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their allies, whose assistance and concurrence they proposed to use, in order to render their enterprise more successful.
The deputy of Corinth spoke first on this occasion, and expressed great astonishment that the Lacedæmonians, who were themselves avowed enemies of tyranny, and professed the greatest abhorrence for all arbitrary government, should desire to establish it elsewhere? describing, at the same time, in the fullest light, all the cruel and horrid effects of tyrannical government, as his own country (Corinth) had but very lately felt by woful experience. The rest of the deputies applauded his discourse, and were of his opinion. Thus the enterprise came to nothing, and had no other effect, than to discover the base jealousy of the Lacedæmonians, and to cover them with shame and confusion.
Hippias, defeated of his hopes, retired into Asia to Artaphernes, governor of Sardis for the king of Persia, whom he endeavoured by every method to engage in a war against Athens; representing to him, that the taking of so rich and powerful a city would render him master of all Greece. Artaphernes hereupon required of the Athenians, that they would reinstate Hippias in the government; to which they made no other answer than by a downright and absolute refusal. This was the original ground and occasion of the wars between the Persians and the Greeks, which will be the subject of the following volumes.
ILLUSTRIOUS MEN, WHO DISTINGUISHED THEMSELVES IN THE ARTS AND SCIENCES.
I begin with the poets, because the most ancient. HOMER, the most celebrated and illustrious of all the poets, is he of whom we have the least knowledge, either with respect to the country where he was born, or the time in which he lived. Among the seven cities of Greece, that contended for the honour of having given him birth, Smyrna seems to have the best title.
a Herodotus tells us, that Homer wrote 400 years before his time, that is, 340 years after the taking of Troy: for Herodotus flourished 740 years after that expedition.
Some authors have pretended, that he was called Homer, because he was born blind. Valleius Paterculus rejects this story with contempt. "If any man," says he, "believes
a A M. 3160. Ant. J. C. 844. Lib ii. c. 53.
b Quem sit quis cæcum genitum putat, omnibus sensibus orbus est. 1.1. c. 5.
"that Homer was born blind, he must be so himself, and even have lost all his senses.". Indeed, according to the observation of Cicero, Homer's works are rather pictures than poems; so perfectly does he paint to the life, and set the images of every thing he undertakes to describe, before the eyes of the reader; and he seems to have been intent upon introducing all the most delightful and agreeable objects that nature affords, into his writings, and to make them in a manner pass in review before his readers.
What is most astonishing in this poet is, that having applied himself the first, at least of those that are known, to that kind of poetry which is the most sublime and difficult of all, he should however soar so high, and with such rapidity, at the first flight as it were, as to carry it at once to the utmost perfection; which seldom or never happens in other arts, but by slow degrees, and after a long series of years.
The kind of poetry we are speaking of, is the epic poem, so called from the Greek words; because it is an action related by the poet. The subject of this poem must be great, instructive, serious, containing only one principal event, to which all the rest must refer, and be subordinate; and this principal action must have passed in a certain space of time, which must not exceed a year at most.
Homer has composed two poems of this kind, the Iliad and the Odyssey: the subject of the first is the anger of Achilles, so pernicious to the Greeks, when they besieged Ilion, or Troy; and that of the second is, the voyages and adventures of Ulysses, after the taking of that city.
It is remarkable, that no nation in the world, however learned and ingenious, has ever produced any poems comparable to his; and that whoever have attempted any works of that kind, have all taken their plan and ideas from Homer, borrowed all their rules from him, made him their model, and have only succeeded in proportion to their success in copying him. The truth is, Homer was an original genius, and fit for others to be formed upon: Fons ingeniorum Homerus c.
All the greatest men, and the most exalted geniuses, that have appeared for these 2000 and 500 or 600 years, in Greece, Italy, and elsewhere; those whose writings we are forced still to admire; who are still our masters, and who teach us a Tusc. Quæst. I. v, n. 114.
b Clarissimum deinde Homeri illuxit ingenium, sine exemplo maximum : qui. magnitudine operis et fulgore carminum, so!us appellari Poeta meruit In quo hoc maximum est, quod neque ante illum. quem ille imitaretur; neque post illum, qui imitari eum possit, inventus est: neque que quam abu, cujus ope ris primus auctor fuerit, in eo perfectissimum, præter Homerum et Archilochum reperiemus. Vel. Pater 1, i. e. 5.
Plin. l. xvii. c 5.
to think, to reason, to speak, and to write; all these, says Madame Dacier, a acknowledge Homer to be the greatest of poets, and look upon his poems as the model on which all succeeding poets should form their taste and judgment. After all this, can there be any man, so conceited of his own talents, be they never so great, as reasonably to presume, that his decisions should prevail against such an universal concurrence of judgment in persons of the most distinguished abilities and characters?
So many testimonies, so ancient, so uniform, and so universal, entirely justify Alexander the Great's favourable judgment of the works of Homer, which he looked upon as the most excellent and valuable production of the human mind: pretiosissimum humani animi opus.
c Quintilian, after having made a magnificent encomium upon Homer, gives us a just idea of his character and manner of writing in these few words: Hunc nemo in magnis sublimitate, in parvis proprietate superaverit. Idem latus ac pressus, jucundus et gravis, tum copia tum brevitate mirabilis. In great things, what a sublimity of expression; and in little, what a justness and propriety! Diffusive and concise, pleasant and grave, equally admirable both for his copiousness and his brevity.
HESIOD. The most common opinion is, that he was contemporary with Homer. It is said, he was born at Cuma, a town in Æolis, but that he was brought up at Ascra, a little town in Beotia, which has since passed for his native country. Thus Virgil calls him the old man of Ascra. We know little or nothing of this poet, but by the few remaining poems which he has left, all in hexameter verse; which are, 1st, "The Works and Days ;" 2ndly," The Theogony," or the genealogy of the gods; 3dly, "The Shield of Hercules :" of which last, some doubt whether it was written by Hesiod.
1. In the first of these poems, entitled, "The Works and Days," Hesiod treats of agriculture, which requires, besides a great deal of labour, a due observation of times, seasons, and days. This poem is full of excellent sentences and maxims for the conduct of life. He begins it with a short but lively description, of two sorts of disputes; the one fatal to mankind, the source of quarrels, discords, and wars; and the other infinitely useful and beneficial to men, as it sharpens their wits, excites a noble and generous emulation among them, and prepares the way for the invention and improvement of arts and sciences. He then makes an admirable description of the four different ages of the world; the golden, the silver, the brazen, and the iron age. The persons a In Homer's life, which is prefixed to her translation of the Iliad.
6 Plin. l. vii. c. 29.
c Quint. 1, x. c. 1.
d Eclog. vi. ver, 70
who lived in the golden age, are those whom Jupiter after their death turned into so many genii or spirits, and then appointed them as guardians over mankind, giving them a commission to go up and down the earth, invisible to the sight of men, and to oberve all their good and evil actions. This poem was Virgil's model in composing his Georgics, as he himself acknowledges in this verse:
Ascræumque cano Romana per oppida carmen 6.
The choice made by these two illustrious poets of this subject for the exercise of their muse, shows in what honour the ancients held agriculture, and the feeding of cattle, the two innocent sources of the wealth and plenty of a country. It is much to be deplored, that, in after-ages, men departed from a taste so agreeable to nature, and so well adapted to the preservation of innocence and good manners. Avarice and luxury have entirely banished it the world. Nimirum alii subiere ritus, circaque alia mentes hominum detinentur, et avaritiæ tantum artes coluntur.
2. "The Theogony" of Hesiod, and the poems of Homer, may be looked upon as the surest and most authentic archives and monuments of the theology of the ancients, and of the opinion they had of their gods: for we are not to suppose, that these poets were the inventors of the fables which we read in their writings. They only collected, and transmitted to posterity, the traces of the religion which they found established, and which prevailed in their time and country.
3. "The Shield of Hercules" is a separate fragment of a poem, wherein it is pretended that Hesiod celebrated the most illustrious heroines of antiquity: and it bears that title, because it contains, among other things, a long description of the shield of Hercules, concerning whom the same poem relates a particular adventure.
The poetry of Hesiod, in those places that are susceptible of ornament, is very elegant and delightful, but not so sublime and lofty as that of Homer. Quintilian reckons him the chief in the middle manner of writing. a Datur ei palma in illo medio dicendi genere.
ARCHILOCHUS. The poet Archilochus, born in Paros, inventor of the Iambic verse, lived in the time of Candaules, king of Lydia. He has this advantage in common with Homer, according to Valleius Paterculus, that he carried at once that kind of poetry, which he invented, to a very great per
Pin. in Prooem. 1. xiv. d Lib. i. c. 5.
Georg. l. ii. ver. 176.
e A. M. 3280. Ant. J. C. 724.
fection. The feet which gave their name to those verses, and which at first were the only sort used, are composed of one short, and one long syllable. The Iambic verse, such as it was invented by Archilochus, seems very proper for a vehe ment and energetic style: accordingly we see, that Horace, speaking of this poet, says, that it was his anger, or rather his rage, that armed him with his Iambics, for the exercising and exerting of his vengeance.
Archilochum proprio rabies armavit Iambo a.
And Quintilian says, he had an uncommon force of expression; was full of bold thoughts, and of those strokes that are concise, but keen and piercing; in a word, his style was strong and nervous. The longest of his poems were said to be the best. The world have passed the same judgment upon the orations of Demosthenes and Cicero ; the latter of whom says the same of his friend Atticus's letters.
The verses of Archilochus were extremely biting and licentious; witness those he writ against Lycambes, his fatherin-law, which drove him to despair. For this double reason his poetry (how excellent soever it was reckoned in other respects) was banished out of Sparta, as being more likely to corrupt the hearts and morals of young people, than to be useful in cultivating their understanding. We have only some very short fragments remaining of this poet. Such a niceness in a heathen people, with regard to the quality of the books which they thought young people should be permitted to read, is highly worth our notice, and will rise up in condemnation against many Christians.
HIPPONAX. This poet was of Ephesus, and signalized his wit some years after Archilochus, in the same kind of poetry, and with the same force and vehemence. He was Jugly, little, lean, and slender. Two celebrated sculptors and brothers, Bupalus and Athenis (some call the latter Anthermus), diverted themselves at his expense, and represented him in a ridiculous form. It is dangerous to attack
a Art. Poet. v 79.
b Summa in hoc vis elocutionis. cum valide tum breves vibrantesque senten. tiæ, plurimum sanguinis atque nervorum. Quin. 1. x. e. 1.
e Ut Aristophani Archilochi iambus, sic epistola longissima quæque optima videtur. Cic. Epist. xi. l. 16. ad Atticum.
d Hor Epod. Od. vi. et Epist. xix I. i.
e Lacedæmonii libros Arenilochi e civitate sua exportari jusserunt, quod eorum parum verecundam ac pudicam lectionem arbitrabantur. Noluerunt enim ea berorum suorum animos imbui, ne plus inoribus noceret, quam ingeniis prodesset. Itaque maximum poetam, aut certe summo proximum, quia domum sibi invisam obscœnis maledictis laceraverat, carminum exilio mulctarunt. Vel. Pat I. vi c. 3.
Hipponacti notabilis vultus fæditas erat: quamobrem imaginem ejus lascivia jocorum ii proposuere ridentium circulis. Quod Hipponax indignatus ama. ritudinem carminum distrinxit in tantum, ut credatur aliquibus ad laqueum eos impulisse: quod faisum est. Plin. 1. xxxvi e. 5.