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Cicero's time the discipline of Sparta, as well as her power, was very much relaxed and diminished: but however, all historians agree, that it was maintained in all its vigour till the reign of Agis, under whom Lysander, though incapable himself of being blinded or corrupted with gold, filled his country with luxury and the love of riches, by bringing into it immense sums of gold and silver, which were the fruits of his victories, and thereby subverting the laws of Lycurgus. But the introduction of gold and silver money was not the first wound given by the Lacedæmonions to the institutions of their legislator. It was the consequence of the violation of another law still more fundamental. Ambition was the vice that preceded, and made way for avarice. The desire of conquests drew on that of riches, without which they could not propose to extend their dominions. The main design of Lycurgus, in the establishing his laws, and especially that which prohibited the use of gold and silver, was, as Polybius and Plutarch have judiciously observed, to curb and restrain the ambition of his citizens; to disable them from making conquests, and in a manner to force them to confine themselves within the narrow bounds of their own country, without carrying their views and pretensions any further. Indeed the government which he established was sufficient to defend the frontiers of Sparta, but was not calculated for the raising her to a dominion over other cities.
The design, then, of Lycurgus was not to make the Spartans conquerors. To remove such thoughts from his fellow-citizens, he expressly forbid them, though they inhabited a country surrounded with the sea, to meddle with maritime affairs; to have any fleets, or ever to fight upon the sea. They were religious observers of this prohibition for many ages, and even till the defeat of Xerxes: but upon that occasion they began to think of making themselves masters at sea, that they might be able to keep that formidable enemy at the greater distance. But having soon perceived that these maritime, remote commands, corrupted the manners of their generals, they laid that project aside without any difficulty, as we shall observe when we come to speak of king Pausanias.
When Lycurgus armed his fellow-citizens with shields and lances, it was not to enable them to commit wrongs and outrages with impunity, but only to defend themselves against the invasions and injuries of others. He made them indeed a nation of warriors and soldiers; but it was only, that under the shadow of their arms they might live in liberty, moderation, justice, union, and peace, by being content with their a Polyb. l. vi p. 491 6 Plut. in moribus Laced p. 239.
Plut, in vit. Lyc. p. 59.
own territories, without usurping those of others, and by being persuaded, that no city or state, any more than individuals, can ever hope for solid and lasting happiness, but from virtue only. " Men of a depraved taste, says Plutarch further on the same subject, who think nothing so desirable as riches and a large extent of dominion, may give the preference to those vast empires, that have subdued and enslaved the world by violence: but Lycurgus was convinced, that a city had occasion for nothing of that kind, in order to be happy. His policy, which has justly been the admiration of all ages, had no further views, than to establish equity, moderation, liberty and peace; and was an enemy to all injustice, violence, and ambition, and the passion of reigning and extending the bounds of the Spartan commonwealth.
Such reflections as these, which Plutarch agreeably intersperses in his lives, and in which their greatest and most essential beauty consists, are of infinite use towards the giving us true notions of things and making us understand wherein consists the solid and true glory of a state, that is really happy; as also to correct those false ideas which we are apt to form of the vain greatness of those empires, which have swallowed up kingdoms, and of those celebrated conquerors, who owe all their fame and grandeur to violence and usurpation.
3. THE EXCELLENT EDUCATION OF THEIR YOUTH.
The long duration of the laws established by Lycurgus, is certainly very wonderful: but the means he made use of to succeed therein are no less worthy of admiration. The principal of these was the extraordinary care he took to have the Spartan youth brought up in an exact and severe discipline: for, as Plutarch observes, the religious obligation of an oath, which he exacted from the citizens, would have been a feeble tie, had he not by education infused his laws, as it were, into the minds and manners of the children, and made them suck in, almost with their mother's milk, an affection for his institutions. This was the reason why his principal ordinances subsisted above 500 years, having sunk into the very temper and hearts of the people, like a strong and good dye, that penetrates thoroughly. Cicero makes the same remark, and ascribes the courage and virtue of the Spartans, not so much to their own natural disposition, as to their excellent education c: Cujus civitatis spectata ac nobilitata virtus, non solum natura corroborata, verum etiam disciplina putatur. All this shows of what importance it a Ibid. et in vit. Agesil. p. 614.
Ο "Ωσπερ βαφής «κράτο καὶ ἰσχυρῶς καταψαμένης. Plat. Εpist. 1, c Orat. pro Flac. n. 63.
is to a state, to take care that their youth be brought up in a manner proper to inspire them with a love for the laws of their country.
• The great maxim of Lycurgus, which Aristotle repeats in express terms, was, that as children belong to the state, their education ought to be directed by the state, and the views and interests in the state only considered therein. It was for this reason he desired they should be educated all in common, and not left to the humour and caprice of their parents, who generally, through a soft and blind indulgence and a mistaken tenderness, enervate at once both the bodies and minds of their children. At Sparta, from their tenderest years, they were inured to labour and fatigue by the exercises of hunting and racing, and accustomed betimes to endure hunger and thirst, heat and cold; and, what it is difficult to make mothers believe, all these hard and laborious exercises tended to procure them health, and make their constitutions the more vigorous and robust, able to bear the hardships and fatigues of war; the thing for which they were all designed from their cradles.
But the most excellent thing in the Spartan education, was its teaching young people so perfectly well how to obey. It is from hence the poet Simonides gives that city such a magnificent epithet, which denotes, that they alone knew how to subdue the passions of men, and to render them pliant and submissive to laws, in the same manner as horses are taught to obey the spur and the bridle, by being broken and trained while they are young. For this reason, Agesilaus advised Xenophon to send his children to Sparta, that they might learn there the noblest and greatest of all sciences, that is, how to command, and how to obey.
5. RESPECT TOWARDS THE AGED.
One of the lessons oftenest and most strongly inculcated upon the Lacedæmonian youth, was to bear a great reverence and respect to old men, and to give them proofs of it upon all occasions, by saluting them, by making way for them and giving them place in the streets, by rising up to show them honour in all companies, and public assemblies; but, above all, by receiving their advice, and even their reproofs, with docility and submission: by these characteristics a Lacedæmonian was known wherever he came; if he had behaved otherwise, it would have been looked upon as a re
a Lib viii. Politic.
6 Apriμpros-that is to say, tamer of men, • Μαθησομένς τῶν μαθημάτων τὸ κάλλισον, ἄρκεσθαι καὶ ἄρχειν. d Plut. in Lacon. Institut. p. 237.
proach to himself, and a dishonour to his country. An old man of Athens going into the theatre once to see a play, none of his own countrymen offered him a seat; but when he came near the place where the Spartan ambassadors and the gentlemen of their retinue were sitting, they all rose up, out of reverence to his age, and seated him in the midst of them. Lysander therefore had reason to say, that old age had no where so honourable an abode as in Sparta, and that it was an agreeable thing to grow old in that city.
II. THINGS BLAMEABLE IN THE LAWS OF LYCURGUS.
In order to perceive more clearly the defects in the laws of Lycurgus, we have only to compare them with those of Moses, which we know were dictated by more than human wisdom. But my design in this place is not to enter into an exact examination of the particulars wherein the laws and institutions of Lycurgus are faulty: I shall content myself with making only some slight reflections, which probably the reader has already anticipated, as he must have been justly disgusted by the mere recital of some of those ordinances.
1. THE CHOICE MADE OF THE CHILDREN THAT WERE EITHER TO BE BROUGHT UP OR EXPOSED.
To begin, for instance, with that ordinance relating to the choice they made of their children; which of them were to be brought up, and which exposed to perish; who would not be shocked at the unjust and inhuman custom of pronouncing sentence of death upon all such infants, as had the misfortune to be born with a constitution that appeared too weak to undergo the fatigues and exercises to which the commonwealth destined all her subjects? Is it then impossible, and without example, that children, who are tender and weak in their infancy, should ever alter as they grow up, and become, in time, of a robust and vigorous constitution? Or suppose it were so, can a man no way serve his country but by the strength of his body? Is there no account to be made of his wisdom, prudence, counsel, generosity, courage, magnanimity, and, in a word, of all the qualities that depend upon the mind and the intellectual faculties? Omnino illud honestum, quod ex animo excelso magnificoque quærimus, animi efficitur, non corporis viribus. Did Lycurgus himself render less service, or do less honour to Sparta, by establishing his laws, than the greatest generals did by their victories? Agesilaus was of so small a stature, and of so mean a figure in his person, that at the first sight of him the Egypa Lysandrum Lacedæmonium dicere aiunt solitum: Lacedæmone esse hones tissimum domicilium senectutis.. Cic. de Sen, n. 63. "Ev Aaxɛdaíμovi náðλ15ynpw. Plut. in mor. p. 795. b Cic, l. i. de offic, n. 79, Ibid, n.
tians could not help laughing; and yet, little as he was, he made the great king of Persia tremble upon the throne of half the world.
But, what is yet stronger than all I have said, has any other person a right or power over the lives of men, save he from whom they received them, even God himself? And does not a legislator visibly usurp the authority of God, whenever he arrogates to himself such a power without his commission? that precept of the decalogue, which was only a renovation of the law of nature, "Thou shalt not kill," universally condemns all those among the ancients, who imagined they had a power of life and death over their slaves, and even over their own children.
2. THEIR CARE CONFINED ONLY TO THE BODY.
The great defect in Lycurgus's laws, as Plato and Aristotle have observed, is, that they only tended to form a warlike and martial people. All that legislator's thoughts seemed wholly bent upon the means of strengthening the bodies of the people, without any concern for the cultivation of their minds. Why should he banish from his commonwealth all arts and sciences, which, besides many other a advantages have this most happy effect, that they soften our manners, polish our understandings, improve the heart, and render our behaviour civil, courteous, gentle, and obliging; such, in a word, as qualifies us for company and society, and makes the ordinary commerce of life agreeable? hence it came to pass, that there was something of a roughness and austerity in the temper and behaviour of the Spartans, and many times even something of ferocity, a failing, that proceeded chiefly from their education, and that rendered them disagreeable and offensive to all their allies.
3. THEIR BARBAROUS CRUELTY TOWARDS THEIR CHIL
It was an excellent practice in Sparta to accustom their youth betimes to suffer heat and cold, hunger and thirst, and, by several severe and laborious exercises, to bring the body into subjection to reason, whose faithful and diligent minister it ought to be in the execution of all her orders and injunctions; which it can never do, if it be not able to undergo all sorts of hardships and fatigues. But was it rational in them to carry their severities so far, as the inhuman
a Omnes artes quibus ætas puerilis ad humanitatem informari solet. Cic. Orat. pro Aren.
b Exercendum corpus, et ita afficiendum est, ut obedire consilio rationique Rossit in exequendis negotiis et labore tolerando. Lib. i. de ofite. n. 79.