« ZurückWeiter »
fellow-citizens was more to be feared than the ancient grudge of that king, was resolved to run the hazard of it. On his arrival at the palace of that morarch, on being informed that he was absent, he addressed himself to the queen, who received him very graciously, and instructed him in the manner in which it was proper to make his request. When Admetus returned, Themistocles took the king's son in his arms, seated himself on his hearth amidst his household gods, and there telling him who he was, and the cause why he fled to him for refuge, he implored his clemency, owned that his life was in his hand, entreated him to forget the past ; and represented to him, that no action can be more worthy in a great king than to exercise clemency. Admetus, surprised and moved with compassion in seeing at his feet, in so humble a posture, the greatest man of all Greece, and the conqueror of all Asia, raised him immediately from the ground, and promised to protect him against all his enemies. Accordingly, when the Athenians and Lacedæmonians came to demand him, he absolutely refused to deliver up a person who had made his palace bis asylum, in the firm persuasion that it would be sacred and inviolable.
While he was at the court of this prince, one of his friends found an opportunity to carry off his wife and children from Athens, and to send them to him; for which that person was sometime after seized, and condemned to die. His friends secured the greatest part of his effects for him, which they afterwards found opportunity to remit to him; but all that could be discovered, which amounted to a hundred talents,* was carried to the public treasury. When he entered upon the administration, he was not worih three talents. I shall leave this illustrious exile for some time at the court of king Admetus, to resume the sequel of this history.
SECTION XVII.-DISINTERESTED ADMINISTRATION OF THE PUBLIC TREASTRE
BY ARISTIDES. HIS DEATH AND EULOGIUM.
I HAVE before observed, that the command of Greece had passed from Sparta to the Athenians. Hitherto the cities and nations of Greece had indeed contributed some sums of money towards the expense of carrying on the war against the barbarians ; but this partition or division had always occasioned great feuds, because it was not made in a just or equal proportion. It was thought proper, under this new government, to lodge in the island of Delos, the common treasure of Greece; to fix new regulations with regard to the public moneys; and to lay such a tax as might be regulated according to the revenue of each city and state ; in order that, the expenses beirg equally borne by the several individuals who composed the body of the allies, no one might have reason to murmur. The business was, to find a person of so honest and incorrupt a mind, as to discharge an employment of so delicate and dangerous a kind, the due administration of which so nearly concerned the public welfare. All the allies cast their eyes on Aristides ; accordingly they invested him with full powers, and appointed him to levy a tax on each of them, relying entirely on his wisdom and justice.
They had no cause to repent of their choice. He presided over the treasury with the fidelity and disinterestedness of a man who looks upon it as a capital crime to embezzle the smallest portion of another's possessions; with the care and activity of a father of a family, in the management of his own estate ; and with the caution and integrity of a person who considers thc public moneys as sacred. In fine, he succeeded in what is equally difficult and extraordinary, viz. in acquiring the love of all, in an office in which he that escapes the public vdium gains a great point. I Such is the glorious character which Seneca gives
* About one hundred thousand dollars.
† Plut. in Arist. p. 333, 334. Diod. 1. xi. p. 36. Tu quidem orbis terrarum rationes administras; tam abstinenter quam alienas, tam diligenter quan tuas, tam religiose quam publicas In officio amorem consequeris, in quo odium vitare difficile est:
SCREG lib, de Brevit. Vit. cap. xviji.
of a person charged with an employment of almost the same kind, and the noblest eulogium that can be given of such as administer the public revenue. It is the exact picture of Aristides. He discovered so much probity and wisdom in the exercise of this office, that no man complained; and those times were considered ever after as the golden age, that is, the period in which Greece had attained its highest pitch of virtue and happiness. And indeed, the tax which he had fixed in the whole to four hundred and sixty talents* was raised by Pericles to six hundred, and soon after to thirteen hundred talents : it was not that the expenses of the war were increased, but the treasure was employed to very useless purposes, in distributions to the Athenians, in solemnizing games and festivals, in building temples and public edifices ; not to mention, that the hands of those who superintended the treasury were not always clean and uncorrupt, as those of Aristides. This wise and equitable conduct secured to him, to the latest posterity, the glorious surname of the Just.”
Nevertheless, Plutarch relates an action of Aristides, which shows that the Greeks (and the same may be said of the Romans) had a very narrow and imperfect idea of justice. They confined the exercise of it to the interior, as it were of civil society'; and acknowledged that individuals were bound to observe strictly its several maxims: but with regard to their country, to the republic, their great idol, to which they reduced every thing, they thought in a quite different manner; and imagined themselves essentially obliged to sacrifice to it, not only their lives and possessions, but even their religion and the most sacred engagements, contrary to and in contempt of the most solemn oaths. This will appear evidently in what follows.
After the regulation bad been made in respect to the tributes of which I have just spoken, Aristides, having settled the several articles of the alliance, made the confederates take an oath to observe them punctually, and he himself swore in the name of the Athenians; and in denouncing the curses which always accompanied the oaths, he threw into the sea, pursuant to the usual custom, large bars of red-hot iron. But the ill state of the Athenian affairs forcing them afterwards to infringe some of those articles, and to govern a little more arbitrarily, he entreated them to vent those curses on him, and discharge themselves thereby of the punishment due to such as bad forsworn themselves, and who had been reduced to it by the unhappy situation of their affairs. Theophrastus tells us, that in general (these words are borrowed from Plutarch) Aristides, who executed all matters relating to himself or the public with the most impartial and rigorous justice, used to act, during his administration, in several things, according as the exigency of affairs, and the welfare of his country, might require ; it being his opinion, that a government, in order to support itself, is, on some occasions, obliged to have recourse to injustice; of which he gives the following example. One day, as the Athenians were debating in their council, about bringing to their city, in opposition to the articles of the treaty, the common treasures of Greece, which were deposited in Delos: the Samians having opened the debate ; when it was Aristides's turn to speak, be said, that the dislodging of the treasure was an unjust action, but useful, and caused this opinion to prevail. The incident shows, that the pretended wisdom of the heathens was overspread with great obscurity and error.t
It was scarcely possible to have a greater contempt for riches than Aristides Jad. Themistocles, who was not pleased with the encomiums bestowed on other men, hearing Aristides applauded for the noble disinterestedness with which he administered the public treasures, did but laugh at it; and said, that the praises bestowed upon him for it, showed no greater merit or virtue than that of a strong chest, which faithfully preserves all the moneys that are shut up in it, without retaining any. This low sneer was by way of revenge for a stroke of raillery that had stùng him to the quick. Themistocles saying, that,
* The talent is worth about a thousand dcllars,
Plut, in Vit. Arist. i' 333, 334.
in bis opinion, the greatest talent a general could possess, was to be able to foresee the designs of an enemy. “This talent,” replied Aristides" is necessary; but there is another no less noble and worthy in a general; that is, to bave clean hands, and a soul superior to venality and views of interest.' Aristides might very justly answer Themistocles in this manner, since he was really very poor, though he had possessed the highest employments in the state. He seemed to have an innate love for poverty ; and, so far from being ashamed of it, be thought it reflected as much glory on him, as all the trophies and victories he had won. History gives us a shining instance of this.
Callias, who was a near relation of Aristides, and the most wealthy citizen in Athens, was cited to appear before the judges. The accuser, laying very little stress on the cause itself, reproached him especially with permitting Aristides, his wife and children, to live in poverty, while he himself wallowed in riches. Callias perceiving that these reproaches made a strong impression on the judges, summoned Aristides to declare before them, whether he had not often pressed him to accept of large sums of money; and whether he had not obstinately refused to accept of his offer, asserting, that he had more reason to boast of his poverty, than Callias of his riches; that many persons were to be found who had made a good use of their wealth, but that there were few who bore their poverty with magnanimity, and even joy; and that none had cause to blush at their abject condition, but such as had reduced themselves to it by their idleness, their intemperance, their profusion, or dissolute conduct. Aristides declared, that his kinsman had told nothing but the truth; and added, that a man whose frame of mind is such as to suppress a desire of superfluous things, and who confines the wants of life within the narrowest limits, besides being freed from a thousand importunate cares, and left so much master of his time, as to devote it entirely to the public, is also assimilated in some measure to the Deity, who is wholly void of cares or wants. There was no man in the assembly, but, at his leaving it, would have chosen to be Aristides, though so poor, rather than Callias with all his riches.*
Plutarch gives us, in few words, Plato's glorious testimony to the virtue of Aristides, for which he looks upon him as infinitely superior to all the illustrious men who were his cotemporaries. “Themistocles, Cimon, and Pericles,” says he,“ did indeed fill their city with splendid edifices, with porticoes, statues, rich ornaments, and other vain superfluities of that kind ; but Aristides did all that lay in his power to enrich every part of it with virtue : now, to raise a city to true happiness, it must be made virtuous, not rich.”
Plutarch takes notice of another circumstance in the life of Aristides, wbich, though of the simplest kind, reflects the greatest honour on him, and may serve as an excellent lesson. It is in that beautiful treatise in which he inquires whether it is proper for old men to concern themselves with affairs of government; and where he points out in an admirable manner, the various services they may do the state, even in an advanced age. “We are not to fancy,” says he, “that all public services require great action and tumult, such as, to harangue the people, to preside in the government, or head armies: an old man, whose mind is informed with wisdom, may, without going abroad, exercise a kind of magistracy in it, which, though secret and obscure, is not therefore the less important; and that is, in training up youth by good counsel, teaching them the various springs of policy, and how to act in public affairs. Aristides," adds Plutarch,
was not always in office, but was always useful to his country. His house was a public school of virtue, wisdom and policy. It was open to all young Athenians, who were lovers of virtue, and these used to consult him as an oracle. He gave them the kindest reception, heard them with patience, instructed them with familiarity; and endeavoured, above all things, to animate their courage, and inspire them with confidence." It is observed particularly, that Cimon, afterwards so famous, was obliged to him for this important service.
Plutarch divided the life of statesmen into three ages. In the first, he would have them learn the principles of government; in the second, reduce them to practice: and in the third, instruct others *
History does not mention the exact time when, nor place where, Aristides died; but then it pays a glorious testimony to his memory, when it assures us, that this great man, who had possessed the highest employments in the republic, and had the absolute disposal of its treasures, died poor, and did not leave money enough to defray the expenses of his funeral : so that the government was obliged to bear the charge of it, and to maintain his family. His daughters vere married, and Lysimachus his son was maintained at the expense of the Prytaneum ; which also gave the daughter of the latter, after his death, the pension with which those were honoured who had been victorious at the Olympic games. Plutarch relates on this occasion, the liberality of tne Athenians in favour of the posterity of Aristogiton their deliverer, who was fallen to decay; and he adds, that even in his time, almost six hundred years after,' the same goodness and liberality still subsisted: it was glorious for the city, to have preserved, for so many centuries, its generosity and gratitude ; and a strong motive to animate individuals, who were assured that their children would enjoy the rewards which death might prevent them from receiving! It was delightful to see the remote posterity of the defenders and deliverers of the commonwealth, who had inherited nothing from their ancestors but the glory of their actions, maintained for so many ages at the expense of the public, in consideration of the services their families had rendered. They lived in this manner with much more honour, and called up the remembrance of their ancestors with much greater splendour, than a multitude of citizens, whose fathers had been studious only of leaving them great estates, which generally did not long survive those who raised them, and often left their posterity nothing but the odious remembrance of the injustice and oppression by which they were acquired. I
The greatest honour which the ancients conferred on Aristides, was bestowing on him the glorious title of “the Just.” He gained it, not by one particular action, but by the uniformn tenor of his conduct. Plutarch makes a reflection on this occasion, which being very remarkable, I think it incumbent on me not to omit.
“Among the several virtues of Aristides,” says this judicious author, “ that for which he was most renowned, was his justice; because this virtue is of most general use ; its benefits extending to a greater number of persons : as it is the foundation, and in a manner the soul, of every public office and employment, Hence it was that Aristides, though in low circumstances and, of mean extraction, merited the title of Just; a title” says Plutarch,“ truly noble, or rather truly divine ; but one of which princes are seldom ambitious, because generally ignorant of its beauty and excellency. They choose rather to be called the conquerors of cities, and the thunderbolts of war; and sometimes even eagles and lions, preferring the vain honour of pompous titles, which convey no other idea than of violence and slaughter, to the solid glory of those expressive of goodness and virtue. They do not know,” continues Plutarch, “that of the three chief attributes of the Deity, of whom kings boast themselves the image, I mean, immortality, power, and justice; that of these three attributes, the first of which excites our admiration and desire, the second fills us with dread and terror, and the third inspires us with love and respect, this last only is truly and personally communicated to man, and is the only one that can conduct him to the other two; it being impossible for man to become truly immortal and powerful without being just.”
* He applies on this occasion the custom used in Rome, where the vestals spent the first ten years in learning the duties of their office, and this was a kind of noviciate; the next ten years they employed in the exercise of their functions; and the last ten in instructing the young novices in them. Plut. in Arist. p. 334, 335.
# Vid. Book. V. Art. viii. & Plut. in Vit. Arist. p. 321, 322.
U Poliorcetes, Ceraunus, Nicator
Before I resume the sequel of this history, it may not be improper to observe, that it was about this period the faine of the Greeks, still more renowned for the wisdom of their políty than the glory of their victories, induced the Romans to have recourse to their lights and knowledge.*, Rome, formed under kings, was in want of such laws as were necessary for the good government of a commonwealth. For this purpose the Romans sent deputies to copy the laws of the cities of Greece, and particularly of Athens, which were still better adapted to the populargovernment that had been established after the expulsion of the kings. On this model the ten magistrates, called Decemviri, and who were invested with absolute authority, were created; these digested the Jaws of the twelve tables, which are the basis of the Roman law.t
SECTION XVIII.-XERXES KILLED BY ARTABANUS. The ill success of Xerxes in his expedition against the Greeks, which con finued afterwards, at length discouraged him. Renouncing all thoughts of war and conquest, he abandoned himself entirely to luxury and ease, and was studious of nothing but his pleasures. Artabanus,a native of Hyrcania, captain of his guards, and who had long been one of his chief favourites, found that this dissolute conduct had drawn upon him the contempt of his subjects. He therefore imagined that this would be a favourable opportunity to conspire against his sovereign; and his ambition was so vast, that he flattered himself with the bopes of succeeding him in the throne. It is very probable, that he was excited to the commission of this crime from another motive. Xerxes had commanded him to murder Darius, bis eldest son, but for what cause history is silent. As this order had been given at a banquet, and when the company was heated with wine, he did not doubt that Xerxes would forget it, and therefore was not in haste to obey, it ; however, he was mistaken, for the king complained upon that account, which made Artabanus dread his resentment, and therefore he resolved to prevent him. Accordingly he prevailed upon Mithridates; one of the eunuchs of the palace, and great chamberlain, to engage in the conspiracy; and by his means entered the chamber where the king lay, and murdered him in his sleep. He then went immediately to Artax xes, the third son of Xerxes, and informed him of the murder; charging Darius his eldest brother with it; as if impatience to ascend the throne had prompted him to that execrable deed. He added, that to secure the crown to himself, he was resolved to murder him also, for which reason it would be absolutely necessary for him to keep upon his guard. These words having made such an impression on Artaxerxes, a youth, as Artabanus desired, he went immediately into his brother's apartment, where, being assisted by Artabanus and his guards, he murdered him. Hystaspes, the second son of Xerxes, was next heir to the crown after Darius, but as he was then in Bactriana, of which he was governor, Artabanus seated Artaxerxes on the throne, but did not design to suffer him to enjoy it longer than until he had formed a faction strong enough to drive him from it, and ascend it himself. His great authority had gained him a multitude of creatures; besides this, he had seven sons who were of a very tall stature, handsome, strong, courageous, and raised to the highest employments in the empire. The aid he hoped to recieve from them was the chief motive of his raising his views so high But, while he was at. tempting to complete his design, Artaxerxes, being informed of this plot by Megabyzus, who had married one of his sisters, endeavoured to anticipate him, and killed him before he had an opportunity of putting his treason in execution. His death established this prince in the possession of the kingdom.||
* A. M. 3532. A. Rome, 302. † Missi legati Athenas, jussique inclytas leges Solonis describere, et aliarum Græciæ civitatum instituta, mores juraque noscere. Decem tabularum leges perlatæ sunt (quibus adjectæ postea duæ,) qui nunc quoque in hoc immenso aliarum super alias privatarum legum cumulo, fons omnis publici privatique est juris. Liv. l. iii. n. 31, et 34.
A. M. 3531. Ant. J. C. 473. Ctes. c. ii. Diod. I xi. p. 52. Justin. I. iii. c. 1. This was not Artaba Qus the uncle of Xerxes.
.|| Arist. Polit. I. v. c. 10. P.