Slike strani

in modern France up to the time of marriage, or by the cultivation of a romantic and chivalrous feeling, which seeks the ennobling of its object so eagerly as to obscure and blind the carnal eye. This is attained in our higher society, and was aimed at by the Platonic Greeks in regard of their boy friends. A great part of the heroism of Greece, a great part of their few unselfish friendships, a great part of their highest education, was based upon these, often purely romantic, attachments. But when we find such men as Parmenides, as Epaminondas, as Sophocles, as Alexander not free from guilt in forming them; when we find so pure and lofty a teacher as Socrates distinctly resting all his influence upon them, but clearly confessing a barely repressed passion which fired him with its enthusiasm, at the cost of many a hard struggle-in the face of these phenomena we must learn more and more to identify these Greek feelings with the mixed feelings entertained by young men for their equals of opposite sex.

The Darwinians say that these feelings are all based upon a purely physical want, and have written (especially Häckel) things justly offensive to modern taste on the subject. But, even supposing that they were right, their argument does not the least affect the present case, so long as these physical springs are not consciously felt. Every English gentleman, who has not gone in search of low philosophy to palliate bad morals, will testify that though there is a distinct difference in his sentiment as regards friends of the opposite sex, yet to him, consciously at least, any physical cause is not only rare, but abhorrent. His sentiment takes the

form of brighter conversation, or increased politeness, of voluntary slavery, of keenness in argument or in teaching, and stops there in almost every case, giving him no trouble or thought when the hour passes, and in nowise related to that strong want, with which the Darwinians identify it.

Even in the exceptional case where this sentiment leads to the longing for a permanent union, it is held separate from the lower passion, so much so that a modern gentleman who married for the reasons admitted by S. Paul, would be justly stigmatised as a low and brutal creature, who was dishonouring the so-called object of his affections. We are ready enough to admit all these things as to our own society, and we know quite well, as I have said, that a great proportion of the passing attachments among our young people have no conscious physical source, nor does such a notion present itself to the purer minds among us. But when we come to consider the parallel case of Greek society, and the attachments there formed, we are by no means so generous or so just, and there is generally a feeling of wonder and of disgust that so highly-wrought natures should have tolerated such strange and unnatural attachments.

As to the epithet unnatural, the Greeks would answer probably, that all civilisation was unnatural, that its very existence presupposed the creation of new instincts, the suppression of old, and that many of the best features in all gentle life were best because they were unnatural. But as to the facts of the case, they would indignantly deny that in

better Greek society these attachments led to crime. Of course there were excesses, just as there are in the relations of the sexes now-a-days. But as is the case now-a-days, these excesses were not such as to justify them in abandoning what they held to be their noblest and most peculiar pleasure. There were indeed cities, they would say, like Elis and Thebes, where such unions were openly recognised by law, where no one objected to such relations being even physical. The sacred band of Thebes was cemented by these relations, and the greatest and purest of all the Greeks in history-Epaminondas-was known to have been attached in this way to the boy Asopichus, without fear and without reproach. There were other states, such as Chalcis in Euboea, and the Cretan cities, where the lawgivers had expressly sanctioned these things after previously forbidding them, owing to the useful results they afforded.

But in spite of this large and respectable body of opinion in favour of allowing such intimacies without restriction, all the higher classes in both Sparta and Athens would agree in reprobating them, when they exceeded mere sentimental friendships. To these latter they held fast as the best outcome of their culture, as the highest possible stimulus to virtue and refinement; and the excesses to which they led were branded by Plato and by men of his stamp just as we should brand the conduct of modern gentlemen when they allow their admiration of the other sex to exceed the bounds of mere sentiment. But so different were Greek notions on this point from ours, that they would

have thought these sentimental friendships of ours unnatural, seeing that to Greeks they suggested something beyond them, whereas their male attachments were naturally only sentimental, so, that any excess could be more easily avoided and more justly censured.


So much I have ventured to say in explanation of the attitude assumed by all the speakers in the philosophical dialogues, by all the orators, even by many of the poets. I have sought to show how from its sentimental side, this feature in Greek life can be conceived as coexisting with purity and refinement. should not however be concealed or denied that in no point was public opinion more widely at variance with modern notions, than in its attitude towards excesses in this direction. They were treated, I fear, more leniently than even ordinary immorality is treated by our worldly people. There are not wanting confessions on the point, in which the speakers say that they are ashamed, and confess that such things ought not to be, but nevertheless seem pretty certain that their hearers will regard them guilty of no more than an ordinary human weakness. Such is the famous scene in Plato's Symposium, where Alcibiades, who all through treats Socrates with the airs of a jealous mistress, gives an account of his temptation of Socrates, and of the triumph of the latter by his sobriety and purity. Such is the speech in court, which Lysias has left us, in which the pleader owns to an attachment of this kind, which involved him in a serious case of assault and battery, and for which he apologises to the jury, but without fear or anxiety, as an excusable weakness.

To us these things are so repugnant and disgusting, that all mention of them is usually omitted when treating of Greek culture. But this is to ignore a leading feature, and the principal blot, in their civilisation, as compared to ours-one too which affected society deeply and constantly, so that without estimating it our judgment of the Greeks must be imperfect and even false'. I have already spoken of its effects in giving zest and life to societies of men, now so dull and stupid, and I have above (p. 239) mentioned how men talked of the leading beauties at Athens, and crowded to see them in the palæstra, just as we turn to admire the belle in a modern ball room.

I must not, in concluding this painful subject, fail to add the effects produced on the education of boys. It seems to me that this moral risk to which Greek boys

The most important authorities on this curious question are the second book of Theognis' Elegies; Plato's Symposium (Jowett i. pp. 496 sqq.) and his Laws (Jowett iv. 157, 347-8, 353); the 8th Chapter of Xenophon's Symposium; the third oration of Lysias (Пpòs Zíμwva); the remarks of Aristotle in Müller's Fragg. Hist. ii. pp. 132, 143, 180, 211, note; Æschines' oration against Timarchus; Plutarch's Agis capp. II and 13, and Lucian's Amores. These are all directly upon the subject; stray allusions to it are endless and not worth citing, save that Aristophanes commonly and publicly reproaches his audience with this crime. In Plato's Symposium and elsewhere it is distinctly set above the love of women, which is held to be inferior and carnal; it is also held to be the mark of free cities, as Oriental tyrants were afraid of these strong attachments among men, which often resulted in conspiracies. It appears from Æschines that any one who made money of it as a trade, was disfranchised, and we know that there were regular establishments for these wretched creatures; but a single attachment, and one not paid with money, was strictly within both law and public respect.

« PrejšnjaNaprej »