Slike strani

surprised, when such statements were made by turbulent and warlike poets, to find allusions in the fragments of Anacreon which seem to point to some similar story (frags. 29, 30). I argued above (p. 21) that the Greeks were not a courageous nation, in the sense now accepted, and I think these additional pieces of evidence, from a later age, corroborate what I have said. The attitude of Pindar towards war is quite similar to that of other Greek poets. His style and subject-matter do not admit of confessions like those of Archilochus and Alcæus. He says (frag. 74) that only the inexperienced love war; a sentiment likely enough to be strongly felt in the days of the disastrous, though glorious, Persian invasion, just as we often heard it expressed by German soldiers and officers after the late war in France. But still it is evidence of a feeling in Pindar different from, and more modern than, the valour of the knight-errant and the crusader.

Plato, in his Laws (Jowett, iv, p. 227) has a very Greek theory to account for the decay of valour in modern times, as compared with the valour of the ideal Homeric hero and the old Spartan citizen. He notices that the Athenians were subject to Minos, and obliged to pay him a tribute of human lives, because he possessed a naval power, and they did not. “Better for them, ' he adds, “to have lost many times over the seven youths, than that heavy-armed and stationary troops should have been turned into sailors, and accustomed to leap quickly on shore, and again to hurry back to their ships'; or should have fancied that there was



disgrace in not awaiting the attack of an enemy and dying boldly; and that there were good reasons, and many of them, for a man throwing away his arms, and betaking himself to flight, which is affirmed upon occasion not to be dishonourable. This is the language of naval warfare, and is anything but worthy of extraordinary praise. For we should not teach bad habits, least of all to the best part of the citizens. You may learn the evil of such a practice from Homer, by whom Odysseus is introduced, rebuking Agamemnon, because he desires to draw down the ships to the sea at a time when the Achæans are hard pressed. For,' says he, the Achæans will not maintain the battle, when the ships are drawn into the sea, but they will look behind and cease from strife.' You see that he quite knew triremes on the sea, in the neighbourhood of fighting men, to be an evil; lions might be trained in that way to fly from a herd of deer. Moreover, naval powers, which owe their safety to ships, do not honour that sort of warlike excellence which is most deserving of honour. For he who owes his safety to the pilot, and the captain, and the oarsman, and all sorts of rather good-for-nothing persons, cannot rightly give honour to whom honour is due.

Plato has not the smallest notion of real sailor courage, such as we have inherited from the Norsemen, he does not know that such courage may be higher than the courage of any landsman, for he has before him the wretched coasting and plundering sea warfare of the Greeks. His evidence, however, on the small valour of the Greek marine is most valuable.

But to return : there are ample historical reasons to account for the blunt realism of the lyric poets. The main interests of the Hellenic nation, after the wars and adventures occasioned by their colonising epoch had passed away, were centred not on foreign affairs, or external wars, but on the internal conflicts of their cities. The great social struggle between the higher and lower classes had commenced, and so the aristocracy became naturally separated in most of the cities into a close faction, with common interests and common principles of action. The early lyric poets, as a class, were members of this society, and spoke as equals to intimate equals, not as paid inferiors to please their employers, till the epoch of the tyrants came, when a few of the later lyrists fell back socially into a position somewhat analogous to the rhapsodists. Since these things are so, the scanty and dislocated lyric fragments are worth far more, historically, than the more consecutive but more imaginary pictures of the epic poems. They disclose to us a society of men of like passions with the later Greeks, but more reckless and violent, inasmuch as men whose old privileges are for the first time attacked are more bitter than those who have become accustomed to this ungrateful reform.

When Thucydides tells us that the moral depravity so graphically described in his third book came in with the civil war, it is surprising that this assertion has been adopted by historians without large qualifications. It may possibly be true that democracies, being more thoroughly organised and firmer in their claims, began to develope these vices more manifestly at this time, but it is plainly false to say that the Greek aristocrats did not openly act on all the principles indicated by Thucydides long before his day. As I have already shown, even Homer's Gods and Hesiod's Iron Age possess all these disagreeable features. Were we to seek an historical illustration of the same thing, it would rather be found in the poems of Theognis and of Alcæus than in any other portion of Greek literature.

But we must look more to Hesiod than to Homer for the antecedents of the moral darkness of lyric Greece. We now see, not the oppressed farmer suffering from injustice and violence, yet still in awe of the divine right of his princes, but these very owpopayou Baoulses quarrelling, as we might expect, over their ill-used privileges, and over the booty they had plundered from their people. Greek history, too, makes it plain that the lower classes did not awake spontaneously to their rights, and put forth one of themselves to vindicate and lead them; but that the noble who failed in the struggle with his brother aristocrats—this was he who taught the oñuos their rights, and offered to lead them against their former oppressors.

The Hesiodic boor was thus awakened to his claims, and entered into the conflict with the vigour of his race.

But of course he was duped by his leader, who only wanted him as a tool, not as a friend, and who reduced both his former equals and his former supporters to one level, as soon as he was able to establish his tyranny.

Thus there arose a certain phase of Greek society, called the age of the Tyrants, which has hardly received fair treatment at the hands of historians. Politically, indeed, as regards the development of written laws, and the habits of public debate, it must be regarded as an epoch of stagnation, or of retrogression in Greece; but socially and ästhetically, nay even morally, in spite of the vices of many Greek despots, I hold it to have been not only an age of progress in Greece, but even a necessary prelude to the higher life which was to follow. For if we regard carefully the attitude of Hesiod, Theognis, Alcæus, and other such poets, we shall find that in the aristocratic stage, in which the proper history of Greece opens, the degradation of the lower classes and the undisguised violence of the nobles made all approach to a proper constitution impossible. The Boeotian farmer thought that he must suffer for the sins of his princes, and never thought it possible that he should reject the responsibility. He regarded this Jove-sprung pestilence a sort of iron necessity that brought him unavoidable suffering. In like manner the aristocrats could never endure to see the men who lived like wild beasts in skins, and were timid as deer 1, claiming privileges, and discussing rights with their noble selves. Between us

• and you there is a great gulf fixed'—this was the watchword of their policy. And so the nobles in Athens, in Megara, in Lesbos, and probably in Sparta, quarrelled among themselves with great violence, but never thought for one moment of bettering the condition of the δήμος.

When the tyrants arose, they forced these widely separated classes into the same subjection. There is ample evidence that they systematically raised the

1 I quote this from Theognis, v. 55.

« PrejšnjaNaprej »