 B. C.); the third tyranny of Pisistratus may date somewhere about 537 B. C., so that Alcaeus, had he been alive in the time ascribed by Mr. Mitford to his warlike exhibitions, would have been (supposing him to be born twenty-six years before the date of his celebrity in 611) just a hundred years old—a fitting age to commence the warrior! The fact is, Mr. Mitford adopted the rather confused account of Herodotus, without taking the ordinary pains to ascertain dates, which to every one else the very names of Periander and Alcaeus would have suggested.

[236] For the reader will presently observe the share taken by Croesus in the affairs of this Miltiades during his government in the Chersonesus; now Croesus was conquered by Cyrus about B. C. 546—it must, therefore, have been before that period. But the third tyranny of Pisistratus appears to have commenced nine years afterward, viz., B. C. 537. The second tyranny probably commenced only two years before the fall of the Lydian monarchy, and seems to have lasted only a year, and during that period Croesus no longer exercised over the cities of the coast the influence he exerted with the people of Lampsacus on behalf of Miltiades; the departure of Miltiades, son of Cypselus, must therefore have been in the first tyranny, in the interval 560 B. C.—554 B. C., and probably at the very commencement of the reign—viz., about 550 B. C.

[237] In the East, the master of the family still sits before the door to receive visiters or transact business.

[238] Thucydides, b. vi., c. 54. The dialogue of Hipparchus, ascribed to Plato, gives a different story, but much of the same nature. In matters of history, we cannot doubt which is the best authority, Thucydides or Plato,—especially an apocryphal Plato.

[239] Although it is probable that the patriotism of Aristogiton and Harmodius "the beloved" has been elevated in after times beyond its real standard, yet Mr. Mitford is not justified in saying that it was private revenge, and not any political motive, that induced them to conspire the death of Hippias and Hipparchus. Had it been so, why strike at Hippias at all?—why attempt to make him the first and principal victim?—why assail Hipparchus (against whom only they had a private revenge) suddenly, by accident, and from the impulse of the moment, after the failure of their design on the tyrant himself, with whom they had no quarrel? It is most probable that, as in other attempts at revolution, that of Masaniello—that of Rienzi—public patriotism was not created—it was stimulated and made passion by private resentment.

[240] Mr. Mitford has most curiously translated this passage thus: "Aristogiton escaped the attending guards, but, being taken by the people (!!!) was not mildly treated. So Thucydides has expressed himself." Now Thucydides says quite the reverse: he says that, owing to the crowd of the people, the guard could not at first seize him. How did Mr. Mitford make this strange blunder? The most charitable supposition is, that, not reading the Greek, he was misled by an error of punctuation in the Latin version.

[241] "Qui cum per tormenta conscios caedis nominare cogeretur," etc. (Justin., lib. ii., chap. ix.) This author differs from the elder writers as to the precise cause of the conspiracy.

[242] Herodotus says they were both Gephyraeans by descent; a race, according to him, originally Phoenician.—Herod. b. v., c. 57.

[243] Mr. Mitford too hastily and broadly asserts the whole story of Leaena to be a fable: if, as we may gather from Pausanias, the statue of the lioness existed in his time, we may pause before we deny all authenticity to a tradition far from inconsonant with the manners of the time or the heroism of the sex.

[244] Thucyd., b. vi., c. 59.

[245] Herodotus, b. vi., c. 103. In all probability, the same jealousy that murdered the father dismissed the son. Hippias was far too acute and too fearful not to perceive the rising talents and daring temper of Miltiades. By-the-way, will it be believed that Mitford, in is anxiety to prove Hippias and Hipparchus the most admirable persons possible, not only veils the unnatural passions of the last, but is utterly silent about the murder of Cimon, which is ascribed to the sons of Pisistratus by Herodotus, in the strongest and gravest terms.—Mr. Thirlwall (Hist. of Greece, vol. ii., p. 223) erroneously attributes the assassination of Cimon to Pisistratus himself.

[246] Suidas. Laertius iv., 13, etc. Others, as Ammonius and Simplicius ad Aristotelem, derive the name of Cynics given to these philosophers from the ridicule attached to their manners.

[247] Whose ardour appears to have been soon damped. They lost but forty men, and then retired at once to Thessaly. This reminds us of the wars between the Italian republics, in which the loss of a single horseman was considered no trifling misfortune. The value of the steed and the rank of the horseman (always above the vulgar) made the cavalry of Greece easily discouraged by what appears to us an inconsiderable slaughter.

[248] Aelian. V. Hist. xiii., 24.

[249] Wachsm, l. i., p. 273. Others contend for a later date to this most important change; but, on the whole, it seems a necessary consequence of the innovations of Clisthenes, which were all modelled upon the one great system of breaking down the influence of the aristocracy. In the speech of Otanes (Herod., lib. iii., c. 80), it is curious to observe how much the vote by lot was identified with a republican form of government.

[250] See Sharon Turner, vol. i., book i.

[251] Herod., b. i., c. xxvi.

[252] Ctesias. Mr. Thirlwall, in my judgment, very properly contents himself with recording the ultimate destination of Croesus as we find it in Ctesias, to the rejection of the beautiful romance of Herodotus. Justin observes that Croesus was so beloved among the Grecian cities, that, had Cyrus exercised any cruelty against him, the Persian hero would have drawn upon himself a war with Greece.

[253] After his fall, Croesus is said by Herodotus to have reproached the Pythian with those treacherous oracles that conduced to the loss of his throne, and to have demanded if the gods of Greece were usually delusive and ungrateful. True to that dark article of Grecian faith which punished remote generations for ancestral crimes, the Pythian replied, that Croesus had been fated to expiate in his own person the crimes of Gyges, the murderer of his master;—that, for the rest, the declarations of the oracle had been verified; the mighty empire, denounced by the divine voice, had been destroyed, for it was his own, and the mule, Cyrus, was presiding over the Lydian realm: a mule might the Persian hero justly be entitled, since his parents were of different ranks and nations. His father a low-born Persian—his mother a Median princess. Herodotus assures us that Croesus was content with the explanation—if so, the god of song was more fortunate than the earthly poets he inspires, who have indeed often, imitating his example, sacrificed their friends to a play upon words, without being so easily able to satisfy their victims.

[254] Herod., l. v., c. 74.

[255] If colonists they can properly be called—they retained their connexion with Athens, and all their rights of franchise.

[256] Herod., l. v., c. 78.

[257] Mr. Mitford, constantly endeavouring to pervert the simple honesty of Herodotus to a sanction of despotic governments, carefully slurs over this remarkable passage.

[258] Pausanias, b. iii., c. 5 and 6.

[259] Mr. Mitford, always unduly partial to the Spartan policy, styles Cleomenes "a man violent in his temper, but of considerable abilities." There is no evidence of his abilities. His restlessness and ferocity made him assume a prominent part which he was never adequate to fulfil: he was, at best, a cunning madman.

[260] Why, if discovered so long since by Cleomenes, were they concealed till now? The Spartan prince, afterward detected in bribing the oracle itself, perhaps forged these oracular predictions.

[261] Herod., b. v. c. 91.

[262] What is the language of Mr. Mitford at this treason? "We have seen," says that historian, "the democracy of Athens itself setting the example (among the states of old Greece) of soliciting Persian protection. Will, then, the liberal spirit of patriotism and equal government justify the prejudices of Athenian faction (!!!) and doom Hippias to peculiar execration, because, at length, he also, with many of his fellow-citizens, despairing of other means for ever returning to their native country, applied to Artaphernes at Sardis?" It is difficult to know which to admire most, the stupidity or dishonesty of this passage. The Athenian democracy applied to Persia for relief against the unjust invasion of their city and liberties by a foreign force; Hippias applied to Persia, not only to interfere in the domestic affairs of a free state, but to reduce that state, his native city, to the subjection of the satrap. Is there any parallel between these cases? If not, what dulness in instituting it! But the dishonesty is equal to the dulness. Herodotus, the only author Mr. Mitford here follows, expressly declares (I. v., c. 96) that Hippias sought to induce Artaphernes to subject Athens to the sway of the satrap and his master, Darius; yet Mr. Mitford says not a syllable of this, leaving his reader to suppose that Hippias merely sought to be restored to his country through the intercession of the satrap.

[263] Herod., l. v., c. 96.

[264] Aulus Gellius, who relates this anecdote with more detail than Herodotus, asserts that the slave himself was ignorant of the characters written on his scull, that Histiaeus selected a domestic who had a disease in his eyes—shaved him, punctured the skin, and sending him to Miletus when the hair was grown, assured the credulous patient that Aristagoras would complete the cure by shaving him a second time. According to this story we must rather admire the simplicity of the slave than the ingenuity of Histiaeus.

[265] Rather a hyperbolical expression—the total number of free Athenians did not exceed twenty thousand.

[266] The Paeonians.

[267] Hecataeus, the historian of Miletus, opposed the retreat to Myrcinus, advising his countrymen rather to fortify themselves in the Isle of Leros, and await the occasion to return to Miletus. This early writer seems to have been one of those sagacious men who rarely obtain their proper influence in public affairs, because they address the reason in opposition to the passions of those they desire to lead. Unsuccessful in this proposition, Hecataeus had equally failed on two former occasions;—first, when he attempted to dissuade the Milesians from the revolt of Aristagoras: secondly, when, finding them bent upon it, he advised them to appropriate the sacred treasures in the temple at Branchidae to the maintenance of a naval force. On each occasion his advice failed precisely because given without prejudice or passion. The successful adviser must appear to sympathize even with the errors of his audience.

[268] The humane Darius—whose virtues were his own, his faults of his station—treated the son of Miltiades with kindness and respect, married him to a Persian woman, and endowed him with an estate. It was the habitual policy of that great king to attach to his dominions the valour and the intellect of the Greeks.

[269] Pausanias says, that Talthybius afterward razed the house of Miltiades, because that chief instigated the Athenians to the execution of the Persian envoys.

[270] Demaratus had not only prevented the marriage of Leotychides with a maiden named Percalos, but, by a mixture of violence and artifice, married her himself. Thus, even among the sober and unloving Spartans, woman could still be the author of revolutions.

[271] The national pride of the Spartans would not, however, allow that their king was the object of the anger of the gods, and ascribing his excesses to his madness, accounted for the last by a habit of excessive drinking which he had acquired from the Scythians

[272] Herod., l. 6, c. 94.

[273] Ibid., l. 6, c. 107.

[274] The sun and moon.

[275] In his attack upon Herodotus, Plutarch asserts that the Spartans did make numerous military excursions at the beginning of the month; if this be true, so far from excusing the Spartans, it only corroborates the natural suspicion that they acted in accordance, not with superstition, but with their usual calculating and selfish policy —ever as slow to act in the defence of other states as prompt to assert the independence of their own.

[276] Paus., l. 8, c. 5.

[277] The exact number of the Athenians is certainly doubtful. Herodotus does not specify it. Justin estimates the number of citizens at ten thousand, besides a thousand Plataeans: Nepos at ten thousand in all; Pausanias at nine thousand. But this total, furnished by authorities so equivocal, seems incredibly small. The free population could have been little short of twenty thousand. We must add the numbers, already great, of the resident aliens and the slaves, who, as Pausanias tells us, were then for the first time admitted to military service. On the other hand it is evident, from the speech of Miltiades to Callimachus, and the supposed treachery of the Alcmaeonidae, that some, nor an inconsiderable, force, was left in reserve at Athens for the protection of the city. Let us suppose, however, that two thirds of the Athenian citizens of military age, viz., between the ages of twenty and sixty, marched to Marathon (and this was but the common proportion on common occasions), the total force, with the slaves, the settlers, and the Plataean auxiliaries, could not amount to less than fifteen or sixteen thousand. But whatever the precise number of the heroes of Marathon, we have ample testimony for the general fact that it was so trifling when compared with the Persian armament, as almost to justify the exaggeration of later writers.

[278] Plut. in Vit. Aris. Aristid., pro Quatuor Vias, vol. ii., p. 222, edit. Dindorf.

[279] In his graceful work on Athens and Attica, Mr. Wordsworth has well observed the peculiar propriety of this reference to the examples of Harmodius and Aristogiton, as addressed to Callimachus. They were from the same borough (aphidnae) as the polemarch himself.

[280] The goddess of Athens was supposed to have invented a peculiar trumpet used by her favoured votaries.

[281] To raise the standard was the sign of battle.—Suidas, Thucyd. Schol., c. 1. On the Athenian standard was depicted the owl of Minerva.—Plut. in Vit. Lysand.

[282] Aeschyl. Persae.

[283] Ibid.

[284] Herod., l. 6., c. xii.

[285] Plut. in Vit. Aristid.

[286] Roos hespera. Aristoph., Vesp 1080.

[287] Justin, lib. ii., c. ix.

[288] According, however, to Suidas, he escaped and died at Lemnos.

[289] This incident confirms the expressed fear of Miltiades, that delay in giving battle might produce division and treachery among some of the Athenians. Doubtless his speech referred to some particular faction or individuals.

[290] Plut. in Vit. Arist.

[291] These apparitions, recorded by Pausanias, l. i., c. 33, are still believed in by the peasantry.



by Edward Bulwer Lytton





I The Character and Popularity of Miltiades.—Naval expedition. —Siege of Paros.—Conduct of Miltiades.—He is Accused and Sentenced.—His Death.

II The Athenian Tragedy.—Its Origin.—Thespis.—Phrynichus.— Aeschylus.—Analysis of the Tragedies of Aeschylus.

III Aristides.—His Character and Position.—The Rise of Themistocles.—Aristides is Ostracised.—The Ostracism examined.—The Influence of Themistocles increases.—The Silver—mines of Laurion.—Their Product applied by Themistocles to the Increase of the Navy.—New Direction given to the National Character.

IV The Preparations of Darius.—Revolt of Egypt.—Dispute for The Succession to the Persian Throne.—Death of Darius.— Brief Review of the leading Events and Characteristics of his Reign.

V Xerxes conducts an Expedition into Egypt.—He finally resolves on the Invasion of Greece.—Vast Preparations for the Conquest of Europe.—Xerxes arrives at Sardis.—Despatches Envoys to the Greek States, demanding Tribute.—The Bridge of the Hellespont.—Review of the Persian Armament at Abydos.—Xerxes encamps at Therme.

VI The Conduct of the Greeks.—The Oracle relating to Salamis.— Art of Themistocles.—The Isthmian Congress.—Embassies to Argos, Crete, Corcyra, and Syracuse.—Their ill Success.— The Thessalians send Envoys to the Isthmus.—The Greeks advance to Tempe, but retreat.—The Fleet despatched to Artemisium, and the Pass of Thermopylae occupied.—Numbers of the Grecian Fleet.—Battle of Thermopylae.

VII The Advice of Demaratus to Xerxes.—Themistocles.—Actions off Artemisium.—The Greeks retreat.—The Persians invade Delphi, and are repulsed with great Loss.—The Athenians, unaided by their Allies, abandon Athens, and embark for Salamis.—The irresolute and selfish Policy of the Peloponnesians.—Dexterity and Firmness of Themistocles.— Battle of Salamis.—Andros and Carystus besieged by the Greeks.—Anecdotes of Themistocles.—Honours awarded to him in Sparta.—Xerxes returns to Asia.—Olynthus and Potidaea besieged by Artabazus.—The Athenians return Home.—The Ostracism of Aristides is repealed.

VIII Embassy of Alexander of Macedon to Athens.—The Result of his Proposals.—Athenians retreat to Salamis.—Mardonius occupies Athens.—The Athenians send Envoys to Sparta.— Pausanias succeeds Cleombrotus as Regent of Sparta.—Battle of Plataea.—Thebes besieged by the Athenians.—Battle of Mycale.—Siege of Sestos.—Conclusion of the Persian War.



I Remarks on the Effects of War.—State of Athens.—Interference of Sparta with respect to the Fortifications of Athens.— Dexterous Conduct of Themistocles.—The New Harbour of the Piraeus.—Proposition of the Spartans in the Amphictyonic Council defeated by Themistocles.—Allied Fleet at Cyprus and Byzantium.—Pausanias.—Alteration in his Character.— His ambitious Views and Treason.—The Revolt of the Ionians from the Spartan Command.—Pausanias recalled.—Dorcis replaces him.—The Athenians rise to the Head of the Ionian League.—Delos made the Senate and Treasury of the Allies.— Able and prudent Management of Aristides.—Cimon succeeds To the Command of the Fleet.—Character of Cimon.—Eion besieged.—Scyros colonized by Atticans.—Supposed Discovery of the Bones of Theseus.—Declining Power of Themistocles. —Democratic Change in the Constitution.—Themistocles ostracised.—Death of Aristides.

II Popularity and Policy of Cimon.—Naxos revolts from the Ionian League.—Is besieged by Cimon.—Conspiracy and Fate of Pausanias.—Flight and Adventures of Themistocles. —His Death.

III Reduction of Naxos.—Actions off Cyprus.—Manners of Cimon.—Improvements in Athens.—Colony at the Nine Ways. —Siege of Thasos.—Earthquake in Sparta.—Revolt of Helots, Occupation of Ithome, and Third Messenian War.—Rise and Character of Pericles.—Prosecution and Acquittal of Cimon. —The Athenians assist the Spartans at Ithome.—Thasos Surrenders.—Breach between the Athenians and Spartans.— Constitutional Innovations at Athens.—Ostracism of Cimon.

IV War between Megara and Corinth.—Megara and Pegae garrisoned by Athenians.—Review of Affairs at the Persian Court.— Accession of Artaxerxes.—Revolt of Egypt under Inarus.— Athenian Expedition to assist Inarus.—Aegina besieged.—The Corinthians defeated.—Spartan Conspiracy with the Athenian Oligarchy.—Battle of Tanagra.—Campaign and Successes of Myronides.—Plot of the Oligarchy against the Republic.— Recall of Cimon.—Long Walls completed.—Aegina reduced.— Expedition under Tolmides.—Ithome surrenders.—The Insurgents are settled at Naupactus.—Disastrous Termination of the Egyptian Expedition.—The Athenians march into Thessaly to restore Orestes the Tagus.—Campaign under Pericles.—Truce of five Years with the Peloponnesians.— Cimon sets sail for Cyprus.—Pretended Treaty of Peace with Persia.—Death of Cimon.

V Change of Manners in Athens.—Begun under the Pisistratidae.— Effects of the Persian War, and the intimate Connexion with Ionia.—The Hetaerae.—The Political Eminence lately acquired by Athens.—The Transfer of the Treasury from Delos to Athens.—Latent Dangers and Evils.—First, the Artificial Greatness of Athens not supported by Natural Strength.— Secondly, her pernicious Reliance on Tribute.—Thirdly, Deterioration of National Spirit commenced by Cimon in the Use of Bribes and Public Tables.—Fourthly, Defects in Popular Courts of Law.—Progress of General Education.— History.—Its Ionian Origin.—Early Historians.—Acusilaus. —Cadmus.—Eugeon.—Hellanicus.—Pherecides.—Xanthus.—View of the Life and Writings of Herodotus.—Progress of Philosophy since Thales.—Philosophers of the Ionian and Eleatic Schools.—Pythagoras.—His Philosophical Tenets and Political Influence.—Effect of these Philosophers on Athens.—School of Political Philosophy continued in Athens from the Time of Solon.—Anaxagoras.—Archelaus.—Philosophy not a thing apart from the ordinary Life of the Athenians.



I Thucydides chosen by the Aristocratic Party to oppose Pericles.—His Policy.—Munificence of Pericles.—Sacred War.—Battle of Coronea.—Revolt of Euboea and Megara— Invasion and Retreat of the Peloponnesians.—Reduction of Euboea.—Punishment of Histiaea.—A Thirty Years' Truce concluded with the Peloponnesians.—Ostracism of Thucydides.

II Causes of the Power of Pericles.—Judicial Courts of the dependant Allies transferred to Athens.—Sketch of the Athenian Revenues.—Public Buildings the Work of the People rather than of Pericles.—Vices and Greatness of Athens had the same Sources.—Principle of Payment characterizes the Policy of the Period.—It is the Policy of Civilization.— Colonization, Cleruchia.

III Revision of the Census.—Samian War.—Sketch of the Rise and Progress of the Athenian Comedy to the Time of Aristophanes.

IV The Tragedies of Sophocles.





The Character and Popularity of Miltiades.—Naval Expedition.—Siege of Paros.—Conduct of Miltiades.—He is Accused and Sentenced.—His Death.

I. History is rarely more than the biography of great men. Through a succession of individuals we trace the character and destiny of nations. THE PEOPLE glide away from us, a sublime but intangible abstraction, and the voice of the mighty Agora reaches us only through the medium of its representatives to posterity. The more democratic the state, the more prevalent this delegation of its history to the few; since it is the prerogative of democracies to give the widest competition and the keenest excitement to individual genius: and the true spirit of democracy is dormant or defunct, when we find no one elevated to an intellectual throne above the rest. In regarding the characters of men thus concentrating upon themselves our survey of a nation, it is our duty sedulously to discriminate between their qualities and their deeds: for it seldom happens that their renown in life was unattended with reverses equally signal—that the popularity of to-day was not followed by the persecution of to-morrow: and in these vicissitudes, our justice is no less appealed to than our pity, and we are called upon to decide, as judges, a grave and solemn cause between the silence of a departed people, and the eloquence of imperishable names.

We have already observed in the character of Miltiades that astute and calculating temperament common to most men whose lot it has been to struggle for precarious power in the midst of formidable foes. We have seen that his profound and scheming intellect was not accompanied by any very rigid or high-wrought principle; and placed, as the chief of the Chersonese had been from his youth upward, in situations of great peril and embarrassment, aiming always at supreme power, and, in his harassed and stormy domain, removed far from the public opinion of the free states of Greece, it was natural that his political code should have become tempered by a sinister ambition, and that the citizen of Athens should be actuated by motives scarcely more disinterested than those which animated the tyrant of the Chersonese. The ruler of one district may be the hero, but can scarcely be the patriot, of another. The long influence of years and custom—the unconscious deference to the opinion of those whom our youth has been taught to venerate, can alone suffice to tame down an enterprising and grasping mind to objects of public advantage, in preference to designs for individual aggrandizement: influence of such a nature had never operated upon the views and faculties of the hero of Marathon. Habituated to the enjoyment of absolute command, he seemed incapable of the duties of civil subordination; and the custom of a life urged him onto the desire of power [1]. These features of his character fairly considered, we shall see little to astonish us in the later reverses of Miltiades, and find additional causes for the popular suspicions he incurred.

II. But after the victory of Marathon, the power of Miltiades was at its height. He had always possessed the affection of the Athenians, which his manners as well as his talents contributed to obtain for him. Affable and courteous—none were so mean as to be excluded from his presence; and the triumph he had just achieved so largely swelled his popularity, that the most unhesitating confidence was placed in all his suggestions.

In addition to the victory of Marathon, Miltiades, during his tyranny in the Chersonese, had gratified the resentment and increased the dominion of the Athenians. A rude tribe, according to all authority, of the vast and varied Pelasgic family, but essentially foreign to, and never amalgamated with, the indigenous Pelasgians of the Athenian soil, had in very remote times obtained a settlement in Attica. They had assisted the Athenians in the wall of their citadel, which confirmed, by its characteristic masonry, the general tradition of their Pelasgic race. Settled afterward near Hymettus, they refused to blend with the general population—quarrels between neighbours so near naturally ensued—the settlers were expelled, and fixed themselves in the Islands of Lemnos and Imbros—a piratical and savage horde. They kept alive their ancient grudge with the Athenians, and, in one of their excursions, landed in Attica, and carried off some of the women while celebrating a festival of Diana. These captives they subjected to their embraces, and ultimately massacred, together with the offspring of the intercourse. "The Lemnian Horrors" became a proverbial phrase—the wrath of the gods manifested itself in the curse of general sterility, and the criminal Pelasgi were commanded by the oracle to repair the heinous injury they had inflicted on the Athenians. The latter were satisfied with no atonement less than that of the surrender of the islands occupied by the offenders. Tradition thus reported the answer of the Pelasgi to so stern a demand— "Whenever one of your vessels, in a single day and with a northern wind, makes its passage to us, we will comply."

Time passed on, the injury was unatoned, the remembrance remained— when Miltiades (then in the Chersonese) passed from Elnos in a single day and with a north wind to the Pelasgian Islands, avenged the cause of his countrymen, and annexed Lemnos and Imbros to the Athenian sway. The remembrance of this exploit had from the first endeared Miltiades to the Athenians, and, since the field of Marathon, he united in himself the two strongest claims to popular confidence—he was the deliverer from recent perils, and the avenger of hereditary wrongs.

The chief of the Chersonese was not slow to avail himself of the advantage of his position. He promised the Athenians a yet more lucrative, if less glorious enterprise than that against the Persians, and demanded a fleet of seventy ships, with a supply of men and money, for an expedition from which he assured them he was certain to return laden with spoil and treasure. He did not specify the places against which the expedition was to be directed; but so great was the belief in his honesty and fortune, that the Athenians were contented to grant his demand. The requisite preparations made, Miltiades set sail. Assuming the general right to punish those islands which had sided with the Persian, he proceeded to Paros, which had contributed a trireme to the armament of Datis. But beneath the pretext of national revenge, Miltiades is said to have sought the occasion to prosecute a selfish resentment. During his tyranny in the Chersonese, a Parian, named Lysagoras, had sought to injure him with the Persian government, and the chief now wreaked upon the island the retaliation due to an individual.

Such is the account of Herodotus—an account not indeed inconsistent with the vindictive passions still common to the inhabitants of the western clime, but certainly scarce in keeping with the calculating and politic character of Miltiades: for men go backward in the career of ambition when revenging a past offence upon a foe that is no longer formidable.

Miltiades landed on the island, laid vigorous siege to the principal city, and demanded from the inhabitants the penalty of a hundred talents. The besieged refused the terms, and worked day and night at the task of strengthening the city for defence. Nevertheless, Miltiades succeeded in cutting off all supplies, and the city was on the point of yielding; when suddenly the chief set fire to the fortifications he had erected, drew off his fleet, and returned to Athens, not only without the treasure he had promised, but with an ignominious diminution of the glory he had already acquired. The most probable reason for a conduct [2] so extraordinary was, that by some accident a grove on the continent was set on fire—the flame, visible equally to the besiegers and the besieged, was interpreted alike by both: each party imagined it a signal from the Persian fleet—the one was dissuaded from yielding, and the other intimidated from continuing the siege. An additional reason for the retreat was a severe wound in the leg which Miltiades had received, either in the course of the attack, or by an accident he met with when attempting with sacrilegious superstition to consult the infernal deities on ground dedicated to Ceres.

III. We may readily conceive the amazement and indignation with which, after so many promises on the one side, and such unbounded confidence on the other, the Athenians witnessed the return of this fruitless expedition. No doubt the wily and equivocal parts of the character of Miltiades, long cast in shade by his brilliant qualities, came now more obviously in view. He was impeached capitally by Xanthippus, an Athenian noble, the head of that great aristocratic faction of the Alcmaeonids, which, inimical alike to the tyrant and the demagogue, brooked neither a master of the state nor a hero with the people. Miltiades was charged with having accepted a bribe from the Persians [3], which had induced him to quit the siege of Paros at the moment when success was assured.

The unfortunate chief was prevented by his wound from pleading his own cause—he was borne into the court stretched upon his couch, while his brother, Tisagoras, conducted his defence. Through the medium of his advocate, Miltiades seems neither vigorously to have refuted the accusation of treason to the state, nor satisfactorily to have explained his motives for raising the siege. His glory was his defence; and the chief answer to Xanthippus was "Marathon and Lemnos." The crime alleged against him was of a capital nature; but, despite the rank of the accuser, and the excitement of his audience, the people refused to pronounce sentence of death upon so illustrious a man. They found him guilty, it is true—but they commuted the capital infliction to a fine of fifty talents. Before the fine was paid, Miltiades expired of the mortification of his wound. The fine was afterward paid by his son, Cimon. Thus ended a life full of adventure and vicissitude.

The trial of Miltiades has often been quoted in proof of the ingratitude and fickleness of the Athenian people. No charge was ever more inconsiderately made. He was accused of a capital crime, not by the people, but by a powerful noble. The noble demanded his death— appears to have proved the charge—to have had the law which imposed death wholly on his side—and "the favour of the people it was," says Herodotus, expressly, "which saved his life." [4] When we consider all the circumstances of the case—the wound to the popular vanity— the disappointment of excited expectation—the unaccountable conduct of Miltiades himself—and then see his punishment, after a conviction which entailed death, only in the ordinary assessment of a pecuniary fine [5], we cannot but allow that the Athenian people (even while vindicating the majesty of law, which in all civilized communities must judge offences without respect to persons) were not in this instance forgetful of the services nor harsh to the offences of their great men.


The Athenian Tragedy.—Its Origin.—Thespis.—Phrynichus.—Aeschylus. —Analysis of the Tragedies of Aeschylus.

I. From the melancholy fate of Miltiades, we are now invited to a subject no less connected with this important period in the history of Athens. The interval of repose which followed the battle of Marathon allows us to pause, and notice the intellectual state to which the Athenians had progressed since the tyranny of Pisistratus and his sons.

We have remarked the more familiar acquaintance with the poems of Homer which resulted from the labours and example of Pisistratus. This event (for event it was), combined with other causes,—the foundation of a public library, the erection of public buildings, and the institution of public gardens—to create with apparent suddenness, among a susceptible and lively population, a general cultivation of taste. The citizens were brought together in their hours of relaxation [6], by the urbane and social manner of life, under porticoes and in gardens, which it was the policy of a graceful and benignant tyrant to inculcate; and the native genius, hitherto dormant, of the quick Ionian race, once awakened to literary and intellectual objects, created an audience even before it found expression in a poet. The elegant effeminacy of Hipparchus contributed to foster the taste of the people—for the example of the great is nowhere more potent over the multitude than in the cultivation of the arts. Patronage may not produce poets, but it multiplies critics. Anacreon and Simonides, introduced among the Athenians by Hipparchus, and enjoying his friendship, no doubt added largely to the influence which poetry began to assume. The peculiar sweetness of those poets imbued with harmonious contagion the genius of the first of the Athenian dramatists, whose works, alas! are lost to us, though evidence of their character is preserved. About the same time the Athenians must necessarily have been made more intimately acquainted with the various wealth of the lyric poets of Ionia and the isles. Thus it happened that their models in poetry were of two kinds, the epic and the lyric; and, in the natural connexion of art, it was but the next step to accomplish a species of poetry which should attempt to unite the two. Happily, at this time, Athens possessed a man of true genius, whose attention early circumstances had directed to a rude and primitive order of histrionic recitation:—Phrynichus, the poet, was a disciple of Thespis, the mime: to him belongs this honour, that out of the elements of the broadest farce he conceived the first grand combinations of the tragic drama.

II. From time immemorial—as far back, perhaps, as the grove possessed an altar, and the waters supplied a reed for the pastoral pipe—Poetry and Music had been dedicated to the worship of the gods of Greece. At the appointed season of festival to each several deity, his praises were sung, his traditionary achievements were recited. One of the divinities last introduced into Greece—the mystic and enigmatical Dionysos, or Bacchus, received the popular and enthusiastic adoration naturally due to the God of the Vineyard, and the "Unbinder of galling cares." His festival, celebrated at the most joyous of agricultural seasons [7], was associated also with the most exhilarating associations. Dithyrambs, or wild and exulting songs, at first extemporaneous, celebrated the triumphs of the god. By degrees, the rude hymn swelled into prepared and artful measures, performed by a chorus that danced circling round the altar; and the dithyramb assumed a lofty and solemn strain, adapted to the sanctity of sacrifice and the emblematic majesty of the god. At the same time, another band (connected with the Phallic procession, which, however outwardly obscene, betokened only, at its origin, the symbol of fertility, and betrays the philosophy of some alien and eastern creed [8]) implored in more lively and homely strains the blessing of the prodigal and jovial deity. These ceremonial songs received a wanton and wild addition, as, in order, perhaps, more closely to represent and personify the motley march of the Liber Pater, the chorus-singers borrowed from the vine-browsing goat which they sacrificed the hides and horns, which furnished forth the merry mimicry of the satyr and the faun. Under license of this disguise, the songs became more obscene and grotesque, and the mummers vied with each other in obtaining the applause of the rural audience by wild buffoonery and unrestricted jest. Whether as the prize of the winner or as the object of sacrifice, the goat (tragos in the Greek) was a sufficiently important personage to bestow upon the exhibition the homely name of TRAGEDY, or GOATSONG, destined afterward to be exalted by association with the proudest efforts of human genius. And while the DITHYRAMB, yet amid the Dorian tribes, retained the fire and dignity of its hereditary character—while in Sicyon it rose in stately and mournful measures to the memory of Adrastus, the Argive hero—while in Corinth, under the polished rule of Periander, Arion imparted to the antique hymn a new character and a more scientific music [9],—gradually, in Attica, it gave way before the familiar and fantastic humours of the satyrs, sometimes abridged to afford greater scope to their exhibitions—sometimes contracting the contagion of their burlesque. Still, however, the reader will observe, that the tragedy, or goatsong, consisted of two parts—first, the exhibition of the mummers, and, secondly, the dithyrambic chorus, moving in a circle round the altar of Bacchus. It appears on the whole most probable, though it is a question of fierce dispute and great uncertainty, that not only this festive ceremonial, but also its ancient name of tragedy, or goatsong, had long been familiar in Attica [10], when, about B. C. 535, during the third tyranny of Pisistratus, a skilful and ingenious native of Icaria, an Attic village in which the Eleutheria, or Bacchic rites, were celebrated with peculiar care, surpassed all competitors in the exhibition of these rustic entertainments. He relieved the monotonous pleasantries of the satyric chorus by introducing, usually in his own person, a histrionic tale-teller, who, from an elevated platform, and with the lively gesticulations common still to the popular narrators of romance on the Mole of Naples, or in the bazars of the East, entertain the audience with some mythological legend. It was so clear that during this recital the chorus remained unnecessarily idle and superfluous, that the next improvement was as natural in itself, as it was important in its consequences. This was to make the chorus assist the narrator by occasional question or remark.

The choruses themselves were improved in their professional art by Thespis. He invented dances, which for centuries, retained their popularity on the stage, and is said to have given histrionic disguise to his reciter—at first, by the application of pigments to the face; and afterward, by the construction of a rude linen mask.

III. These improvements, chiefly mechanical, form the boundary to the achievements of Thespis. He did much to create a stage—little to create tragedy, in the proper acceptation of the word. His performances were still of a ludicrous and homely character, and much more akin to the comic than the tragic. Of that which makes the essence of the solemn drama of Athens—its stately plot, its gigantic images, its prodigal and sumptuous poetry, Thespis was not in any way the inventor. But PHRYNICHUS, the disciple of Thespis, was a poet; he saw, though perhaps dimly and imperfectly, the new career opened to the art, and he may be said to have breathed the immortal spirit into the mere mechanical forms, when he introduced poetry into the bursts of the chorus and the monologue of the actor. Whatever else Phrynichus effected is uncertain. The developed plot—the introduction of regular dialogue through the medium of a second actor —the pomp and circumstance—the symmetry and climax of the drama—do not appear to have appertained to his earlier efforts; and the great artistical improvements which raised the simple incident to an elaborate structure of depicted narrative and awful catastrophe, are ascribed, not to Phrynichus, but Aeschylus. If the later works of Phrynichus betrayed these excellences, it is because Aeschylus had then become his rival, and he caught the heavenly light from the new star which was destined to eclipse him. But every thing essential was done for the Athenian tragedy when Phrynichus took it from the satyr and placed it under the protection of the muse—when, forsaking the humours of the rustic farce, he selected a solemn subject from the serious legends of the most vivid of all mythologies—when he breathed into the familiar measures of the chorus the grandeur and sweetness of the lyric ode—when, in a word, taking nothing from Thespis but the stage and the performers, he borrowed his tale from Homer and his melody from Anacreon. We must not, then, suppose, misled by the vulgar accounts of the Athenian drama, that the contest for the goat, and the buffooneries of Thespis, were its real origin; born of the epic and the lyric song, Homer gave it character, and the lyrists language. Thespis and his predecessors only suggested the form to which the new-born poetry should be applied.

IV. Thus, under Phrynichus, the Thespian drama rose into poetry, worthy to exercise its influence upon poetical emulation, when a young man of noble family and sublime genius, rendered perhaps more thoughtful and profound by the cultivation of a mystical philosophy [11], which had lately emerged from the primitive schools of Ionian wisdom, brought to the rising art the united dignity of rank, philosophy, and genius. Aeschylus, son of Euphorion, born at Eleusis B. C. 525, early saturated a spirit naturally fiery and exalted with the vivid poetry of Homer. While yet a boy, and probably about the time when Phrynichus first elevated the Thespian drama, he is said to have been inspired by a dream with the ambition to excel in the dramatic art. But in Homer he found no visionary revelation to assure him of those ends, august and undeveloped, which the actor and the chorus might be made the instruments to effect. For when the idea of scenic representation was once familiar, the epics of Homer suggested the true nature of the drama. The great characteristic of that poet is individuality. Gods or men alike have their separate, unmistakeable attributes and distinctions—they converse in dialogue— they act towards an appointed end. Bring Homer on the stage, and introduce two actors instead of a narrator, and a drama is at once effected. If Phrynichus from the first borrowed his story from Homer, Aeschylus, with more creative genius and more meditative intellect, saw that there was even a richer mine in the vitality of the Homeric spirit—the unity of the Homeric designs. Nor was Homer, perhaps, his sole though his guiding inspiration. The noble birth of Aeschylus no doubt gave him those advantages of general acquaintance with the poetry of the rest of Greece, which an education formed under the lettered dynasty of the Pisistratidae would naturally confer on the well-born. We have seen that the dithyramb, debased in Attica to the Thespian chorus, was in the Dorian states already devoted to sublime themes, and enriched by elaborate art; and Simonides, whose elegies, peculiar for their sweetness, might have inspired the "ambrosial" Phrynichus, perhaps gave to the stern soul of Aeschylus, as to his own pupil Pindar, the model of a loftier music, in his dithyrambic odes.

V. At the age of twenty-five, the son of Euphorion produced his first tragedy. This appears to have been exhibited in the year after the appearance of Aristagoras at Athens,—in that very year so eventful and important, when the Athenians lighted the flames of the Persian war amid the blazing capital of Sardis. He had two competitors in Pratinas and Choerilus. The last, indeed, preceded Phrynichus, but merely in the burlesques of the rude Thespian stage; the example of Phrynichus had now directed his attention to the new species of drama, but without any remarkable talent for its cultivation. Pratinas, the contemporary of Aeschylus, did not long attempt to vie with his mighty rival in his own line [12]. Recurring to the old satyr-chorus, he reduced its unmeasured buffooneries into a regular and systematic form; he preserved the mythological tale, and converted it into an artistical burlesque. This invention, delighting the multitude, as it adapted an ancient entertainment to the new and more critical taste, became so popular that it was usually associated with the graver tragedy; when the last becoming a solemn and gorgeous spectacle, the poet exhibited a trilogy (or three tragedies) to his mighty audience, while the satyric invention of Pratinas closed the whole, and answered the purpose of our modern farce [13]. Of this class of the Grecian drama but one specimen remains, in the Cyclops of Euripides. It is probable that the birth, no less than the genius of Aeschylus, enabled him with greater facility to make the imposing and costly additions to the exhibition, which the nature of the poetry demanded—since, while these improvements were rapidly proceeding, the poetical fame of Aeschylus was still uncrowned. Nor was it till the fifteenth year after his first exhibition that the sublimest of the Greek poets obtained the ivy chaplet, which had succeeded to the goat and the ox, as the prize of the tragic contests. In the course of a few years, a regular stage, appropriate scenery and costume, mechanical inventions and complicated stage machinery, gave fitting illusion to the representation of gods and men. To the monologue of Phrynichus, Aeschylus added a second actor [14]; he curtailed the choruses, connected them with the main story, and, more important than all else, reduced to simple but systematic rules the progress and development of a poem, which no longer had for its utmost object to please the ear or divert the fancy, but swept on its mighty and irresistible march, to besiege passion after passion, and spread its empire over the whole soul.

An itinerant platform was succeeded by a regular theatre of wood—the theatre of wood by a splendid edifice, which is said to have held no less an audience than thirty thousand persons [15]. Theatrical contests became a matter of national and universal interest. These contests occurred thrice a year, at three several festivals of Bacchus [16]. But it was at the great Dionysia, held at the end of March and commencement of April, that the principal tragic contests took place. At that period, as the Athenian drama increased in celebrity, and Athens herself in renown, the city was filled with visiters, not only from all parts of Greece, but almost from every land in which the Greek civilization was known. The state took the theatre under its protection, as a solemn and sacred institution. So anxious were the people to consecrate wholly to the Athenian name the glory of the spectacle, that at the great Dionysia no foreigner, nor even any metoecus (or alien settler), was permitted to dance in the choruses. The chief archon presided, over the performances; to him was awarded the selection of the candidates for the prize. Those chosen were allowed three actors [17] by lot and a chorus, the expense of which was undertaken by the state, and imposed upon one of the principal persons of each tribe, called choragus. Thus, on one occasion, Themistocles was the choragus to a tragedy by Phrynichus. The immense theatre, crowded by thousands, tier above tier, bench upon bench, was open to the heavens, and commanded, from the sloping hill on which it was situated, both land and sea. The actor apostrophized no mimic pasteboard, but the wide expanse of Nature herself—the living sun, the mountain air, the wide and visible Aegaean. All was proportioned to the gigantic scale of the theatre, and the mighty range of the audience. The form was artificially enlarged and heightened; masks of exquisite art and beauty brought before the audience the ideal images of their sculptured gods and heroes, while (most probably) mechanical inventions carried the tones of the voice throughout the various tiers of the theatre. The exhibitions took place in the open day, and the limited length of the plays permitted the performance of probably no less than ten or twelve before the setting of the sun. The sanctity of their origin, and the mythological nature of their stories, added something of religious solemnity to these spectacles, which were opened by ceremonial sacrifice. Dramatic exhibitions, at least for a considerable period, were not, as with us, made hackneyed by constant repetition. They were as rare in their recurrence as they were imposing in their effect; nor was a drama, whether tragic or comic, that had gained the prize, permitted a second time to be exhibited. A special exemption was made in favour of Aeschylus, afterward extended to Sophocles and Euripides. The general rule was necessarily stimulant of renewed and unceasing exertion, and was, perhaps, the principal cause of the almost miraculous fertility of the Athenian dramatists.

VI. On the lower benches of the semicircle sat the archons and magistrates, the senators and priests; while apart, but in seats equally honoured, the gaze of the audience was attracted, from time to time, to the illustrious strangers whom the fame of their poets and their city had brought to the Dionysia of the Athenians. The youths and women [18] had their separate divisions; the rest of the audience were ranged according to their tribes, while the upper galleries were filled by the miscellaneous and impatient populace.

In the orchestra (a space left by the semicircular benches, with wings stretching to the right and left before the scene), a small square platform served as the altar, to which moved the choral dances, still retaining the attributes of their ancient sanctity. The coryphaeus, or leader of the chorus, took part in the dialogue as the representative of the rest, and, occasionally, even several of the number were excited into exclamations by the passion of the piece. But the principal duty of the chorus was to diversify the dialogue by hymns and dirges, to the music of flutes, while, in dances far more artful than those now existent, they represented by their movements the emotions that they sung [19],—thus bringing, as it were, into harmony of action the poetry of language. Architectural embellishments of stone, representing a palace, with three entrances, the centre one appropriated to royalty, the others to subordinate rank, usually served for the scene. But at times, when the plot demanded a different locality, scenes painted with the utmost art and cost were easily substituted; nor were wanting the modern contrivances of artificial lightning and thunder—the clouds for the gods—a variety of inventions for the sudden apparition of demon agents, whether from above or below—and all the adventitious and effective aid which mechanism lends to genius.

VII. Thus summoning before us the external character of the Athenian drama, the vast audience, the unroofed and enormous theatre, the actors themselves enlarged by art above the ordinary proportions of men, the solemn and sacred subjects from which its form and spirit were derived, we turn to Aeschylus, and behold at once the fitting creator of its grand and ideal personifications. I have said that Homer was his original; but a more intellectual age than that of the Grecian epic had arrived, and with Aeschylus, philosophy passed into poetry. The dark doctrine of fatality imparted its stern and awful interest to the narration of events—men were delineated, not as mere self-acting and self-willed mortals, but as the agents of a destiny inevitable and unseen—the gods themselves are no longer the gods of Homer, entering into the sphere of human action for petty motives and for individual purposes—drawing their grandeur, not from the part they perform, but from the descriptions of the poet;—they appear now as the oracles or the agents of fate—they are visiters from another world, terrible and ominous from the warnings which they convey. Homer is the creator of the material poetry, Aeschylus of the intellectual. The corporeal and animal sufferings of the Titan in the epic hell become exalted by tragedy into the portrait of moral fortitude defying physical anguish. The Prometheus of Aeschylus is the spirit of a god disdainfully subjected to the misfortunes of a man. In reading this wonderful performance, which in pure and sustained sublimity is perhaps unrivalled in the literature of the world, we lose sight entirely of the cheerful Hellenic worship; and yet it is in vain that the learned attempt to trace its vague and mysterious metaphysics to any old symbolical religion of the East. More probably, whatever theological system it shadows forth, was rather the gigantic conception of the poet himself, than the imperfect revival of any forgotten creed, or the poetical disguise of any existent philosophy. However this be, it would certainly seem, that, in this majestic picture of the dauntless enemy of Jupiter, punished only for his benefits to man, and attracting all our sympathies by his courage and his benevolence, is conveyed something of disbelief or defiance of the creed of the populace—a suspicion from which Aeschylus was not free in the judgment of his contemporaries, and which is by no means inconsonant with the doctrines of Pythagoras.

VIII. The conduct of the fable is as follows: two vast demons, Strength and Force, accompanied by Vulcan, appear in a remote plain of earth—an unpeopled desert. There, on a steril and lofty rock, hard by the sea, Prometheus is chained by Vulcan—"a reward for his disposition to be tender to mankind." The date of this doom is cast far back in the earliest dawn of time, and Jupiter has but just commenced his reign. While Vulcan binds him, Prometheus utters no sound—it is Vulcan, the agent of his punishment, that alone complains. Nor is it till the dread task is done, and the ministers of Jupiter have retired, that "the god, unawed by the wrath of gods," bursts forth with his grand apostrophe—

"Oh Air divine! Oh ye swift-winged Winds— Ye sources of the Rivers, and ye Waves, That dimple o'er old Ocean like his smiles— Mother of all—oh Earth! and thou the orb, All-seeing, of the Sun, behold and witness What I, a god, from the stern gods endure.

* * * * * *

When shall my doom be o'er?—Be o'er!—to me The Future hides no riddle—nor can wo Come unprepared! It fits me then to brave That which must be: for what can turn aside The dark course of the grim Necessity?"

While thus soliloquizing, the air becomes fragrant with odours, and faintly stirs with the rustling of approaching wings. The Daughters of Ocean, aroused from their grots below, are come to console the Titan. They utter many complaints against the dynasty of Jove. Prometheus comforts himself by the prediction that the Olympian shall hereafter require his services, and that, until himself released from his bondage, he will never reveal to his tyrant the danger that menaces his realm; for the vanquished is here described as of a mightier race than the victor, and to him are bared the mysteries of the future, which to Jupiter are denied. The triumph of Jupiter is the conquest of brute force over knowledge.

Prometheus then narrates how, by means of his counsels, Jupiter had gained his sceptre, and the ancient Saturn and his partisans been whelmed beneath the abyss of Tartarus—how he alone had interfered with Jupiter to prevent the extermination of the human race (whom alone the celestial king disregarded and condemned)—how he had imparted to them fire, the seed of all the arts, and exchanged in their breasts the terrible knowledge of the future for the beguiling flatteries of hope and hence his punishment.

At this time Ocean himself appears: he endeavours unavailingly to persuade the Titan to submission to Jupiter. The great spirit of Prometheus, and his consideration for others, are beautifully individualized in his answers to his consoler, whom he warns not to incur the wrath of the tyrant by sympathy with the afflicted. Alone again with the Oceanides, the latter burst forth in fresh strains of pity.

"The wide earth echoes wailingly, Stately and antique were thy fallen race, The wide earth waileth thee! Lo! from the holy Asian dwelling-place, Fall for a godhead's wrongs, the mortals' murmuring tears, They mourn within the Colchian land, The virgin and the warrior daughters, And far remote, the Scythian band, Around the broad Maeotian waters, And they who hold in Caucasus their tower, Arabia's martial flower Hoarse-clamouring 'midst sharp rows of barbed spears.

One have I seen with equal tortures riven— An equal god; in adamantine chains Ever and evermore The Titan Atlas, crush'd, sustains The mighty mass of mighty Heaven, And the whirling cataracts roar, With a chime to the Titan's groans, And the depth that receives them moans; And from vaults that the earth are under, Black Hades is heard in thunder; While from the founts of white-waved rivers flow Melodious sorrows, wailing with his wo."

Prometheus, in his answer, still farther details the benefits he had conferred on men—he arrogates to himself their elevation to intellect and reason [20]. He proceeds darkly to dwell on the power of Necessity, guided by "the triform fates and the unforgetful Furies," whom he asserts to be sovereign over Jupiter himself. He declares that Jupiter cannot escape his doom: "His doom," ask the daughters of Ocean, "is it not evermore to reign?"—"That thou mayst not learn," replies the prophet; "and in the preservation of this secret depends my future freedom."

The rejoinder of the chorus is singularly beautiful, and it is with a pathos not common to Aeschylus that they contrast their present mournful strain with that which they poured

"What time the silence, erst was broken, Around the baths, and o'er the bed To which, won well by many a soft love-token, And hymn'd by all the music of delight, Our Ocean-sister, bright Hesione, was led!"

At the end of this choral song appears Io, performing her mystic pilgrimage [21]. The utter wo and despair of Io are finely contrasted with the stern spirit of Prometheus. Her introduction gives rise to those ancestral and traditionary allusions to which the Greeks were so attached. In prophesying her fate, Prometheus enters into much beautiful descriptive poetry, and commemorates the lineage of the Argive kings. After Io's departure, Prometheus renews his defiance to Jupiter, and his stern prophecies, that the son of Saturn shall be "hurled from his realm, a forgotten king." In the midst of these weird denunciations, Mercury arrives, charged by Jupiter to learn the nature of that danger which Prometheus predicts to him. The Titan bitterly and haughtily defies the threats and warnings of the herald, and exults, that whatever be his tortures, he is at least immortal,— to be afflicted, but not to die. Mercury at length departs—the menace of Jupiter is fulfilled—the punishment is consummated—and, amid storm and earthquake, both rock and prisoner are struck by the lightnings of the god into the deep abyss.

"The earth is made to reel, and rumbling by, Bellowing it rolls, the thunder's gathering wrath! And the fierce fires glare livid; and along The rocks the eddies of the sands whirl high, Borne by the hurricane, and all the blasts Of all the winds leap forth, each hurtling each Met in the wildness of a ghastly war, The dark floods blended with the swooping heaven. It comes—it comes! on me it speeds—the storm, The rushing onslaught of the thunder-god; Oh, majesty of earth, my solemn mother! And thou that through the universal void, Circlest sweet light, all blessing; EARTH AND ETHER, YE I invoke, to know the wrongs I suffer."

IX. Such is the conclusion of this unequalled drama, epitomized somewhat at undue length, in order to show the reader how much the philosophy that had awakened in the age of Solon now actuated the creations of poetry. Not that Aeschylus, like Euripides, deals in didactic sentences and oracular aphorisms. He rightly held such pedantries of the closet foreign to the tragic genius [22]. His philosophy is in the spirit, and not in the diction of his works—in vast conceptions, not laconic maxims. He does not preach, but he inspires. The "Prometheus" is perhaps the greatest moral poem in the world—sternly and loftily intellectual—and, amid its darker and less palpable allegories, presenting to us the superiority of an immortal being to all mortal sufferings. Regarded merely as poetry, the conception of the Titan of Aeschylus has no parallel except in the Fiend of Milton. But perhaps the representation of a benevolent spirit, afflicted, but not accursed—conquered, but not subdued by a power, than which it is elder, and wiser, and loftier, is yet more sublime than that of an evil demon writhing under the penance deservedly incurred from an irresistible God. The one is intensely moral—at once the more moral and the more tragic, because the sufferings are not deserved, and therefore the defiance commands our sympathy as well as our awe; but the other is but the picture of a righteous doom, borne by a despairing though stubborn will; it affords no excitement to our courage, and forbids at once our admiration and our pity.

X. I do not propose to conduct the reader at length through the other tragedies of Aeschylus; seven are left to us, to afford the most striking examples which modern or ancient literature can produce of what perhaps is the true theory of the SUBLIME, viz., the elevating the imagination by means of the passions, for a moral end.

Nothing can be more grand and impressive than the opening of the "Agamemnon," with the solitary watchman on the tower, who, for ten long years, has watched nightly for the beacon-fires that are to announce the fall of Ilion, and who now beholds them blaze at last. The description which Clytemnestra gives of the progress of these beacon-fires from Troy to Argos is, for its picturesque animation, one of the most celebrated in Aeschylus. The following lines will convey to the general reader a very inadequate reflection, though not an unfaithful paraphrase, of this splendid passage [23]. Clytemnestra has announced to the chorus the capture of Troy. The chorus, half incredulous, demand what messenger conveyed the intelligence. Clytemnestra replies:—

"A gleam—a gleam—from Ida's height, By the fire—god sent, it came; From watch to watch it leap'd that light, As a rider rode the flame! It shot through the startled sky; And the torch of that blazing glory Old Lemnos caught on high, On its holy promontory, And sent it on, the jocund sign, To Athos, mount of Jove divine. Wildly the while it rose from the isle, So that the might of the journeying light Skimm'd over the back of the gleaming brine! Farther and faster speeds it on, Till the watch that keep Macistus steep— See it burst like a blazing sun! Doth Macistus sleep On his tower—clad steep? No! rapid and red doth the wild-fire sweep It flashes afar, on the wayward stream Of the wild Euripus, the rushing beam! It rouses the light on Messapion's height, And they feed its breath with the withered heath. But it may not stay! And away—away It bounds in its freshening might. Silent and soon, Like a broadened moon, It passes in sheen, Asopus green, [24] And bursts on Cithaeron gray. The warder wakes to the signal rays, And it swoops from the hill with a broader blaze, On—on the fiery glory rode— Thy lonely lake, Gorgopis, glowed— To Megara's Mount it came; They feed it again, And it streams amain A giant beard of flame! The headland cliffs that darkly down O'er the Saronic waters frown, Are pass'd with the swift one's lurid stride, And the huge rock glares on the glaring tide, With mightier march and fiercer power It gain'd Arachne's neighbouring tower— Thence on our Argive roof its rest it won, Of Ida's fire the long-descended son Bright harbinger of glory and of joy! So first and last with equal honour crown'd, In solemn feasts the race-torch circles round. And these my heralds! this my SIGN OF PEACE! Lo! while we breathe, the victor lords of Greece, Stalk, in stern tumult, through the halls of Troy!" [25]

In one of the earlier choruses, in which is introduced an episodical allusion to the abduction of Helen, occurs one of those soft passages so rare in Aeschylus, nor less exquisite than rare. The chorus suppose the minstrels of Menelaus thus to lament the loss of Helen:—

"And wo the halls, and wo the chiefs, And wo the bridal bed! And we her steps—for once she loved The lord whose love she fled! Lo! where, dishonour yet unknown, He sits—nor deems his Helen flown, Tearless and voiceless on the spot; All desert, but he feels it not! Ah! soon alive, to miss and mourn The form beyond the ocean borne Shall start the lonely king! And thought shall fill the lost one's room, And darkly through the palace gloom Shall stalk a ghostly thing. [26] Her statues meet, as round they rise, The leaden stare of lifeless eyes. Where is their ancient beauty gone?— Why loathe his looks the breathing stone? Alas! the foulness of disgrace Hath swept the Venus from her face! And visions in the mournful night Shall dupe the heart to false delight, A false and melancholy; For naught with sadder joy is fraught, Than things at night by dreaming brought, The wish'd for and the holy. Swift from the solitary side, The vision and the blessing glide, Scarce welcomed ere they sweep, Pale, bloodless, dreams, aloft On wings unseen and soft, Lost wanderers gliding through the paths of sleep."

But the master-terror of this tragedy is in the introduction of Cassandra, who accompanies Agamemnon, and who, in the very hour of his return, amid the pomp and joy that welcome the "king of men," is seized with the prophetic inspiration, and shrieks out those ominous warnings, fated ever to be heard in vain. It is she who recalls to the chorus, to the shuddering audience, that it is the house of the long-fated Atridae, to which their descendant has returned—"that human shamble-house—that bloody floor—that dwelling, abhorred by Heaven, privy to so many horrors against the most sacred ties;" the doom yet hangs over the inexpiable threshold; the curse passes from generation to generation; Agamemnon is the victim of his sires.

Recalling the inhuman banquet served by Atreus to Thyestes of his own murdered children, she starts from the mangled spectres on the threshold:

"See ye those infants crouching by the floor, Like phantom dreams, pale nurslings, that have perish'd By kindred hands."

Gradually her ravings become clear and clearer, until at last she scents the "blood-dripping slaughter within;" a vapour rises to her nostrils as from a charnel house—her own fate, which she foresees at hand, begins to overpower her—her mood softens, and she enters the palace, about to become her tomb, with thoughts in which frantic terror has yielded to solemn and pathetic resignation:

"Alas for mortals!—what their power and pride? A little shadow sweeps it from the earth! And if they suffer—why, the fatal hour Comes o'er the record like a moistened sponge, And blots it out; methinks this latter lot Affects me deepest—Well! 'tis pitiful!" [27]

Scarcely has the prophetess withdrawn than we hear behind the scene the groans of the murdered king, the palace behind is opened, and Clytemnestra is standing, stern and lofty, by the dead body of her lord. The critics have dwelt too much on the character of Clytemnestra—it is that of Cassandra which is the masterpiece of the tragedy.

XI. The story, which is spread throughout three plays (forming a complete trilogy), continues in the opening of the Choephori, with Orestes mourning over his father's tomb. If Clytemnestra has furnished would-be critics with a comparison with Lady Macbeth, for no other reason than that one murdered her husband, and the other persuaded her husband to murder somebody else, so Orestes may with more justice be called the Hamlet of the Greeks; but though the character itself of Orestes is not so complex and profound as that of Hamlet, nor the play so full of philosophical beauties as the modern tragedy, yet it has passages equally pathetic, and more sternly and terribly sublime. The vague horror which in the commencement of the play prepares us for the catastrophe by the dream of Clytemnestra—how a serpent lay in swaddling-clothes like an infant, and she placed it in her breast, and it drew blood; the brief and solemn answer of Orestes—

"Man's visions never come to him in vain;"

the manner in which the avenging parricide interrupts the dream, so that (as in Macbeth) the prediction inspires the deed that it foretells; the dauntless resolution of Clytemnestra, when she hears, in the dark sayings of her servant, that "the dead are slaying the living" (i. e., that through the sword of Orestes Agamemnon is avenged on Aegisthus), calls for a weapon, royal to the last, wishing only to

"Know which shall be the victor or the vanquished— Since that the crisis of the present horror;"

the sudden change from fierce to tender as Orestes bursts in, and, thinking only of her guilty lover, she shrieks forth,

"Ah! thou art then no more, beloved Aegisthus;"

the advance of the threatening son, the soft apostrophe of the mother as she bares her bosom—

"Hold! and revere this breast on which so oft Thy young cheek nestled—cradle of thy sleep, And fountain of thy being;"

the recoil of Orestes—the remonstrance of Pylades—the renewed passion of the avenger—the sudden recollection of her dream, which the murderess scarcely utters than it seems to confirm Orestes to its fulfilment, and he pursues and slays her by the side of the adulterer; all these passages are full of so noble a poetry, that I do not think the parallel situations in Hamlet equal their sustained and solemn grandeur. But the sublimest effort of the imagination is in the conclusion. While Orestes is yet justifying the deed that avenged a father, strange and confused thoughts gradually creep over him. No eyes see them but his own—there they are, "the Gorgons, in vestments of sable, their eyes dropping loathly blood!" Slowly they multiply, they approach, still invisible but to their prey—"the angry hell-hounds of his mother." He flies, the fresh blood yet dripping from his hands. This catastrophe—the sudden apparition of the Furies ideally imaged forth to the parricide alone—seems to me greater in conception than the supernatural agency in Hamlet. The visible ghost is less awful than the unseen Furies.

The plot is continued through the third piece of the trilogy (the Eumenides), and out of Aeschylus himself, no existing tragedy presents so striking an opening—one so terrible and so picturesque. It is the temple of Apollo at Delphi. The priestess, after a short invocation, enters the sacred edifice, but suddenly returns. "A man," she says, "is at the marble seat, a suppliant to the god—his bloody hands hold a drawn sword and a long branch of olive. But around the man sleep a wondrous and ghastly troop, not of women, but of things woman-like, yet fiendish; harpies they seem, but are not; black-robed and wingless, and their breath is loud and baleful, and their eyes drop venom—and their garb is neither meet for the shrines of God nor the habitations of men. Never have I seen (saith the Pythian) a nation which nurtured such a race." Cheered by Apollo, Orestes flies while the dread sisters yet sleep; and now within the temple we behold the Furies scattered around, and a pale and lofty shape, the ghost of Clytemnestra, gliding on the stage, awakens the agents of her vengeance. They break forth as they rouse themselves, "Seize—seize— seize." They lament—they bemoan the departure of their victim, they expostulate with Apollo, who expels them from his temple. The scene changes; Orestes is at Athens,—he pleads his cause before the temple of Minerva. The contest is now shared by gods; Apollo and the Furies are the pleaders—Pallas is the umpire, the Areopagites are the judges. Pallas casts in her vote in favour of Orestes—the lots are equal—he is absolved; the Furies, at first enraged, are soothed by Minerva, and, invited to dwell in Athens, pour blessings on the land. A sacred but joyous procession crowns the whole. Thus the consummation of the trilogy is cheerful, though each of the two former pieces is tragic; and the poet artfully conduces the poem to the honour of his native Athens and the venerable Areopagus. Regarding the three as one harmonious and united performance, altogether not so long as one play of Shakspeare's, they are certainly not surpassed in greatness of thought, in loftiness of conception, and in sustained vigour of execution, by any poem in the compass of literature; nor, observing their simple but compact symmetry as a whole, shall we do right to subscribe to those who deny to Aeschylus the skill of the artist, while they grant him the faculty of the poet.

The ingenious Schlegel attributes to these tragedies symbolical interpretations, but to my judgment with signal ill-success. These four tragedies—the Prometheus, the Agamemnon, the Choephori, and the Eumenides—are in grandeur immeasurably superior to the remaining three.

XII. Of these last, the Seven against Thebes is the best. The subject was one peculiarly interesting to Greece; the War of the Seven was the earliest record of a league among the Grecian princes, and of an enterprise carried on with a regular and systematic design. The catastrophe of two brothers falling by each other's hand is terrible and tragic, and among the most national of the Grecian legends. The fierce and martial spirit of the warrior poet runs throughout the play; his descriptions are animated as with the zeal and passion of battle; the chorus of Theban virgins paint in the most glowing colours the rush of the adverse hosts—the prancing of the chargers—the sound of their hoofs, "rumbling as a torrent lashing the side of cliffs;" we hear the creak of the heavy cars—the shrill whiz of the javelins, "maddening the very air"—the showers of stones crashing over the battlements—the battering at the mighty gates—the uproar of the city—the yells of rapine—the shrieks of infants "strangled by the bubbling blood." Homer himself never accumulated more striking images of horror. The description of Tydeus is peculiarly Homeric—

"Three shadowy crests, the honours of his helm, Wave wild, and shrilly from his buckler broad The brazen bell rings terror. On the shield He bears his haughty ensign—typed by stars Gleaming athwart the sky, and in the midst Glitters the royal Moon—the Eye of Night. Fierce in the glory of his arms, his voice Roars by the river banks; and drunk with war He pants, as some wild charger, when the trump Clangs ringing, as he rushes on the foe."

The proud, dauntless, and warlike spirit of Eteocles which is designed and drawn with inconceivable power, is beautifully characterized in his reply to the above description:

"Man hath no armour, war hath no array, At which this heart can tremble; no device Nor blazonry of battle can inflict The wounds they menace; crests and clashing bells Without the spear are toothless, and the night, Wrought on yon buckler with the stars of heaven, Prophet, perchance, his doom; and if dark Death Close round his eyes, are but the ominous signs Of the black night that waits him."

The description of each warrior stationed at each gate is all in the genius of Homer, closing as it does with that of Polynices, the brother of the besieged hero, whom, when he hears his name, Eteocles himself resolves to confront. At first, indeed, the latter breaks out into exclamations which denote the awe and struggle of the abhorrent nature; forebodings of his own doom flit before him, he feels the curses of his sire are ripening to their fruit, and that the last storm is yet to break upon the house of Oedipus. Suddenly he checks the impulse, sensible of the presence of the chorus. He passes on to reason with himself, through a process of thought which Shakspeare could not have surpassed. He conjures up the image of that brother, hateful and unjust from infancy to boyhood, from boyhood up to youth— he assures himself that justice would be forsworn if this foe should triumph—and rushes on to his dread resolve.

"'Tis I will face this warrior; who can boast A right to equal mine? Chief against chief— Foe against foe!—and brother against brother. What, ho! my greaves, my spear, my armour proof Against this storm of stones! My stand is chosen."

Eteocles and his brother both perish in the unnatural strife, and the tragedy ends with the decree of the senators to bury Eteocles with due honours, and the bold resolution of Antigone (the sister of the dead) to defy the ordinance which forbids a burial to Polynices—

"For mighty is the memory of the womb From which alike we sprung—a wretched mother!"

The same spirit which glows through the "Seven against Thebes" is also visible in the "Persians," which, rather picturesque than dramatic, is tragedy brought back to the dithyrambic ode. It portrays the defeat of Xerxes, and contains one of the most valuable of historical descriptions, in the lines devoted to the battle of Salamis. The speech of Atossa (the mother of Xerxes), in which she enumerates the offerings to the shade of Darius, is exquisitely beautiful.

"The charms that sooth the dead: White milk, and lucid honey, pure-distill'd By the wild bee—that craftsman of the flowers; The limpid droppings of the virgin fount, And this bright liquid from its mountain mother Born fresh—the joy of the time—hallowed vine; The pale-green olive's odorous fruit, whose leaves Live everlastingly—and these wreathed flowers, The smiling infants o' the prodigal earth."

Nor is there less poetry in the invocation of the chorus to the shade of Darius, which slowly rises as they conclude. But the purpose for which the monarch returns to earth is scarcely sufficient to justify his appearance, and does not seem to be in accordance with the power over our awe and terror which the poet usually commands. Darius hears the tale of his son's defeat—warns the Persians against interfering with the Athenians—tells the mother to comfort and console her son— bids the chorus (who disregard his advice) give themselves to mirth, even though in affliction, "for to the dead riches are no advantage"— and so returns to his repose, which seems very unnecessarily disturbed.

"The Suppliants," which Schlegel plausibly conjectures to have been the intermediate piece of a trilogy, is chiefly remarkable as a proof of the versatility of the poet. All horror has vanished from the scene; the language is soft when compared with the usual diction of Aeschylus; the action is peaceful, and the plot extremely simple, being merely the protection which the daughters of Danaus obtain at the court of Pelasgus from the pursuit of the sons of Aegyptus. The heroines of the play, the Danaides, make the chorus, and this serves to render the whole, yet more than the Persians, a lyric rather than a tragedy. The moral of the play is homely and primitive, and seems confined to the inculcation of hospitality to strangers, and the inviolable sanctity of the shrine. I do not know any passages in "The Suppliants" that equal in poetry the more striking verses of "The Persians," or "The Seven against Thebes."

XIII. Attempts have been made to convey to modern readers a more familiar notion of Aeschylus by comparisons with modern poets. One critic likens him to Dante, another to Milton—but he resembles neither. No modern language can convey a notion of the wonderful strength of his diction—no modern poet, of the stern sublimity of his conceptions. The French tragedians may give some weak reflection of Euripides or even of Sophocles, but none have ventured upon the sacred territory of the father of the tragic drama. He defies all imitation. His genius is so near the verge of bombast, that to approach his sublime is to rush into the ridiculous. [28]

Aeschylus never once, in the plays that have come down to us, delineates love, except by an expression or two as regards the passion of Clytemnestra for Aegisthus [29]. It was emblematic of a new state of society when Euripides created the Phaedra and the Medea. His plots are worked out by the simplest and the fewest positions. But he had evidently his own theory of art, and studied with care such stage effects as appeared to him most striking and impressive. Thus, in the burlesque contest between Aeschylus and Euripides, in the comedy of "The Frogs," the former is censured, not for too rude a neglect, but for too elaborate a cultivation, of theatrical craft—such as introducing his principal characters, his Niobe and Achilles [30], with their faces hid, and preserving long and obstinate silence, in order by that suspense to sharpen the expectation of the audience. Aeschylus, in fact, contrary to the general criticism, was as earnest and thoughtful an artist as Sophocles himself. There was this difference, it is true; one invented the art and the other perfected.

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