« AnteriorContinuar »
them that science whereof they were the only masters and professors, as well as of the religion of the country.
Now, since to the sovereign alone is committed the right of administering justice, and that within his dominions there is no other power of administering it, than what was delegated by him, how greatly does it behove him to take care, into what hands he commits a part of so great a trust; to know whether those he places so near the throne, are worthy to partake of such a prerogative; and industriously to keep all such at a distance from it, as he judges unworthy? We find that in Persia, their kings were extremely careful to have justice rendered with integrity and impartiality. " One of their royal judges (for so they called them) having suffered himself to be corrupted by bribery, was condemned by Cambyses to be put to death without mercy, and to have his skin put upon the seat where he used to sit and give judgment, and where his son, who succeeded him in his office, was to sit, that the very place whence he gave judgment, should remind him continually of his duty.
Their ordinary judges were taken out of the class of old men, into which none were admitted till the age of 50 years; so that a man could not exercise the office of a judge before that age, the Persians being of opinion, that too much maturity could not be required in an employment which decided upon the fortunes, reputations, and lives of their fellow-citizens.
c Amongst them, it was not lawful either for a private person to put any of his slaves to death, or for the prince to inflict capital punishment upon any of his subjects for the first offence; because it might rather be considered as an effect of human weakness and frailty, than of a confirmed malignity of mind.
The Persians thought it reasonable to put the good as well as the evil, the merits of the offender as well as his demerits, into the scales of justice; nor was it just, in their opinion, that one single crime should obliterate all the good actions a man had done during his life. d Upon this principle it was, that Darius, having condemned a judge to death for some prevarication in his office, and afterwards calling to mind the important services he had rendered both to the state and the royal family, revoked the sentence at the very moment of its going to be executed, and acknowledged, that he had pronounced it with more precipitation than wisdom.
But one important and essential rule which they observed
a Herod, l. v. c. 25.
c Herod. 1. i. c. 137.
b Xen Cyr 1 i. p. 7.
• Ι νοὺς ὡς ταχύτερα αυτις, ἢ σοφώτερα ἐργασμένος εἴη, έλυσε,
in their judgments, was, in the first place, never to condemn any person without bringing his accuser to his face, and without giving him time, and all other means, necessary for defending himself against the articles laid to his charge: and in the second place, if the person accused was found innocent, to inflict the very same punishment upon the accuser, as the other was to have suffered, had he been found guilty. a Artaxerxes gave a fine example of the just rigour which ought to be exercised on such occasions. One of the king's favourites, ambitious of getting a place possessed by one of his best officers, endeavoured to make the king suspect the fidelity of that officer; and to that end, sent informations to court full of calumnies against him; persuading himself that the king, from the great influence he had with his majesty, would believe the thing upon his bare word, without farther examination. For such is the general character of calumniators: they are afraid of evidence and light; they make it their business to bar up from the innocent all access to the prince, and thereby put it out of their power to vindicate themselves. The officer was imprisoned; but he desired of the king, before he was condemned, that his cause might be heard, and his accusers ordered to produce their evidence against him. The king did so: and as there was no proof but the letters which his enemy had written against him, he was cleared, and his innocence fully justified by the three commissioners that sat upon his trial; and all the king's indignation fell upon the perfidious accuser, who had thus attempted to abuse the favour and confidence of his royal master. This prince, who was well informed, and knew that one of the true signs of a wise government, was to have the subjects stand more in fear of the laws, than of informers, would have thought, that to have acted otherwise than he did, would have been a direct violation of the most common rules of natural equity and humanity; it would have been opening a door to envy, hatred, calumny, and revenge; it would have been exposing the honest simplicity of good and faithful subjects to the cruel malice of detestable informers, and arming the latter with the sword of public authority: in a word, it would have been divesting the throne of the most noble privilege belonging to it, namely, that of being a sanctuary for innocence and justice, against violence and calumny.
There is upon record a still more memorable example of firmness and love of justice, in another king of Persia, be
a Diod. 1. xv. p. 333-336.
b Non jam delatores, sed leges timentur. Plin. in Paneg. Traj.
c Princeps, qui delatores non castigat, irritat. Sueton. in vit. Domit. c. ix, d Esth, c. iii. &c.
fore Artaxerxes; in him, I mean, whom the Scripture calls Ahasuerus, and who is thought to be the same as Darius, the son of Hystaspes, from whom Haman had, by his earnest solicitations, extorted that fatal edict, which was calculated to exterminate the whole race of the Jews throughout the Persian empire in one day. When God had, by the means of Esther, opened his eyes, he made haste to make amends for his fault, not only by revoking his edict, and inflicting an exemplary punishment upon the impostor who had deceived him; but, which is more, by a public acknowledgement of his error; which should be a pattern to all ages, and to all princes, and teach them, that far from debasing their dignity, or weakening their authority thereby, they procure to them both the more respect. After declaring, that it is but too common for calumniators to impose, by their misrepresentations and craftiness, on the goodness of their princes, whom their natural sincerity induces to judge favourably of others; he is not ashamed to acknowledge, that he had been so unhappy as to suffer himself to be prejudiced by such means against the Jews, who were his faithful subjects, and the children of the Most High God, through whose goodness he and his ancestors had attained to the throne.
a The Persians were not only enemies of injustice, as we have now shown, but also abhorred lying, which always was deemed amongst them a mean and infamous vice. What they esteemed most pitiful, next to lying, was to live upon trust, or by borrowing. Such a kind of life seemed to them idle, ignominious, servile, and the most despicable, because it tends to make people liars.
SECT. IV.-The Care of the Provinces.
It seems to be no difficult matter to maintain good order in the metropolis of a kingdom, where the conduct of the magistrates and judges is closely inspected, and the very sight of the throne capable of keeping the subjects in awe. The case is otherwise with respect to the provinces, where the distance from the sovereign, and the hopes of impunity, may occasion many misdemeanors on the part of the magistrates and officers, as well as great licentiousness and disorder on that of the people. In this the Persian policy exerted itself with the greatest care, and we may also say, with the greatest
The Persian empire was divided into 127 governments, the governors whereof were called Satrapa. Over them were appointed three principal ministers, who inspected
a Herod. 1. i c. 138.
b Authors differ about the number of governments or provinces.-Xenoph. Cyrop. l. viii. p. 229, 232.
their conduct, to whom they gave an account of all the affairs of their several provinces, and who were afterwards to make their report of the same to the king. It was Darius the Mede, that is, Cyaxares, or rather Cyrus, in the name of his uncle, who put the government of the empire into this excellent method. These satrapa were, by the very design of their office, each in his respective district, to have the same care and regard for the interests of the people, as for those of the prince: for it was a maxim with Cyrus, that no difference ought to be admitted between these two interests, which are necessarily linked together; since neither the people can be happy, unless the prince is powerful, and in a condition to defend them; nor the prince truly powerful, unless his people be happy.
These satrapæ being the most considerable persons in the kingdom, Cyrus assigned them certain funds and revenues proportioned to their station and the importance of their employments. He was willing they should live nobly in their respective provinces, that they might gain the respect of the nobility and common people within their jurisdiction; and that for that reason their retinue, their equipage, and their table, should be answerable to their dignity, yet without exceeding the bounds of prudence and moderation. He himself was their model in this respect, as he desired they should be to all persons of distinguished rank within the extent of their authority; so that the same order, which reigned in the prince's court, might likewise proportionably be observed in the courts of the satrapæ, and in the noblemen's families. And to prevent, as far as possible, all abuses which might be made of so extensive an authority as that of the satrapæ, the king reserved to himself alone the nomination of them, and caused the governors of places, the commanders of the troops, and other such like officers to depend immediately upon the prince himself; from whom alone they were to receive their instructions, in order that, if the satrapa were inclined to abuse their power, they might be sensible those officers were so many overseers and censors of their conduct. And, to make this correspondence, by letters, the more sure and expeditious, the king caused posthouses to be erected throughout all the empire, and appointed couriers, who travelled night and day, and made wonderful dispatch. But I shall speak more particularly on this article at the end of this section, that I may not break in upon the matter in hand.
Notwithstanding all this, the care of the provinces was not entirely left to the satrapa and governors: the king himself took cognizance of them in his own person, being persuaded, that the governing only by others, is but to govern
by halves. An officer of the household was ordered to repeat these words to the king every morning when he waked: “a Rise, Sir, and think of discharging the duties for which “Oromasdes has placed you upon the throne." Oromasdes was the principal god anciently worshipped by the Persians. A good prince, says Plutarch in relating this custom, has no occasion for an officer to give him this daily admonition: his own heart, and the love he has for his people, are sufficient monitors.
The king of Persia thought himself obliged, according to the ancient custom established in that country, from time to time, personally to visit all the provinces of his empire; being persuaded, as Pliny says of Trajan, that the most solid glory, and the most exquisite pleasure, a good prince can enjoy, is from time to time to let the people see their common father; to reconcile the dissensions and mutual animosities of rival cities; to calm commotions or seditions among the people, and that not so much by the severity of power, as by the authority of reason; to prevent injustice and oppression in magistrates, and cancel and reverse whatever has been decreed against law and equity: in a word, like a beneficent planet, to shed his salutary influences universally; or rather, like a kind of divinity, to be present every where, to see, to hear, and know every thing, without rejecting any man's petition or complaint.
When the king was not able to visit the provinces himself, he sent, in his stead, some of the greatest men of the kingdom, such as were the most eminent for wisdom and virtue. These persons were generally called the eyes and ears of the prince, because by their means he saw and was informed of every thing. When these, or any other of his great ministers, or the members of his council, were said to be the eyes and ears of the prince, it was at once an admonition to the king, that he had his ministers, as we have the organs of our senses, not that he should lie still and be idle, but act by their means, and to the ministers, that they ought not to act for themselves, but for the king their head, and for the advantage of the whole body politic.
The particular detail of affairs, which the king, or the commissioners appointed by him, entered into, is highly worthy of admiration, and shows how well they understood in those days, wherein the wisdom and ability of governors consist. The attention of the king and his ministers was not employ
a Plut. ad Princ. indoct. p. 780,
b Xenoph in Econ. p. 828.
eReconciliare æmulas civitates, tumentesque populos non imperio magis quam ratione compescere, intercedere iniquitatibus magistratuum, infectumque reddere quicquid fieri non oportuerit; postremo velocissimi sideris more omuis invisere, omnia audire, et undecumque invocatum, statim, velut numen, adesse et adsistere. Plip. in Pareg. Traj.