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there came to one his mother, to another his sister, to another his wife and children, and there was woe and lamentation as they wept over their misfortunes.' So then these much-abused and ill-treated women were after all, then, as now, the faithful and self-denying helpers of men1.
In the lower classes there is evidence, even among city people, of a community of life and interests quite analogous to the scenes between Electra and her peasant husband, above described. In the Wasps of Aristophanes, the old juryman, whose education we have already been discussing, tells how when he comes home his children run to kiss him, and how his wife sets before him a dainty dish, and sitting down beside him, coaxes him to eat (v. 583). He says it is for the sake of his salary, but this is the comic reason, the facts are probably real and ordinary. The humorous scenes at the opening of the Ecclesiazusa testify to the same friendly intimacy between men and their wives, and I must add, to very good temper among the men. In ordinary life the men were obliged to get up before dawn, and set out for the assembly, trudging along with a stout stick and humming a tune. The women could stay in bed, and avoid this great hardship (v. 461). On this occasion the women plan an early meeting in the assembly to discuss their rights, and set out in their husbands' attire. When the men awake they cannot find their clothes, and yet when the women come in they show excellent temper, and put
1 There is a parallel passage in Lysias (p. 103, ed. Teubner), when the citizens were being imprisoned and put to death by the thirty tyrants.
up with very lame excuses. They allude to their wives going out to breakfast with friends, and one woman says she was called to see a sick friend, and took the first garment she could find, and her husband's shoes. If Aristophanes is not making the men gentler and quieter than they really were for the purpose of comic contrast (and this is quite possible), the whole tone of the play implies far truer and better relations among married people than the facts known to us about the aristocrats.
There are indeed dark spots here too, not merely in comic writers, but in the orators. The story told in Antiphon's first oration (kaтny. papμ. p. 113) seems bad enough. The speaker's father had a country friend, Philoneos, a man, he says, who was a perfect gentleman. This Philoneos had the use of an upper chamber in his friend's town house, when he came in from the country, and here he kept a concubine, whom, for no cause assigned, he was about to treat with great harshness and injustice (ἐπὶ πορνεῖον ἔμελλε καταστῆσαι). The wretched woman is accordingly induced by the lady of the house, who wants to poison her own husband, to administer a pretended love-potion to her master and to his friend, when they went one day to the Peiræus to dine together. But she apparently had no redress from the fearful treatment intended by her master, which is called indeed (in the oration) injustice, but seems not in the least otherwise reprehended. We have also an oration written by Lysias for an Athenian gentleman, who had a quarrel with another concerning the affections of a woman whom they had originally agreed to share.
The woman preferred the other man, and
went off with him, and so there was a quarrel, which was the occasion of the action. The speaker actually proposes and urges that the woman to whom he had stood in such peculiar relations should be tortured to elicit the real facts of the case, and this in the very same speech in which he relates his intimacy with her. I do not know in all Greek literature a more painful and morally grating passage than this proposal, made in open court by a man whose interest it was to represent himself as a fair and honourable man to the jury1.
These, as I have said, are dark spots, which remind us of the old Homeric recklessness and cruelty of the higher classes towards those outside pale or privilege, and might be corroborated by the mise en scène of Plato's Euthyphron, where a wretched tenant farmer, a free dependent of some sort, is cast bound into a ditch, and allowed to die of hunger and exposure. But 1 am strongly of opinion that these cases are all special, and concern, not the relations of citizens to citizens, but of citizens to inferior and non-privileged classes. I here mention them by way of parenthesis, as they support the main theory of this book, I mean the sameness of Greek character and Greek social ideas through all periods of Greek literature.
It is therefore unsafe to take Pericles, the highest specimen of Periclean Athens, or Alcibiades and Callias, morally the lowest, and to estimate manners and morals among men according to such models. As I believe that in estimating women at this time, the Alcestis and Macaria of Euripides are too high, and
1 Cp. Lysias, p. 38, ed. Teubner.
the women of Aristophanes too low; so I think in the case of men, we should choose neither the best nor the worst, but judge the age by an average standard. As it would be very easy, but highly reprehensible, to consult the Newgate Calendar for a few years, and estimate from it English morals-a course pursued by Mr. Froude in estimating Irish morals in the last century-so it is uncritical to judge an age by its greatest men, since they are always exceptional, and come under no general rule. Unfortunately the exclusively political or ideal literature of the day, devoted either to the heroic ages, or to the public life of the present, gives us little light on the average men of that epoch. I suppose the old gentlemen in Aristophanes and Euripides, who are not travesties of some particular public man, are the truest representatives of what we now wish to find. There is the anxious father in the Clouds, the angry countryman in the Acharnians, the independent Trygæus in the Peace, the contemp tible old dicast in the Wasps, all of whom seem to my mind of a definite and easily grasped type. I cite them with greater confidence in this work, as ordinary readers can find in Mr. Frere's Remains his splendid translation of these plays-translations which have not been equalled, so far as I know, in any language.
Any one who will examine with care these characters will find them, I think, not gentlemen in our sense1,
1 Euripides, whose average characters were of the same kind, makes Menelaus, (in the Iphigenia in Aulis) take by violence and break open a letter sent by Agamemnon. It is remarkable that the messenger, and Agamemnon when he finds it out, speak of such an act very much in the
or even in Plato's sense. They are old-school men, one of them rich and well bred enough to have married an Alcmæonid noble, and to have sons addicted to horses a most aristocratic taste in Athens; they are intelligent too, and shrewd, if not highly educated, but still they seem to me of a coarse fibre, and not gifted with much refinement or delicacy of feeling. In broad comedy, we must confess, there is not much room for these traits of character, so that we cannot expect them to be prominent. Still there is room for them, as we can see in the comedy of other nations, or in the middle and new comedy of the Greeks, in which, as well as in Plato and Xenophon, we shall find ample evidence of good breeding in due time. The contemporaneous tragedies bear out this view in one point strongly, inasmuch as they cannot avoid attributing a disagreeable, and in our minds somewhat ungentlemanly practice even to their heroes and heroines -I mean the practice of perpetual wrangling.
There are indeed in Greek tragedy hardly any characters which we can select to call especially gentlemanly. Perhaps Neoptolemus in the Philoctetes is the only one. Both Ajax and Theseus are to Sophocles rather heroes than men of refinement, and I have already commented on the great feebleness of the men of Euripides. The old comedy agrees with these features in the tragedies. The worthy Diceopolis in the Acharnians, when celebrating his country Dionysia,
way we should do. They consider the breaking of a seal, and reading another man's letter as a gross breach of manners, and even of common honesty.