« ZurückWeiter »
ment of her decline may be (lated from the time when she began to break through the severe prohibicion of Lycurgus against the use of gold and silver money.
The education which he instituted for the young Lacedæmonians, the hard and sober life which he wcommended with so much care, the painful and vio lent exercises of the body prescribed by him, the abstraction from all other applications and employment; in a word, all his laws and institutions show, that his view was io form a people of soldiers, solely devoted to arms and military operations. I do not pretend to justify absolutely this scheme, which had its great inconveniences; and I have expressed my thoughts of it elsewhere. But admitting it good, we must confess that that legislator showed great wisdom in the means be took for its execution.
The almost inevitable danger of a people trained up solely for who have always their arms in their hands, and what is most to be feared, is injustice, violence, ambition, the desire of increasing their power, of taking advantage of the weakness of their neighbours, of oppressing them by force, of invading their lands under false pretexts, which the lust of dominion never fails to suggest, and of extending their bounds as far as possible ; all, vices and extremes which are culpable in private persons, and ihe ordinary intercourse of life, but which men have thought fit to applaud as grandeur and glory in the persons of princes and conquerors.
The great care of Lycurgus was to defend his people against this dangerous temptation. Without mentioning the other means he made use of, he employed two, which could not fail of producing their effect. The f.st was to prohibit all navigation and inaritime warfare to his citizens.* The situation of his city, and the fear that commerce, the usual source of luxury and depravity, should corrupt the purity of the Spartan manners, may have been among the causes of this decree. But his principal motive was to put it out of the power of his citizens to project conquests, which a people, shut up within the narrow bounds of a peninsula, could not carry very far without being masters at sea.
The second means, still more efficacious, was to forbid all use of gold or silver money, and to introduce a species of iron coin in its stead, which was of great weight and small value, and could only be current at home. How with such money could foreign troops be raised and paid, fleets fitted out, and numerous armies kept up either by land or sea ?
The design of Lycurgus, in rendering his citizens warlike, and putting armg into their hands, was not, as Polybius observes, and Plutarch after him, to make them illustrious conquerors, who might carry war into remote regions, and subject great numbers of penple.t His sole object was, that, shut up within the territories and dominion left then. by their ancestors, they should have no thoughts, but of maintaining themselves in peace, and defending themselves successfully agaiust such of their neighbours as should have the rashness to invade them; and for this they had occasion for neither gold nor silver, finding in their own country, and still more in their sober and temperate manner of life, all that was sufficient for the support of their armies, when they did not quit their own or the territories of their neighbours.
Now,” says Polybius, “this plan once admitted, it must be allowed, that there is nothing more wise nor more happily conceived than the institutions of Lycurgus, for the maintaining a people in the possession of their liberty, and to secure to them the enjoyment of peace and tranquillity: Let us imagine a little republic, like that of Sparta, all the citizens of which were inured to labour, accustomed to live frugally, warlike, courageous, intrepid; and that the fundamental principle of this small republic, is to do no wrong, to any one, nor to disturb its neighbours, nor invade their lands or interests, but, on the coutrary, to declare in favour of the oppressed against the injustice and violence of oppressors; is it not certain that a republic, surrounded by a great number of states of equal extent, would be generally respected by all the neighbouring people, would become the supreme arbiter of all their quarrels, and exercise an empire over them, by so much the more glorious and lasting, as it would be voluntary, and founded solely in the opinion those neighbours would bave of ats virtue, justice, and valour."
* 'Απέργετο δε αυτοις ναυταις είναι, και ναυμαχειν.-Plut. in Instit. Lacon. p. 239.
. Polyb. I. vi.p. 491. Plut. de Lycurg po 59.
This was the end which Lycurgus proposed to bimself. Convinced that the happiness of a city, like that of a private person, depends upon virtue, and upon being well within itself, he regulated Sparta so that it might always suffice tu its own happiness, and act upon principles of wisdom and equity. From thence arose that universal esteem of the neighbouring people, and even of strangers, for the Lacedæmonians, who asked of them neither money, ships, nor troops, but only that they would lend them a Spartan to command their armies; and when they had obtained their request, they paid him entire obedience, with every kind of honour and respect. In this manner the Sicilians obeyed Gylippus, the Chalcidians Brasidas, and all the Greeks of Asia, Lysander, Callicratidas, and Agesilaus ; regarding the city of Sparta as a model for all others, in the arts of living and governing."
The epoch of the declension of Sparta begins with the open violation of the laws of Lycurgus. I do not pretend that they had always been exactly observed till that time, which was far from being the case ; but the spirit and genius of those laws had almost always prevailed with the majority of the persons who governed. No sooner had the ambition of reigning over all Greece inspired them with the design of having naval armies, and foreign troops, and that mo ney, was necessary for the support of those forces, than Sparta, forgetting her ancient maxims, saw herself reduced to have recourse to the barbarians, whom, till then she had detested, and basely to make her court to the kings of Persia, whom she had formerly vanquished with so much glory; and that only to draw from them some aids of money and troops against their own brethren ; against people born and settled in Greece like themselves. Thus had they the imprudence and misfortune to recall with gold and silver into Sparta, all the vices and crimes which the iron money had banished; and to prepare the way for the changes which ensued, and were the cause of their rụin. And this infinitely exalts the wisdom of Lycurgus, in having foreseen at such a distance what might strike at the happiness of his citizens, and provided salutary remedies against it in the form of government which he established at Sparta. Another legislator, who had preceded him several ages, has a right to share this glory with him.
SECTION 111.-LAWS ESTABLISHED BY MINOS IN CRETE. It is well known that Lycurgus formed the plan of most of his laws upon the inodel of those observed in the island of Crete, where he passed a considerable time for the better study of them. It is proper I should give some idea of them here, having forgot to do it in the place where it would have been more natural, that is, when I spoke for the first time of Lycurgus and his institutions.
Minos, who is called in fable the son of Jupiter, was the author of these laws. He lived about one hundred years before the Trojan war.f He was a powerful, wise, and gentle prince, and still more estimable for his moral virtues than his military abilities. After having conquered the island of Crete, and several others in its neighbourhood, he applied himself to strengthen by wise laws the new state of which he had possessed himself by the force of arms. The end which he proposed in the establishment of these laws, was to render bis subjects pappy by making them virtuous. He banished idleness and voluptuousness from nis states, and with them, luxury and vicious pleasures, the fruitful sources of all vice. Well knowing, that liberty was justly regarded as the most precious and greatest good, and that it cannot subsist without a perfect union of the people, he endeavoured to establish a kind of equality among them; which, is the tie and basis of it, and very proper to remove all envy, jealousy, hatred, and dissention. He did not undertake to make any new divisions of lands, nor to prohibit the use of gold and silver. He applied bimself to the uniting of his subjects by other ties, which seemed to him neither lees firm nor less reasonable. *
* Προς 'συμπασαν την των Σπαρτιατων πολιν ωσπερ παιδαγωγον η διδασκαλον ευχημονος βιε και τεταγμενης αποβλεποντες.-Plut. p. 58.
† A. M. 2720. Ant. J. C. 1284.
He decreed, that the children should be all brought up and educated to gether by troops and bands, in order that they might learn early the same principles and maxims. Their life was hard and sober. They were accustomed to be satisfied with little, to suffer heat and cold, to walk over steep and rugged places, to skirmish with each other in small parties, to suffer courageously the blows they received, and to exercise themselves in a kind of dance, in which they carried arms in their hands, and which was afterwards called the Pyrrbic; in order, says Strabo, that even in their diversions, every thing might create in them a military spirit, and form them for war. They were also made to learn certain airs of music, but of a manly martial kind.
They were not taught either to ride, or to wear heavy armour; but they were made to excel in drawing the bow, which was their most usual exercise. Crete is not a flat even country, nor fit for breeding of es, like that of the
Thessalians, who were esteemed the best cavalry in Greece; but a rough, broken country, full of shelves and highlands, where heavy-armed troops could not exercise themselves in the horse-race. But as to archery and light-armed soldiers, fit to execute the devices and stratagems of war, the Cretans pretended to hold the foremost rank.t
Minos thought proper to establish in Crete a community of tables and meals. Besides several other great advantages which he found in this institution, such as introducing a kind of equality in his dominions, (the rich and poor having the same diet,) the accustoming his subjects to a frugal and sober life, the creating a friendship and unity between tắcm, by the usual gayety and familiarity of the table, he had also in view the custom of war, in which the soldiers are obliged to eat together. The public supplied the expenses of these tables, the salaries of the magistrates, and the rest allotted for the public meals ; so that out of the revenues of the state, a part was applied to the uses of religion, and the women, children, and men of all ages, were fed at the cost, and in the name of the republic. In this Aristotle gives the preference to the meals of Crete before those of Sparta, wherein private persons were obliged to furnish their proportion, and without it were not admitted into the assemblies; which was to exclude the poor. I.
After eating, the old men discoursed upon the affairs of the state. The conversation turned generally upon the history of the country, upon the actions and virtues of the great men of it, who had distinguished themselves either by their valour in war, or their wisdom in peace; and the youth, who were pre sent at these entertainments, were exhorted to propose those great persons to themselves as their models, for the forming of iheir manners, and the regulation of their conduct.$
Minos, as well as Lycurgus, is reproached with having no other view in his laws than war; which is a very great fault in a legislator. It is true, this appears to have been bis principal object of attention, because he was convinced that the repose, libe ty, and riches of his subjects, were under the protection, and in a manner under the guard of arms and military knowledge;
the conquered being deprived of all
those advantages by the victor. But he ordained, that war should be only made for the sake of peace ; and his laws are far from being confined to that sole object.||
* Strab. I. X. p. 480.
† Plat. de Leg. I. i. p. 623. Athen. l. iv. p. 643. l'oi. II.
Arist. de Rep.!. 1. c. 10. | Plat. de Leg. 1. i. p. 636.
Among the Cretans, the cultivation of the mind was not entirely neglected and care was taken to give the youth some tincture of learning. The works of Homer, of much later date than the laws of Minos, were not unknown among them, though they but lightly esteemed, and made little use of foreign poets. They were very curious in such knowledge as is proper to form the manners; and, what is no small praise, they prided themselves upon thinking much and speaking little. The poet Epiinenides, who made a voyage to Athens in the lime of Solon, and was in great estimation there, was of Crete, and by some placed in the number of the seven sages. I
One of the institutions of Minos, which Plato admires the most, was to inspire early into the youth a high respect for the maxims, customs, and laws of the state, and not to suffer them to dispute or call in question the wisdom of their institutions, but to consider them not as prescribed and imposed by men, but as emanations of the Divinity himself. Accordingly, he had industı.ously apprised the people, that Jupiter bimself had dictated them to bim. He had the same attention in regard to the magistrates and aged persons, whom he recommended to honour in a peculiar manner; and in order that nothing might prevent the respect due to them, he ordained, that if any defects were observed in them, they should never bc mentioned in the presence of the youth: û wise precaution, and which would be very becoming in the ordinary practice of life!
The government of Crete was at first monarchial, of which Minos bas left à perfect n.odel to all ages. According to him, as a great and most excellent man'l observes, the king can do every thing over the people, but the laws every thing over bim. He has an absolute power to do good ; and his hands are tied up from doing evil. The laws intrust the people in bis hands as the most sacred of deposits, upon condition that he shall be their common father. The same laws require that a single man, by his wisdom and moderation, shall constitute the felicity of an infinite number of subjects; and not that the subjects, by their misery and abject slavery, shall be substituted to gratify the pride and low passions of a single man. According to him, the king ought to be when abroad, the defender of his country, at the head of her armies, and when at home, the judge of his people, to render them good, wise, and happy. It is not for himsell that the gods have made him king, and he is only so for the service of his people. He owes them his whole time, care and affection ; and is worthy of the throne, only as he gives and devotes himself to the public good. Such is the iuea which Minos had of the sovereignty ; of which he was a living image in his own person, and which Hesiod has perfectly expressed in two words, by calling bim “the most royal of mortal kings,” Báoideurator Orntay Basie Anwy; that is to say, that he possessed in a supreme degree all royal virtues, and was a king of all things.
It appears, that the authority of king was not of long duration ; and that it gave place to a republican government, as Minos had intended. The senate, composed of thirty persons, formed the public council. In that assembly, the public affairs were examined, and resolutions taken ; but they were of no force, till the people had given them their approbation, and confirmed them by their suffrages. The magistrates, to the number of ten, established for maintaining good order in the state, and therefore called cosmi, Kou's, held the two other bodies of the state in check, and were the balance between them. In time of war, the same persons commanded the army. They were chosen by lot, but only out of certain families. Their office was for life; and they were not accountable to any for their administration. Out of this company the senatoņs were elected.**
The Cretans made the slaves and mercenaries cultivate their lands, who were obliged to pay them a certain annual sum. They were called Periaci, probably from their being people in the neighbourhood, whom Minos had subjected. As they inhabited an island, and consequently a country separated from all others, the Cretans had not so much to fear from these vassals as the Lacedæmonians from the Helots, who often joined the neighbouring people against them. A custom anciently established in Crete, from whence it was adopted by the Romans, gives us reason to believe, that the vassals who cultivated the lands were treated with great kindness and favour. In the feasts of Mercury, the masters waited on their slaves at table, and did them the same offices as they received from them the rest of the year; precious remains and traces of the primitive world, in which all men were equal, that seemed to inform the masters, that their servants were of the same condition with themselves, and that to treat them with cruelty or pride, was to renounce humanity. *
• Plat. de Leg. 1. ii. P. 680. Plat de Leg. l. i p. 634.
Plat. in Min. p. 320
| Idem. I. i. p. 641.
Plut. in Solon. p. 84. | Monsieur de Fenelon, Archbishop of Cambray.
** Arist. de Rep. I. ii. c. 10.
As a prince cannot do every thing alone, and is obliged to associale con operators with himself, for whose conduct he is accountable. Minos charged his brother Rhadamanthus with a share in the administration of justice in the capital city, which is the most essential and indispensible function of sovereignty. He knew his probity, disinterestedness, ability and constancy, and bad taken pains to form him for so important an office. Another minister had the care of the rest of the cities, who made a circuit three times in a year, to exar mine whether the laws established by the prince were duly observed, and the inferior magistrates and officers religiously acquitted themselves of their duty.t
Crete, under so wise a government, changed its aspect entirely, and seemed to have become the abode of virtue, probily, and justice; as we may judge, from what fable tells us of the honour Jupiter did these three brothers, in making them judges of the other world; for every body knows, that fable is founded upon real history, though disguised under pleasing emblems and allegories, adapted to recommend truth by the ornaments of fancy.
It was, according to fabulous tradition, a law established from the beginning of time, that men in departing out of tvis life should be judged, in order to their receiving the reward or punishment due to their good or evil actions. In the reign of Saturn, and in the tirst years of that of Jupiter, this judgment was pronounced at the instant preceding death, which left room for very flagrant injustice. Princes, who had been cruel and tyrannical, appearing before their judges in all the pomp and splendour of their puwer, and producing witnesses to depose in their favour, because, as they were still alive, they dreaded their anger; the judges, dazzled with this vain show, and deceived by such false evidence, declared these princes innocent, and disinissed them, with permission to enter into the happy abodes of the just. The same may be said in regard to the rich; but for the poor and helpless, calumny and malice pursued them even to this last tribunal, and found means to have them doomed for ever as criminals. I
Fable adds, that upon reiterated complaints and warm remonstrances grade to Jupiter upon this account, he changed the form of these trials. The time for them was fixed to be the very moment after death. Rhadamanthus and Æacus, both sons of Jove, were appointed judges; the first for the Asiatics, the second for the Europeans; and Minos over them, to decide in cases of doubt and obscurity. Their tribunal was situated in a place called “The Field of Truth,” becausc neither falschood nor calumny can approach it. The greatest prince ivas obliged to appear there, as soon as he had resigned his last breath, deprived of all his grandeur, reduced to his naked self, without defence or pra tection, silent and trembling for his own doom, after having made the whole world tremble for theirs. If he were found guilty of crimes which were of a nature to be expiated, he was confined in Tartarus for a certain time only, and with an assurance of being released, as soon as he should be sufficiently purified. But if his crines were unpardonable, such as injustice, perjury, and the oppression of his people, he was cast into the same Tartarus, there to suffer