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through the open gates of the city, and bound along the streets, regardless of the apparent throngs of human beings wherever they turn, but whose motionless figures, through long familiarity, are to them as indifferent as so many unshapen fragments of rock.-I must drop the veil here, both over the city of Minerva and the city of the desert, which I have dared to bring into crude comparison with it: in contemplating either, imagination may have run riot in the labyrinths of revery, mistaking phantoms for realities, and vain fancies for high thoughts. We return for a few moments to the straightforward path of historical retrospection.
The Decline of Greek Literature. It has been already stated, that the period from Pisistratus to Philip of Macedon was the golden age of Grecian fame; literature and freedom flourishing together,—and they ought never to be separated. Literature, when freedom is lost, becomes the most degraded and the most dangerous tool of despotism; while freedom without literature that is, without knowledge-presents the most ferociously savage state of human society, if society can exist without a single bond of moral or civil restraint. If the Spartans were not such an iron race, it was because learning and philosophy, which they affected to despise, exercised an indirect but benign influence over them, without betraying the secret of their power.
From the division of the empire of Alexander the Great, when Greece fell under the dominion of one of his captains, though the Achaian league partially restored and maintained the republican spirit in some of the states, till the time when the whole country passed under the Roman yoke,-from the death of Alexander to the reign of the Emperor Aurelian, may be styled the silver age of Greece.
Many noble and illustrious names of the second order belong to this period. Then followed a brazen time, which may be brought as low as the reign of Heraclius, emperor of the East, in the seventh century of the Christian era. Thenceforward, a long series of iron years have rolled in heavy and hopeless burden over Greece, under its own latest sovereigns, and from the fifteenth century under its Turk. ish oppressors to the present day.
But the circle of ages is surely now complete, and have we not the promise, the prospect, the commencement of an immediate return of Astrea to Greece, bringing back the golden days of justice liberty, and literature, to that fairest, most fertile, that most wronged and.forsaken region of the earth? Marathon and Thermopylæ are again named with enthusiasm by lips that speak nearly the same dialect, and breathe the same spirit as Miltiades and Leonidas,-
from bosoms in which the fire of Grecian bards and Grecian heroes has been recently rekindled. That fire, indeed, broke forth at first with an avenging violence, which, if it consumed not its enemies, repelled them from the soil: but now since security and repose may be looked for; we may hope that the tempered flame will, once more and for ever, shine out with a purity and splendour that shall rival, if it cannot eclipse, the glory of the better days of ancient Greece.
Greek and Roman Polity contrasted.
GREECE and Rome were the reverse of each other in respect to arts and arms. Greece, divided into almost as many little commonwealths as there were islands in her seas, or encircling mountains and intersecting rivers on her main land, was prevented from extending her dominion otherwise than by colonization along the neighbouring shores of Asia Minor, Sicily, and Calabria; while at home perpetual jealousies and feuds tended rather to preserve than to endanger or destroy the balanced independence of her numerous states. In one instance only Greece became an invader and a conqueror; but that was not till she herself had been invaded and conquered by Philip of Macedon. Then, not of choice but from compulsion, under his son Alexander, her collected armies, small in comparative numbers, but forming a phalanx of which every soldier was in himsel a host, were led through the heart of Asia, and even to the banks of the Ganges, reducing the whole eastern world to the personal sway of their commander;, for it was for himself, and not for his country,—for himself alone, and not for a dynasty of princes in his own line, that “Macedonia's madman” won the most unwieldy empire the world ever saw:-it rose, it stood, it fell with him.
To the political fate of Greece after his demise allusion sufficient has already been made. It never again was a conqueror at home or abroad. In Greece, therefore (Sparta excepted, which from the days of Lycurgus, through many generations, maintained its standing as its legislator had left it,-in resolute semi-barbarism; uniting the savage virtues
with a high tone of moral feeling on some points, and a deplorable profligacy on others): in Greece, the culture of the fine arts was the principal occupation of the most accomplished minds, and the profession of arms was secondary, but only secondary, and almost parallel with this favourite pursuit among those who had leisure to choose their way of life. In Rome, on the contrary, for seven centuries after the foundation of the city, aggression and aggrandizement were the watchwords of her citizens, and universal empire the secret or avowed aim of her warriors and statesmen ; till, having won the world with her sword, she became the victim of that reaction by which nature avenges herself on all, whether individuals or nations, who outrage her equity in the distribution of power, wealth, dignity or dominion. The luxuries and the vices of the conquered countries became the snares and the destroyers of Rome herself.
But before we proceed to notice the literature of Rome in a retrospect like the present, brief as it must be even on the main subjects, it will be requisite to glance at least for a few moments upon the character and condition of the multitude, both in Greece and Italy, during the two most brilliant eras of each. The term classic, affixed by way of preeminence to the literature and arts of these people, operates like a spell upon our imagination: without attaching to it any definite meaning, we associate with it all that is great and splendid, beautiful and excellent, in the surviving pages of ancient authors as well as all that is venerable, sublime, and almost superhuman in the relics of Greek and Roman architecture and sculpture—the severest and most enduring of manual labours.
In these, for the present at least, let the writers, the builders, and the artists stand alone and unrivalled. They were the few, but what were the many, the renowned regions whence we have derived
those treasures of learning, and in which we inherit (as common property to all who have minds to admire them) those stupendous structures of human skill and might? So far as the epithet classic is an accommodated word, employed by a kind of literary courtesy to designate superiority of intellect and knowledge, I am bold to affirm that Britain is as classic as Greece was in the days of Homer, and as Rome was at any period between her foundation and the close of the third Punic war. I speak of the relative intelligence of the whole body of the people, rank for rank, in each of those countries compared with the actual measure of information diffused through the corresponding orders in this island.
The Common People of Greece. In all the classic regions of antiquity, whether monarchies or republics, knowledge was a species of free-masonry; none but the initiated were the depositaries of its secrets, and these privileged persons were almost universally princes, nobles, priests, or men of high degree, including those who, from bent of genius or other auspicious circumstances, were devoted by choice, or compelled by office, to the cultivation of letters and philosophy. The vulgar, the profane vulgar, the multitude, the million, were jealously and cruelly excluded from the benefits of learning, except in so far as these were necessarily and benignly reflected upon them in the kinder conduct and more affable manners of their masters and superiors; for long before Bacon uttered the famous oracle—“knowledge is power,"* the ancients were aware of that mystery, unsuspected by the ignorant, whom they ruled by that very power-the power of knowledge, both in spiritual and temporal predominance, as their subjects and their slaves.
*“A wise man is strong; yea, a man of knowledge increaseth strength "-Prov. xxiv. 5.