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treatment we have mentioned ? and was it not utterly barbarous and brutal in the fathers and mothers, to see the blood trickling from the wounds of their children, nay, even to see them expiring under the lashes, without concern?
4. THE MOTHERS INHUMANITY.
Some people admire the courage of the Spartan mothers, who could hear the news of the death of their children slain in battle, not only without tears, but even with a kind of joy and satisfaction. For my part I should think it much better, that nature should show herself a little more on such occasions, and that the love of one's country should not utterly extinguish the sentiments of maternal tenderness. One of our generals in France, who in the heat of battle was told that his son was killed, spoke much more properly on the subject: "Let us at present think," said he, "how to conquer the enemy; to-morrow I will mourn for my son."
5. THEIR EXCESSIVE LEISURE.
Nor can I see what excuse can be made for that law, imposed by Lycurgus upon the Spartans, which enjoined the spending so much of their time in idleness and inaction, and the following no other business than that of war. He left all the arts and trades entirely to the slaves and strangers that lived amongst them; and put nothing into the hands of the citizens, but the lance and the shield. Not to mention the danger there was in suffering the number of slaves that were necessary for tilling the land, to increase to such a degree, as to become much greater than that of their masters, which was often an occasion of seditions and riots among them; how many disorders must men necessarily fall into, that have so much leisure upon their hands, and have no daily occupation or regular labour? this is an inconvenience even now but too common among our nobility, and which is the natural effect of their injudicious education. Except in the time of war, most of our gentry spend their lives in a most use less and unprofitable manner.
They look upon agriculture, arts, and commerce, as beneath them, and derogatory to their gentility. They seldom know how to handle any thing but their swords. As for the sciences, they take but a very small tincture of them, just so much as they cannot well be without; and many have not the least knowledge of them, nor any manner of taste for books or reading. We are not to wonder then, if gaming and hunting, eating and drinking, mutual visits, and frivolous discourse, make up their whole occupation. What a life is this for men that have any parts or understanding!
6. THEIR CRUELTY TOWARDS THE HELOTS.
Lycurgus would be utterly inexcusable, if he gave occasion, as he is accused of having done, for all the rigour and cruelty exercised towards the Helots in his republic. These Helots were the slaves employed by the Spartans to till the ground. It was their custom not only to make these poor creatures drunk, and expose them before their children, in order to give them an abhorrence for so shameful and odious a vice, and also to treat them with the utmost barbarity, as thinking themselves at liberty to destroy them by any violence or cruelty whatsoever, under pretence of their being always ready to rebel.
Upon a certain occasion related by a Thucydides, 2000 of these slaves disappeared at once, without any body's knowing what was become of them. Plutarch pretends, this barbarous custom was not practised till after Lycurgus's time, and that he had no hand in it.
7. MODESTY AND DECENCY ENTIRELY NEGLECTED.
But that wherein Lycurgus appears to be most culpable, and what most clearly shows the prodigious enormities and gross darkness in which the pagans were plunged, is the little regard he showed for modesty and decency, in what concerned the education of girls, and the marriages of young women; which was without doubt the source of those disorders that prevailed in Sparta, as Aristotle has wisely observed. When we compare these indecent and licentious institutions of the wisest legislator that ever profane antiquity could boast, with the sanctity and purity of the evangelical precepts, what a noble idea does it give us of the dignity and excellence of the Christian religion!
Nor will it give us a less advantageous notion of this preeminence, if we compare the most excellent and laudible part of Lycurgus's institutions with the laws of the Gospel. It is, we must own, a wonderful thing, that the whole people should consent to a division of their lands, which set the poor upon an equal footing with the rich; and that by a total exclusion of gold and silver, they should reduce themselves to a kind of voluntary poverty. But the Spartan: legislator, when he enacted these laws, had the sword in his hand; whereas the Christian legislator says but a word, "Blessed are the poor in spirit,” and thousands of the faithful, through all succeeding generations, renounce their goods, sell their lands and estates, and leave all to follow Jesus Christ, their master, in poverty and want.
a Lib, iv.
THE GOVERNMENT OF ATHENS.
THE LAWS OF SOLON THE HISTORY OF THAT REPUBLIC FROM THE TIME OF SOLON TO THE REIGN OF DARIUS I.
I have already observed, that Athens was at first governed by kings. But they had little more than the name; for their whole power, being confined to the command of the armies, vanished in time of peace. Every man was master in his own house, where he lived in an absolute state of independence. a Codrus, the last king of Athens, having devoted himself to die for the public good, his sons, Medon and Nileus, quarrelled about the succession. The Athenians took this occasion to abolish the regal power, though it did not much incommode them, and declared that Jupiter alone was king of Athens; at the very same time that the Jews were weary of their theocracy, that is, having the true God for their king, and would absolutely have a man to reign over them.
Plutarch observes, that Homer, when he enumerates the ships of the confederate Grecians, gives the name of people to none but the Athenians; from whence it may be inferred, that the Athenians even then had a great inclination to a democratical government, and that the chief authority was at that time vested in the people.
In the place of their kings, they substituted a kind of governors for life, under the title of Archons. But this perpetual magistracy appeared still in the eyes of this free people, as too lively an image of regal power, of which they were desirous of abolishing even the very shadow; for which reason, they first reduced that office to the term of ten years, and then to that of one: and this they did with a view of re suming the authority the more frequently into their own hands, which they never transferred to their magistrates but with regret.
Such a limited power as this was not sufficient to restrain those turbulent spirits, who were grown excessively jealous of their liberty and independence, very tender and apt to be offended at any thing that seemed to encroach upon their equality, and always ready to take umbrage at whatever had the least appearance of dominion or superiority. From hence arose continual factions and quarrels: there was no agreement or concord among them, either about religion or government.
Athens therefore continued a long time incapable of enlarging her power, it being very happy for her that she could a Codrus was cotemporary with Saul,
preserve herself from ruin in the midst of those long and frequent dissensions with which she had to struggle.
Misfortunes instruct. Athens learned at length, that true liberty consists in a dependence upon justice and reason. This happy subjection could not be established but by a legislator. She therefore pitched upon Draco, a man of acknowledged a It does not apwisdom and integrity, for that employment. pear, that Greece had before his time any written laws. The first of that kind, then, were of his publishing; the tigour of which, anticipating, as it were, the Stoical doctrine was so great, that it punished the smallest offence, as well as the most enormous crimes, equally with death. These laws of Draco, written, says Demades, not with ink, but with blood, had the same fate that usually attends all violent things. Sentiments of humanity in the judges, compassion for the accused, whom they were wont to look upon rather as unfortunate than criminal, and the apprehensions the accusers and witnesses were under of rendering themselves odious to the people; all these motives, I say, concurred to produce a remissness in the execution of the laws; which by that means, in process of time, became as it were abrogated through disuse: and thus an excessive rigour paved the way for impunity.
The danger of relapsing into their former disorders, made them have recourse to fresh precautions; for they were willing to slacken the curb and restraint of fear, but not to break it. In order therefore to find out mitigations, which might make amends for what they took away from the letter of the law, they cast their eyes upon one of the wisest and most virtuous persons of his age, mean Solon; whose singular qualities, and especially his great meekness, had acquired him the affection and veneration of the whole city.
His main application had been to the study of philosophy, and especially to that part of it, which we call politics, and which teaches the art of government. His extraordinary merit gave him one of the first ranks among the seven sages of Greece, who rendered the age we are speaking of so illustrious. These sages often paid visits to one another. One day, that Solon went to Miletos, to see Thales, the first thing he said to Thales was, that he wondered why he had never chosen to have either wife or children. Thales made him no answer then; but a few days after he contrived, that a stranger should come into their company, and pretend that he was just arrived from Athens, from whence he had set out about ten days before. Solon, hearing the stranger say this, asked him, if there was no news at Athens when he bA, M. 3400. Ant. J.C. 604
A. M. 3380. Ant. J. C 624,
came away. The stranger, who had been taught his lesson, replied, that he had heard of nothing, but the death of a young gentleman, whom all the town accompanied to the grave; because, as they said, he was the son of the worthiest man in the city, who was then absent. Alas! cried Solon, interrupting the man's story, how much is the poor father of the youth to be pitied! But pray, what is the gentleman's name? I heard his name, replied the stranger; but I have forgotten it. I only remember, that the people talked much of his wisdom and justice. Every answer afforded new subject of trouble and terror to the inquiring father, who was so justly alarmed. Was it not, said he at length, the son of Solon? The very same, replied the stranger. Solon at these words rent his clothes, and beat his breast, and expressing his sorrow by tears and groans, abandoned himself to the most sensible affliction. Thales, seeing this, took him by the hand, and said to him with a smile; Comfort yourself, my friend; all that has been told to you is a mere fiction. Now you see the reason why I never married it is because I am unwilling to expose myself to such trials and afflictions.
Plutarch has given us a large refutation of Thales's reasoning, which tends to deprive mankind of the most natural and reasonable attachments in life, in lieu of which, the heart of man will not fail to substitute others of an unjust and unlawful nature, which will expose him to the same pains and inconveniencies. The remedy, says this historian, against the grief that may arise from the loss of goods, of friends, or of children, is not to throw away our estates, and reduce our selves to poverty, to make an absolute renunciation of all friendship, or to confine ourselves to a state of celibacy; but upon all such accidents and misfortunes, to make a right use
of our reason.
a Athens, after some time of tranquillity and peace, which the prudence and courage of Solon had procured, who was as great a warrior as he was a statesman, relapsed into her former dissensions about the government of the common-wealth, and was divided into as many parties, as there were different sorts of inhabitants in Attica: for those that lived upon the mountains were fond of popular government; those in the low-lands were for an oligarchy; and those who dwelt on the sea-coasts, were for having a mixed government, compounded of those two forms blended together: and these hindered the other two contending parties from getting any ground of each other. Besides these, there was a fourth party, which consisted only of the poor, who were grievously harassed and oppressed by the rich, on account of # Plut. in Solon. p. 85, 867 Aa