Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

formed a judgment of things, not from their outward splendour, but from truth, observes, after his master Socrates, that Pericles, with all his grand edifices and other works, had not improved the mind of one of the citizens in virtue, but rather corrupted the purity and simplicity of their ancient manners.* SECTION XI.-PERICLES CHANGES HIS CONDUCT WITH REGARD TO THE PEOPLE.

When Pericles saw himself invested with the whole authority, he began to change his behaviour. He was no longer mild and tractable as before, and ceased to submit or abandon himself to the whims and caprice of the people, as to so many winds ; but drawing in, says Plutarch, the reins of this too loose pi pular government, in the same manner as we screw up the strings of an instrument when too slack, he changed it into an aristocracy, or rather a kind of monarchy, without departing from the public good. Choosing always what was most expedient, and becoming irreproachable in all things, he gained so powerful an ascendency over the minds of the people, that he turned and directed them at pleasure. Sometimes, by bis bare counsel, and by persuasive methods, he would win them over gently to his will, and gain their assent spontaneously; at other times, when he found them obstinate, he would in a manner drag them forward against their will, to those things that were for their good ; imitating on this occasion a skilful physician, who, in a tedious and stubborn disease, knows what times are proper for him to indulge his patient in innocent medicaments that are pleasing ; in order afterwards to administer those of a strong and violent nature, which indeed put him to pain, but are alone capable of restoring his health.f

And indeed, it is manifest that the utmost skill and abilities were required to manage

and govern a populace haughty from their power, and exceedingly capricious; and on this occasion Pericles succeeded wonderfully. He used to employ, according to the different situation of things, sometimes hope, and at other times fear, either to check the wild transports and starts of the people, or to raise them when dejected and desponding. By this conduct he showed that eloquence, as Plato observes, is the only art of directing the minds of the people at will; and that the chief excellency of this art consists in moving seasonably, the various passions, whether gentle or violent; which being to the soul what strings are to a musical instrument, need only to be touched by an ingenious and skilful hand to produce their effect.

It must nevertheless be confessed, that the circumstance which gave Peric cles this great authority, was not only the force of his eloquence, but, as Thucydides observes, the reputation of his life, and great probity.

Plutarch points out in Pericles, one quality which is very essential to statesmen; a quality well adapted to win the esteem and confidence of the public, and which supposes a great superiority of mind; and that is, for a man to be fully persuaded that he wants the counsel of others, and is not able to manage and direct all things alone ; to associate with himself persons of merit in his labours, to employ each of these according to his talents ; and to leave the management of small matters which only consume time, and deprive him of the liberty of mind so necessary in the conduct of important affairs. Such conduct says Plutarch, is productive of two advantages. First, it extinguishes or at least breaks the force of envy and jealousy, by dividing, in some measure, a power which is grating and offensive to us when we see it united in one single person, as if all merit centered in him alone. Secondly, it advances and facilitates the execution of affairs, and makes their success more certain. Plutarch, the better to explain his thoughts, employs a very natural and beautiful comparison. "The hand,” says he," which, from its being divided into five fingers, so far from being weaker, is the stronger, more active, and better adapted to motion on that very account. It is the same with a statesman, who has the skill to divide his cares and functions in a proper manner, and who by * lo Gorg. p. 515. lo Alcib. c. i. p. 119.

Plut. in Pericl. p. 161.

3

that means makes his authority more active, more extensive and decisive: whereas the indiscreet fire of a narrow-minded man, who takes umbrage at, and is for engrossing all things, serves no other purpose than to set his weakness and incapacity in a stronger light, and to disconcert his affairs. But Peri. cles, says Plutarch, did not act in this manner. Like a skilful pilot, who though he stands almost motionless himself, yet puts every thing in motion, and will sometimes seat subaltern officers at the helm : so Pericles was the soul of the government; and, seeming to do nothing of himself, he actuated and governed all things; employing the eloquence of one man, the credit and interest of another, the prudence of a third, the bravery and courage of a fourth, and so on.

To what has been here related, we may add another quality which is no less rare and valuable; I mean, a noble and disinterested soul. Pericles had so great a disinclination to receiving gifts, so utter a contempt for riches, and was so far above all rapaciousness and avarice, that, though he had raised Athens to the richest and most flourishing state; though his power had surpassed that of many tyrants and kings ; though he had long disposed in an absolute manner of the treasures of Greece, he did not however add a single drachm to the estate he inherited from his father. This was the source, the true cause, of the supreme authority of Pericles in the republic; the just and merited reward of his integrity and perfect disinterestedness.f

It was not only for a few short moments, nor during the first heats of favour, which are generally short-lived, that he preserved his authority. He maintained it forty years, notwithstanding the opposition of Cimon, of Tolmides, of Thucydides, and many others, who all declared against him; and of these forty years, be spent fifteen without a rival, from the banishment of Thucydides, and disposed all affairs with absolute power. Nevertheless, in the midst of this supreme authority, which he had rendered perpetual and unlimited in his own person, his soul was always superior to the charms and allurements of wealth, though he never neglected improving his estate to the utmost of his power. For Pericles did not act like those rich men, who, notwithstanding their immense revenues, either through negligence or want of economy, or the expenses of pride and folly, are always poor in the midst of their riches; unable and unwilling to do the least service to their virtuous friends, or their faithful and zealous domestics; and at last die in every one's debt, whence their name and memory are had in the utmost detestation by their unfortunate creditors. I shall not expatiate on another extreme, to which this negligence and want of economy generally lead, I mean rapine, a love of gifts and exactions; for here, as well as in the management of the public moneys, the maxim of Tacitus may be applied, viz. that when a man has squandered away his estate, he then makes it his whole study to retrieve the loss of it by all means, not excepting the most criminal. I

Pericles knew much better the use a statesman should make of his riches. He was sensible that he ought to expend them in the service of the public, in procuring able men to assist him in the administration ; in relieving good officers, who too often are in unhappy circumstances; and in rewarding and en couraging merit of every kind, and a thousand such things ; to which, doubtless either on account of the exquisite joy they give, or the solid glory that results from them, no one will be so thoughtless as to compare the expenses lavished away in entertainments, equipages, or gaming. In this view Pericles managed his estate with the utmost economy; having himself taught one of bis old servants to take care of his domestic concerns; and he always had the account brought him, at stated times, of all things that had been received as well as expended; confining himself and his family to a decent subsistence (from which he excluded rigidly all superfluities of a vain and ostentatious kind,) suitable to his estate and condition. This way of life, did by no means

[ocr errors]

* Plut. in Præc. de Rep. Ger: p. 812.

Plut. in Vit. p. 161, 162. * Si ambitione ærarium exhauserimus, per scelerem supplendum erit.-Tacit Annal. l. ii. c. 38.

F

[ocr errors]

please his children when they were come to years of maturity, and much less his wife. They thought Pericles did not live at sufficient expense for persons of their rank ; and murmured at that low, sordid economy, as they called it, which carried no.air of the plenty which generally reigned in houses where riches and authority are united. Pericles however, paid little regard to these complaints, and directed his view to things of much greater importance.

I believe it will not be improper to apply on this occasion, a very just remark of Plutarch, in his parallel of Aristides and Cato. After saying, that political virtue, or the art of governing cities and kingdoms, is the greatest and most perfect that man can acquire, he adds, that economy is not one of the most inconsiderable branches of this virtue. And indeed, as riches are one of the means which may most contribute to the security or ruin of a state, the art that teaches to dispose of, and make a good use of them, and which is called economy, is certainly a branch of the art of policy; and not one of the most inconsiderable branches of it, since great wisdom is required, in order to observe a just medium on these occasions, and to banish poverty and too great opulence from a country. It is this art, which, avoiding industriously all trifling and needless expenses, prevents a magistrate from being forced to overburden a people with taxes; and keeps always in reserve, in the public coffers, moneys sufficient for carrying on wars that may break out, or for providing against any unforeseen accident. Now what is said of a kingdom, or of a city, may be applied to particular persons. For a city, which is composed of an assemblage of houses, and which forms a whole of several parts united, is either powerful or weak when taken together, in proportion as all the members of which it consists are powerful or weak. Pericles certainly acquitted bimself well with regard to that part of this science which relates to the government of a family; but I do not know whether the same may be said of his administration of the public revenues.

SECTION XII, JEALOUSY

AND CONTESTS ARISE BETWEEN THE ATHENIANS
AND LACEDEMONIANS.

Such was the conduct of Pericles with respect to his domestic concerns :* and he was no less famous for his administration of public affairs. The Lacedæmonians beginning to grow jealous of the prosperity of the Athenians, and to take umbrage at it, Pericles, to inspire his citizens with greater courage and magnanimity, published a decree, importing, that orders should be sent to all the Greeks, iuhabiting either Europe or Asia, and all the cities great or small, to send immediately their deputies or representatives to Athens, to examine and debate on ways and means to rebuild the temples that had been burnt by the barbarians; to perform the sacrifices, which they had engaged themselves to offer up, for the preservation and safety of Greece, when war was carrying on against them : as also, to determine on the expedients necessary for establishing such an order and discipline in their navy, that all ships might sail in safety, and the Greeks live in peace one with another.

Accordingly twenty persons were chosen for this embassy, each of whom was upwards of fifty years old. Five of these were sent to the Ionians and Dorians of Asia, and the inhabitants of the islands as far as Lesbos and Rhodes; five to the countries of the Hellespont and Thrace, as far as Byzantium. Five were ordered to go to Baotia, to Phocis, and to Peloponnesus; and from thence by the country of the Locrians, to proceed to the several cities of the upper continent, as far as Acarnania and Ambracia. The last five were ordered to cross Eubea, and to go to the people of mount Eta, and those of the gulf of Malea, and to the inhabitants of Phthiotis, of Achaia, and of Thessaly ; and to induce the several nations to come to the assembly convened at Athens, and to assist at the debates which should be there carried on, concerning peace, and the general affairs of Greece. I judged it nescesary to enter into this detail, as it

• Plut. in Pericl. p. 162.

[ocr errors]

shows how far the power of the Greeks extended, and the authority which the Athenians enjoyed among them.

But all these solicitations were in vain ; as the cities did not send their deputies, which, according to historians, was owing to the opposition made by The Lacedæmonians, a circumstance we are not to wonder at. They were sensible that the design of Pericles was, to have Athens acknowledged as mistress and sovereign of all the other Grecian cities; and Lacedæmon was far from allowing her that honour. A secret spirit of dissension had, for some years, begun to disturb the tranquillity of Greece ; and we shall find by the sequel, that this discord augmented continually.

Pericles had acquired great fame for the wisdom with which he formed and conducted his enterprises. The troops reposed the highest confidence in him, and whenever they followed him, assured themselves of success. His chief maxim of war was, never to venture a battle unless he was almost certain of victory, and not to lavish the blood of the citizens. He used to say frequently, that were it in his power, they should be immortal ; that when trees were felled, they shoot to life again in a little time, but when men once die, they are lost for ever. A victory that was only the effect of happy temerity, appeared to him to merit but little praise, though it was often much admired.

His expedition into the Thracian Chersonesus did him great honour, and was of great advantage to all the Greeks of that country; for he not only strengthened the Grecian cities of that peninsula, by the colonies of Athenians which he carried thither, but also shut up the isthmus with a strong wail, and with forts at proper distances from sea to sea;

by that means securing the whole country from The perpetual incursions of the Thracians, who were very near neighbours to it

He also sailed with a hundred ships round Peloponnesus, spreading the terror of the Athenian arms wherever he came, the success of which was not once interrupted on this occasion.

He advanced as far as the kingdom of Pontus with a large, well-manned, and magnificent fleet; and granted the Grecian cities all they thought fit to ask of him. At the same time he displayed to the barbarian nations in that neighbourhood, and to their kings and princes, the greatness of the power of the Athenians, and proved to them, by the security with which he sailed to all parts, that they possessed the empire of the seas without a rival.

But so constant and such brilliant success began to dazzle the eyes of the Atheniats. Intoxicated with the idea of their power and grandeur, they now resolved on the boldest and most lofty projects. They were for ever speaking of new attempts upon Egypt; of attacking the maritime provinces of the great king; of carrying their arms into Sicily, a fatal and unhappy design, which at that time did not take effect, though it was revived soon after; and to extend their conquests towards Etruria on one side, and Carthage on the other. Pericles was far from encouraging such extravagant designs, or supporting them with his influence and approbation. On the contrary, his whole study was to damp that restless ardour, and check an ambition which no longer knew either bounds or measure. It was his opinion that the Athenians ought to employ their forces for the future, only in securing and preserving their present acquisitions ; and he thought he had gained a great point, in restraining the power of the Lacedæmonians, the reducing of which he always meditated; and this was particularly seen in the sacred war.*

This name was given to the war which was raised on account of Delphos. The Lacedæmonians, having entered armed into the country where that temple is situated, had dispossessed the people of Phocis of the superintendence of that temple, and bestowed it on the Delphians. As soon as they left it, Pericles went thither with an army, and restored the Phocians.

The Eubæans having rebelled at the same time, Pericles was obliged to march thither with an army. He was no sooner arrived there, than news was

• Plut. in Pericl. p. 164

Plut. in Pericl. p. 164

brought, that the inhabitants of Megara bad taken up arms; and that the Lao cedæmonians, headed by Plistonax their king, were on the frontiers of Attica. This obliged him to quit Eubea, and to go with all possible expedition to defend lus country. The Lacedæmonian arıny being retired, he returned against the rebels, and again subjected all the cities of Eubea to the Athenians.

After this expedition, a truce for thirty years was concluded between the Athenians and Lacedæmonians. This treaty restored tranquillity for the present: but as it did not descend to the root of the evil, nor cure the jealousy and enmity of the two nations, the calm was not of long duration.* SECTION XIII.-NEW SUBJECTS OF CONTENTION BETWEEN THE TWO NATIONS.

The Athenians, six years after, took up arms against Samos in favour of Miletus. These two cities were contesting for that of Priene, to which each claimed a right. It is pretended, that Pericles fomented this war to please a famous courtezan, of whom he was very fond : her name was Aspasia, a native of Miletus. After several events and battles, Pericles besieged the capital of the island of Samos. It is said, that this was the first time he used military engines, as battering-rams and tortoises, invented by Artemon the engineer, who was lame, and therefore was always carried in a chair to the batteries; whence he was surnamed Periphoretus. The use of these machines bad long been known in the East. The Samians, after sustaining a siege, of nine months surrendered ; Pericles demolished their walls, dispossessed them of their ships, and demanded immense sums to defray the expenses of the war.

Part of this sum they paid down; agreed to disburse the rest at a certain time, and gave hostages by way of security for the payment.

After the reduction of Samos, Pericles being returned to Athens, buried in a splendid manner all who had lost their lives in this war, and pronounced in person the funeral oration over their graves. This custom, which he first introduced, was afterwards regularly observed. The senate of the Areopagus always appointed the orator on these occasions. He was chosen, ten years after, for the like ceremony, in the beginning of the Peloponnesian war.

Pericles, who foresaw that a rupture would soon ensue between the Athenians and Lacedæmonians, advised the former to send aid to the people of Corcyra, whom the Corinthians had invaded; and to win over to their interest that island, which was so very, formidable at sea : foretelling them, that they should be attacked by the Peloponnesians. The occasion of the quarrel between the people of Corcyra and Corinth, which gave rise to that of Peloponnesus, one of the most considerable events in the Grecian history, was as follows. I

Epidamnum,ĝ a maritime city of Macedonia among the Taulantians, was a colony of Corcyrans, founded by Phalius of Corinth. This city growing in time, very large and populous, divisions arose in it, and the common people expelled the most wealthy inhabitants, who went over to the neighbouring nations, and infested them greatly with their incursions. In this extremity they first had recourse to the Corcyrans, and being refused by them, they addressed the Corinthians, who took them under their protection, sent succours to, and settled other inhabitants in it. But they did not continue long unmolested there, the Corcyrans besieged it with a large fleet. The people of Corinth hastened to its aid, but having been defeated at sea, the city surrendered that very day, upon condition that the foreigners should be slaves, and the Corinthians prisoners, till farther orders.

The Corcyrans erected a trophy, murdered all their prisoners except the Corinthians, and laid waste the whole country.

The year after the battle, the Corinthians raised a greater army than the former, and fitted out a new fleet. The people of Corcyra, finding, it would be impossible for them alone to resist such powerful enemies, sent to the Athen

* A. M. 3558. Ant. J. C. 446. Thucyd. 1. i. p. 75. Diod. p. 87. A.M. 3564. Ant. J. C.440. Thucyd. 1. i. p. 75, 76. Viod. I. xii. p. 88, 89. Plui. in Pericl. p. 165-167, * A. X. 357. Ant. J. C. 432. Thucyd. I. 1. p. 17–37. Diod. l. xii. p. 90-93. Plut. in Percl. p. 16%

| This city was afterwards called Dyrrachium.

« ZurückWeiter »