Imágenes de páginas

about it, he endeavoured to effect it, by sapping the very foundations of avarice. For, first, he cried down all gold and silver money, and ordained, that no other should be current than that of iron; which he made so very heavy, and fixed at so low a rate, that a cart and two oxen were necessary to carry home a sum of 10 minæ «, and a whole chamber to keep it in.

The next thing he did, was to banish all useless and superfluous arts from Sparta. But if he had not done this, most of them would have sunk of themselves, and disappeared with the gold and silver money: because the tradesmen and artificers would have found no vent for their commodities; and this iron money had no currency among any other of the Grecian states, who were so far from esteeming it, that it became the subject of their banter and ridicule.


Lycurgus being desirous to make a yet more effectual war upon effeminacy and luxury, and utterly to extirpate the love of riches, made a third regulation, which was that of public meals. That he might entirely suppress all the magnificence and extravagance of expensive tables, he ordained, that all the citizens should eat together of the same common victuals, which were prescribed by law, and expressly forbade all private eating at their own houses.

By this institution of public and common meals, and this frugality and simplicity in eating, it may be said, that he made riches in some measure change their very nature, by putting them out of a condition of being desired or stolen, or of enriching their possessors: for there was no way left for a man to use or enjoy his opulence, or even to make any show of it; since the poor and the rich ate together in the same place, and none were allowed to appear at the public eating-rooms, after having taken care to fill themselves with other diet; because every body present took particular notice of any one that did not eat or drink, and the whole company was sure to reproach him with the delicacy and intemperance that made him despise the common food and public table.

The rich were extremely enraged at this regulation; and it was upon this occasion, that in a tumult of the people, a young man, named Alcander, struck out one of Lycurgus's eyes. The people, provoked at such an outrage, delivered the young man into Lycurgus's hands, who knew how to revenge himself in a proper manner: for by the extraordi

a 500 livres French; about 20%. English.

b Plut. in vit. Lye. p. 45. • Τὸν πλᾶτονἄσυλον, μᾶλλον, δὲ ἐζηλον, καὶ ἄπλετον ἀπειργάσατο. Plut

nary kindness and gentleness with which he treated him, he made the violent and hot-headed youth in a little time become very moderate and wise The tables consisted of about 15 persons each; where none could be admitted without the consent of the whole company. Each person furnished every month a bushel of flower, eight measures of wine, five pounds of cheese, two pounds and a half of figs, and a small sum of money for preparing and cooking the victuals. Every one, without exception of persons, was obliged to be at the common meal: and a long time after the making of these regulations, king Agis, at his return from a glorious expedition, having taken the liberty to dispense with that law, in order to eat with the queen, his wife, was reprimanded and punished.

The very children were present at these public tables, and were carried thither as to a school of wisdom and temperance There they were sure to hear grave discourses upon government, and to see nothing but what tended to their instruction and improvement. The conversation was often enlivened with ingenious and sprightly raillery, but never intermixed with any thing vulgar or shocking; and if their jesting seemed to make any person uneasy, they never proceeded any further. Here their children were likewise trained up and accustomed to great secrecy as soon as a young man came into the dining room, the oldest person of the company used to say to him, pointing to the door, "No"thing spoken here must ever go out there."

a The most exquisite of all their dishes was what they called their Black Broth; and the old men preferred it be fore all that was set upon the table. Dionysius the tyrant, when he was at one of these meals, was not of the same opinion; and what was a ragoo to them, was to him very insipid. I do not wonder at it, said the cook, for the seasoning is wanting. What seasoning? replied the tyrant. Running sweating, fatigue, hunger, and thirst; these are the ingredients, says the cook, with which we season all our food.


6 When I speak of the ordinances of Lycurgus, I do not mean written laws: he thought proper to leave very few of that kind, being persuaded, that the most powerful and effectual means of rendering communities happy, and people virtuous, is by the good example, and the impression made on the mind by the manners and practice of the citizens: for the principles thus implanted by education remain firm and immoveable, as they are rooted in the will, which is Cic. Tasc. Quæst fib. v. n. 98. 6 Plut. vit. Lye. p. 47.

always a stronger and more durable tie than the yoke of necessity; and the youth, that have been thus nurtured and educated, become laws and legislators to themselves. These are the reasons why Lycurgus, instead of leaving his ordi nances in writing, endeavoured to imprint and enforce them by practice and example.

He looked upon the education of youth as the greatest and most important object of a legislator's care. His grand principle was, that children belonged more to the state than to their parents; and therefore he would not have them brought up according to their humours and caprice, but would have the state entrusted with the care of their education, in order to have them formed upon fixed and uniform principles, which might inspire them betimes with the love of their country, and of virtue.

a As soon as a boy was born, the elders of each tribe visited him; and if they found him well-made, strong and vigorous, they ordered him to be brought up, and assigned him one of the 9000 portions of land for his inheritance; if, on the contrary, they found him to be deformed, tender and weakly, so that they could not expect that he would ever have a strong and healthful constitution, they condemned him to perish, and caused the infant to be exposed.

Children were accustomed betimes not to be nice or difficult in their eating; not to be afraid in the dark, or when they were left alone; not to give themselves up to peevishness and ill humour, to crying and bawling; to walk barefoot, that they might be inured to fatigue; to lie hard at nights; to wear the same clothes winter and summer, in order to harden them against cold and heat.

[ocr errors]

At the age of seven years they were put into the classes, where they were brought up all together under the same discipline. Their education, properly speaking, was only an apprenticeship of obedience; the legislator having rightly considered, that the surest way to have citizens submissive to the law and to the magistrates, in which the good order and happiness of a state chiefly consists, was to teach children early, and to accustom them from their tender years to be perfectly obedient to their masters and superiors.

While they were at table, it was usual for the masters to instruct the boys by proposing them questions. They a Plut. vit. Lyc. p. 49.

A b 1 do not comprehend, how they could assign to every one of these children one of the 900 portions appropriated to the city for his inheritance Was the number of citizens always the same? Did it never exceed 9600? It is not said in this case, as in the division of the holy land, that the portions allotted to a family always continued in it, and could not be entirely alienated.

e Lac rep. p. 677.

• Ωσε την παιδείαν εἶναι μελέτην εὐπείας.

f Plut. in Lyc. p. 51.

d Plut. in Lyc. p. 50,

would ask them, for example, Who is the honestest man in the town? What do you think of such or such an action? The boys were obliged to give a quick and ready answer, which was also to be accompanied with a reason, and a proof, both couched in few words: for they were accustomed betimes to the Laconic style, that is, to a close and concise way of speaking and writing. Lycurgus was for having the money bulky, heavy, and of little value, and their language on the contrary, very pithy and short; a great deal of sense comprised in few words.

a As for literature, they only learned as much as was necessary. All the sciences were banished out of their country: their study tended only to know how to obey, to bear hardship and fatigue, and to conquer in battle. The superintendant of their education was one of the most honourable men of the city, and of the first rank and condition, who appointed over every class of boys masters of the most approved wisdom and probity.

There was one kind of theft only, and that too more a nominal than a real one, which the boys were allowed, and even ordered to practise. They were taught to slip, as cunningly and cleverly as they could into the gardens, and public halls, in order to steal away herbs or meat; and if they were caught in the fact, they were punished for their want of dexterity. We are told that one of them, having stolen a young fox, hid it under his robe, and suffered the animal to gnaw into his belly, and tear out his very bowels, till he fell dead upon the spot, rather than be discovered. This kind of theft, as I have said, was but nominal, and not properly a robbery; since it was authorised by the law and the consent of the citizens. The intent of the legislator in allowing it, was to inspire the Spartan youth who were all designed for war, with greater boldness, subtilty, and address; to inure them betimes to the life of a soldier; to teach them to live upon a little, and to be able to shift for themselves. But I have already given an account of this matter more at large in another treatise ".

d The patience and constancy of the Spartan youth most conspicuously appeared in a certain festival, celebrated in honour of Diana, surnamed Orthia, where the children before the eyes of their parents, and in presence of the whole city, suffered themselves to be whipped, till the blood ran down upon the altar of this cruel goddess, where sometimes they expired under the strokes; and all this without uttering the least cry, or so much as groan or a sigh; and even their

• a Plut. in Lyc. p 52. 6 Plut vit. p. 50. Idem in institut. Lacon. p. 237. c Man, d'Etud. tome iii. p 471. d Plut. p. 51.

e Cic. Tase. Quæst. l. ii. n. 34.

own fathers, when they saw them covered with blood and wounds, and ready to expire, exhorted them to persevere to the end with constancy and resolution. Plutarch assures us, that he had seen with his own eyes a great many children lose their lives on these cruel rites. Hence it is, that Horace gives the epithet of patient to the city of Lacedæmon, Patiens Lacedæmon; and another author makes a man, who had received three strokes of a stick without complaining, say, Tres plagas Spartanâ nobilitate concoxi.

The most usual occupation of the Lacedæmonians was hunting, and other bodily exercises. They were forbidden to exercise any mechanic art. The Elota, who were a sort of slaves, tilled their land for them, and paid them a certain proportion of the produce.

Lycurgus was willing that his citizens should enjoy a great deal of leisure: they had large common-halls, where the people used to meet to converse together: and though their discourses chiefly turned upon grave and serious topics, yet they seasoned them with a mixture of wit and facetious humour, both agreeable and instructive. They passed little of their time alone, being accustomed to live like bees, always together, always about their chiefs and leaders. The love of their country and of the public good was their predomi→ nant passion: they did not imagine they belonged to themselves, but to their country. Pedaretus, having missed the honour of being chosen one of the 300 who had a certain rank of distinction in the city, went home extremely pleased and satisfied, saying "He was overjoyed there were 300 men in Sparta more worthy than himself."

[ocr errors]

d'At Sparta every thing tended to inspire the love of virtue, and the hatred of vice; the actions of the citizens, their conversations, public monuments, and inscriptions. It was hard for men, brought up in the midst of so many living precepts and examples, not to become virtuous, as far as heathens were capable of virtue. It was to preserve these happy dispositions, that Lycurgus did not allow all sorts of persons to travel, lest they should bring home foreign manners, and return infected with the licentious customs of other countries, which would necessarily create in a little time an aversion for the mode of life and maxims of Lacedæmon. Neither would he suffer any strangers to remain in the city, who did not come thither to some useful or profitable end, but out of mere curiosity; being afraid they should bring along with them the defects and vices of their own countries; and be ing persuaded, at the same time, that it was more important and necessary to shut the gates of the town against depraved

Ode vii. lib. 1. Plut. in vit. Lyc. p. 54 c Ibid. p. 55. d Ibid. p. 5

« AnteriorContinuar »