Slike strani

speech about the murder of Herodes (pp. 72, 135, ed. Blass) in which the conduct of a slave and of a free man under the same torture are contrasted. The slave gave in and confessed what his persecutors wanted. The free man held out. No doubt in another place1 Antiphon contrasts the coercing of free men by oaths and solemn pledges, which are to them the strongest bonds, with that of slaves by torture, by which they are compelled to speak the truth, even though they must die for it afterwards (at the hands of their master) for the present necessity is to each stronger than the future.' He argues in the former passage about the absurdity of the thing, and yet in the latter he adopts it completely, so leaving us a picture of the treatment of slaves almost grotesque in its absurd cruelty. The slave had his choice of death from his master if he confessed anything, of continued torture on the rack, if he refused to confess.

I delay on this as the only case of real stupidity I can bring against the Athenians. I know not whether the free man cited in the other speech was submitted to torture because he belonged to a subject state-I fear this may be the reason. But in Andocides there are distinct parallels to it-in fact whenever any great fear or crisis came upon the Athenians they were always ready to extend the treatment to freemen. We have first (p. 10 Tepi MuσT.) a proposal to force masters to give up their slaves for torture (τοὺς δὲ μὴ θέλοντας ἀναγκάζειν) against the usual practice, and then the presidents

1 περὶ τοῦ χορευτοῦ, pp. 100-1.

(TрVτáveis) of the assembly take away Andocides' female slaves (p. 25) for the same purpose. But still farther Peisander (p. 18) proposes to suspend the decree of Scamandrius (against torture I suppose) and put on the rack (ἀναβιβάζειν ἐπὶ τὸν τροχον) forty-two free citizens, who had been accused of mutilating the Hermæ, and violating the mysteries; and we know from Plutarch (Nicias sub. fin.) that the unfortunate barber, who heard the awful news from Syracuse from a stranger in Peiræus, and ran up to tell it to the magistrates, was tortured for a long time, because he could not give any reliable evidence for his statement. Aristophanes1 even characterises business days in the law-courts as opposed to holy-days by torturing as an ordinary feature, so that we have here detected in Periclean Athens a point of similarity, not with modern, but medieval times. I must however add in justice to Athens, that the torture was never inflicted for torture's sake, as among Oriental despots and Roman Catholic Inquisitors, but from a blundering desire to elicit truth in evidence. I can also find no trace of ingenuity or variety of tortures, save in a comic passage of Aristophanes (Ran. 619); the ordinary rack is the universal engine of the Attic courts.

Nevertheless the ordinary occurrence of such scenes in the every-day life of the Athenians is sadly in harmony with the hideous execution scenes in the civil wars, and shows us that with all their intellect, and all their subtlety, the Greeks were wanting in heart. Their

1 Nub. 620, στρεβλοῦτε καὶ δικάζετε.

humanity was spasmodic, not constant. Their kindness was limited to friends and family, and included no chivalry to foes or to helpless slaves. Antiphon, in speaking of the danger of convictions on insufficient evidence, mentions a case of the murder of his master by a slave boy of twelve years old, when the whole household would have been put to death', had not the victim cried out when struck with the knife, and the little boy discovered himself by running away. Otherwise so young a child could never have been suspected. We have here the same savage law which in the pages of Tacitus and of Dion so deeply affects us with pity and horror, and against which even the Roman populace revolted. It is not easy to despise human rights and human tears in one relation, without running the risk of general hardness of heart, and so the men who murdered their prisoners in war, and sold noble women and children into slavery, were not likely to treat with mercy and consideration those dependent on them at home and in the days of peace 2.

The strongest case, however, against the Periclean. Greeks, and one which marks their parentage most clearly from their Homeric ancestors, is the treatment of their old men. For here it is no inferior class, but their own equals, nay even those to whom they directly owed their greatness, whom they cast aside with contempt when their days of usefulness had passed away. The reader will remember the same

1 ἀπώλοντ ̓ ἂν οἱ ἔνδον ὄντες ἅπαντες.

2 See also the cases quoted above (p. 213) from Lysias, Antiphon, and Plato.

feature alluded to in a former chapter, and how Achilles assumes that his aged father will be treated with violence and injustice because he has no son at home to help him. In Ulysses' household we see the aged Laertes cast aside, like the old dog Argus, and pining for the return of the son who alone honoured him and recognised his position. The Greek lawgivers were accordingly most explicit in enjoining upon children the nurture and support of aged parents, who could otherwise expect little from the younger generation. The Attic law alone added a qualification, that the children were to be without responsibility if their parents had neglected to educate them. It should also be remarked that in theory the Greeks, like all other civilised nations, respected age, and that in conservative Sparta this theory was strictly enjoined by law, and carried into practice. We even hear how the Athenian audience at the theatre, who would not make place for an old man looking for a seat, loudly applauded the Spartan embassy, who stood up and respectfully resigned to him a place of honour.

[ocr errors]

But unfortunately the practice at Athens differed widely from the theory, and both tragedy and comedy agree in painting the contempt in which old men were held, and the consequent misery of their position. Aristophanes, in the Parabasis of the Acharnians, makes a special complaint to the assembled people of the treatment of the older men by the newer generation (v. 676 sqq.), 'We old men,' says the chorus, have a charge to bring against the city. For we are not cared for in our old age by you in a

manner worthy of our naval victories, but fare badly, since you, involving old men in lawsuits, suffer them to be ridiculed by young orators when they are worn out, deaf and broken down, resting on their staff as their only safety. But we stand at the bar inarticulate with age, and bewildered with the intricacies of the case.' The poet then describes how the old man is sure to be defeated and fined in his poverty, and then the chorus speaks with much pathos of the days of old, when they could have made short work of such adversaries. There is much similar complaint in the Wasps of the same author, where the old dicast declares that his only chance of respect or even safety is to retain the power of acting as a juryman, so extorting homage from the accused, and supporting himself by his pay without depending on his children. When he comes home with his fee, they are glad to see him, in fact he is able to support a second wife and younger children, as the passage (605 sqq.) plainly implies, whereas otherwise the father must look towards his son and his son's steward to give him his daily bread, ' uttering imprecations, and mutterings, lest he knead me a deadly cake1, a dark insinuation, which opens to us terrible suspicions, and which would hardly have been ventured by the poet, were the idea quite foreign to the minds of the audience.

The indications in the tragedies are not inconsistent with these passages. There are often (especially in Euripides' plays) old kings introduced, who in the absence of their sons endeavour to guard the dominion

1 ἄλλην μή μοι ταχὺ μάξῃ.

« PrejšnjaNaprej »