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unobjectionable, if any object is to be gained. So it is remarked of Menelaus, as it were exceptionally, that he will tell the truth, if you press him, for he is very considerate (πεπvvμévos). This was said to Telemachus, who was expecting melancholy news, and in such a case I have already observed that the Greeks would almost certainly avoid the truth. But the really leading characters (except Achilles) in the Odyssey and Iliad do not hesitate at all manner of lying. Ulysses is perpetually inventing, and so is his patroness, Pallas Athene, and she actually mentions this quality of wily deceit as her special ground of love and affection for him (v 328). Zeus deceives both gods and men, the other gods deceive Zeus; in fact the whole Homeric society is full of guile and falsehood.
There is indeed as yet a check upon men, which is often ignored in later Greek society. There is still a belief in the gods, and an expectation that if they are called to witness a transaction by means of an oath, that they will punish deceit. This belief, apparently surviving from an earlier and simpler state of society, must have been rudely shaken in Homeric times, when we consider the morality of Olympus in the epic poetry. The poets clearly held that the gods, if they were under no restraint, or fear of punishment from Zeus, were at liberty to deceive as they liked. One safeguard as yet remained, the oath by the Styx, the penalties of violating which are enumerated in Hesiod's Theogony, and consist of nine years' transportation, with solitary confinement and hard labour1. 1 Cp. his Theog. 793 sqq.
As for other oaths, the Hymn to Hermes shows that in succeeding generations their solemnity was openly ridiculed. Among the Homeric gods, as well as among the heroes, there were indeed old-fashioned characters who adhered to probity. The character of Apollo is unstained by deceit. So is that of Menelaus. But Apollo fails in defending his favourite against the reckless party politics of Here and Pallas, he gives way in battle before Poseidon, he is like Menelaus among men, an eminently respectable, but second-rate personage. The experience of Homeric men was aged enough to know that probity secured no man from the troubles of life and the reverses of fortune. The gods were often ungrateful and thankless, and so the weight of public opinion inclined decidedly to the belief that honesty was indeed respectable, and of better repute than deceit, but that it was not safe to practise it except with the aid of superior force1. So Achilles was master of the
1 As similar states of society produce similar philosophies, so we find the very same attitude in Machiavelli's Principe, especially in his celebrated 18th chapter, entitled: 'In che modo i principi debbiano osservare la fede.' He begins by praising good faith, but observing that history shows great princes to have succeeded by the opposite principle. In fact the prince must be partly a fox, to detect snares, and partly a lion, to terrify the wolves. Non può pertanto un signor prudente nè debbe osservar la fede, quando tale osservanzia gli torni contro, e che sono spente le cagioni che la feciono promettere.' He adds the usual excuse: E se gli uomini fossero tutti buoni, questo precetto non saria buono, ma perchè son tristi, e non l' osserverebbono a te, tu ancora non l' hai da osservare a loro.' He goes on to show that the virtues of honour, probity, and good faith must be simulated, or else men will not be deceived, though he observes that men are so silly, or so bound by present necessities, that there is little difficulty in deceiving them. The whole chapter is the most characteristic in a very characteristic treatise.
situation, and to him lying was useless to attain ends that might be better attained by force. This subject will naturally recur when I come to compare the Homeric and Periclean Greeks.
We pass to the third element in chivalrous honour, a sense of compassion for the weak, and an obligation to assist the oppressed. Unfortunately this duty appears to have been delegated to Zeus, whose amours and other amusements often prevented him from attending to his business. How inadequately he performed it in this respect is plain from the very pathetic passages in which the condition of the decrepit father, the forlorn widow, and the helpless orphan are described. There is no passage in the two poems, if we except that of the dog Argus, which will bring more tears into hard modern eyes than the lament of Andromache over Hector (X 482 sqq. Lord Derby's transl.),
'Now thou beneath the depths of earth art gone,
Hector, shalt be a guard, nor he to thee;
For though he 'scape this tearful war with Greece,
No young companions own the orphan boy.
With downcast eyes, and cheeks bedewed with tears,
He hangs upon the skirt of one, of one
He plucks the cloak; perchance in pity some
While youths with both surviving parents blest
May drive him from their feast with blows and taunts:
Then weeping to his widowed mother's arms
He flies, that orphan boy, Astyanax,' etc.
It is here the lamentable condition of the orphan that strikes us so forcibly. How different, for example, do we find the Irish peasants, with whom I have already compared the Greeks, where the neighbours divide among them without complaint the children left destitute by the death or emigration of the parents, and extend their scanty fare and their wretched homestead to the orphan as to their own children. The Homeric gentleman, of whose refinement and delicate politeness we hear so much, was far removed from such generosity. We feel almost painfully the beauty of the simile, by which the poet pictures the joy of Ulysses, when, after two nights and two days in the deep, he sees land from the summit of the great rocking wave ( 394): As dear as the [returning] life of a father appears to his children, when he lies suffering in a painful disease, long wasting, for a hostile deity was persecuting him; as dear then as he is when the gods free him from his trouble, so dear did the land appear to Ulysses. And again (0 523): 'As when a woman weeps falling upon the body of her dear husband, who has fallen before his city, and commanding his people, defending the town and his children from the pitiless day [of slavery]. She then, seeing him gasping in death, casts her arms about him with shrill cries. But they (the enemy) striking her with spears on the
back and shoulders, bring her into slavery, to have sorrow and misery, and her cheeks waste with piteous woe.' Little, indeed, need be said about the respect for the rights of women. As is well known, when a town was captured, the noblest and fairest ladies, whether married or not, became the property of the victors as their concubines. But a still more significant fact has not been adequately noted, that such a fate, though felt as a lamentable misfortune, was in no sense a dishonour to the Greek lady, of which she would afterwards be ashamed. Despite of all the courtliness with which ladies are treated in the Homeric poems, despite of the refinement of their characters and the politeness of their ordinary life, the hard fact remains that they were the property of the stronger, and that they submitted to this fate without being compromised in society. Neither Briseis nor Chryseis seem the least disgraced by their residence in the Greek camp; and still worse, Helen, after living for years with Paris, is then handed over to Deiphobus, and finally taken back by Menelaus without scruple or difficulty. If we weigh carefully her appearance in the Odyssey, we shall see that her regrets are altogether for the turmoil she has caused, and for the tears and blood wasted upon her recovery; her dignity has suffered no shock, nor does she avoid the eyes of men1.
Xenophon, in a passage which will hereafter be discussed, announces this principle distinctly. If such an accident,' he says, 'happen to a woman without her own fault, she is not the less honoured among men.' He would not of course agree with the courtly rhapsodist, in admitting an adulteress to this class, even though she alleged compulsion on the part of Aphrodite.