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Esopus auctor quam materiam reperit,
But the glory of this invention is really the poet Hesiod's; an invention which does not seem to be of any great importance, or extraordinary merit; and yet has been much esteemed and made use of by the greatest philosophers and ablest politicians. Plato tells us, that Socrates, a little before he died, turned some of Æsop's fables into verse: < and Plato himself earnestly recommends it to nurses to instruct their children in them betimes, in order to form their manners, and to inspire them early with the love of wisdom.
Fables could never have been so universally adopted by all nations, as we see they have, if there was not a vast fund of useful truths contained in them, and agreeably concealed under that plain and negligent disguise, in which their peculiar character consists. The Creator, certainly designing the prospect of nature for the instruction of mankind, endowed the brute part of it with various instincts, inclinations, and properties, to serve as so many pictures in miniature to man of the several duties incumbent upon him, and to point out to him the good or evil qualities he ought to acquire or avoid. Thus has he given us, for instance, a lively image of meekness and innocence in the lamb; of fidelity and friendship in the dog; and on the contrary, of violence, rapaciousness and cruelty in the wolf, the lion, and the tiger; and so of the other species of animals: and all this he has designed, not only as instruction, but as a secret reproof to man, if he should be indifferent about those qualities in himself, which he cannot forbear esteeming or detesting, even in the brutes themselves.
This is a dumb language, which all nations understand: it is a sentiment engraven in nature, which every man carries about him. Æsop was the first of all the profane writers, who laid hold of, and unfolded it, made happy applications of it, and attracted men's attention to this sort of simple and natural instruction, which is within the reach of all capacities, and equally adapted to persons, of all ages and conditions. He was the first that, in order to give body and substance to virtues, vices, duties, and maxims of society, did by an ingenious artifice and innocent fiction, invent the method of clothing them with graceful and familiar images, borrowed from nature, by giving language to brute beasts, and ascribing
a Illæ, quoque fabulæ, quæ, etiamsi originem non ab sopo acceperunt (nam videtur earum primus auctor Hesiodus), nomine tamed Æsopi maxime celebrantur, ducere animos solent, præcipue rusticorum et imperitorum : qui et simplicius quæ ficta sunt audiunt, et capti voluptate, facile iis quibus delec, tantur consentiunt. Quintil. 1. v. c. 12
Plat. in Phædr. p. 60.
c Lib. il. de Rep. p. 379.
sense and reason to plants and trees, and all sorts of inanimate creatures.
The fables of sop are void of all ornament; but abound with good sense, and are adapted to the capacity of children, for whom they were more particularly composed. Those of Phædrus are in a style somewhat more elevated and diffused, but at the same time have a simplicity and elegance that very much resemble the Attic spirit and style, in the plain way of writing, which was the hnest and most delicate kind of composition in use among the Grecians. Monsieur de la Fontaine, who was very sensible that the French tongue is not susceptible of the same elegant simplicity, has enlivened his fables with a sprightly and original turn of thought and expression peculiar to himself, which no other person has yet been able to imitate.
It is not easy to conceive, why a Seneca asserts as a fact, that the Romans to his time had never tried their pens in this kind of composition. Were the fables of Phædrus unknown to him?
Plutarch relates the manner of Æsop's death. He went to Delphos with a great quantity of gold and silver, to offer in the name of Croesus, a great sacrifice to Apollo, and to give each inhabitant ac considerable sum. A quarrel which arose between him and the people of Delphos, occasioned him, after the sacrifice, to send back the money to Croesus, and to inform him, that those for whom it was intended had rendered themselves unworthy of his bounty. The inhabitants of Delphos caused him to be condemed as guilty of sacrilege, and to be thrown down from the top of a rock. The god, offended by this action punished them with a plague and famine; so that, to put an end to those evils, they caused it to be signified in all the assemblies of Greece, that if any one for the honour of Æsop, would come and claim vengeance for his death, they would give him satisfaction. At the third generation a man from Samos presented himself, who had no other relation to Æsop than being descended from the persons who had bought that fabulist. The Delphians made this man satisfaction, and thereby delivered themselves from the pestilence and famine that distressed them.
The Athenians, those excellent judges of true glory, erected a noble statue to this learned and ingenious slave; to let all the people know, says e Phædrus, that the ways of
a Non audeo te usque eo producere ut fabellas quoque et Æsopeos logos, intentatum Romanis ingeniis opus. solita tibi venustate connectas. Senec. de Consol. ad Polyb. c. 27.
b De sera Numinis vindicta, p. 556, 557.
c Four mineæ, equal to 240 livres, or about 87. 10s. e Lib. ii.
d Herod. l. ii. c. 134.
honour were open indifferently to all mankind, and that it was not to birth, but merit, they paid so honourable a distinction.
Æsopo ingentem statuam posuere Attici,
PERSIANS AND GRECIANS.
This book contains the History of the Persians and Grecians, in the reigns of Darius I. and Xerxes I. during the space of 48 years, from the year of the world 3483 to the year 3531.
HISTORY OF DARIUS INTERMIXED WITH THAT OF THE GREEKS.
BEFORE Darius came to be king, a he was called Ochus.
At his accession he took the name of Darius, which, according to Herodotus, in the Persian language, signifies an Avenger, or a man that defeats the schemes of another; probably because he had punished and put an end to the insolence of the Magian impostor. He reigned 30 years.
Darius's Marriages. The Imposition of Tributes. The Insolence and Punishment of Intaphernes. The Death of Oretes. The Story of Demòcedes, a Physician. The Jews permitted to carry on the building of the Temple. The Generosity of Syloson rewarded.
Before Darius was elected king, he had married the daughter of Gobryas, whose name is not known. Artabarzanes, his eldest son by her, afterwards disputed the empire with Xerxes.
When Darius was seated in the throne, the better to secure himself therein, he married two of Cyrus's daughters, Atossa and Aristona. The former had been wife to Cambyses, her own brother, and afterwards to Smerdis the Magian, during the time he possessed the throne. Aristona
a Herod. I. vi. c 98. Val. Max. 1. ix. c. 2.
A. M. 3483. Ant. J. C. 521. Herod, 1, iii. c. 88.
was still a virgin when Darius married her; and, of all his wives, was the person he most loved. He likewise married Parmys, daughter of the true Smerdis, who was Cambyses's brother; as also Phedyma, daughter to Otanes, by whose management the imposture of the Magian was discovered. By these wives he had a great number of children of both sexes.
We have already seen, that the seven conspirators, who put the Magian to death, had agreed among themselves, that he whose horse, on a day appointed, first neighed, at the rising of the sun, should be declared king; and that Darius's horse, by an artifice of his groom, procured his master that honour. The king, desiring to transmit to future ages his gratitude for this signal and extraordinary service, caused an equestrian statue to be set up with this inscription: "Darius, the son of Hystaspes, acquired the kingdom of Persia by means of his horse," (whose name was inserted), "and of his groom Oebares." There is in this inscription, in which we see the king is not ashamed to own himself indebted to his horse and his groom for so transcendant a benefaction as the royal diadem, when it was his interest, one would think, to have it considered as the fruits of a superior merit; there is, I say, in this inscription, a simplicity and sincerity peculiar to the genius of those ancient times, and extremely remote from the pride and vanity of our own.
One of the first cares of Darius, when he was settled in the throne, was to regulate the state of the provinces, and to put his finances into good order. Before his time, Cyrus and Cambyses had contented themselves with receiving from the conquered nations such free gifts only as they voluntarily offered, and with requiring a certain number of troops when they had occasion for them. But Darius perceived, that it was impossible for him to preserve all the nations, subject to him, in peace and security, without keeping up regular forces, and without assigning them a certain pay; or to be able punctually to give them that pay, without laying taxes and impositions upon the people.
In order therefore to regulate the administration of his finances, he divided the whole empire into 20 districts or governments, each of which was annually to pay a certain sum to the satrap appointed for that purpose. The natural subjects, that is, the Persians, were exempt from all imposts. Herodotus has an exact enumeration of these provinces, which may very much contribute to give us a just idea of the extent of the Persian empire.
In Asia, it comprehended all that now belongs to the
Herod. l. iij. c. 88.
b Ibid. c, 89-97.