By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Studies of the Greek Poets (Vol I of 2)
Author: Symonds, John Addington
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Studies of the Greek Poets (Vol I of 2)" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.







    _Im Ganzen, Guten, Schönen_
    _Resolut zu leben_










~I Dedicate these Volumes~



The studies of Greek Poets, now reprinted, appeared in England in two
series, published at an interval of three or four years. In preparing
this edition, I have rearranged the chapters of both series in their
proper order, and have made certain additions, with the view of
rendering the book more complete as a survey of Greek Poetry. Thus I
have inserted several new translations in the chapters on the Lyric
Poets and the Anthology. The criticism of Euripides has been enlarged,
and the concluding chapter has been, in a great measure, rewritten.
Each chapter has undergone such revision and alteration in minor
details as might remove unnecessary repetitions and bring the whole
series of essays into harmony. At the same time I have judged it
inexpedient to introduce radical changes into a book which professes
to be the reprint of volumes already known to the English public. For
this reason the chapters which deal with the Greek Tragedians have been
left substantially in their original form, and bear upon their face the
record of their composition as almost independent essays.


                              CHAPTER I.


    Language and Mythology.--The Five Chief Periods of
    Greek Literature. The First Period: Homer--Religion and
    State of the Homeric Age--Achilles and Ulysses.--Second
    Period: Transition--Breaking-up of the Homeric
    Monarchies--Colonization--the Nomothetæ--Ionians
    and Dorians--Development of Elegiac, Iambic, Lyric
    Poetry--Beginning of Philosophy.--Third Period: Athenian
    Supremacy--Philosophy at Athens--the Fine Arts--the
    Drama--History--Sparta and Athens--Pericles and
    Anaxagoras.--Fourth Period: Hegemony of Sparta--Enslavement of
    Hellas--Demosthenes--Alexander and Achilles--Aristotle--the
    Hellenization of the East--Menander--the Orators.--Fifth
    Period: Decline and Decay--Greek Influence upon the
    World--Alexandria--the Sciences--Theocritus--the University of
    Athens--Sophistic Literature--Byzantium--Hellas and Christendom
                                                                Page 13

                              CHAPTER II.


    The Notion of a Systematic Pantheon.--Homer and
    Hesiod.--Mythology before Homer.--Supposed Conditions of the
    Mythopoeic Age.--Vico.--The Childhood of the World.--Goethe's
    Boyhood.--Mythology is a Body of Rudimentary Thought,
    Penetrated with the Spirit of the Nation.--Different
    Views of the Greek Myths.--Grote.--Relics of a Primitive
    Revelation.--The Symbolic Hypothesis.--Rationalism and
    Euhemerus.--Fetichism.--Poetic Theory.--The Linguistic
    Theory.--Comparative Philology.--Solar Theory.--The
    Myth of Herakles: its Solar Interpretation--its Ethical
    Significance.--Summary of the Points Suggested with
    Regard to Mythology.--Mediæval Myths.--The Action of
    the Greek Intelligence upon Mythology: in Art--in
    Philosophy.--Persistence of the National Polytheism.--Homer
    Allegorized at Alexandria.--Triumph of Christianity.--The Greek
    Pantheon in the Middle Ages.--Greek Mythology Recovers Poetic
    and Artistic Value in the Renaissance                        Page 51

                             CHAPTER III.


    Unity of _Iliad_.--Character of Achilles.--Structure of
    the whole Poem.--Comparison with other Epics.--Energy
    Dividing into Anger and Love.--Personality of
    Achilles.--The Quarrel with Agamemnon.--Pallas Athene.--The
    Embassy.--Achilles' Foreknowledge of his Death.--The Message
    of Antilochus.--Interview with Thetis.--The Shouting
    in the Trench.--The Speech of Xanthus.--The Pæan over
    Hector's Corpse.--The Ghost of Patroclus.--The Funeral
    Obsequies of Patroclus.--Achilles and Priam.--Achilles in
    Hades.--Achilles Considered as a Greek Ideal.--Friendship
    among the Greeks.--Heroism and Knighthood: Ancient and Modern
    Chivalry.--The _Myrmidones_ of Æschylus.--Achilles and
    Hector.--Alexander the Great.--The Dæmonic Nature of Achilles
                                                                Page 91

                              CHAPTER IV.

                         _THE WOMEN OF HOMER._

    Helen of Troy--Her Eternal Youth--Variety of Legends
    connected with her.--Stesichorus.--Helen in the
    _Iliad_.--Helen in the _Odyssey_.--The Treatment of Helen
    by Æschylus.--Euripidean Handling of her Romance.--Helen
    in Greek Art.--Quintus Smyrnæus.--Apollonius of Tyana and
    the Ghost of Achilles.--Helen in the Faust Legend.--Marlowe
    and Goethe.--Penelope--Her Home-love.--Calypso and
    the Isle Ogygia.--Circe.--The Homeric and the Modern
    Circe.--Nausicaa--Her Perfect Girlishness.--Briseis and
    Andromache.--The Sense of Proportion and of Relative Distance
    in Homer's Pictures.--Andromache and Astyanax.--The Cult of
    Heroes and Heroines in Greece.--Artistic Presentation of
    Homeric Persons.--Philostratus                              Page 124

                              CHAPTER V.


    The Difference between the Homeric and the Hesiodic
    Spirit.--The Personality of Hesiod more Distinct than that of
    Homer.--What we Know about his Life.--Perses.--The Hesiodic
    Rhapsodes.--_Theogony_ and _Works and Days_.--Didactic
    Poetry.--The Story of Prometheus.--Greek and Hebrew Myths
    of the Fall.--The Allegorical Element in the Promethean
    Legend.--The Titans.--The Canto of the Four Ages.--Hesiodic
    Ethics.--The Golden Age.--Flaxman's Illustrations.--Justice
    and Virtue.--Labor.--Bourgeois Tone of Hesiod.--Marriage and
    Women.--The Gnomic Importance of Hesiod for the Early Greeks
                                                               Page 161

                              CHAPTER VI.


    Greek Philosophical Poetry.--The Emergence of
    Philosophy from Mythology.--The Ionian Sages.--The
    Eleatics.--Heraclitus.--Xenophanes of Colophon.--His
    Critique of the Myths.--Assertion of Monotheism.--Fragments
    of his Poem on Nature.--Parmenides of Elea.--His Political
    Importance.--Parmenides in the Dialogues of Plato.--His
    Metaphysic of Being.--His Natural Philosophy.--The Logic
    Deduced from him by Zeno and Melissus.--Translation of
    the Fragments of his Poem.--The Dualism of Truth and
    Opinion.--Impossibility of Obtaining Absolute Knowledge     Page 185

                             CHAPTER VII.


    The Grandeur of his Fame.--His Versatility of Genius.--His
    Mysticism.--His Supposed Miracles.--Legends about his
    Death.--His Political Action.--His Poems.--Estimation in which
    the Ancients held them.--Their Prophetic Fervor.--Belief in
    Metempsychosis.--Purifying Rites.--Contempt for the Knowledge
    of the Senses.--Physical Theories.--The Poem on Nature.--The
    Four Elements.--The Sphærus.--Love and Discord.--The
    Eclecticism of Empedocles                                   Page 207

                             CHAPTER VIII.

                          _THE GNOMIC POETS._

    Definition of the Term Gnomic.--The Elegiac Metre.--The
    Age of the Despots in Greece.--Three Periods in
    Elegiac Poetry: the Martial, the Erotic, the
    Gnomic.--Callinus.--Tyrtæus.--Mimnermus.--His Epicurean
    Philosophy of Life.--Solon.--The Salaminian Verses.--Doctrine
    of Hereditary Guilt.--Greek Melancholy.--Phocylides.--His
    Bourgeois Intellect.--Xenophanes.--Theognis.--The Politics
    of Megara.--Cyrnus.--Precepts upon Education and Conduct in
    Public and Private Life.--The Biography of Theognis.--Dorian
    Clubs.--Lamentations over the Decay of Youth and Beauty     Page 236

                              CHAPTER IX.

                           _THE SATIRISTS._

    Invention of the Iambic Metre.--Archilochus.--His Parentage
    and Life.--His Fame among the Ancients.--Ancient and Modern
    Modes of Judging Artists.--The Originality of Archilochus as a
    Poet.--Simonides of Amorgos.--His Satire on Women.--The Ionian
    Contempt for Women.--Hipponax.--Limping Iambics.--Differences
    between the Satire of the Greeks and Romans                 Page 274

                              CHAPTER X.

                          _THE LYRIC POETS._

    The Æsthetic Instinct of the Greeks in their
    Choice of Metres.--Different Species of
    Lyrical Poetry.--The Fragments in Bergk's
    Dithyramb.--Phallic Hymn.--Epinikia.--Threnoi.--Scolia.--Æolian
    and Dorian Lyrists.--The Flourishing Period of
    of the Dorian Lyrists.--Spartan
    Troubadours.--Style of Simonides.--Pindar.--Later Literary Odes
                                                               Page 287

                              CHAPTER XI.


    His Life.--Legends connected with him.--The Qualities of
    his Poetry.--The Olympic Games.--Pindar's Professional
    Character.--His Morality.--His Religious Belief.--Doctrine of a
    Future State.--Rewards and Punishments.--The Structure of his
    Odes.--The Proemia to his Odes.--His Difficulty and Tumidity of
    Style                                                       Page 340

                             CHAPTER XII.


    Life of Æschylus.--Nature of his Inspiration.--The
    Theory of Art in the _Ion_ of Plato.--Æschylus and
    Sophocles.--What Æschylus accomplished for the Attic
    Drama.--His Demiurgic Genius.--Colossal Scale of his
    Work.--Marlowe.--Oriental Imagery.--Absence of Love
    as a Motive in his Plays.--The Organic Vitality of
    his Art.--Opening Scenes.--Messenger.--Chorus.--His
    Theology.--Destiny in Æschylus.--The Domestic Curse.--His
    Character-drawing.--Clytemnestra.--Difficulty of Dealing
    with the _Prometheus_.--What was his Fault?--How was
    Zeus justified?--Shelley's Opinion.--The Last Trilogy of
    _Prometheus_.--Middle Plays in Trilogies.--Attempt to
    Reconstruct a _Prometheis_.--The Part of Herakles.--Obscurity
    of the Promethean Legend.--The Free Handling of Myths
    Permitted to the Dramatist.--The _Oresteia_.--Its
    Subject.--The Structure of the Three Plays.--The
    _Agamemnon_.---Its Imagery.--Cassandra.--The Cry of the
    King.--The Chorus.--Iphigeneia at the Altar.--Menelaus
    abandoned by Helen.--The Dead Soldiers on the Plains of
    Troy.--The _Persæ_.--The Crime of Xerxes.--Irony of the
    Situation.--Description of the Battle of Salamis.--The Style of
    Æschylus.--His Religious Feeling 372

                             CHAPTER XIII.


    The Personal Beauty of Sophocles: his Life; Stories about
    him.--Athens in the Age of Pericles.--Antique Criticism
    on his Style: its Perfect Harmony.--Aristotle's Respect
    for Sophocles.--Character in Greek Tragedy.--Sophocles
    and Æschylus.--The Religious Feeling of Sophocles.--His
    Ethics.--Exquisite Proportion observed in his Treatment
    of the _Dramatis Personæ_.--Power of Using Motives.--The
    _Philoctetes_.--Comparison of the _Choëphoroe_ and the
    _Electra_.--Climax of the _Oedipus Coloneüs_.--How Sophocles
    led onward to Euripides.--The _Trachiniæ_.--Goethe's
    Remarks on the _Antigone_.--The Tale of Thebes.--_Oedipus
    Tyrannus_, _Oedipus Coloneüs_, and _Antigone_ do not make up
    a Trilogy.--Story of Laius.--The Philosophy of Fate contained
    in it.--The Oracle.--Analysis of _Oedipus Tyrannus_.--Masterly
    Treatment of the Character of Oedipus.--Change of
    Situation in the _Coloneüs_.--Emergence of Antigone into
    Prominence.--Analysis of the Antigone.--The Character of
    Antigone: its Beauty.--Contrast afforded by Ismene and by
    Creon.--Fault in the Climax of the _Antigone_.--The Final
    Solution of the Laian Curse.--Antigone is not Subject to
    Nemesis                                                     Page 436

                            THE GREEK POETS



    Language and Mythology.--The Five Chief Periods of Greek
        Literature. The First Period: Homer--Religion and State
        of the Homeric Age--Achilles and Ulysses.--Second
        Period: Transition--Breaking-up of the Homeric
        Monarchies--Colonization--the Nomothetæ--Ionians
        and Dorians--Development of Elegiac, Iambic, Lyric
        Poetry--Beginning of Philosophy.--Third Period:
        Athenian Supremacy--Philosophy at Athens--the Fine
        Arts--the Drama--History--Sparta and Athens--Pericles
        and Anaxagoras.--Fourth Period: Hegemony of
        Sparta--Enslavement of Hellas--Demosthenes--Alexander
        and Achilles--Aristotle--the Hellenization of the
        East--Menander--the Orators.--Fifth Period: Decline and
        Decay--Greek Influence upon the World--Alexandria--the
        Sciences--Theocritus--the University of Athens--Sophistic
        Literature--Byzantium--Hellas and Christendom.

The most fascinating problems of history are veiled as closely from
our curiosity as the statue of Egyptian Isis. Nothing is known for
certain about the emergence from primitive barbarism of the great
races, or about the determination of national characteristics.
Analogies may be adduced from the material world; but the mysteries
of organized vitality remain impenetrable. What made the Jew a Jew,
the Greek a Greek, is as unexplained as what daily causes the germs of
an oak and of an ash to produce different trees. All we know is that
in the vague and infinitely distant past races were nourished into
form and individuality by the varied operation of those unreckoned
sympathies which attach man to nature, his primitive mother. But the
laws of that rudimentary growth are still unknown; "the abysmal deeps
of personality" in nations as in men remain unsounded: we cannot even
experimentalize upon the process of ethnical development.

Those mighty works of art which we call languages, in the construction
of which whole peoples unconsciously co-operated, the forms of which
were determined not by individual genius, but by the instincts of
successive generations, acting to one end, inherent in the nature of
the race--those poems of pure thought and fancy, cadenced not in words,
but in living imagery, fountain-heads of inspiration, mirrors of the
mind of nascent nations, which we call Mythologies--these surely are
more marvellous in their infantine spontaneity than any more mature
production of the races which evolved them. Yet we are utterly ignorant
of their embryology: the true science of Origins is as yet scarcely in
its cradle.

Experimental philologers may analyze what remains of early languages,
may trace their connections and their points of divergence, may
classify and group them. But the nature of the organs of humanity
which secreted them is unknown, the problem of their vital structure
is insoluble. Antiquarian theorists may persuade us that myths are
decayed, disintegrated, dilapidated phrases, the meaning of which had
been lost to the first mythopoeists. But they cannot tell us how these
splendid flowers, springing upon the rich soil of rotting language,
expressed in form and color to the mental eye the thoughts and
aspirations of whole races, and presented a measure of the faculties to
be developed during long ages of expanding civilization. If the boy is
father of the man, myths are the parents of philosophies, religions,

To those unknown artists of the prehistoric age, to the
language-builders and myth-makers, architects of cathedrals not raised
with hands, but with the spirit of man, for humanity to dwell therein,
poets of the characters of nations, sculptors of the substance of the
very soul, melodists who improvised the themes upon which subsequent
centuries have written variations, we ought to erect our noblest
statues and our grandest temples. The work of these first artificers
is more astonishing in its unconsciousness, more effective in its
spontaneity, than are the deliberate and calculated arts of sculptor,
painter, poet, philosopher, and lawgiver of the historic periods.

Some such reflections as these are the natural prelude to the study of
a literature like that of the Greeks. Language and mythology form the
vestibules and outer courts to Homer, Pheidias, Lycurgus.

It is common to divide the history of Greek literature into three chief
periods: the first embracing the early growth of poetry and prose
before the age in which Athens became supreme in Hellas--that is,
anterior to about 480 B.C.; the second coinciding with the brilliant
maturity of Greek genius during the supremacy of Athens--that is,
from the termination of the Persian war to the age of Alexander; the
third extending over the decline and fall of the Greek spirit after
Alexander's death--that is, from B.C. 323, and onwards, to the final
extinction of Hellenic civilization. There is much to be said in favor
of this division. Indeed, Greek history falls naturally into these
three sections. But a greater degree of accuracy may be attained by
breaking up the first and last of these divisions, so as to make five
periods instead of three. After having indicated these five periods in
outline, we will return to the separate consideration of them in detail
and in connection with the current of Greek history.

The first may be termed the Heroic, or Prehistoric, or Legendary
period. It ends with the first Olympiad, B.C. 776, and its chief
monuments are the epics of Homer and Hesiod. The second is a period
of transition from the heroic or epical to that of artistic maturity
in all the branches of literature. In this stage history, properly
so called, begins. The Greeks try their strength in several branches
of composition. Lyrical, satirical, moral, and philosophical poetry
supplant the epic. Prose is cultivated. The first foundations of the
drama are laid. The earliest attempts at science emerge from the
criticism of old mythologies. The whole mind of the race is in a
ferment, and, for the moment, effort and endeavor are more apparent
than mastery and achievement. This period extends from B.C. 776
to B.C. 477, the date of the Athenian league. The third period is
that of the Athenian supremacy. Whatever is great in Hellas is now
concentrated upon Athens. Athens, after her brilliant activity during
the Persian war, wins the confidence and assumes the leadership of
Greece. Athens is the richest, grandest, most liberal, most cultivated,
most enlightened state of Hellas. To Athens flock all the poets and
historians and philosophers. The drama attains maturity in her theatre.
Philosophy takes its true direction from Anaxagoras and Socrates.
The ideal of history is realized by Thucydides. Oratory flourishes
under the great statesmen and the demagogues of the republic. During
the brief but splendid ascendency of Athens, all the masterpieces
of Greek literature are simultaneously produced with marvellous
rapidity. Fixing 413 B.C. as the date of the commencement of Athenian
decline, our fourth period, which terminates in B.C. 323 with the
death of Alexander, is again one of transition. The second period was
transitional from adolescence to maturity. The fourth is transitional
from maturity to old age. The creative genius of the Greeks is now
less active. We have, indeed, the great names of Plato, Aristotle, and
Demosthenes to give splendor to this stage of national existence;
but the sceptre has passed away from the Greek nation proper. Their
protagonist, Athens, is in slavery. The civilization which they
had slowly matured, and which at Athens had been reflected in the
masterpieces of art and literature, is now spread abroad and scattered
over the earth. Asia and Egypt are Hellenized. The Greek spirit is
less productive than it has been; but it is not less vigorous. It
still asserts itself as the greatest in the world; but it does so
relying more upon its past acquirements than on any seeds of power that
remain to be developed in the future. The fifth period, the longest
of all, is one of decline and decay. It extends from B.C. 323 to the
final extinction of classical civilization. Two chief centres occupy
our attention--Athens, where the traditions of art and philosophy
yet linger, where the Stoics and Epicureans and the sages of the New
Academy still educate the world and prepare a _nidus_ for the ethics
of Christianity; and Alexandria, where physical science is cultivated
under the Ptolemies, where mystical theology flourishes in the schools
of the Neoplatonists, where libraries are formed and the labor of
literary criticism is conducted on a gigantic scale, but where nothing
new is produced except the single, most beautiful flower of idyllic
poetry and some few epigrams. In this fifth period, Rome and Byzantium,
where the Greek spirit, still vital, overlives its natural decay upon a
foreign soil, close the scene.

In these five periods--periods of superb adolescence, early manhood,
magnificent maturity, robust old age, and senility--we can trace the
genius of the Greeks putting forth its vigor in successive works of
art and literature, concentrating its energy at first upon its own
self-culture, then extending its influence in every direction, and
controlling the education of humanity, finally contenting itself
with pondering and poring on its past, with mystical metaphysics and
pedantic criticism. Yet even in its extreme decadence the Hellenic
spirit is still potent. It still assimilates, transmutes, and
alchemizes what it works upon. Coming into contact with the new and
mightier genius of Christianity, it forces even that first-born of
the Deity to take form from itself. One dying effort of the Greek
intellect, if we may so speak, is to formulate the dogma of the
Trinity and to impress the doctrine of the Logos upon the author of
the Gospel of St. John. The analogy between the history of a race so
undisturbed in its development as the Greek, and the life of a man,
is not altogether fanciful. A man like Goethe, beautiful in soul and
body, exceedingly strong and swift and active and inquisitive in all
the movements of his spirit, first lives the life of the senses and of
physical enjoyment. His soul, "immersed in rich foreshadowings of the
world," has scarcely begun to think consciously in the first period.
But he feels the glory of existence, the strivings of inexhaustible
energy, the desire of infinite expansion. The second period is one
of _Sturm und Drang_. New things are learned: much of the beautiful
physical activity is sacrificed; he discovers that life involves care
and responsibility as well as pleasure; he concentrates his mental
faculty on hard and baffling study, in which at first he halts and
falters. Then he goes forth to the world and wins great fame, and
does the deeds and thinks the thoughts by which he shall be known to
all posterity. His physical and mental faculties are now in perfect
harmony; together they offer him the noblest and most enduring
pleasures. But after a while his productiveness begins to dwindle.
He has put forth his force, has fully expressed himself, has matured
his principles, has formed his theory of the world. Our fourth period
corresponds to the early old age of such a man's life. He now applies
his principles, propagates his philosophy, subordinates his fancy,
produces less, enjoys with more sobriety and less exhilaration, bears
burdens, suffers disappointments, yet still, as Solon says, "learns
always as he grows in years." Then comes the fifth stage. He who was
so vigorous and splendid now has but little joy in physical life; his
brain is dry and withering; he dwells on his old thoughts, and has no
faculty for generating new ones; yet his soul contains deep mines of
wisdom; he gives counsel and frames laws for younger generations. And
so he gradually sinks into the grave. His acts remain: his life is

The great name of Homer covers the whole of the first period of Greek
literature.[1] It is from the Homeric poems alone that we can form
a picture to our imagination of the state of society in prehistoric
Hellas. The picture which they present is so lively in its details,
and so consistent in all its parts, that we have no reason to suspect
that it was drawn from fancy. Its ideal, as distinguished from merely
realistic, character is obvious. The poet professes to sing to us of
heroes who were of the seed of gods, whose strength exceeded tenfold
the strength of actual men, and who filled the world with valiant
deeds surpassing all that their posterity achieved. Yet, in spite of
this, the _Iliad_ and the _Odyssey_ may be taken as faithful mirrors
of a certain phase of Greek society, just as the _Niebelungen Lied_,
the romances of Charlemagne, and the tales of the Round Table reflect
three stages in the history of feudalism. We find that in this
earliest period of Greek history the nation was governed by monarchs
each of whom claimed descent from a god. Thus the kings exercised
their power over the people by divine right; but at the same time a
necessary condition of their maintaining this supremacy was that they
should be superior in riches, lands, personal bravery, and wisdom.
Their subjects obeyed them, not merely because they were #Diogeneis#,
or because they were fathers of the people, but also, and chiefly,
because they were the ablest men, the men fitted by nature to rule,
the men who could be depended upon in an emergency. The king had
just so much personal authority as he had ability to acquire or to
assert. As soon as this ability failed, the sceptre departed from
him. Thus Laertes overlives his royalty; and the suitors of Penelope,
fancying that Ulysses is dead, take no heed of Telemachus, who ought
to rule in his stead, because Telemachus is a mere lad; but as soon
as the hero returns, and proves his might by stringing the bow, the
suitors are slain like sheep. Again, Achilles, while acknowledging
the sway of Agamemnon, quarrels with him openly, proving his equality
and right to such independence as he can assert for himself. The bond
between the king in the heroic age and his chieftains was founded on
the personal superiority of the suzerain, and upon the necessity felt
for the predominance of one individual in warfare and council. The
chiefs were grouped around the monarch like the twelve peers round
Charlemagne, or like the barons whose turbulence Shakespeare has
described in _Richard II._ The relation of the Homeric sovereign to his
princes was, in fact, a feudal one. Olympus repeats the same form of
government. There Zeus is monarch simply because he wields the thunder.
When Herè wishes to rebel, Hephæstus advises her to submit, because
Zeus can root up the world, or hurl them all from the crystal parapet
of heaven. Such, then, is the society of kings and princes in Homer.
They stand forth in brilliant relief against the background, gray and
misty, of the common people. The masses of the nation, like the chorus
in tragedy, kneel passive, deedless, appealing to Heaven, trembling at
the strokes of fate, watching with anxiety the action of the heroes.
Meanwhile the heroes enact their drama for themselves. They assume
responsibility. They do and suffer as their passions sway them. Of
these the greatest, the most truly typical, is Achilles. In Achilles,
Homer summed up and fixed forever the ideal of the Greek character. He
presented an imperishable picture of their national youthfulness, and
of their ardent genius, to the Greeks. The "beautiful human heroism"
of Achilles, his strong personality, his fierce passions controlled
and tempered by divine wisdom, his intense friendship and love that
passed the love of women, above all, the splendor of his youthful life
in death made perfect, hovered like a dream above the imagination of
the Greeks, and insensibly determined their subsequent development. At
a later age, this ideal was destined to be realized in Alexander. The
reality fell below the ideal: for _rien n'est si beau que la fable, si
triste que la vérité_. But the life of Alexander is the most convincing
proof of the importance of Achilles in the history of the Greek race.

If Achilles be the type of the Hellenic genius--radiant, adolescent,
passionate--as it still dazzles us in its artistic beauty and
unrivalled physical energy, Ulysses is no less a true portrait of the
Greek as known to us in history--stern in action, ruthless in his
hatred, pitiless in his hostility, subtle, vengeful, cunning; yet at
the same time the most adventurous of men, the most persuasive in
eloquence, the wisest in counsel, the bravest and coolest in danger.
The _Græculus esuriens_ of Juvenal may be said to be the caricature in
real life of the idealized Ulysses. And what remains to the present
day of the Hellenic genius in the so-called _Greek nation_ descends
from Ulysses rather than Achilles. If the Homeric Achilles has the
superiority of sculpturesque and dramatic splendor, the Homeric Ulysses
excels him on the ground of permanence of type.

Homer, then, was the poet of the heroic age, the poet of Achilles and
Ulysses. Of Homer we know nothing, we have heard too much. Need we ask
ourselves again the question whether he existed, or whether he sprang
into the full possession of consummate art without a predecessor? That
he had no predecessors, no scattered poems and ballads to build upon,
no well-digested body of myths to synthesize, is an absurd hypothesis
which the whole history of literature refutes. That, on the other hand,
there never was a Homer--that is to say, that some diaskeuast, acting
under the orders of Pisistratus, gave its immortal outline to the
colossus of the _Iliad_, and wove the magic web of the _Odyssey_--but
that no supreme and conscious artist working towards a well-planned
conclusion conceived and shaped these epics to the form they bear,
appears to the spirit of sound criticism equally untenable. The very
statement of this alternative involves a contradiction in terms; for
such a diaskeuast must himself have been a supreme and conscious
artist. Some Homer did exist. Some great single poet intervened between
the lost chaos of legendary material and the cosmos of artistic beauty
which we now possess. His work may have been tampered with in a
thousand ways, and religiously but inadequately restored. Of his age
and date and country we may know nothing. But this we do _know_, that
the fire of moulding, fusing, and controlling genius in some one brain
has made the _Iliad_ and _Odyssey_ what they are.[2]

The epic poet merges his personality in his poems, the words of which
he ascribes to the inspiration of the muse. The individual is nowhere,
is forgotten in the subject and suppressed, while the luminous forms of
gods and heroes move serenely across the stage, summoned and marshalled
by the maidens of Helicon. In no other period of Greek literature shall
we find the same unconsciousness of self, the same immersion in the
work of art. In this respect the poetry of the heroic age answers to
the condition of prehistoric Hellas, where as yet the elements of the
Greek race remain still implicit in the general mass and undeveloped.
We hear in Homer of no abrupt division between Dorians and Ionians.
Athens and Sparta have not grown up into prominence as the two
leaders of the nation. Argos is the centre of power; but Phthiotis,
the cradle of the Hellenes, is the home of Achilles. Ulysses is an
islander. In the same way in Homer the art of the Greeks is still a
mere potentiality. The artistic sentiment, indeed, exists in exquisite
perfection; but it is germinal, not organized and expanded as it will
be. We hear of embroidery for royal garments, of goldsmith's work for
shields and breastplates, of stained ivory trappings for chariots
and horses. But even here the poet's imagination had probably outrun
the fact. What he saw with his fancy, could the heroic artisans have
fashioned with their tools? Is not the shield of Achilles, like Dante's
pavement of the purgatorial staircase, a forecast of the future?
Architecture and sculpture, at any rate, can scarcely be said to exist.
Ulysses builds his own house. The statues of the gods are fetiches.
But, meanwhile, the foundation of the highest Greek art is being laid
in the cultivation of the human body. The sentiment of beauty shows
itself in dances and games, in the races of naked runners, in rhythmic
processions, and the celebration of religious rites. This was the
proper preparation for the after-growth of sculpture. The whole race
lived out its sculpture and its painting, rehearsed, as it were, the
great works of Pheidias and Polygnotus in physical exercise before it
learned to express itself in marble or in color. The public games,
which were instituted in this first period, further contributed to the
cultivation of the sense of beauty which was inherent in the Greeks.

The second period is one of transition--in politics, in literature, in
the fine arts. Everywhere the old landmarks are being broken up, and
the new ones are not yet fixed. The heroic monarchies yield first of
all to oligarchies, and then to tyrannies; the tyrannies in their turn
give place to democracies, or to constitutional aristocracies. Argos,
the centre of heroic Hellas, is the first to change. Between 770 and
730 B.C. Pheidon usurps the sovereign power, and dies, leaving no
dynasty behind him.[3] Between 650 and 500 we find despots springing
up in all the chief Greek cities. At Corinth the oligarchical family
of the Bacchiadæ are superseded by the tyrants Cypselus and Periander.
At Megara the despot Theagenes is deposed and exiled. At Sicyon the
Orthagoridæ terminate in the despot Cleisthenes, whose reign is marked
by an attempt to supersede the ancient Doric order of government by
caste. At Mitylene, Pittacus becomes a constitutional autocrat, or
dictator, for the public safety. At Samos, Polycrates holds a post of
almost Oriental despotism. At Athens we find the great family of the
Pisistratidæ, who supersede the dynastic tyranny in commission of the
house of Codrus. What is the meaning of these changes? How does the
despot differ from the heroic monarch, who held, as we have seen, his
power by divine right, but who also had to depend for his ascendency on
personal prowess? Gradually the old respect for the seed of Zeus died
out. Either the royal families abused their power or became extinct,
or, as in the case of Athens and Sparta, retained hereditary privileges
under limitations. During this decay of the Zeus-born dynasties the
cities of Greece were a prey to the quarrels of great families; and
it often happened that one of these obtained supreme power--in which
case a monarchy, based not on divine right, but on force and fear, was
founded; or else a few of the chief houses combined against the State
to establish an oligarchy. The oligarchies, owing their authority to
no true, legal, or religious fount of honor, were essentially selfish,
and were exposed to the encroachments of the more able among their
own families. The cleverest man in an oligarchy tended to draw the
power into his own hands; but in this he generally succeeded by first
flattering and then intimidating the people. Thus in one way or another
the old type of dynastic government was superseded by despotisms, more
or less arbitrary, tending to the tyranny of single individuals, or
to the coalition of noble houses, and bringing with them the vices of
greed, craft, and servile cruelty. The political ferment caused a vast
political excitement. Party strove against party; and when one set
gained the upper hand, the other had to fly. The cities of Hellas were
filled with exiles. Diplomacy and criticism occupied the minds of men.
Personal cleverness became the one essential point in politics. But
two permanent advantages were secured by this anarchy to the Greeks.
The one was a strong sense of the equality of citizens; the other, a
desire for established law, as opposed to the caprice of individuals
and to the clash of factions in the State. This, then, is the first
point which marks the transitional period. The old monarchies break up,
and give place to oligarchies first, and then to despotism. The tyrants
maintain themselves by violence and by flattering the mob. At last they
fall, or are displaced, and then the states agree to maintain their
freedom by the means of constitutions and fixed laws. The despots are
schoolmasters, who bring the people to _Nomos_ as their lord.

Three other general features distinguish this period of transition.
The first is colonization. In the political disturbances which attend
the struggle for power, hundreds of citizens were forced to change
their residence. So we find the mother cities sending settlers to
Italy, to Sicily, to Africa, to the Gulf of Lyons, to Thrace, and to
the islands. In these colonies the real life and vigor of Hellas show
themselves at this stage more than in the mother states. It is in
Sicily, on the coast of Magna Græcia, on the seaboard of Asia Minor,
in the islands of the Ægean, that the first poets and philosophers and
historians of Greece appear. Sparta and Athens, destined to become
the protagonists of the real drama of Hellas, are meanwhile silent and
apparently inert. Secondly, this is the age of the Nomothetæ. Thebes
receives a constitution from the Corinthian lovers and law-givers
Philolaus and Diocles. Lycurgus and Solon form the states of Sparta
and Athens. It is not a little wonderful to think of these three great
cities, successively the leaders of historic Hellas, submitting to the
intellect each of its own lawgiver, taking shape beneath his hands,
cheerfully accepting and diligently executing his directions. Lastly,
it is in this period that the two chief races of the Greeks--the
Ionians and the Dorians--emerge into distinctness. Not only are Athens
and Sparta fashioned to the form which they will afterwards maintain;
but also in the colonies two distinct streams of thought and feeling
begin to flow onward side by side, and to absorb, each into its own
current, those minor rivulets which it could best appropriate.

What happens to literature in this period of metamorphosis, expansion,
and anarchy? We have seen that Homer covers the whole of the first
period of literature; and in the Homeric poems we saw that the
interests of the present were subordinated to a splendid picture of the
ideal past, that the poet was merged in his work, that the individual
joys and sorrows of the artist remained unspoken, and that his words
were referred immediately to the Muse. All this is now to be altered.
But meanwhile, between the first and second period, a link is made by
Hesiod. In his _Works and Days_ he still preserves the traditions of
the epic. But we no longer listen to the deeds of gods and heroes; and
though the Muse is invoked, the poet appears before us as a living,
sentient, suffering man. We descend to earth. We are instructed in
the toils and duties of the beings who have to act and endure upon
the prosaic stage of the world, as it exists in the common light of
the present time. Even in Hesiod there has therefore been a change.
Homer strung his lyre in the halls of princes who loved to dwell on the
great deeds of their god-descended ancestors. Hesiod utters a weaker
and more subdued note to the tillers of the ground and the watchers of
the seasons. In Homer we see the radiant heroes expiring with a smile
upon their lips as on the Æginetan pediment. In Hesiod we hear the low,
sad outcry of humanity. The inner life, the daily loss and profit, the
duties and the cares of men are his concern. Homer, too, was never
analytical. He described the world without raising a single moral or
psychological question. Hesiod poses the eternal problems: What is
the origin and destiny of mankind? Why should we toil painfully upon
the upward path of virtue? How came the gods to be our tyrants? What
is justice? How did evil and pain and disease begin? After Hesiod the
epical impulse ceases. Poets, indeed, go on writing narrative poems
in hexameters. But the cycle, so called by the Alexandrian critics,
produced about this time, had not innate life enough to survive the
wear and tear of centuries. We have lost the whole series, except in
the tragedies which were composed from their materials. Literature had
passed beyond the stage of the heroic epic. The national ear demanded
other and more varied forms of verse than the hexameter. Among the
Ionians of Asia Minor was developed the pathetic melody of the elegiac
metre, which first apparently was used to express the emotions of love
and sorrow, and afterwards came to be the vehicle of moral sentiment
and all strong feeling. Callinus and Tyrtæus adapted the elegy to
songs of battle. Solon consigned his wisdom to its couplets, and used
it as a trumpet for awakening the zeal of Athens against her tyrants.
Mimnermus confined the metre to its more plaintive melodies, and made
it the mouthpiece of lamentations over the fleeting beauty of youth and
the evils of old age. In Theognis the elegy takes wider scope. He uses
it alike for satire and invective, for precept, for autobiographic
grumblings, for political discourses, and for philosophical
apophthegms. Side by side with the elegy arose the various forms of
lyric poetry. The names of Alcæus and Sappho, of Alcman, Anacreon,
Simonides, Bacchylides, Stesichorus, Arion, instantly suggest
themselves. But it must be borne in mind that lyric poetry in Greece at
a very early period broke up into two distinct species. The one kind
gave expression to strong personal emotion, and became a safety-valve
for perilous passions; the other was choric and complex in its form;
designed for public festivals and solemn ceremonials, it consisted
chiefly of odes sung in the honor of gods and great men. To the former,
or personal species, belong the lyrics of the Ionian and Æolian
families; to the latter, or more public species, belong the so-called
Dorian odes. Besides the elegy and all the forms of lyric stanza, the
iambic, if not invented in this period, was now adapted of set purpose
to personal satire.[4] Archilochus is said to have preferred this
metre, as being the closest in its form to common speech, and therefore
suited to his unideal practical invective. From the lyric dithyrambs of
Arion, sung at festivals of Dionysus, and from the iambic satires of
Archilochus, recited at the feasts of Demeter,[5] was to be developed
the metrical structure of the drama in the third period. As yet, it
is only among the Dorians of Sicily and of Megara that we hear of any
mimetic shows, and these of the simplest description.

In this period the first start in the direction of philosophy was made.
The morality which had been implicit in Homer, and had received a
partial development in Hesiod, was condensed in proverbial couplets
by Solon, Theognis, Phocylides, and Simonides. These couplets formed
the starting-points for discussion. Many of Plato's dialogues turn on
sayings of Theognis and Simonides. Many of the sublimer flights of
meditation in Sophocles are expansions of early gnomes. Even the ethics
of Aristotle are indebted to their wisdom. The ferment of thought
produced by the political struggles of this age tended to sharpen
the intellect and to turn reflection inward. Hence we find that the
men who rose to greatest eminence in state-craft as tyrants or as
law-givers are also to be reckoned among the primitive philosophers of
Greece. The aphorisms of the Seven Sages, two of whom were Nomothetæ,
and several of whom were despots, contain the kernel of much that
is peculiar in Greek thought. It is enough to mention these: #mêden
agan; metron ariston; gnôthi seauton; kairon gnôthi; anankêi d' oude
theoi machontai#--which are the germs of subsequent systems of ethics,
metaphysics, and theories of art.[6] Solon, as a patriot, a modeller of
the Athenian constitution, an elegiac poet, one of the Seven Sages, and
the representative of Greece at the court of Croesus, may be chosen as
the one most eminent man in a period when literature and thought and
politics were, to a remarkable extent, combined in single individuals.

Meanwhile philosophy began to flourish in more definite shape among
the colonists of Asia Minor, Italy, and Sicily. The criticism of
the Theogony of Hesiod led the Ionian thinkers--Thales, Anaximenes,
Anaximander, Heraclitus--to evolve separate answers to the question
of the origin of the universe. The problem of the physical #archê#,
or starting-point, of the world occupied their attention. Some more
scientific theory of existence than mythology afforded was imperatively
demanded. The same spirit of criticism, the same demand for accuracy,
gave birth to history. The Theogony of Hesiod and the Homeric version
of the Trojan war, together with the genealogies of the heroes, were
reduced to simple statements of fact, stripped of their artistic
trappings, and rationalized after a rude and simple fashion by the
annalists of Asia Minor. This zeal for greater rigor of thought was
instrumental in developing a new vehicle of language. The time had come
at length for separation from poetry, for the creation of a prose style
which should correspond in accuracy to the logical necessity of exact
thinking. Prose accordingly was elaborated with infinite difficulty
by these first speculators from the elements of common speech. It was
a great epoch in the history of European culture when men ceased to
produce their thoughts in the fixed cadences of verse, and consigned
them to the more elastic periods of prose. Heraclitus of Ephesus was
the first who achieved a notable success in this new and difficult art.
He for his pains received the title of #ho skoteinos#, the obscure--so
strange and novel did the language of science seem to minds accustomed
hitherto to nothing but metre. Yet even after his date philosophy
of the deepest species was still conveyed in verse. The Eleatic
metaphysicians Xenophanes and Parmenides--Xenophanes, who dared to
criticise the anthropomorphism of the Greek Pantheon, and Parmenides,
who gave utterance to the word of Greek ontology, #to on#, or being,
which may be significantly contrasted with the Hebrew I am--wrote
long poems in which they invoked the Muse, and dragged the hexameter
along the pathway of their argument upon the entities, like a pompous
sacrificial vestment. Empedocles of Agrigentum, to whom we owe the
rough-and-ready theory of the four elements, cadenced his great work on
Nature in the same sonorous verse, and interspersed his speculations on
the cycles of the universe with passages of brilliant eloquence.

Thus the second period is marked alike by changes in politics and
society, and by a revolution in the spirit of literature. The old
Homeric monarchies are broken up. Oligarchies and tyrannies take their
place. To the anarchy and unrest of transition succeeds the demand for
constitutional order. The colonies are founded, and contain the very
pith of Hellas at this epoch: of all the great names we have mentioned,
only Solon and Theognis belong to Central Greece. The Homeric epos has
become obsolete. In its stead we have the greatest possible variety
of literary forms. The elegiac poetry of morality and war and love;
the lyrical poetry of personal feeling and of public ceremonial; the
philosophical poetry of metaphysics and mysticism; the iambic, with its
satire; prose, in its adaptation to new science and a more accurate
historical investigation--are all built up upon the ruins of the epic.
What is most prominent in the spirit of this second period is the
emergence of private interests and individual activities. No dreams of
a golden past now occupy the minds of men. No gods or heroes fill the
canvas of the poet. Man, his daily life, his most crying necessities,
his deepest problems, his loves and sorrows, his friendships, his
social relations, his civic duties--these are the theme of poetry. Now
for the first time in Europe a man tells his own hopes and fears, and
expects the world to listen. Sappho simply sings her love; Archilochus,
his hatred; Theognis, his wrongs; Mimnermus, his _ennui_; Alcæus, his
misfortunes; Anacreon, his pleasure of the hour; and their songs find
an echo in all hearts. The individual and the present have triumphed
over the ideal and the past. Finally, it should be added that the
chief contributions to the culture of the fine arts in this period are
architecture, which is carried to perfection; music, which receives
elaborate form in the lyric of the Dorian order; and sculpture, which
appears as yet but rudimentary upon the pediments of the temples of
Ægina and Selinus.

Our third period embraces the supremacy of Athens from the end of the
Persian to the end of the Peloponnesian war. It was the struggle with
Xerxes which developed all the latent energies of the Greeks, which
intensified their national existence, and which secured for Athens, as
the central power on which the scattered forces of the race converged,
the intellectual dictatorship of Hellas. No contest equals for interest
and for importance this contest of the Greeks with the Persians. It was
a struggle of spiritual energy against brute force, of liberty against
oppression, of intellectual freedom against superstitious ignorance,
of civilization against barbarism. The whole fate of humanity hung
trembling in the scales at Marathon, at Salamis, at Platæa. On the one
side were ranged the hordes of Asia--tribe after tribe, legion upon
legion, myriad by myriad--under their generals and princes. On the
other side stood forth a band of athletes, of Greek citizens, each one
himself a prince and general. The countless masses of the herd-like
Persian host were opposed to a handful of resolute men in whom the
force of the spirit of the world was concentrated. The triumph of the
Greeks was the triumph of the spirit, of the intellect of man, of
light-dispersing darkness, of energy repelling a dead weight of matter.
Other nations have shown a temper as heroic as the Greeks. The Dutch,
for instance, in their resistance against Philip, or the Swiss in their
antagonism to Burgundy and Austria. But in no other single instance has
heroism been exerted on so large a scale, in such a fateful contest
for the benefit of mankind at large. Had the Dutch, for example, been
quelled by Spain, or the Swiss been crushed by the House of Hapsburg,
the world could have survived the loss of these athletic nations.
There were other mighty peoples who held the torch of liberty and of
the spirit, and who were ready to carry it onward in the race. But if
Persia had overwhelmed the Greeks upon the plains of Marathon or in the
straits of Salamis, that torch of spiritual liberty would have been
extinguished. There was no runner in the race to catch it up from the
dying hands of Hellas, and to bear it forward for the future age. No;
this contest of the Greeks with Persia was the one supreme battle of
history; and to the triumph of the Greeks we owe whatever is most great
and glorious in the subsequent achievements of the human race.

Athens rose to her full height in this duel. She bore the brunt of
Marathon alone. Her generals decided the sea-fight of Salamis. For
the Spartans it remained to defeat Mardonius at Platæa. Consequently
the olive-wreath of this more than Olympian victory crowned Athens.
Athens was recognized as Saviour and Queen of Hellas. And Athens, who
had fought the battle of the spirit--by spirit we mean the greatness
of the soul, liberty, intelligence, civilization, culture--everything
which raises men above brutes and slaves, and makes them free beneath
the arch of heaven--Athens, who had fought and won this battle of the
spirit, became immediately the recognized impersonation of the spirit
itself. Whatever was superb in human nature found its natural home and
sphere in Athens. We hear no more of the colonies. All great works of
art and literature now are produced in Athens. It is to Athens that
the sages come to teach and to be taught. Anaxagoras, Socrates, Plato,
the three masters of philosophy in this third period, are Athenians.
It is, however, noticeable and significant that Anaxagoras, who forms
a link between the philosophy of the second and third period, is a
native of Clazomenæ, though the thirty years of his active life are
spent at Athens. These thinkers introduce into speculation a new
element. Instead of inquiries into the factors of the physical world
or of ontological theorizing, they approach all problems which involve
the activities of the human soul--the presence in the universe of a
controlling spirit. Anaxagoras issues the famous apophthegm: #nous
pantôn kratei#, "intelligence disposes all things in the world."
Socrates founds his ethical investigation upon the Delphian precept:
#gnôthi seauton#; or, "the proper study of mankind is man." Plato,
who belongs chronologically to the fourth period, but who may here
be mentioned in connection with the great men of the third, as
synthesizing all the previous speculations of the Greeks, ascends to
the conception of an ideal existence which unites truth, beauty, and
goodness in one scheme of universal order.

At the same time Greek art rises to its height of full maturity.
Ictinus designs the Parthenon, and Mnesicles the Propylæa; Pheidias
completes the development of sculpture in his statue of Athene, his
pediment and friezes of the Parthenon, his chryselephantine image of
Zeus at Olympia, his marble Nemesis upon the plain of Marathon. These
were the ultimate, consummate achievements of the sculptor's skill; the
absolute standards of what the statuary in Greece could do. Nothing
remained to be added. Subsequent progression--for a progression there
was in the work of Praxiteles--was a deflection from the pure and
perfect type.

Poetry, in the same way, receives incomparable treatment at the hands
of the great dramatists. As the epic of Homer contained implicitly
all forms of poetry, so did the Athenian drama consciously unite them
in one supreme work of art. The energies aroused by the Persian war
had made action and the delineation of action of prime importance to
the Greeks. We no longer find the poets giving expression to merely
personal feeling, or uttering wise saws and moral precepts, as in the
second period. Human emotion is indeed their theme; but it is the
phases of passion in living, acting, and conflicting personalities
which the drama undertakes to depict. Ethical philosophy is more than
ever substantive in verse; but its lessons are set forth by example
and not by precept--they animate the conduct of whole trilogies. The
awakened activity of Hellas at this period produced the first great
drama of Europe, as the Reformation in England produced the second. The
Greek drama being essentially religious, the tragedians ascended to
mythology for their materials. Homer is dismembered, and his episodes
or allusions, together with the substance of the Cyclic poems, supply
the dramatist with plots. But notice the difference between Homer and
Æschylus, the epic and the drama. In the latter we find no merely
external delineation of mythical history. The legends are used as
outlines to be filled in with living and eternally important details.
The heroes are not interesting merely as heroes, but as the types and
patterns of human nature; as representatives on a gigantic scale of
that humanity which is common to all men in all ages, and as subject
to the destinies which control all human affairs. Mythology has
thus become the text-book of life, interpreted by the philosophical
consciousness. With the names of Æschylus, Sophocles, Euripides,
must be coupled that of Aristophanes. His comedy is a peculiarly
Athenian product--the strongest mixture of paradox and irony and broad
buffoonery and splendid poetry, designed to serve a serious aim, the
world has ever seen. Here the many-sided, flashing genius of the Ionian
race appears in all its subtlety, variety, suppleness, and strength.
The free spirit of Athens runs riot and proclaims its liberty by
license in the prodigious saturnalia of the wit of Aristophanes.

It remains to be added that to this period belong the histories of
Herodotus, the Halicarnassean by birth, who went to Thurii as colonist
from Athens, and of Thucydides, the Athenian general; the lyrics
of Pindar the Theban, who was made the public guest of Athens; the
eloquence of Pericles, and the wit of Aspasia. This brief enumeration
suffices to show that in the third period of Greek literature was
contained whatever is most splendid in the achievements of the genius
of the Greeks, and that all these triumphs converged and were centred
upon Athens.

The public events of this period are summed up in the struggle for
supremacy between Athens and Sparta. The race which had shown itself
capable of united action against the common foe now develops within
itself two antagonistic and mutually exclusive principles. The age
of the despots is past. The flowering-time of the colonies is over.
The stone of Tantalus in Persia has been removed from Hellas. But it
remains for Sparta and Athens to fight out the duel of Dorian against
Ionian prejudices, of oligarchy against democracy. Both states have
received their definite stamp, or permanent #êthos#--Sparta from
semi-mythical Lycurgus; Athens from Solon, Cleisthenes, and Pericles.
Their war is the warfare of the powers of the sea with the powers
of the land, of Conservatives with Liberals, of the rigid principle
of established order with the expansive spirit of intellectual
and artistic freedom. What is called the Peloponnesian war--that
internecine struggle of the Greeks--is the historical outcome of
this deep-seated antagonism. And the greatest historical narrative
in the world--that of Thucydides--is its record. To dwell upon the
events of this war would be superfluous. Athens uniformly exhibits
herself as a dazzling, brilliant, impatient power, led astray by the
desire of novelty, and the intoxicating sense of force in freedom.
Sparta proceeds slowly, coldly, cautiously; secures her steps; acts
on the defensive; spends no strength in vain; is timid, tentative,
and economical of energy; but at the decisive moment she steps in
and crushes her antagonist. Deluded by the wandering fire of the
inspiration of Alcibiades, the Athenians venture to abandon the
policy of Pericles and to contemplate the conquest of Syracuse. A
dream of gigantic empire, in harmony with their expansive spirit, but
inconsistent with the very conditions of vitality in a Greek state,
floated before their imaginations. In attempting to execute it, they
overreached themselves and fell a prey to Sparta. With the fall of
Athens faded the real beauty and grandeur of Greece. Athens had
incarnated that ideal of loveliness and sublimity. During her days of
prosperity she had expressed it in superb works of art and literature,
and in the splendid life of a free people governed solely by their own
intelligence. Sparta was strong to destroy this life, to extinguish
this light of culture. But to do more she had no strength. Stiffened
in her narrow rules of discipline, she was utterly unable to sustain
the spiritual vitality of Hellas, or to carry its still vigorous energy
into new spheres. It remained for aliens to accomplish this.

Just before passing to the fourth period of comparative decline, we
may halt a moment to contemplate the man who represents this age of
full maturity. Pericles, called half in derision by the comic poets
the Zeus of Athens, called afterwards, with reverence, by Plutarch,
the Olympian--Pericles expresses in himself the spirit of this age.
He is the typical Athenian who governed Athens during the years in
which Athens governed Greece, who formed the taste of the Athenians
at the time when they were educating the world by the production
of immortal works of beauty. We have seen that the conquest of the
Persians was the triumph of the spirit, and that after the conquest
the spirit of humanity found itself for the first time absolutely and
consciously free in Athens. This spirit was, so to speak, incarnated in
Pericles. The Greek genius was made flesh in him, and dwelt at Athens.
In obedience to its dictates, he extended the political liberties
of the Athenians to the utmost, while he controlled those liberties
with the laws of his own reason. In obedience to the same spirit, he
expended the treasures of the Ionian League upon the public works
which formed the subsequent glory of Hellas, and made her august even
in humiliation. "That," says Plutarch, "which now is Greece's only
evidence that the power she boasts of and her ancient wealth are no
romance or idle story was his construction of the public and sacred
buildings." It was, again, by the same inspiration that Pericles
divined the true ideal of the Athenian commonwealth. In the Funeral
Oration he says: "We love the beautiful, but without ostentation or
extravagance; we philosophize without being seduced into effeminacy;
we are bold and daring, but this energy in action does not prevent us
from giving to ourselves a strict account of what we undertake. Among
other nations, on the contrary, martial courage has its foundation in
deficiency of culture. We know best how to distinguish between the
agreeable and the irksome; notwithstanding which we do not shrink
from perils." In this panegyric of the national character, Pericles
has rightly expressed the real spirit of Athens as distinguished from
Sparta. The courage and activity of the Athenians were the result of
open-eyed wisdom, and not of mere gymnastic training. Athens knew that
the arts of life and the pleasures of the intellect were superior to
merely physical exercises, to drill, and to discipline.

While fixing our thoughts upon Pericles as the exponent of the
mature spirit of free Hellas, we owe some attention to his master,
the great Anaxagoras, who first made reason play the chief part in
the scheme of the universe. Of the relations of Anaxagoras to his
pupil Pericles, this is what Plutarch tells us: "He that saw most
of Pericles, and furnished him most especially with a weight and
grandeur of sense superior to all arts of popularity, and in general
gave him his elevation and sublimity of purpose and of character, was
Anaxagoras of Clazomenæ, whom the men of those times called by the
name of Nous--that is, mind or intelligence; whether in admiration
of the great and extraordinary gift he displayed for the science of
nature, or because he was the first of the philosophers who did not
refer the first ordering of the world to fortune or chance, nor to
necessity or compulsion, but to a pure, unadulterated intelligence,
which in all other existing mixed and compound things acts as a
principle of discrimination, and of combination of like with like."
Thus we may say, without mysticism, that at the very moment in history
when the intelligence of mankind attained to freedom, there arose
a philosopher in Anaxagoras to proclaim the freedom and absolute
supremacy of intelligence in the universe; and a ruler in Pericles to
carry into action the laws of that intelligence, and to govern the most
uncontrollably free of nations by reason. When Pericles died, Athens
lost her Zeus, her head, her real king. She was left a prey to parties,
to demagogues, to the cold encroaching policy of Sparta. But Pericles
had lived long enough to secure the immortality of what was greatest in
his city--to make of Athens in her beauty "a joy forever."

"If the army of Nicias had not been defeated under the walls of
Syracuse; if the Athenians had, acquiring Sicily, held the balance
between Rome and Carthage, sent garrisons to the Greek colonies in
the south of Italy, Rome might have been all that its intellectual
condition entitled it to be, a tributary, not the conqueror, of Greece;
the Macedonian power would never have attained to the dictatorship of
the civilized states of the world." Such is the exclamation of Shelley
over the fall of Athens. But, according to the Greek proverb, to
desire impossibilities--in the past as in the present--is a sickness
of the soul. No Greek state could have maintained its #êthos# while it
ruled a foreign empire; nor is the right to govern measured by merely
intellectual capacity. The work of Greece was essentially spiritual
and not political. The chief sign of weakness which meets us in the
fourth period is in the region of politics. After the humiliation of
Athens, Sparta assumed the leadership of Greece. But she shamefully
misused her power by betraying the Greek cities of Asia to the
Persians, while her generals and harmosts made use of their authority
for the indulgence of their private vices. Nothing in the previous
training of the Spartan race fitted them for the control of nations
with whose more liberal institutions and refined manners they could
not sympathize. Their tyranny proved insupportable, and was at last
reduced to the dust by the Thebans under Pelopidas and Epaminondas.
But Thebes had neither the wealth nor the vigor to administer the
government of Hellas. Therefore the Greek states fell into a chaos
of discord, without leadership, without a generous spirit of mutual
confidence and aid; while at the same time the power of the Macedonian
kingdom was rapidly increasing under the control of Philip. An occasion
offered itself to Philip for interfering in the Greek affairs. From
that moment forward forever the cities of Greece became the fiefs of
foreign despots. The occasion in question was a great one. The Phocians
had plundered the Delphian temple, and none of the Greeks were strong
enough to punish them. The act of the Phocians was parricidal in its
sacrilege, suicidal in short-sightedness. Defiling the altar of the
ancestral god, on whose oracles the states had hitherto depended for
counsel, and destroying, with the sanctity of Delphi, the sacred symbol
of Greek national existence, they abandoned themselves to desecration
and dishonor. With as little impunity could a king of Judah have robbed
the temple and invaded the holiest of holies. But neither Spartans nor
Athenians nor yet Thebans arose to avenge the affront offered to their
common nationality. The whole of Greece proper lay paralyzed, and the
foreigner stepped in--Philip, whom in their pride they had hitherto
called the Barbarian. He took up the cause of Phoebus and punished
the children of the Delphian god for their impiety. It was clearly
proved to the states of Hellas that their independence was at an end.
They submitted. Greece became the passive spectator of the deeds of
Macedonia. Hellas, who had been the hero, was now the chorus. It was
Alexander of Macedon who played the part of Achilles in her future

One man vindicated the spirit of Greek freedom against this despotism.
The genius of Athens, militant once more, but destined not to triumph,
incarnates itself in Demosthenes. By dint of eloquence and weight of
character he strives to stem the tide of dissolution. But it is in
vain. His orations remain as the monuments of a valiant but ineffectual
resistance. The old intelligence of Athens shines, nay, fulminates, in
these tremendous periods; but it is no longer intelligence combined
with power. The sceptre of empire has passed from the hands of the

Still, though the states of Greece are humiliated, though we hear no
more of Ionians and Dorians, but only of Macedonians, yet the real
force of the Greek race is by no means exhausted in this fourth period.
On the contrary, their practical work in the world is just beginning.
Under the guidance of Alexander, the Greek spirit conquers and attempts
to civilize the East. The parallel between Alexander and Achilles,
as before hinted, is more than accidental. Trained in the study of
Homer as we are in the study of the Bible, he compared his destinies
with those of the great hero, and formed himself upon the type of
Pelides. At Troy he pays peculiar reverence to the tomb of Patroclus.
He celebrates Hephæstion's death with Homeric games and pyres up-piled
to heaven. He carries Homer with him on war-marches, and consults the
_Iliad_ on occasions of doubt. Alexander's purpose was to fight out
to the end the fight begun by Achilles between West and East, and
to avenge Greece for the injuries of Asia. But it was not a merely
military conquest which he executed. Battles were the means to higher
ends. Alexander sought to subject the world to the Greek spirit, to
stamp the customs, the thoughts, the language, and the culture of the
Greeks upon surrounding nations. Poets and philosophers accompanied
his armies. In the deserts of Bactria and Syria and Libya he founded
Greek cities. During the few years of his short life he not only swept
those continents, but he effaced the past and inaugurated a new state
of things throughout them; so that, in subsequent years, when the
Romans, themselves refined by contact with the Greeks, advanced to
take possession of those territories, they found their work half done.
The alchemizing touch of the Greek genius had transformed languages,
cities, constitutions, customs, nay, religions also, to its own
likeness. This fourth period, a period of transition from maturity to
decay, is the period of Alexander. In it the Greek spirit, which had
been gathering strength through so many generations, poured itself
abroad over the world. What it lost in intensity and splendor, it
gained in extension. It was impossible, even for Greeks, while thus
impressing their civilization on the whole earth, to go on increasing
in the beauty of their life and art at home.

Some of the greatest names in art, philosophy, and literature
still belong to this fourth period. The chief of all is Aristotle,
_il maestro di color che sanno_, the absorber of all previous and
contemporary knowledge into one coherent system, the legislator for
the human intellect through eighteen centuries after his death. It is
worth observing that Aristotle, unlike Socrates and Plato, is not a
citizen of Athens, but of the small Thracian town Stageira. Thus, at
the moment when philosophy lost its essentially Hellenic character and
became cosmopolitan in Aristotle, the mantle devolved upon an alien.
Again Aristotle was the tutor of Alexander. The two greatest men of
the fourth period are thus brought into the closest relations. In pure
literature the most eminent productions of this period are the orations
of Æschines, Demosthenes, Isocrates, and the comedies of Menander. It
is not a little significant that we should have retained no authentic
fragment of the speeches of Pericles--except in so far as we may trust
Thucydides--while the studied rhetoric of these politically far less
important orators should have been so copiously preserved. The reign of
mere talk was imminent. Oratory was coming to be studied as an art,
and practised, not as a potent instrument in politics, but as an end in
itself. Men were beginning to think more of how they spoke than of what
they might achieve by speaking. Besides, the whole Athenian nation,
as dikasts and as ecclesiasts, were interested in rhetoric. The first
masters of eloquence considered as a fine art were therefore idolized.
Demosthenes, Æschines, Isocrates, combined the fire of vehement
partisans and impassioned politicians with the consummate skill of
professional speech-makers. After their days rhetoric in Greece became
a matter of frigid display--an #agônisma es to parachrêma#. In the
comedies of Menander, as far as we may judge of them from fragments
and critiques, and from their Latin copies, a very noticeable change
in the spirit of literature is apparent. The so-called New Comedy, of
which he was the representative, is the product of a meditative and
inactive age. The great concerns of the world, and of human life seen
in its profoundest depth, which formed the staple of Aristophanes, have
been abandoned. We are brought close to domesticities: the events of
common life occupy the stage of Menander. The audience of Aristophanes
listened with avidity to comedies of which politics upon the grandest
scale were the substance. Menander invited his Athenians to the
intrigues of young men, slaves, and hetairai, at warfare with niggardly
parents. Athens has ceased to be an empress. She has become a garrulous
housewife. She contents herself with studious analysis and refined
amusements--still splendid with intelligence and dignified with wisdom,
but not weighty with the consciousness of power, nor throbbing with the
pulses of superabundant youthfulness and vigor.

In the fine arts this fourth period was still inventive. Under
Alexander painting, which had received its Hellenic character from
Polygnotus and Zeuxis, continued to flourish with Apelles. Indeed, it
may be fairly said that while art in the heroic period was confined
to the perfecting of the human body, in the second period it produced
architecture, in the third sculpture, and in the fourth painting--this
being apparently the natural order of progression in the evolution
of the fine arts. Lysippus, meanwhile, worthily represents the craft
of the statuary in Alexander's age; while the coins and gems of this
time show that the glyptic and numismatic arts were at their zenith
of technical perfection. Of Greek music, in the absence of all sure
information, it is difficult to speak. Yet it is probable that the age
of Alexander witnessed a new and more complex development of orchestral
music. We hear of vast symphonies performed at the Macedonian court.
Nor is this inconsistent with what we know about the history of art;
for music attains independence, ceases to be the handmaid of poetry or
dancing, only in an age of intellectual reflectiveness. When nations
have expressed themselves in the more obvious and external arts, they
seek through harmonies and melodies to give form to their emotions.

The fifth, last, and longest period is one of decline and decay. But
these words must be used with qualification when we speak of a people
like the Greeks. What is meant is, that the Greeks never recovered
their national vigor or produced men so great as those whom we have
hitherto been mentioning. The Macedonian empire prepared the way for
the Roman: Hellenic civilization put on the garb of servitude to Rome
and to Christianity. Henceforth we must not look to Greece proper for
the more eminent achievements of the still surviving spirit of the
Greeks. Greek culture in its decadence has become the heritage of
the whole world. Syrians, Egyptians, Phrygians, Romans, carry on the
tradition inherited from Athens. Hellas is less a nation now than an
intellectual commonwealth, a society of culture holding various races
in communion. The spiritual republic established thus by the Greek
genius prepares the way for Christian brotherhood: the liberty of the
children of the Muses leads onward to the freedom of the sons of God.

In this period, the chief centres are first Alexandria and Athens, then
Rome and Byzantium. The real successors of Alexander were his generals.
But the only dynasty founded by them which rises into eminence by its
protection of the arts and literature was the Ptolemaic. At Alexandria,
under the Ptolemies, libraries were formed and sciences were studied.
Euclid the geometer, Aratus the astronomer, Ptolemy the cosmographer,
add lustre to the golden age of Alexandrian culture. Callimachus
at the same time leads a tribe of learned poets and erudite men of
letters. Dramas meant to be read, like Lycophron's _Cassandra_; epics
composed in the study, like the _Argonautica_ of Apollonius Rhodius,
form the diversion of the educated world. Meanwhile the whole genus of
parasitic _littérateurs_ begin to flourish: grammarians, who settle
and elucidate texts with infinite labor and some skill; sophists
and rhetoricians, whose purpose in life it is to adorn imaginary
subjects and to defend problematical theses with conceits of the
fancy and ingenious subtleties of reasoning. A young man writing to
his mistress, a dinner-seeker who has failed to get an invitation,
Themistocles at the Persian court, celebrated statues, philosophical
puzzles--everything that can be wordily elaborated is grist for their
mill. The art of writing without having anything particular to say,
the sister art of quarrying the thoughts of other people and setting
them in elaborate prolixities of style, are brought to perfection. At
the same time, side by side with these literary moths and woodlice,
are the more industrious ants--the collectors of anecdotes, compilers
of biographies, recorders of quotations, composers of all sorts of
commonplace books, students of the paste-brush and scissors sort, to
whom we owe much for the preservation of scraps of otherwise lost
treasures. Into such mechanical and frigid channels has the life
of literature passed. Literature is no longer an integral part of
the national existence, but a form of polite amusement. The genius
of Hellas has nothing better to do than to potter about like a
_dilettante_ among her treasures.

The only true poets of this period are the Sicilian idyllists. Over
the waning day of Greek poetry Theocritus, Bion, and Moschus cast the
sunset hues of their excessive beauty. Genuine and exquisite is their
inspiration; pure, sincere, and true is their execution. Yet we agree
with Shelley, who compares their perfume to "the odor of the tuberose,
which overcomes and sickens the spirit with excess of sweetness." In
the same way the erotic epigrammatists, though many of them genuine
poets, especially the exquisite Meleager of Gadara, in the very
perfection of their peculiar quality of genius offer an unmistakable
sign of decay. It is the fashion among a certain class of modern
critics to extol the art of decadence, to praise the hectic hues of
consumption, and even the dull livors of corruption, above the roses
and the lilies of health. Let them peruse the epigrams of Meleager and
of Straton. Of beauty in decay sufficient splendors may be found there.

While Alexandria was thus carrying the poetic tradition of Hellas to
its extremity in the idyl and the epigram--carving cherrystones after
the sculptor's mallet had been laid aside--and was continuing the
criticism which had been set on foot by Aristotle, Athens persisted in
her function of educating Europe. She remained a sort of university, in
which the doctrines of Plato and Aristotle were adequately developed,
though not in the most comprehensive spirit, by a crowd of peripatetic
and academic sages, and where the founders of the Epicurean and Stoic
schools gave a new direction to thought. It was during the first vigor
of the Epicurean and Stoic teaching that the spirit of Hellas came
into contact with the spirit of Rome. Hence Lucretius, Cicero, the
satirists--whatever, in fact, Rome may boast of philosophy, retains the
tincture of the ethics of her schoolmasters. Rome, as Virgil proudly
said, was called to govern--not to write poems or carve statues, but
to quell the proud and spare the abject. Still she caught, to some
extent, the æsthetic manners of her captive. Consequently, long after
the complete political ascendency of Rome was an established fact,
and geographical Greece had become an insignificant province, the
Hellenic spirit led the world. And some of its latest products are
still dazzling in beauty, marvellous in ingenuity, Titanic in force. A
few names selected from the list of Græco-Roman authors will be more
impressive than much description. Plutarch of Chæronea, in the first
century, the author of the great biographies; Lucian, the Syrian, in
the second century, the master of irony and graceful dialogue and
delicate description; Epictetus, the Phrygian slave, in the second
century, who taught the latest form of Stoicism to the Romans, and
had for his successor Marcus Aurelius; Philostratus of Lemnos, the
rhetorician and author of the life of Apollonius; Plotinus, Porphyrius,
and Proclus, the revivers of Platonic philosophy under a new form
of mysticism at Alexandria during the third and fourth centuries;
Longinus, the critic, who adorned Palmyra in the third century;[7]
Heliodorus of Emesa, Achilles Tatius, Longus, Musæus, the erotic
novelists and poets of the fourth and fifth centuries--these, not to
mention the Christian fathers, are a few of the great men whom Greece
produced in this last period. But now notice how miscellaneous in
nationality and in pursuit they are. One only is a Greek of the old
stock--Plutarch, the Boeotian. One is a slave from Phrygia. Another is
a Roman emperor.

A fourth is a native of the desert city of Tadmor. Two are Syrians.
One is a Greek of the Ægean. Another is an Egyptian. From this we may
see how the genius of the Greeks had been spread abroad to embrace all
lands. No fact better illustrates the complete leavening of the world
by their spirit.

But considering that this fifth period may be said to cover six
centuries, from the death of Alexander to about 300 after Christ--for
why should we continue our computation into the dreary regions of
Byzantine dulness?--it must be confessed that it is sterile in
productiveness and inferior in the quality of its crop to any of the
previous periods. Subtle and beautiful is the genius of Hellas still,
because it _is_ Greek; strong and stern it is in part, because it has
been grafted on the Roman character; its fascinations and compulsions
are powerful enough to bend the metaphysics of the Christian faith.
Yet, after all, it is but a shadow of its own self.

After the end of the fourth century the iconoclastic zeal and piety
of the Christians put an end practically to Greek art and literature.
Christianity was at that time the superior force in the world; and
though Clement of Alexandria contended for an amicable treaty of peace
between Greek culture and the new creed, though the two Gregories and
Basil were, to use the words of Gibbon, "distinguished above all their
contemporaries by the rare union of profane eloquence and orthodox
piety," though the bishops of the Church were selected from the ranks
of scholars trained by Libanius and other Greek sophists, yet the
spirit of Christianity proved fatal to the spirit of Greek art. Early
in the fifth century the Christian rabble at Alexandria, under the
inspiration of their ferocious despot Cyril, tore in pieces Hypatia,
the last incarnation of the dying beauty of the Greeks. She had turned
her eye backward to Homer and to Plato, dreaming that haply even yet
the gods of Hellas might assert their power and resume the government
of the world, and that the wisdom of Athens might supplant the folly
of Jerusalem. But it was a vain and idle dream. The genius of Greece
was effete. Christianity was pregnant with the mediæval and the modern
world. In violence and bloodshed the Gospel triumphed. This rending
in pieces of the past, this breaking-down of temples and withering
of illusions, was no doubt necessary. New wine cannot be poured into
old bottles. No cycle succeeds another cycle in human affairs without
convulsions and revolutions that rouse the passions of humanity. It is
thus that

                God fulfils himself in many ways,
    Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.

Yet even in this last dire struggle of the spirit of pagan art with the
spirit of Christian faith, when beauty had become an abomination in the
eyes of the Holiest, on the ruins, as it were, of the desecrated fanes
of Hellas, weeds lovely in their rankness flourished. While Cyril's
mobs were dismembering Hypatia, the erotic novelists went on writing
about Daphnis, and Musæus sang the lamentable death of Leander. Nonnus
was perfecting a new and more polished form of the hexameter. These
were the last notes of Greek poetry. In these faint and too melodious
strains the Muse took final farewell of her beloved Hellas. And when,
after the lapse of a thousand years, the world awoke upon the ruins of
the past, these were among the first melodies which caught its ear.
One of the three first Greek books issued from the Aldine press about
the year 1493, and called by Aldus the "precursors," was the poem of
Hero and Leander. It was reprinted at Paris in 1507 by De Gourmont,
at Alcala in Spain in 1514, and at Cologne in 1517 by Hirschhorn. Our
Marlowe in the sixteenth century translated Musæus. The French Amyot
translated Longus, and bequeathed to his nation a voluminous literature
of pastorals founded upon the tale of Chloe. Tasso and Guarini, in
Italy, caught the same strain; so that the accents of the modern
Renaissance were an echo of the last utterances of dying Greece. The
golden age of pastoral innocence, the _bell' età dell' oro_, of which
the Alexandrians had been dreaming in the midst of their effete and
decaying civilization, fascinated the imagination of our immediate
ancestors, when, three centuries ago, they found the sun of art and
beauty shining in the heavens, new worlds to conquer, and indefinite
expansions of the spirit to be realized.


[1] My special debt to Hegel's _Philosophy of History_ in this
paragraph ought to be acknowledged.

[2] I do not mean by this that _one_ poet must have composed both
epics, but that each bears upon it the mark of unity in conception and
execution. Whether the same poet produced both is a different question,
and I am inclined to accept the _Odyssey_ as a later work.

[3] The date of Pheidon is in truth unfixed. According to recent
calculations, he may have celebrated the 28th and not the 8th Olympiad.
The involved alteration in his date would bring him into closer
connection with the other despots.

[4] The _Margites Eiresione_, attributed by the Greeks to Homer,
contain possibly the earliest fragments of iambic verses.

[5] Satire, it is well known, was permitted at some of the festivals of
Demeter; and the legend of the maid Iambé, who alone could draw a smile
from Demeter, after she had lost Persephone, seems to symbolize the
connection of iambic recitations with the cultus of this goddess.

[6] Nothing overmuch; measure is best; know thyself; know the right
moment; against necessity not even gods fight.

[7] Recent criticism renders the age and country of the critic Longinus



    The Notion of a Systematic Pantheon.--Homer and
        Hesiod.--Mythology before Homer.--Supposed Conditions
        of the Mythopoeic Age.--Vico.--The Childhood
        of the World.--Goethe's Boyhood.--Mythology is
        a Body of Rudimentary Thought, Penetrated with
        the Spirit of the Nation.--Different Views of
        the Greek Myths.--Grote.--Relics of a Primitive
        Revelation.--The Symbolic Hypothesis.--Rationalism and
        Euhemerus.--Fetichism.--Poetic Theory.--The Linguistic
        Theory.--Comparative Philology.--Solar Theory.--The
        Myth of Herakles: its Solar Interpretation--its Ethical
        Significance.--Summary of the Points Suggested with
        Regard to Mythology.--Mediæval Myths.--The Action of
        the Greek Intelligence upon Mythology: in Art--in
        Philosophy.--Persistence of the National Polytheism.--Homer
        Allegorized at Alexandria.--Triumph of Christianity.--The
        Greek Pantheon in the Middle Ages.--Greek Mythology
        Recovers Poetic and Artistic Value in the Renaissance.

It has been remarked with justice that, when we use the word mythology,
we are too apt to think of a Pantheon, of a well-defined hierarchy of
gods and demigods and heroes, all fabulous indeed, but all arranged
in one coherent system. This conception of Greek mythology arises
partly from the fact that we learn to know it in dictionaries, compiled
from the works of authors who lived long after the age in which myths
were produced, and partly from the fact that the conditions under
which myth-making was a possibility are so far removed from us as to
be almost unintelligible. Yet there is some truth in what, upon the
whole, is an erroneous view. Although the Greek myths, in their origin,
were not a well-digested system, still they formed a complete body
of national thought, on which the intelligence of the Greek race, in
its art and its religion, was continually working, until it took the
final form in which we have it in our dictionaries. What remained in
the Pantheon of Apollodorus and Hyginus, remained there by no freak of
accident. What was omitted by Homer and by Hesiod was omitted by no
operation of blind chance. The spirit of the Greeks was concerned in
the purification and the preservation of their myths, and the unity of
that spirit constitutes the unity of their mythology.

Two great poets gave to Greek mythology the form which it maintained in
the historic period. Herodotus says that "Homer and Hesiod named the
gods, and settled their genealogies for the Hellenes." What this means
is, that at a certain prehistoric epoch, the epoch of epic poetry,
mythology had passed from the primitive and fluid state, and had
become the subject-matter of the arts. Between the mythopoeic liberty
of creation and the collections of the grammarians was interposed the
poetry, the sculpture, and the religious ritual of the historic Greeks.
What we have to deal with at the present moment is, not mythology as
it appears in art, but the genesis of the myths conceived as a body of
Greek thought and fancy in their infantine or rudimentary stages.

What was mythology before Homer? How did it come into existence? How
were the Greeks brought to believe that there was a supreme father of
gods and men called Zeus, a wise patroness of arts and sciences called
Pallas, a pure and glorious and far-darting deity called Phoebus? There
is no one who does not acknowledge something sublime and beautiful
in this part of the Greek mythology. Even those who do not care to
comprehend the growth of these conceptions admit that the genius of the
race shone with splendor peculiar to itself in their creation.

To this question must be counterpoised another. What are we to think
about the many repulsive, grotesque, and hideous elements of Greek
mythology--the incest and adultery of Zeus, the cannibalism of Kronos,
the profligacy of Aphrodite, the cruelty of Phoebus? When thought
began to be conscious of itself in Greece these abominations moved the
anger of the philosophers. Xenophanes, Heraclitus, Pythagoras, Pindar,
and Plato, in succession, recognized that the mythical fables were
incompatible with the notion of deity, and rejected them forthwith.
Modern students have been so disgusted by the same indecencies that
some of them have abandoned Greek mythology as hopeless, while others
have taken refuge in the extraordinary paradox that myths are a disease
of language. These methods of dealing with the problem are alike
unphilosophical. It is impossible for the historian to reject what
formed the groundwork of religious and artistic thought in Greece. It
is childish to represent the human mind as a sort of bound Mazeppa,
stretched helpless on the wild horse, Language, which carries it away
into the wilderness.

In order to understand the two questions which have been propounded,
we must make a demand upon our imagination, and endeavor to return,
in thought at least, to the conditions of a people in the mythopoeic
age--the age, that is to say, in which not only were myths naturally
made, but all the thinking of a nation took the form of myths. We must
go back to a time when there were no written records, when there were
no systems of thought, when language had not been subjected to analysis
of any kind, when abstract notions were unknown, when science had
not begun to exist, when history was impossible, and when the whole
world was a land of miracles. There was no check then laid upon fancy,
because nothing as yet was conceived as thought, but everything existed
as sensation. In this infancy the nation told itself stories, and
believed in them. The same faculties of the mind which afterwards gave
birth to poetry and theology, philosophy and state-craft, science and
history, were now so ill-defined and merely germinal that they produced
but fables. Yet these faculties were vigorous and vivid. The fables
they produced were infinite in number and variety, beautiful, and so
pregnant with thought under the guise of fancy that long centuries
scarcely sufficed for disengaging all that they contained. In dealing
with Greek mythology it must be remembered that the nation with whose
mythopoeic imagination we are concerned was the Greek nation.[8] It had
already in itself all Hellas, as the seed enfolds the plant.

A famous passage in Vico's work _Della Metafisica Poetica_ may here
be paraphrased, in order to make the conditions under which we must
imagine myths to have arisen more intelligible:[9] "Poetry, which was
the first form of wisdom, began with a system of thought, not reasoned
or abstract, as ours is now, but felt and imagined, as was natural in
the case of those primitive human beings who had developed no reasoning
faculties, but were all made up of senses in the highest physical
perfection, and of the most vigorous imaginations. In their total
ignorance of causes they wondered at everything; and their poetry was
all divine, because they ascribed to gods the objects of their wonder,
and thought that beings like themselves, but greater, could alone
have caused them. Thus they were like children whom we notice taking
into their hands inanimate things, and playing and talking with them
as though they were living persons. When thunder terrified them, they
attributed their own nature to the phenomenon; and being apt to express
their most violent passions by howls and roarings, they conceived
heaven as a vast body, which gave notice of its anger by lightnings
and thunderings. The whole of nature, in like manner, they imagined to
be a vast animated body, capable of feeling and passion." Vico then
proceeds to point out how difficult it is for us, who, through long
centuries, have removed ourselves as far as possible from the life of
the instincts, senses, and imagination, whose language has become full
of abstract terms, whose conception of the universe has been formed
by science, whose thought is critical and reflective, and who have
been educated in a rational theology, to comprehend the attitude of
primitive humanity in its personifying stage of thought.

In this childhood of the world, when the Greek myths came into
existence, the sun was called a shepherd, and the clouds were his
sheep; or an archer, and the sunbeams were his arrows. It was easier
then to think of the sea as a husky-voiced and turbulent old man, whose
true form none might clearly know, because he changed so often and was
so secret in his ways, who shook the earth in his anger, and had the
white-maned billows of the deep for horses, than to form a theory of
the tides. The spring of the year became a beautiful youth, beloved
by the whole earth, or beloved, like Hyacinthus, by the sun, or,
like Adonis, by the queen of beauty, over whom the fate of death was
suspended, and for whose loss annual mourning was made. Such tales the
Greeks told themselves in their youth; and it would be wrong to suppose
that deliberate fiction played any part in their creation. To conceive
of the world thus was natural to the whole race; and the tales that
sprang up formed the substance of their intellectual activity. Here,
then, if anywhere, we watch the process of a people in its entirety
contributing to form a body of imaginative thought, projecting itself
in a common and unconscious work of art. Nor will it avail to demur
that behind the Greeks there stretched a dim and distant past, that
many of their myths had already taken shape, to some extent, before the
separation of the Aryan families. That is now an ascertained fact, the
bearings of which will have to be discussed farther on in this chapter.
For the moment it is enough to reply that not the similarities, but the
differences, brought to light by the study of comparative mythology are
important for the historian of each several race. The raw material of
silk may interest the merchant or the man of science; the artist cares
for the manufactured fabric, with its curious patterns and refulgent

In order further to illustrate the conditions of the mythopoeic age, a
passage from the _Dichtung und Wahrheit_ of Goethe might be quoted. If
it is not a mere fancy to suppose that the individual lives, to some
extent at least, in his own self the life of humanity, and therefore
to conclude that the childhood of the world can be mirrored in the
childhood of a man, a poet like Goethe is precisely fitted, by the
record of his own boyhood, to throw light upon the early operations of
the human mind. For, in one sense of the term, the mythopoeic faculty
never dies with poets. In their own persons they prolong the youth and
adolescence of the race, retaining the faculty, now lost to nearly
all, of looking on the universe as living. Goethe, then, relates that
when he was at school at Frankfort, he used to invent stories about
himself and the places he frequented, half consciously, and half by
a spontaneous working of his fancy. These stories he told to his
school-fellows so vividly that they accepted them as fact. "It greatly
rejoiced them," he says, "to know that such wonderful things could
befall one of their own playmates; nor was it any harm that they did
not understand how I could find time and space for such adventures, as
they must have been pretty well aware of all my comings and goings, and
how I was occupied the whole day." He goes on to recount one of these
marvellous narratives. The scene of it was laid in Frankfort, in a
street familiar to his school-fellows. Down this street, which had a
long blank wall surmounted by trees, he supposed himself to have been
walking one day, and to have found a door in the wall, not noticed by
him on any previous occasion. His curiosity being aroused, he knocked
at the door, and, after some delay, was admitted. Inside he found
a garden full of wonders--fountains and fair nymphs, exotic shrubs
and quaint old men, magicians, knights, sylphs, and all the proper
furniture of a romance. Goethe's comrades, the first time that they
heard him describe this enchanted pleasure-ground in glowing terms,
already more than half believed in its existence; "and," says the poet,
"each of them visited alone the place, without confiding it to me or
to the others, and discovered the nut-trees," but none found the door.
Still, they did not disbelieve what Goethe told them, but preferred
to imagine that the magic door had once, at least, been seen by him,
and opened for him only, though it remained invisible and closed
for them. And herein they were literally right, for Goethe trod an
enchanted ground of poetry which few can hope to win. The story proved
so fascinating that he had to tell it over and over again, always
repeating the same order of events, until, he says, "by the uniformity
of the narrative I converted the fable into truth in the minds of my

This, then, may be used as an illustration of the mythopoeic faculty.
All that was needed for the growth of myths was creative mind on the
one side and receptive and believing mind on the other. It did not,
probably, require a Goethe to make a myth, though we may still believe
that the greatest and best myths owed their form to the intervention
at some period of unknown and unacknowledged Goethes. When the logical
faculty was in abeyance, when the critical faculty had not been
aroused, when sympathy was quick, language fertile, fancy exuberant,
and belief sincere, there was nothing to check mythopoetry. The
nation had to make the step from boyhood to adolescence before the
impulse ceased. Nor was there any education from without in a fixed
body of systematized knowledge to coerce its freedom. Forming the
first activity of the intellect, it held in solution, as it were, the
rudiments of religion and morality, of psychological reflection, of
politics, geography, and history. Had there been any one to ask the
myth-maker: Who told you this strange tale? what is your authority
for imposing it upon us? he would have answered: The goddess told me,
the divine daughter of memory, as I walked alone. And this he would
sincerely and conscientiously have believed; and those who heard him
would have given credence to his words; and thus his intuitions became
their intuitions. Creative faculty and credence, insight and sympathy,
two forms of the same as yet scarcely divided operation of the mind,
gave permanence to myths. What the fathers received they transmitted
to their sons. Successive generations dealt freely with them, moulding
and remodelling, within the limits set upon the genius of the race.
Hundreds may have been produced simultaneously, and among them must
have raged a fierce struggle for existence, so that multitudes perished
or were hopelessly defaced, just as in the animal and vegetable
kingdoms whole species disappear or survive only in fragments and

It cannot be too often repeated that the power which presided over the
transmission of the myths was the spirit of the people. An inherent
selective instinct in the nation determined which of them should
ultimately survive; and thus a body of legend, truly national, was
formed, in which the nation saw itself reflected. When, therefore, we
say that Greek mythology is Hellenic and original, we are admitting
this unconscious, silent, steady, irresistible faculty of the mind to
fashion gods in its own image, to come to a knowledge of itself in its
divinities, to create a glorified likeness of all that it admires in
its own nature, to deify its truest and its best, and to invest its
thought in an imperishable form of art. Nor will it here again avail to
demur that Zeus was originally the open sky, Pallas the dawn, Phoebus
and Artemis the sun and moon. The student of the Greeks accepts this
information placidly and gratefully from the philologer; but he passes
immediately beyond it. For him Zeus, Pallas, Phoebus, Artemis are no
longer the sky and dawn, the sun and moon. Whatever their origin may
have been, the very mythopoeic process placed them in quite a different
and more important relation to Greek thought when it handed them over
to Hesiod and Homer, to Pindar and Æschylus, to Pheidias and Polygnotus.

To discuss the bearings of the linguistic and solar theories of
mythology may be reserved for another part of this essay. It is
enough, at this point, to bear in mind that there was nothing in
the consciousness of the prehistoric Greeks which did not take the
form of myth. Consequently their mythology, instead of being a
compact system of polytheism, is really a whole mass of thought,
belonging to a particular period of human history, when it was
impossible to think except by pictures, or to record impressions of
the world except in stories. That all these tales are religious or
semi-religious--concerned, that is to say, with deities--must be
explained by the tendency of mankind at an early period of culture to
conceive the powers of nature as persons, and to dignify them with
superhuman attributes. To the apprehension of infantine humanity
everything is a god. Viewed even as a Pantheon, reduced to rule and
order by subsequent reflection, Greek mythology is, therefore, a
mass of the most heterogeneous materials. Side by side with some of
the sublimest and most beautiful conceptions which the mind has ever
produced, we find in it much that is absurd and trivial and revolting.
Different ages and conditions of thought have left their products
embedded in its strange conglomerate. While it contains fragments of
fossilized stories, the meaning of which has either been misunderstood
or can only be explained by reference to barbaric customs, it also
contains, emergent from the rest and towering above the rubbish, the
serene forms of the Olympians. Those furnish the vital and important
elements of Greek mythology. To perfect them was the work of poets and
sculptors in the brief, bright blooming time of Hellas. Yet, when we
pay these deities homage in the temple of the human spirit, let us not
forget that they first received form in the mythopoeic age--the age of
"the disease of language," as Max Müller whimsically states it.

In order to comprehend a problem so complex as that which is offered
by mythology, we must not be satisfied with approaching it from one
point of view, but must sift opinion, submit our theory to the crucible
in more than one experiment, and, after all our labor, be content
to find that much remains still unexplained. Therefore, it will not
do to accept without further inquiry the general description of the
mythopoeic faculty which has just been advanced. After examining the
various methods which may be adopted for dealing with the myths, and
welcoming the light which can be thrown upon the subject from different
quarters, it will, perhaps, be possible to return to the original
position with a fuller understanding of the problem. If nothing else
be gained by this process, it is, at least, useful to be reminded that
intricate historical questions cannot be settled by one answer alone;
that a variety of agencies must be admitted; and that the domination of
a favorite hypothesis is prejudicial to the end which serious inquiry
has in view.

Regarding the Greek myths in their totality as a thickly tufted
jungle of inexplicable stories, and presupposing the activity of the
mythopoeic faculty to be a play of irrational fancy, it is possible
for the political historian to state them as he finds them, and then
to pass on and to disregard them. This is, practically speaking,
what Grote has done, though the luminous and exhaustive treatment of
mythology in his sixteenth chapter proves his complete mastery of
the subject from the philosophic point of view. Solely occupied with
history, and especially interested in political history, when he has
once recognized "the uselessness of digging for a supposed basis of
truth" in legends which relate to "a past which was never present," he
is justified in leaving them alone. The strong political bias which
concentrates attention upon the development of constitutions and the
history of states, while it throws the æsthetic activity of the race
into the background, sufficiently accounts for this negative relation
to the myths. Its value for our purpose consists in the recognition
that mythology must not be confounded with history.

Another method of dealing with mythology requires a passing notice,
and a brief dismissal. It has not unfrequently been suggested at
uncritical periods of culture, and by uncritical minds in our own
age, that the Greek myths are the degradation of primitive truth
revealed to mankind by God. As they are Christians who advance this
view, the essential dogmas of Christianity are sought for in the Greek
Pantheon. The three persons of the Trinity, the personality of the
devil, the Divine Redeemer, and so forth, are read into the sagas of
Kronos and Prometheus and Phoebus. To bring arguments against a theory
so visionary, and so devoid of real historical imagination, would
be superfluous. Otherwise, it might be questioned how a primitive
revelation, after undergoing such complete disintegration and
debasement, blossomed forth again into the æsthetical beauty which no
one can deny to be the special property of the Greek race. According
to the terms of the hypothesis, a primal truth was first degraded, so
as to lose its spiritual character; and then, from this corruption of
decay, arose a polytheism eminently artistic, which produced works of
beauty in their kind unsurpassable, but in their essence diverse from
the starting-point of revelation. Moreover, the very dogmas which these
visionaries detect in Greek mythology had an historical development
posterior to the formation of the Greek Olympus. It was, for instance,
the Greek genius in its old age which gave the substantiality of
thought to the doctrine of the Trinity. The only good to be got from
the consideration of this vain method is the conviction that a problem
like that of Greek mythology must be studied in itself and for itself.
Whatever its antecedents may have been, its outgrowth in poetry,
philosophy, and sculpture--in other words, its realized or permanent
manifestation--is not Christian, and has nothing but general human
elements in common with Christianity.

A third hypothesis for the explanation of Greek myths, which used
to find much favor with the learned, may be stated thus. Myths were
originally invented by priests and sages, in order to convey to
the popular mind weighty truths and doctrines which could not be
communicated in abstract terms to weak intelligences. Thus, each myth
was a dark speech uttered in parables. The first fatal objection to
this theory is that it does not fulfil its own conditions. To extract a
body of doctrine from the vast majority of the myths is not possible.
Moreover, it is an inversion of the natural order to assume that
priests and sages in a very early age of culture should have been
able to arrive at profound truth, and clever enough to clothe it in
parable, and yet that, as the nation grew in mental power, the truths
should have been forgotten, and the symbols which expressed them have
been taken as truth in and for itself. Without, however, entering
into a discussion of this hypothesis in detail, it is enough to point
out that it implies the same incapacity for realizing the early
conditions of society which is involved in Locke's and Adam Smith's
theory of the Origin of Language. It presupposes fully developed
intelligence, whereas we are concerned precisely with the first and
germinal commencement of intelligence. At the same time there is a
certain foundation for the symbolic theory. Just in the same way as all
language is unconsciously metaphorical, so all myths are parabolical,
inasmuch as they involve the operation of thought seeking to express
itself externally. The mistake lies in maintaining that the parabolic
form was deliberately used in the prehistoric period. Its deliberate
employment must rather be confined to the age of self-conscious
thinking. Thus the myths by which Plato illustrated his philosophy,
the Empedoclean parable of Love and Hate, the Choice of Herakles
invented by the sophist Prodicus, are purposely symbolical. It is also
worth noticing that, among genuine myths, those which seem to justify
this hypothesis are of comparatively late origin, or are immediately
concerned with psychological questions--such, for example, as the myths
of Cupid and Psyche and of Pandora and Epimetheus.

A fourth way of dealing with mythology is to rationalize it, by
assuming that all the marvellous stories told about the gods and heroes
had historical foundation in the past. Myths, according to this method,
become the reminiscences of actual facts, the biographies of persons,
which in course of time have lost their positive truth. In order to
recover and reconstitute that truth, it is necessary to reduce them to
prose. Thus Hecatæus, who was one of the earliest among the Greeks to
attempt this interpretation, declared that Geryon was a king of Epirus,
and that Cerberus was a serpent haunting the caverns of Cape Tænarus.
Herodotus, in like manner, explained the sacred black dove of Dodona
by saying that she was a woman, who came from Egyptian Thebes, and
introduced a peculiar cult of Zeus into Hellas. After the same fashion,
Python, slain by Phoebus, was supposed to have been a troublesome
freebooter. Æolus was changed into a weatherwise seaman, the Centaurs
into horsemen, Atlas into an astronomer, Herakles into a strong-limbed
knight-errant. It was when the old feeling for the myths had died
out among the learned, when physical hypotheses were adopted for the
explanation of the heavens and the earth instead of the religious
belief in nature-deities, and when prose had usurped on poetry, that
this theory was worked into a system. Euhemerus, the contemporary of
the Macedonian Cassander, wrote a kind of novel in which he made out
that all the gods and heroes had once been men. Ennius translated
this work into Latin, and the rationalizing method was called
Euhemerism. The hold which it has retained upon the minds of succeeding
ages is sufficient to show that it readily approves itself to the
understanding. It seems to make everything quite smooth and easy. When,
for instance, we read the revolting legend of Pasiphaë we like to fancy
that after all she only fell in love with a captain called Taurus, and
that Dædalus was an artful go-between. Unfortunately, however, there is
no guide more delusive than Euhemerism. It destroys the true value of
mythology, considered as the expression of primitive thought and fancy,
reducing it to a mere decayed and weed-grown ruin of prosaic fact.
Plato was right when he refused to rationalize the myths, and when,
by his own use of myths, he showed their proper nature as the vehicle
for thoughts as yet incapable of more exact expression. At the same
time it would be unphilosophical to deny that real persons and actual
events have supplied in some cases the subject-matter of mythology. The
wanderings of Odysseus, the Trojan War, the voyage of the Argonauts,
the kingdom of Minos, the achievements of Herakles, have, all of them,
the appearance of dimly preserved or poetized history. Yet to seek to
reconstruct history from them, "to dig for a supposed basis of truth"
in them, is idle. The real thing to bear in mind is that great men and
stirring events must have been remembered even in the mythopoeic age,
and that to eliminate them from the national consciousness would have
been impossible. A nucleus of fact may, therefore, have formed the
basis of certain myths, just as a wire immersed in a solution of salts
will cause the fluid to condense in crystals round it. But, as in the
case just used by way of illustration, we do not see the wire, but the
crystals, after the process has been finished, so in mythology it is
not the fact but the fancy which attracts our attention and calls for
our consideration. This illustration might be extended so as to apply
to any substratum, linguistic, solar, symbolical, or other, that may
be supposed to underlie the fancy-fabric of mythology. The truth to be
looked for in myths is psychological, not historical, æsthetic rather
than positive.

In order to make the relation of actuality to imagination in the
mythopoeic process still more intelligible, another illustration can
be drawn from nature. Pearls are said to be the result of a secretion
effused from the pearl-oyster round a piece of grit or thorn inserted
between its flesh and the shell in which it lives. To the production of
the pearl this extraneous object and the irritation which it causes are
both necessary; yet the pearl is something in itself quite independent
of the stimulating substance. Just so the myth, which corresponds to
the pearl, is a secretion of the national imagination which has been
roused into activity by something accidental and exterior.

It is possible to take a fifth line and to refer mythology to
fetichism. Strictly speaking, fetichism can never explain the problem
of the mythopoeic faculty, except in so far as we may assume it to have
formed a necessary stage of human development anterior to polytheism.
Greek mythology, together with Greek nature-worship, would, according
to this fifth method of interpretation, have to be regarded as a
refinement on the savage dread of fetiches. Beginning with a servile
prostration before the powers of nature, this attitude of simple awe
would have been gradually elevated to the height which it attained in
Homer and Hesiod. In the progressive amelioration of the race myths
would thus have occupied a middle place between the fetich and the free
divinities of art. Putting aside all the difficulties which involve the
question whether fetichism is rightly regarded as the first attitude
of man towards nature, it is clear that the fetichistic hypothesis
cannot cover the whole field of our inquiry. What it does do is to
offer an explanation of the origin of nature-worship, and to account
for the fact that external objects are regarded as living, sentient
beings in the myths. Long before the philosophers of Ionia conjectured
that the stars are fiery vapors, people fancied they were gods. It
has been well observed that the Greeks never speak of a god _of the_
sun, or a goddess _of the_ moon. They worshipped the sun as a god in
Helios, the moon as a goddess in Selene. This direct reference of the
mind to natural things as objects of adoration may, possibly, be a
purified form of fetichism. But, taken by itself alone, fetichism is
not adequate to account for the many-sided, many-featured product of
the mythical imagination, which continued active long after the age
of savagery. Nor, indeed, have the historians, who attribute great
importance to this stage of religious feeling, claimed for it so much.

According to yet a sixth view the myths are to be considered as
nothing more or less than poems. This theory is not, at first sight,
very different from that which is involved in the first account given
of the mythopoeic faculty. It is clear that the stories of Galatea,
of Pan and Pitys, of Hesperus and Hymenæus, and, in a deeper sense,
perhaps, of Prometheus and Pandora, are pure poems. That is to say, the
power which produced them was analogous to the power which we observe
in poetic creation at the present day, and which has continued the
mythopoeic age into the nineteenth century. Yet we should lose a great
deal in exactitude and fulness of conception if we identified mythology
with poetry. Poetry is conscious of its aim; it demands a fixed form;
it knows itself to be an art, and, as an art, to be different from
religion and distinguished from history. Now, mythology in its origin
was antecedent to all such distinctions, and to all the conscious
adaptations of means to ends. Behind the oldest poetry which we possess
there looms a background of mythology, substantially existing, already
expressed in language, nebulous, potential, containing in itself the
germs of all the several productions of the human intellect. The
whole intellect is there in embryo; and behind mythology nothing is
discoverable but thought and language in the same sphere. Therefore we
lose rather than gain by a too strict adherence to what may be termed
the poetical hypothesis, although the analogy of poetry, and of poetry
alone, places us at the right point of view for comprehending the
exercise of the myth-making faculty.

Before completing the circle of inquiry by a return with fuller
knowledge to the point from which we started, it is necessary to
discuss a seventh way of dealing with the problem, which professes to
be alone the truly scientific method. It may be called the linguistic
theory, since it rests upon analysis of language, and maintains that
mythology is not so much an independent product of the human mind,
expressed in words, as a morbid phase of language, considered as
a thing apart. Max Müller, who has given currency to this view in
England, states expressly that "Mythology, which was the bane of the
ancient world, is in truth a disease of language. A myth means a word,
but a word which, from being a name or an attribute, has been allowed
to assume a more substantial existence;" and again, under mythology "I
include every case in which language assumes an independent power and
reacts on the mind, instead of being, as it was intended to be, the
mere realization and outward embodiment of the mind." The first thing
which strikes a student accustomed to regard mythology as a necessary
and important phase in the evolution of thought, when he reads these
definitions, is the assumption that #mythos# is synonymous with what
we mean by word, instead of including the wider content of a story
told in words. He is thus led to suspect a theory which contrives to
make the problem of mythology pass for a branch of philology. Nor
can he comprehend in what sense mythology may be called "a disease
of language" rather than a disease of the mind which uses language.
Does Max Müller mean that language suffered, or that the thinking
subject suffered through the action of the bane? He probably means the
former; but, if so, language must be supposed to live a life apart from
thought, triumphing over the freedom of the human mind, and imposing
its figments on the intellect. Such a belief might seem due partly to
a too exclusive study of language in itself, in the course of which
the philologer comes to regard it as disconnected from thought, and
partly to the neglect of the fact that it is the same human subject
which produces language and myths, that language and thought in their
origin are inseparable, but that when language has once been started,
it has to serve the various purposes of thought, and lend itself to
myth and poem, philosophical analysis and religious dogma. Another
point to criticise is the inevitable corollary that the soul of a great
nation, like the Greeks, for instance, in the course of its advance to
the maturity of art and freedom, passes through a period of derangement
and disease, by which its civilization is vitiated, its vitality
poisoned at the root, and all its subsequent achievements tainted;
and that this spiritual phthisis can be traced to a sickly state of
language at a very remote historical period when as yet the nation was
scarcely constituted. Seriously to entertain this view is tantamount
to maintaining that corruption and disease may be the direct efficient
causes of the highest art on which humanity can pride itself, since it
is indubitable that the poems of Homer and the sculptures of Pheidias
are the direct outgrowth of that "bane of the ancient world" which,
to quote another pithy saying of Max Müller, converted _nomina_ into
_numina_. It is hardly necessary to point out the curious want of faith
in the Welt-Geist (or God) which this implies; the unimaginative habit
of mind we should encourage if we failed to discern the excellence
of a civilization that owed its specific character to mythology;
the unphilosophical conclusions to which we might be brought if we
denied that the intelligence is free while following the fixed laws
of its evolution, and that the essential feature in this evolution
is the advance from rudimentary to more developed thought. Language,
however potent in reaction upon thought, is after all the vehicle
and instrument of thought, and not its master. This leads to yet a
further criticism: granting that language was "intended to be the mere
realization and outward embodiment of the mind"--though this is a wide
begging of the most difficult of all questions--it does not follow
that in mythology language is not pursuing its appointed function. If
the mythological phase of thought is less apparent among the Semitic
than among the Aryan nations, are we to say that this is so because
the Semitic languages escaped the whooping-cough of mythology, or not
far rather because the mind of the Aryan races had a greater aptitude
for mythology, a greater aptitude for art? In the fifth place, the
definition of mythology is too wide for the special purpose of the
problem. Bacon long ago pointed out that one of the chief sources of
error arises from our tendency to mistake words for realities. This
imperfect adjustment of language to the purposes of thought is not
peculiar to the mythopoeic age. When we use such phrases as "vital
force," we are designating the results of observation and experience
by a word which ought not to be regarded as more than a sign. Yet,
because "vital force" has sometimes been recognized as something
positive and substantially existent, we cannot on that account call
it a myth without impoverishing the resources of language, and making
one word do the work of two. The truth, therefore, is, that in the
mythopoeic as in every other age, words have done violence to thought;
nor need it be contested that the _idola fori_ were more potent in the
infancy than in the maturity of intelligence. While concerned with
this branch of our critique, it is curious to observe the satisfaction
with which the advocates of the linguistic theory use it as the means
of rehabilitating the moral character of the ancient Greeks, by trying
to make out that the tales of Oedipus, Pelops, and Kronos owe their
repulsive elements to verbal mistakes. To the student it is undoubtedly
a relief to fancy that the incest of Jocasta was originally no more
than a figurative way of speaking about the alternations of day and
night. He derives, indeed, the same sort of contentment by this
method as the rationalist who explains the legend of Pasiphaë upon
Euhemeristic principles. Yet it is surely a poor way of whitewashing
the imagination of the ancients to have recourse to a theory which
sees in myths nothing better than a mange or distemper breaking out
in language, and tormenting the human mind for a season. Nor can the
theory be stretched so far as to exonerate the nation from its share of
interest in these stories. The people who made the supposed linguistic
mistakes delighted in the grotesque and fantastic legends which were
produced. Even if words deluded them, their wills were free and their
brains at work while under the pernicious influence. The real way of
exculpating the conscience of the Greeks, indicated both by philosophy
and common-sense, is to point out that in the age of reflection
the tragic poets moralized these very myths, and made them the
subject-matter of the gravest art, while the sages instituted a polemic
against the confusion of fabulous mythology with the pure notion of
Godhead obtained by reflection.

The theory of development which seems to underlie the linguistic
doctrine is, that thought in its earliest stage is positive and clear
and adequate. The first savage who thinks sees the sun, for example,
and calls it the sun; but in talking about the sun he begins to use
figurative language, and so converts his simple propositions into
myths. At this point, argues the philologer, he goes wrong and becomes
the victim of delusions. The fallacy in this view appears to lie in
attributing to the simple and sensuous apprehension of the savage the
same sort of simplicity as that which we have gained by a process of
abstraction, and consequently inferring that the importation of fancy
into the thinking process implies a species of degeneracy. The truth
seems rather to be quite the contrary. If we grant, for the sake of
argument, that the first thoughts are in a certain sense simple, they
have nothing in common with the generalizations of the understanding.
Except in relation to immediate perceptions, their generality is empty
until it has been filled up with the varied matter of the senses and
the imagination. Mythology and poetry are, therefore, an advance upon
the primitive prose of simple apprehension. What was a mere round
ball becomes a dædal world; and it is not till the full cycle of the
myth-creating fancy has been exhausted that the understanding can
return upon a higher level by abstraction to intellectual simplicity.
The same is true about theology. The first dim sense of the divine in
nature as a unity may possibly have been prior to the many deities
of polytheism; men may have looked upon the open sky and called
that god. Yet it was not a retrogression, but an advance from that
first perception to the mythological fulness and variety which gave
concreteness to the notion of the deity. In this way the whole content
of human nature--feeling, sense, activity, and so forth--was imported
into the original and hollow notion; or, to state the process with
greater accuracy, the germ of thought, by unfolding its potentiality,
showed that what had seemed a barren unit was a complicated organism
with a multiplicity of parts. It remained for a further stage of
thought, by reflection and abstraction, to return at a higher level to
the conception of intellectual unity. What we have to guard against is
the temptation to attribute our own abstractedness, the definiteness of
positivism, the purity of monotheism, to the first stage of thought.
Ours is the triumph of the understanding in its vigor over bewildering
fulness; theirs was the poverty and nakedness of a first awakening
of intelligence. The same critique might be applied to the theory
that language starts with universals. Here, again, all turns upon the
question, What sort of universals? Unless we are cautious, we run the
risk of ending in a view almost identical with the theory of primitive
revelation, by following which to its conclusions we are forced to
regard the history of the human race, not as a process of development,
but as a series of disastrous errors and of gradual decline.

What remains the solid outcome of the linguistic theory is that in the
mythopoeic age, when there was no criticism and no reflection possible,
the _idola fori_ were far more powerful than now, and consequently many
legends were invented to account for words of which the true meaning
had been forgotten. Accordingly philology is one of the keys by which
the door of mythology may be unlocked. At the same time, considering
the complex relations of thought to language, especially in their
commencement, it is wrong to concentrate attention upon language.
In like manner, it will be admitted that the genders of the nouns
contributed their quota to the personification of female and male
deities; but it would be wrong to argue that the _numina_ were divided
into male and female because the _nomina_ were so distinguished. In
order to appreciate the personifying instinct, we must go back in
imagination to a point beyond the divergence of thought and language;
and we shall find that if priority can be assigned to either, it will
be to thought, as that by which alone the human subject can be said to
be. Language has sex because sex is a property of the talking being.
The deities are male and female, not because their names have genders,
but because the thinking being, for whom sex is all-important, thinks
its own conditions into the world outside it.

The linguistic theory for the interpretation of mythology is based
upon comparative philology, which has proved beyond all contest that
the Aryan races had not only their grammar, but a certain number of
their myths in common before the separation of the Hindoo, Hellenic,
and Teutonic stocks. The Vedic literature exhibits the mythological
material in rudiment, and its style approximates to that of poetry.
Hence it has been assumed that the disease of language was less
virulent in the oldest Aryan writings than it afterwards became in
Hesiod and Homer--the _nomina_ had not as yet been so utterly deformed
and corrupted into _numina_. The inefficiency of arguments like this
is that they have no value except in relation to a previously adopted
view. To the opponent of the linguistic as the only scientific method
for the explanation of myths, it is left to answer: What you regard
as corruption of language I regard as development of thought. What
interests me in Greek mythology is precisely this: that the Aryan poems
have passed into complicated stories illustrative of pure Hellenic
modes of thought and feeling, which in their turn will give occasion
for epics, dramas, statues, and philosophies. In the same way, the
amount of similarity which comparative mythology has demonstrated in
the myths of all the members of the Aryan family is, from the Greek
historian's point of view, far less important than their differences.
The similarity belongs to the stock as it existed in prehistoric
times. The differences mark the external conditions and internal
qualities of the nations as they played their part in the world's
history. The "disease of language" which severally afflicted the
Hindoos, the Persians, the Greeks, and the Scandinavians, turns out
to be a faithful mirror of their concrete life. Any one, by way of
illustration, can work out the problem of national psychology offered
by the nature-worship of the sun in Ormuzd, in Phoebus, and in Balder.
The pale and beautiful Balder, who must perish, and whose death
involves the world in wailing; the radiant and conquering Phoebus,
the healing deity, the purifier, the voice of prophecy and poetry and
music; Ormuzd, the antagonist of darkness and of evil, the object of
desire and adoration to the virtuous and pure--these sun-gods answer
to the races, as their geographical conditions and their spirit made
them. Nor is this all. The mythology of each nation has a physiognomy
and character of its own--that of the Greeks being clearness and
articulation in opposition to the formlessness and misty vagueness of
the Hindoos. To mistake a Greek tale of deity or hero for a Hindoo tale
of deity or hero is impossible. While the student of prehistorical
antiquities will, therefore, direct attention to the likeness revealed
by comparative mythology, the historian of nations will rather be
attracted by those differences which express themselves in mature art,
literature, and religion.[10]

One of the most salient points of similarity between the several
families of Aryan myths concerns those which are called solar legends.
In all of these we read of children fated to slay their fathers, of
strong giants condemned to obey the rule of feeble princes, of heroic
young men forced to quit their first love for another woman. The
heroes of these stories are marked out in their cradle by miraculous
signs and wonders, or are suckled by wild beasts in the absence of
their parents; in their youth they slay serpents sent to destroy
them; in their manhood they shine forth as conquerors. Their death
is not unfrequently caused by slight and unforeseen, though fated,
occurrences--by a weapon that strikes the only vulnerable part of their
body, in the case of Achilles and Siegfried; by a twig of mistletoe,
in the case of Balder; by a thorn, in the case of Isfendiyar; by an
envenomed mantle, in the case of Herakles. One great mythus fascinated
the imagination of Norsemen and Hindoos, Greek and Persian, German
and Roman; interwove itself with their history; gave a form to their
poetry; and assumed a prominent place in their religion. So far, it
may be said that comparative philology has established something
solid, which is at the same time of vast importance for the student of
prehistorical antiquity. It is also not improbable that these legends
referred originally to the vicissitudes of the sun in his yearly and
daily journeys through the heavens. Thus much may be conceded to the
solar theorists, remembering always that this primitive astronomical
significance, if it existed, was forgotten by the races for whom the
myths became the material of poetry and religion. But, unfortunately,
the discovery has been strained beyond its proper limits by students
who combine a solar theory with the linguistic in their interpretation
of mythology. In their hands all the myths are made to refer to the sun
and the moon, to dawn and evening. "The difficulty," says Max Müller,
"which I myself have most keenly felt is the monotonous character
of the dawn and sun legends. Is everything the dawn? is everything
the sun? This question I had asked myself many times before it was
addressed me by others." How consistently Professor Max Müller found
himself obliged to answer this question in the affirmative is known
to every student of his works, not to mention those of Mr. Cox. The
hand-books of mythology which are now in vogue in England expound
this solar theory so persistently that it is probable a race is
growing up who fancy that the early Greeks talked with most "damnable
iteration" of nothing but the weather, and that their conversation on
that fruitful topic fell sick of some disease, breeding the tales of
Thebes and Achilles and Pelops's line, as a child breeds measles. It is
therefore necessary to subject it to criticism.

The first point for notice is that mythology lends itself almost as
well to meteorological as to solar theories. Kuhn and Schwartz, as
Professor Müller himself informs us, arrived at the conclusion that
"originally the sun was conceived implicitly as a mere accident in the
heavenly scenery." Instead, therefore, of finding the sun and the dawn
in all the myths, they are always stumbling upon clouds and winds and
thunder. This differing of the doctors is, after all, no great matter.
Yet it warns us to be careful in adopting so exclusively, as is the
present fashion, either the solar or the meteorological hypothesis.
A second consideration which inclines to caution is the facility
of adapting the solar theory to every story, whether fabulous or
historical. In this sense the famous tract which proved that Napoleon
the Great only existed in the mythical imagination may be taken as a
_reductio ad absurdum_ of the method. A third ground for suspension of
judgment lies in the very elaborate manipulation which the etymologies
of such words as Eros, Erinnys, and the Charites have undergone before
they yielded up their solar content. But the multiplication of general
objections is not to the present purpose. It is enough to bear in
mind that, however important the sun was to the ancient Aryans, he
could not have been everything: he was, after all, but one among many
objects of interest; and what requires to be still more remembered, is
that the Greeks themselves in dealing with the tales of Achilles, or
of Kephalos and Prokris, did not know that they were handling solar
stories. It is, therefore, misleading to base hand-books which serve
as introductions to Greek literature and art upon speculation about
the solar groundwork of the myths. In the works of Homer and Hesiod,
of Æschylus and Sophocles, the myths were animated with spiritual,
intellectual, and moral life. To draw the lessons from them which those
poets drew, to demonstrate the grandeur of the imagination which could
deal with those primeval tragic tales, should be the object of the
educator; not to fill his pages with extremely doubtful matter about
sun and dawn _ad infinitum_. The true relation of the solar theory
to a Greek myth may be illustrated by the tale of Herakles, whom the
Greeks themselves may perhaps have recognized as a solar deity, since
Herodotus identified him with a Phoenician god.[11] We are therefore
justified in dealing with this hero as a personification of the sun.
Herakles is the child of Zeus. He strangles in his cradle the serpents
of the night. He loves Iole, or the violet-colored clouds of dawn. He
performs twelve labors, corresponding to the twelve months of the solar
year. He dies of a poisoned robe amid flames that may be taken for the
blood-red sunset clouds. The maiden Iole, now evening and not morning,
visits him again in death; and he ascends from his funeral pyre of
empurpled mountain peaks to heaven. Let all this be granted. So far
the solar theory carries us. But is this all? In other words, is this,
which the current hand-books tell us about Herakles, the pith of the
matter as it appeared to the Greeks? When we turn to the _Philosophy of
History_ of Hegel, who worked by another than the solar method, and was
more anxious to discover thoughts than etymologies, we read: "Hercules
is among the Hellenes that spiritual humanity which, by native energy,
attains Olympus through the twelve far-famed labors; but the foreign
idea that lies at the basis is the sun completing its revolution
through the twelve signs of the Zodiac." Here we touch the truth. The
solar foundation of the mythus is wholly valueless and unimportant--in
other words, is alien to its essence, when compared with the moral
import it acquired among the Greeks. It is the conception of life-long
service to duty, of strength combined with patience, of glory followed
at the cost of ease, of godhead achieved by manhood through arduous
endeavor--it is this that is really vital in the myth of Herakles. By
right of this the legend entered the sphere of religion and of art. In
this spirit the sophist enlarged upon it, when he told how Herakles in
his youth chose virtue with toil rather than pleasure, incorporating
thus the high morality of Hesiod with the mythical element. If myths
like these are in any sense diseased words about the sun, we must go
further and call them immortalized words, words that have attained
eternal significance by dying of the disease that afflicted them. The
same remarks apply to all the solar and lunar stories--to Achilles,
Endymion, Kephalos, and all the rest. As solar myths these tales had
died to the Greeks. As poems, highly capable of artistic treatment, in
sculpture, or in verse, pregnant with humanity, fit to form the subject
of dramatic presentation or ethical debate, they retained incalculable
value. The soul of the nation was in them. And that is their value for

To deny the important part which the sun, like the earth or the sea,
played in early mythology would be absurd. To dispute the illumination
which comparative philology has thrown not only upon the problem of
the myths, but also upon the early unity of races until recently
divided in our thought, would be still more ridiculous. The point at
issue is simply this, that in Greek mythology there is far more than
linguistic and solar theories can explain, and that _more_ is precisely
the Greek genius. The philologer from his point of view is justified
in directing attention to the verbal husk of myths; but the student of
art and literature must keep steadily in view the kernel of thought and
feeling which the myths contain. It is only by so doing that the poetry
and art which sprang from them can be intelligently studied. Thus the
modern text-books of mythology are misleading, in so far as they draw
the learner's mind away from subjects of historical importance to bare

As the result of analysis, the following propositions may be advanced.
In the earliest ages the races to whom we owe languages and literature
and art possessed a faculty which may be called the mythopoeic, now
almost wholly extinct, or rather superseded by the exercise of other
faculties which it contained in embryo. The operation of this faculty
was analogous to that of the poetic; that is to say, it was guided
by the imagination more than by the dry light of the understanding,
and its creative energy varied in proportion to the imaginative vigor
of the race which exercised it. The distinction here introduced is
all-important; for only thus can we explain the very different nature
of the Greek and Roman religions. The tendency to personification which
distinguishes mythology was due to the instinct of uncivilized humanity
to impute to external objects a consciousness similar to that by which
men are governed--in other words, to regard them as living agents with
wills and passions like our own. If fetichism be the rudimentary phase
of this instinct, polytheism indicates an advance by which the mind
has passed from the mere recognition of spiritual power in nature to
the investment of that power with personal and corporeal qualities.
But just as the imagination varies in degree and force in different
races, so will this power of carrying the personifying instinct onward
into art be found to vary. The Romans stopped short at allegories;
in other words, they did not carry their personification beyond the
first stage. The Greeks created divine personalities. Many myths
contain moral and philosophical ideas conveyed in parables, and some
of them have indubitable reference to real events and persons. But in
no case of a primitive and genuine mythus are we to expect deliberate
fiction or conscious symbolism, or, again, to seek for a discoverable
substratum of solid fact. Entering the sphere of mythology, facts
become etherealized into fancies, the actual value of which lies in the
expression of the national mind, so that mythical and spiritual are in
this respect synonymous. To use a metaphor, a myth is a Brocken-spectre
of the thought which produced it, and owes the features by which we
can distinguish it to the specific character of the people among
whom it sprang into existence. The analysis of language shows that
the whole Aryan family held a great number of their myths in common,
that many legends are stories told to account for words and phrases
which had lost their original significance, and that in these stories
the alternations of night and day and the procession of the seasons
played a very important part. Philology can, however, furnish no more
than the prolegomena to mythology. After hearing its report, the
student of Greek art and literature must take the Greek myths at a
Greek valuation--must consider what they were for the Athenians, for
example, and not what they had once been. Finally, it may be remembered
that to hope for a complete elucidation of a problem so far removed
from observation and experiment would be vain. The conditions of the
mythopoeic age cannot be reconstituted; and were they to reappear
through the destruction of civilizations, the reflective understanding
would not be present to examine and record them.

The difficulty which besets the problem of mythology, owing to the
remote antiquity of the myth-making age, is to some extent removed
by observing the operation of the mythopoeic faculty in the historic
period. Given social circumstances similar, if even only in a limited
degree, to those of the prehistoric age; given a defect of the critical
and reflective faculty, an absence of fixed records, and a susceptible
condition of the popular imagination, myths have always sprung up.
While it is not, therefore, possible to find exact analogies to the
conditions under which the Greek mythology originated, something may be
gained by directing attention to mediæval romance. The legends which
in Italy converted Virgil into a magician, the epic cycles of Charles
the Great and Arthur, the Lives of the Saints, the fable of Tannhäuser
and the Venusberg, the Spanish tale of Don Juan, and the German tale
of Faust are essentially mythical. What is instructive about mediæval
romance for the student of mythology in general is that here the
mythopoeic imagination has been either dealing with dim recollections
of past history, or else has been constructing for itself a story to
express a doctrine. After excluding the hypothesis of conscious working
to a prefixed end, we, therefore, find in these legends an illustration
of the sense in which the symbolical and rationalistic theories can
be said to be justified. In the case of Virgil, the poetry of Rome's
greatest singer never ceased to be studied during the darkest years
of the dark ages, and his name was familiar even to people who could
not read his verse. He was known to have been a pagan, and at the same
time possessed with what then seemed like superhuman knowledge. It
followed that he must have been a wizard, and have gained his power
and wisdom by compelling fiends. Having formed this notion of Virgil,
the popular fancy ascribed to him all the vast works of architecture
and engineering which remained at Rome and Naples, inventing the most
curious stories to explain why he had made them. When we turn to the
Carlovingian cycle, we discover that the great name of the Frankish
emperor, the memory of his wars, and the fame of his generals have
survived and been connected with the crusading enthusiasm which
pervaded Europe at a later period. Border-warfare between France and
Spain plays a prominent part in this epic, and gradually the figure
of Roland usurps upon the more historically important personages. To
"dig for a supposed basis of truth" in the Carlovingian cycle would
be vain; yet the view is forced upon us that without some historical
basis the cycle would not have sprung into existence, or have formed
a framework for the thought and feeling of one period of the Middle
Ages. The achievements of Arthur must be regarded as still more wholly
mythological. The more we inquire into his personality, the less we
find of real historical subsistence. A Celtic hero, how created it
is impossible to say, becomes the central figure of the most refined
romance which occupied the attention of German, French, and British
poets in the Middle Ages. Round the fictitious incidents of his
biography gathers all that chivalry, with its high sense of humanity
and its profound religious mysticism, conceived of purest and most
noble; while, at the same time, certain dark and disagreeable details,
especially the incestuous union from which Mordred sprang, remind
us of the savage and unmoralized origin of the fable. We therefore
find in the Arthurian cycle something very much analogous to the
Tale of Troy. The dim memory of a national struggle, an astronomical
myth, perchance, and many incidents of merely local interest have
been blended together and filled with the very spirit of the ages
and the races that delighted in the story as a story. This spiritual
content gives its value to the epic. Mediæval hagiography furnishes
abundant examples of the way in which facts transform themselves into
fables and mythological material is moulded into shape around some
well-remembered name, the religious consciousness externalizing itself
in acts which it attributes to its heroes. When we read the _Fioretti
di San Francesco_, we are well aware that the saint lived--his life is
one of the chief realities of the thirteenth century; but we perceive
that the signs and wonders wrought by him proceed from the imagination
of disciples ascribing to St. Francis what belongs partly to the
ideal of his own character and partly to that of monastic sanctity
in general. In the fable of Tannhäuser we meet with another kind of
reminiscence. There is less of fact and more of pure invention. The
pagan past, existent as a sort of dæmonic survival, is localized at
Hörsel. The interest, however, consists here wholly in the parabolic
meaning--whether Tannhäuser ever existed does not signify. His legend
is a poem of the Christian knight ensnared by sin, aroused to a sense
of guilt, condemned by the supreme tribunal of the Church, and pardoned
by the grace of God. In like manner, the lust for knowledge, for power,
and for pleasure, withheld by God and nature, finds expression in the
Faust legend; while inordinate carnal appetite is treated tragically
in _Don Juan_. These three legends deserve to be called myths rather
than poems in the stricter sense of the word, because they appear at
many points and cannot be traced up to three definite artistic sources,
while it is clear from their wide acceptance that they embodied
thoughts which were held to be of great importance. In them, therefore,
we find illustrated the theory which explains mythology by the
analogy of poetry. That the mediæval myths which have been mentioned
never attained the importance of Greek mythology is immediately
accounted for by the fact that they sprang up, as it were, under the
shadow of philosophy, religion, and history. They belonged to the
popular consciousness; and this popular consciousness had no need or
opportunity of converting its creatures into a body of beliefs, because
both science and orthodoxy existed. In the historic period mythology
must always occupy this subordinate position; and, perhaps, this fact
might be reflected back as a further argument, if such were needed,
against the theories that the Greek myths, while leading onward to the
Greek Pantheon and Greek art, originated as an undergrowth beneath the
decaying fabric of revealed truth or firmly apprehended philosophical
ideas. At all events, both the positive and negative circumstances
which we observe in them confirm the general view of mythology that has
been advanced.

The Homeric and Hesiodic poems were interposed between the reflective
consciousness of the Greeks in the historic age and the mass of myths
already existent in Hellas at the time of their composition, and thus
mythology passed into the more advanced stage of art. It did not,
however, cease on that account to retain some portion of its original
plasticity and fluidity. It is clear from Pindar and the fragments of
the minor lyric poets, from the works of the dramatists, from Plato,
and from other sources, that what Herodotus reports about Homer and
Hesiod having fixed the genealogies of the gods cannot be taken too
literally. Non-Homeric and non-Hesiodic versions of the same tales
were current in various parts of Greece. The same deities in different
places received different attributes and different forms of worship;
and the same legends were localized in widely separated spots. Each
division of the Hellenic family selected its own patron deities,
expressing in their cult and ritual the specific characteristics which
distinguished Dorian, Æolian, and Ionian Hellas. At the same time
certain headquarters of worship, like the shrine of Delphi and the
temple of Olympian Zeus, were strictly Panhellenic. In this way it is
clear that while Greek mythology acquired the consistence of a natural
religion, it retained its free poetic character in a great measure.
The nation never regarded their myths as a body of fixed dogma, to
alter which was impious. Great liberty, consequently, was secured for
artists; and it may be said with truth that the Greeks arrived through
sculpture at a consciousness of their gods. A new statue was, in a
certain sense, a new deity, although the whole aim of the sculptor
must, undoubtedly, have been to render visible the thoughts contained
in myths and purified by poetry, and so to pass onward step-wise to a
fuller and fuller realization of the spiritual type. It is this unity,
combined with difference, that makes the study of Greek sculpture
fascinating in itself, and fruitful for the understanding of the Greek

It lies beyond the scope of this chapter to consider how the Greek
intelligence was first employed upon the articulation of its mythology,
and next upon its criticism. The tradition of a Titanomachy, or contest
between nature-powers and deities of reason, marks the first step in
the former process. The cosmogonical forces personified in the Titans
gave place to the presiding deities of political life and organized
society, in whom the human reason recognized itself as superior to
mere nature. Olympus was reserved for gods of intellectual order, and
thus the Greeks worshipped what was best and noblest in themselves. At
the same time the cosmogonical divinities were not excluded from the
Greek Pantheon, and so there grew up a kind of hierarchy of greater
and lesser deities. Oceanus, Poseidon, Proteus, the Tritons and the
Nereids, Amphitrite and Thetis, for example, are all powers of the
sea. They are the sea conceived under different aspects, its divine
personality being multitudinously divided and delicately characterized
in each case to accord with the changes in the element. The same kind
of articulation is observable in the worship of deities under several
attributes. Aphrodite Ourania and Aphrodite Pandemos are one as well
as two. Eros and Himeros and Pothos are not so much three separate
loves, as love regarded from three different points of view. Here
the hierarchy is psychological, and represents an advance made in
reflection upon moral qualities; whereas in the former case it was
based on the observation of external nature. To this inquiry, again,
belongs the question of imported myths and foreign cults. The worship
of Corinthian Aphrodite, for example, was originally Asiatic. Yet,
on entering Greek thought, Mylitta ceased to be Oriental and assumed
Hellenic form and character. Sensuality was recognized as pertaining
to the goddess whose domain included love and beauty and the natural

More than the vaguest outlines of such subjects of interest cannot
be indicated here. It is enough to have pointed out that as Greek
mythology was eminently imaginative, fertile in fancy and prolific in
dramatic incident, so it found its full development in poetry and art.
Only through art can it be rightly comprehended; and the religion for
which it supplied the groundwork was itself a kind of art. It is just
this artistic quality which distinguished the Greeks from the Romans.
As Mommsen well observes, "there was no formation of legend in the
strict sense in Italy." The Italian gods were in their origin more
matter-of-fact than Greek gods. They contained from the first a prosaic
element which they never threw aside; nor did they give occasion to the
growth of fable with its varied fabric of human action and passion.
Thus the legal and political genius of the Latin race worshipped its
own qualities in these allegorical beings.

The process hitherto described has been the passage of mythology
into religion and the expression of religion by art. When the Greek
intelligence became reflective in the first dawn of philosophy, it
recognized that the notion of divinity, #to theion#, was independent
and in some sense separable from the persons of the Pantheon in
whom it inhered. This recognition led to a criticism of the myths
by the standard of ideal godhead. Just as the Olympic deities, as
representative of pure intellect or spirit, had superseded the bare
nature-forces, so now the philosophers sought to distil a refined
conception of God from the myths in general. Their polemic was directed
against Homer, in whom, like Herodotus, they recognized the founder
of the current mythological theology. Both Pythagoras and Heraclitus
are reported to have said that Homer ought to be publicly thrust from
the assembly and scourged. Xenophanes plainly asserted that the Greek
anthropomorphism was no better than a worship of humanity with all its
vices, illustrating his critique by adding that just in the same way
might lions adore lions and horses horses. His own conception of the
deity was monotheistic, to this extent, at least, that he abstracted
from the universe a notion of divine power and wisdom, and ascribed to
it the only reality. Plato, in the _Republic_, unified these points of
view, severely criticising Homer for the immorality of his fictions,
and attributing to his own demiurgic deity those qualities of goodness,
truth, and beauty which are the highest ideals of the human spirit.
In connection with this polemic against poetical theology, we have to
notice the attempts of physical philosophers to explain the universe
by natural causes, and the great saying of Anaxagoras that reason
rules the world. Thus the speculative understanding, following various
lines of thought and adopting diverse theories, tended to react upon
mythology and to corrode the ancient fabric of Greek polytheism. In
the course of this disintegrating process a new and higher religion
was developed, which Plato expressed by saying that we ought "to
become like God, as far as this is possible; and to become like him
is to become holy and just and wise." At the same time those who felt
the force of the critique, but could not place themselves at the new
scientific point of view, remained sceptical; and against this kind of
scepticism, which implied personal lawlessness, Aristophanes directed
his satire. Whatever may have been the attitude of philosophers in
their schools, mythology meanwhile retained its hold upon the popular
mind. It was bound up with the political traditions, the gentile
customs, the ritual, and the arts of the whole race. To displace it by
a reasoned system of theology, enforced by nothing stronger than the
theories of the sages, was impossible. The extent to which philosophy
permanently affected the creed of thinking and religious men in Greece
by substituting theism for the fabulous theology of the poets has been
well expressed in Plutarch's _Life of Pericles_. "So dispassionate a
temper," he observes, "a life so pure and unblemished in authority,
might well be called Olympian, in accordance with our conceptions of
the divine beings to whom, as the natural authors of all good and of
nothing evil, we ascribe the rule and government of the world--not as
the poets represent, who, while confounding us with their ignorant
fancies, are themselves confuted by their own poems and fictions, and
call the place, indeed, where they say the gods make their abode, 'a
secure and quiet seat, untroubled with winds or clouds,' and 'equally
through all time illumined with a soft serenity and a pure light,'
as though such were a home most agreeable for a blessed and immortal
nature; and yet, in the meanwhile, affirm that the gods themselves
are full of trouble and enmity and anger, and other passions which no
way become or belong to even men that have any understanding." It is
clear that when the religious consciousness had reached this point of
purified clairvoyance the race was ready for a more spiritual theology,
which philosophers like Marcus Aurelius found in natural religion,
while the common folk accepted Christianity.

After flowing side by side for many centuries, the currents of
mythological belief and of philosophical speculation reunited at
Alexandria, where a final attempt was made to animate the Homeric
Pantheon with the spirit of metaphysical mysticism. Homer became a
priest as well as poet, and the _Iliad_ was made to furnish allegories
for an age grown old in intellectual subtlety. This was the last
period of mythology. While Hypatia was lecturing on Homer, the
Christians were converting the world. To keep the gods of Greece alive
was no longer possible. Regarded from the beginning as persons with a
body corresponding to their spiritual substance, they had in them the
certainty of dissolution. Though removed ideally beyond the sphere of
human chance and change, they remained men and women with passions like
our own. Pure spirit had not been realized in them; and blind fate had
from the first been held to be supreme above them. Unlike the incarnate
God of Christianity, they had not passed forth from the spiritual world
to abide here for a season and return to it again. Therefore they
perished. During the domination of mediæval Christianity the utmost
they could do was to haunt the memory like wraiths and phantoms, to
linger in neglected and unholy places like malignant powers of evil.
But when the force of ascetic Christianity declined, and the spirit
of humane culture re-awoke in Europe, these old gods reasserted their
ascendency--no longer as divinities indeed, but as poems forming an
essential element of the imagination. The painters and sculptors of
Italy gave once more in breathing marble and fair color form to those
immortal thoughts. The poets sang the old songs of Hellas in new
language to new measures. Even the Churchmen invoked God from Roman
pulpits as _Summus Jupiter_, and dignified Madonna with the attributes
of Artemis and Pallas.

Such is the marvellous vitality of this mythology. Such is its
indissoluble connection with the art and culture which sprang from it,
of which it was the first essential phase, and to which we owe so much.
Long after it has died as religion, it lives on as poetry, retaining
its original quality, though the theology contained in it has been
forever superseded or absorbed into more spiritual creeds.

    NOTE.--I wish to qualify what I have said upon pp. 67-80
    by stating that my critique of the linguistic and solar
    theories is not, as I hope, directed in any impertinent spirit
    against the illustrious teacher to whom, in common with most
    Englishmen, I owe nearly all my knowledge of comparative
    mythology, but rather against notions which have gained
    currency through a too exclusive attention to the origin of
    Greek mythology. I want to remind students of Greek literature
    that, after all they may have learned from Sanscrit, they are
    still upon the threshold of mythology as it was determined by
    the genius of the Greek race. There is a danger of diverting
    the mind from questions of thoughts to questions of words, and
    leading people to fancy that etymological solutions are final.


[8] For this reason the analogy of existing barbarous races will not
help us much, inasmuch as they are not Greeks nor destined to be
Greeks. This consideration ought to weigh with those who, struck by
the depth and beauty of some Greek myths, theorize a corruption of
primitive revelation or pure theology to explain them. They ought to
remember that they are dealing with the myths of Greeks--our masters in
philosophy and poetry and art.

[9] The original is quoted in the Notes to Grote, vol. i. p. 474.

[10] The dissimilarity between Greek and Roman religion has often been
observed, and will be touched upon below. Supposing it to be proved
that the Romans can produce one relic of an Aryan myth in Romulus,
we find that their most native deities--Saturnus, Ops, Bellona,
Janus, Terminus, Concordia, Fides, Bonus Eventus, and so forth--are
abstractions which have nothing in common with Greek or other Aryan
legends. They are the characteristic product of the Roman mind, and
indicate its habit of thought. In like manner it is only by a crasis
amounting to confusion that Mercurius can be identified with Hermes, or
Hercules with Herakles.

[11] ii. 44.



    Unity of _Iliad_.--Character of Achilles.--Structure of the
        whole Poem.--Comparison with other Epics.--Energy Dividing
        into Anger and Love.--Personality of Achilles.--The Quarrel
        with Agamemnon.--Pallas Athene.--The Embassy.--Achilles'
        Foreknowledge of his Death.--The Message of
        Antilochus.--Interview with Thetis.--The Shouting in
        the Trench.--The Speech of Xanthus.--The Pæan over
        Hector's Corpse.--The Ghost of Patroclus.---The Funeral
        Obsequies of Patroclus.--Achilles and Priam.--Achilles in
        Hades.--Achilles Considered as a Greek Ideal.--Friendship
        among the Greeks.--Heroism and Knighthood: Ancient and
        Modern Chivalry.--The _Myrmidones_ of Æschylus.--Achilles
        and Hector.--Alexander the Great.--The Dæmonic Nature of

It is the sign of a return to healthy criticism that scholars are
beginning to acknowledge that the _Iliad_ may be one poem--that is
to say, no mere patchwork of ballads and minor epics put together by
some diaskeuast in the age of Pisistratus, but the work of a single
poet, who surveyed his creation as an artist, and was satisfied with
its unity. We are not bound to pronounce an opinion as to whether
this poet was named Homer, whether Homer ever existed, and, if so,
at what period of the world's history he lived. We are not bound to
put forward a complete view concerning the college of Homeridæ, from
which the poet must have arisen, if he did not found it. Nor, again,
need we deny that the _Iliad_ itself presents unmistakable signs of
having been constructed in a great measure out of material already
existing in songs and romances dear to the Greek nation in their youth,
and familiar to the poet. The æsthetic critic finds no difficulty
in conceding, nay, is eager to claim, a long genealogy through
antecedent, now forgotten, poems for the _Iliad_. But about this, of
one thing, at any rate, he will be sure, after due experience of the
tests applied by Wolf and his followers, that a great artist gave
its present form to the _Iliad_, that he chose from the whole Trojan
tale a central subject for development, and that all the episodes and
collateral matter with which he enriched his epic were arranged by him
with a view to the effect that he had calculated.

What, then, was this central subject, which gives the unity of a true
work of art to the _Iliad_? We answer, the person and the character
of Achilles. It is not fanciful to say, with the old grammarians of
Alexandria, that the first line of the poem sets forth the whole of its

    Sing, goddess, the wrath of Achilles, son of Peleus.

The wrath of Achilles, and the consequences of that wrath in the misery
of the Greeks, left alone to fight without their fated hero; the death
of Patroclus, caused by his sullen anger; the energy of Achilles,
reawakened by his remorse for his friend's death; and the consequent
slaughter of Hector, form the whole of the simple structure of the
_Iliad_. This seems clear enough when we analyze the conduct of the

The first book describes the quarrel of Achilles with Agamemnon and
his secession from the war. The next seven books and a half, from the
second to the middle of the ninth, are occupied with the fortunes
of the Greeks and Trojans in the field, the exploits of Diomede and
Ajax, and Hector's attack upon the camp. In the middle of the ninth
book Achilles reappears upon the scene. Agamemnon sends Ulysses and
Phoenix to entreat him to relax his wrath and save the Greeks; but the
hero remains obdurate. He has resolved that his countrymen shall pay
the uttermost penalty for the offense of their king. The poet having
foredetermined that Achilles shall only consent to fight in order to
revenge Patroclus, is obliged to show the inefficacy of the strongest
motives from without; and this he has effected by the episode of the
embassy. The tenth book relates the night attack upon the camp of the
Trojan allies and the theft of the horses of Rhesus. The next five
books contain a further account of the warfare carried on among the
ships between the Achaians and their foes. It is in the course of these
events that Patroclus comes into prominence. We find him attending on
the wounded Eurypylus and warning Achilles of the imminent peril of the
fleet. At last, in the sixteenth book, when Hector has carried fire
to the ship of Protesilaus, Achilles commands Patroclus to assume the
armor of Peleus and lead his Myrmidons to war. The same book describes
the repulse of Hector and the death of Patroclus, while the seventeenth
is taken up with the fight for the body of Achilles' friend. But from
the eighteenth onward the true hero assumes his rank as protagonist,
making us feel that what has gone before has only been a preface to his
action. His seclusion from the war has not only enabled the poet to
vary the interest by displaying other characters, but has also proved
the final intervention of Achilles to be absolutely necessary for the
success of the Greek army. All the threads of interest are gathered
together and converge on him. Whatever we have learned concerning the
situation of the war, the characters of the chiefs, and the jealousies
of the gods, now serves to dignify his single person and to augment
the terror he inspires. With his mere shout he dislodges the Trojans
from the camp. The divine arms of Hephæstus are fashioned for him, and
forth he goes to drive the foe like mice before him. Then he contends
with Simoeis and Scamander, the river-gods. Lastly, he slays Hector.
What follows in the twenty-third and twenty-fourth books seems to be
intended as a repose from the vehement action and high-wrought passion
of the preceding five. Patroclus is buried, and his funeral games are
celebrated. Then, at the very end, Achilles appears before us in the
interview with Priam, no longer as a petulant spoiled child or fiery
barbarian chief, but as a hero, capable of sacrificing his still fierce
passion for revenge to the nobler emotion of reverence for the age and
sorrow of the sonless king.

The centralization of interest in the character of Achilles constitutes
the grandeur of the _Iliad_. It is also by this that the _Iliad_ is
distinguished from all the narrative epics of the world. In the case
of all the rest there is one main event, one deed which has to be
accomplished, one series of actions with a definite beginning and
ending. In none else are the passions of the hero made the main points
of the movement. This may be observed at once by comparing the _Iliad_
with the chief epical poems of European literature. To begin with the
_Odyssey_. The restoration, after many wanderings, of Odysseus to his
wife and kingdom forms the subject of this romance. When that has been
accomplished, the _Odyssey_ is completed. In the same way the subject
of the _Æneid_ is the foundation of the Trojan kingdom in Italy. Æneas
is conducted from Troy to Carthage, from Carthage to Latium. He flies
from Dido, because fate has decreed that his empire should not take
root in Africa. He conquers Turnus because it is destined that he, and
not the Latin prince, should be the ancestor of Roman kings. As soon as
Turnus has been killed and Lavinia has been wedded to Æneas, the action
of the poem is accomplished and the _Æneid_ is completed. When we pass
to modern epics, the first that meets us is the _Niebelungen Lied_.
Here the action turns upon the murder of Sigfrit by Hagen, and the
vengeance of his bride, Chriemhilt. As soon as Chriemhilt has assembled
her husband's murderers in the halls of King Etzel, and there has
compassed their destruction, the subject is complete, the _Niebelungen_
is at an end. The British epic of the Round Table, if we may regard
Sir Thomas Mallory's _Mort d'Arthur_ as a poem, centres in the life and
predestined death of King Arthur. Upon the fate of Arthur hangs the
whole complex series of events which compose the romance. His death
is its natural climax, for with him expires the Round Table he had
framed to keep the pagans in awe. After that event nothing remains for
the epic poet to relate. Next in date and importance is the _Orlando
Furioso_ of Ariosto. The action of this poem is bound up with the
destinies of Ruggiero and Bradamante. Their separations and wanderings
supply the main fabric of the plot. When these are finally ended, and
their marriage has been consummated, nothing remains to be related. The
theme of the _Gerusalemme Liberata_, again, is the conquest of the Holy
City from the Saracens. When this has been described, there is nothing
left for Tasso to tell. The _Paradise Lost_, in spite of its more
stationary character, does not differ from this type. It sets forth
the single event of the fall. After Adam and Eve have disobeyed the
commands of their Maker and have been expelled from Eden, the subject
is exhausted, the epic is at an end.

Thus each of these great epic poems has one principal event, on which
the whole action hinges and which leaves nothing more to be narrated.
But with the _Iliad_ it is different. At the end of the _Iliad_ we
leave Achilles with his fate still unaccomplished, the Trojan war still
undecided. The _Iliad_ has no one great external event or series of
events to narrate. It is an episode in the war of Troy, a chapter in
the life of Peleus's son. But it does set forth, with the vivid and
absorbing interest that attaches to true æsthetic unity, the character
of its hero, selecting for that purpose the group of incidents which
best display it.

The _Iliad_, therefore, has for its whole subject the passion of
Achilles--that ardent energy or #MÊNIS# of the hero, which displayed
itself first as anger against Agamemnon, and afterwards as love for
the lost Patroclus. The truth of this was perceived by one of the
greatest poets and profoundest critics of the modern world, Dante. When
Dante, in the _Inferno_, wished to describe Achilles, he wrote, with
characteristic brevity:

        Che per amore al fine combatteo.

    Who at the last was brought to fight by love.

In this pregnant sentence Dante sounded the whole depth of the
_Iliad_. The wrath of Achilles against Agamemnon, which prevented him
at first from fighting; the love of Achilles, passing the love of
women, for Patroclus, which induced him to forego his anger and to
fight at last--these are the two poles on which the _Iliad_ turns.
Two passions--heroic anger and measureless love--in the breast of the
chief actor, are the motive forces of the poem. It is this simplicity
in the structure of the _Iliad_ which constitutes its nobleness.
There is no double plot, no attempt to keep our interest alive by
misunderstandings, or treacheries, or thwartings of the hero in his
aims. These subtleties and resources of art the poet, whom we will call
Homer, for the sake of brevity, discards. He trusts to the magnitude
of his chief actor, to the sublime central figure of Achilles, for the
whole effect of his epic. It is hardly necessary to insist upon the
highly tragic value of this subject. The destinies of two great nations
hang trembling in the balance. Kings on the earth below, gods in the
heavens above, are moved to turn this way or that the scale of war.
Meanwhile the whole must wait upon the passions of one man. Nowhere
else, in any work of art, has the relation of a single heroic character
to the history of the world been set forth with more of tragic pomp
and splendid incident. Across the scene on which gods and men are
contending in fierce rivalry moves the lustrous figure of Achilles,
ever potent, ever young, but with the ash-white aureole of coming death
around his forehead. He too is in the clutch of destiny. As the price
of his decisive action, he must lay his life down and retire with
sorrow to the shades. It is thus that in the very dawn of civilization
the Greek poet divined the pathos and expounded the philosophy of human
life, showing how the fate of nations may depend upon the passions of
a man, who in his turn is but the creature of a day, a ripple on the
stream of time. Nothing need be said by the æsthetic critic about the
solar theory, which pretends to explain the tale of Troy. The mythus of
Achilles may possibly in very distant ages have expressed some simple
astronomical idea. But for a man to think of this with the actual
_Iliad_ before his eyes would be about as bad as botanizing on his
mother's grave. Homer was not thinking of the sun when he composed the
_Iliad_. He wove, as in a web, all elements of tragic pity and fear,
pathos and passion, and fateful energy which constitute the dramas of
nations and of men.

In the two passions, anger and love, which form the prominent features
of the character of Achilles, there is nothing small or mean. Anger
has scarcely less right than ambition to be styled the last infirmity
of noble minds. And love, when it gives the motive force to great
action, is sublime. The love of Achilles had no softness or effeminacy.
The wrath of Achilles never degenerated into savagery. Both of these
passions, instead of weakening the hero, add force to his activity.
Homer has traced the outlines of the portrait of Achilles so largely
that criticism can scarcely avoid dwarfing them. In looking closely
at the picture, there is a danger lest, while we examine the parts,
we should fail to seize the greatness of the whole. It is better to
bring together in rapid succession those passages of the _Iliad_ which
display the character of Achilles under the double aspect of anger and
love. The first scene (i. 148-246) shows us Agamemnon surrounded by
the captains of the Greek host, holding the same position among them
as Charlemagne among his peers, or King John among the English barons.
They recognize his heaven-descended right of monarchy; but their
allegiance holds by a slight thread. They are not afraid of bearding
him, browbeating him with threats, and roundly accusing him of his
faults. This turbulent feudal society has been admirably sketched by
Marlowe in _Edward II._, and by Shakespeare in _Richard II._ And it
must be remembered that between Agamemnon and the Hellenic #basileis#
there was not even so much as a feudal bond of fealty. Calchas has just
told Agamemnon that, in order to avert the plague, Chryseis must be
restored to her father. The king has answered that if he is forced to
relinquish her, the Greeks must indemnify him richly. Then the anger of
Achilles boils over:

    "Ah, clothed upon with impudence and greedy-souled! How,
    thinkest thou, can man of the Achaians with glad heart follow
    at thy word to take the field or fight the foe? Not for the
    quarrel of the warlike Trojans did I come unto these shores,
    for they had wronged me not. They never drove my cattle nor
    my steeds, nor ever, in rich, populous Phthia, did they waste
    the corn; since far between us lie both shadowy mountains and
    a sounding sea: but following thee, thou shameless king, we
    came to gladden thee, for Menelaus and for thee, thou hound, to
    win you fame from Troy. Of this thou reckest not and hast no
    care. Yea, and behold thou threatenest even from me to wrest
    my guerdon with thy hands, for which I sorely strove, and
    which the sons of the Achaians gave to me. Never, in sooth,
    do I take equally with thee, when Achaians sack a well-walled
    Trojan town. My hands do all the work of furious war; but when
    division comes, thy guerdon is far greater, and I go back with
    small but well-loved treasure to the ships, tired out with
    fighting. Now, lo! I am again for Phthia; for better far, I
    ween, it is homeward to sail with beaked ships: nor do I think
    that if I stay unhonored wilt thou get much wealth and gain.

    "Him, then, in answer, Agamemnon, king of men, bespake:

    "Away! fly, if thy soul is set on flying. I beg thee not to
    stay for me. With me are many who will honor me, and most of
    all, the Counsellor Zeus. Most hateful to me of the Zeus-born
    kings art thou. Forever dost thou love strife, warfare,
    wrangling. If very stout of limb thou art, that did God give
    thee. Go home, then, with thy ships and friends. Go, rule the
    Myrmidones. I care not for thee, nor regard thy wrath, but
    this will I threaten--since Phoebus robs me of Chryseis, her
    with my ship and with my followers will I send; but I will
    take fair-cheeked Briseis, thy own prize, and fetch her from
    thy tent, that thou mayest know how far thy better I am, and
    that others too may dread to call themselves my equal, and to
    paragon themselves with me.

    "So spake he. And Peleides was filled with grief; and his heart
    within his shaggy bosom was cut in twain with thought, whether
    to draw his sharp sword from his thigh, and, breaking through
    the heroes, kill the king, or to stay his anger and refrain his
    soul. While thus he raged within his heart and mind, and from
    its scabbard was in act to draw the mighty sword, came Athene
    from heaven; for Here, white-armed goddess, sent her forth,
    loving both heroes in her soul, and caring for them. She stood
    behind, and took Peleides by the yellow hair, seen by him only,
    but of the rest none saw her. Achilles marvelled, and turned
    back; and suddenly he knew Pallas Athene, and awful seemed her
    eyes to him; and, speaking winged words, he thus addressed her:

    "Why, daughter of ægis-bearing Zeus, art thou come hither? Say,
    is it to behold the violence of Agamemnon, Atreus's son? But I
    will tell to thee, what verily I think shall be accomplished,
    that by his own pride he soon shall slay his soul.

    "Him then the gray-eyed goddess Athene bespake:

    "I came to stay thy might, if thou wilt hear me, from heaven;
    for Here, white-armed goddess, sent me forth, loving you both
    alike, and caring for you. But come, give up strife, nor draw
    thy sword! But, lo, I bid thee taunt him with sharp words,
    as verily shall be. For this I say to thee, and it shall
    be accomplished: the time shall come when thou shalt have
    thrice-fold as many splendid gifts because of his violence.
    Only restrain thyself; obey me.

    "To her, in turn, spake swift-footed Achilles:

    "Needs must I, goddess, keep thy word and hers, though sorely
    grieved in soul; for thus is it best. He who obeys the gods,
    him have they listened to in time of need.

    "He spake, and on the silver handle pressed a heavy hand, and
    back into the scabbard thrust the mighty sword, nor swerved
    from Athene's counsel. But she back to Olympus fared, to the
    house of ægis-bearing Zeus unto the other gods.

    "Then Peleides again with bitter words bespake Atrides, and not
    yet awhile surceased from wrath:

    "Wine-weighted, with a dog's eyes and a heart of deer! Never
    hadst thou spirit to harness thee for the battle with the folk,
    nor yet to join the ambush with the best of the Achaians.
    _This_ to thee seems certain death. Far better is it, verily,
    throughout the broad camp of Achaians to filch gifts when a
    man stands up to speak against thee--thou folk-consuming king,
    that swayest men of nought. Lo, of a sooth, Atrides, now for
    the last time wilt thou have dealt knavishly. But I declare
    unto thee, and will swear thereon a mighty oath; yea, by this
    sceptre, which shall never put forth leaf nor twig since that
    day that it left the stock upon the mountains, nor again shall
    bud or bloom, for of its leafage and its bark the iron stripped
    it bare; and sons of the Achaians hold it in their palms for
    judgment, they who guard the laws by ordinance of Zeus; and
    this shall be to thee a mighty oath. Verily, and of a truth,
    the day shall be when sore desire for Achilles shall come upon
    Achaians one and all. Then shalt thou, though grieved in soul,
    have no power to help, while in multitudes they fall and die at
    Hector's murderous hands; but thou shalt tear thy heart within
    thy breast for rage, seeing thou honoredst not the best of the
    Achaians aught.

    "So spake Peleides; and on the earth cast down the sceptre
    studded with nails of gold; and he sat down upon his seat."

What is chiefly noticeable in this passage is the grand scale upon
which the anger of Achilles is displayed. He is not content with
taunting Agamemnon, but he includes all the princes in his scorn--

    #dêmoboros basileus, epei outidanoisin anasseis.#

We may also notice the interference of Athene. The Athene of the
_Iliad_ is a different goddess from the Athene of the Parthenon.
In strength she is more than a match for Ares. Her cunning she
subordinates to great and masculine ends, not to the arts of beauty
or to study. She is the saint of the valiant and wary soldier. While
checking Achilles, she does not advise him to avoid strife in any
meek and gentle spirit. She simply reminds him that if he gets to
blows with Agamemnon, he will put himself in the wrong; whereas, by
contenting himself with sharp words and with secession from the war,
he will reduce the haughty king to sue him with gifts and submission.
Athene in this place acts like all the other deities in Homer when they
come into direct contact with the heroes. She is exterior to Achilles,
and at the same time a part of his soul. She is the expression of both
thought and passion deeply seated in his nature, the force of his
own character developed by circumstance, the god within his breast
externalized and rendered visible to him alone. What Athene is to the
son of Peleus, Até is to Agamemnon.

The next passage in which Achilles appears in the forefront of the
scene is in the ninth book (307-429). Worn out with the losses of the
war, Agamemnon has at last humbled his pride, and sent the wisest of
the chiefs, silver-tongued Odysseus, and Phoenix, the old guardian
of the son of Peleus, to beg Achilles to receive back Briseis and to
take great gifts if only he will relax his wrath. But Achilles remains
inflexible. In order to maintain the firmness of his character, to
justify the righteousness of his indignation, Homer cannot suffer him
to abandon his resentment at the first entreaty. Some more potent
influence must break his resolution than the mere offer to restore
Briseis. Homer has the death of Patroclus in the background. He means
to show the iron heart of Peleides at last softened by his sorrow and
his love. Therefore, for the time, he must protract the situation in
which Achilles is still haughty, still implacable towards his repentant
injurer. In this interview with the ambassadors we have to observe how
confident Achilles abides in the justice of his cause and in his own
prowess. It is he with his valiant bands who has sacked the Trojan
cities; it is he who kept Hector from the ships; and now in his absence
the Achaians have had to build a wall in self-defence. And for whom has
he done this? For the sons of Atreus and for Helen. And what has he
received as guerdon? Nothing but dishonor. These arguments might seem
to savor too much of egotism and want of feeling for the dangers of the
host. But at the end come those great lines upon the vanity of gifts
and possessions in comparison with life, and upon the doom which hangs
above the hero:

    "You may make oxen and sheep your prey; you may gather together
    tripods and the tawny mane of horses; but none can make the
    soul of man return by theft or craft when once it has escaped.
    As for me," he resumes, "my goddess mother, silver-footed
    Thetis, warns me that fate lays two paths to bear me deathward.
    If I abide and fight before the walls of Troy, my return to
    Hellas is undone, but fame imperishable remains for me. If I
    return to my dear country then my good glory dies, but long
    life awaits me, nor will the term of death be hastened."

This foreknowledge of Achilles that he has to choose between a long,
inglorious life and a swift-coming but splendid death illuminates his
ultimate action with a fateful radiance. In the passage before us it
lends dignity to his obstinate and obdurate endurance. He says: I am
sick at heart for the insults thrust on me. I am wounded in my pride.
Toiling for others, I get no reward. And behold, if I begin to act
again, swift death is before me. Shall I, to please Agamemnon, hasten
on my own end?

When the moment arrives for Achilles to be aroused from inactivity by
his own noblest passion, then, and not till then, does he fling aside
the thought of death, and trample on a long reposeful life. He is
conscious that his glory can only be achieved by the sacrifice of ease
and happiness and life itself; but he holds honor dearer than these
good things. Yet, at the same time, he is not eager to throw away his
life for a worthless object, or to buy mere fame by an untimely end. It
requires another motive--the strong pressure of sorrow and remorse--to
quicken his resolution; but when once quickened, nothing can retard
it. Achilles at this point might be compared to a mass of ice and snow
hanging at the jagged edge of a glacier, suspended on a mountain brow.
We have seen such avalanches brooding upon Monte Rosa, or the Jungfrau,
beaten by storms, loosened, perchance, by summer sun, but motionless.
In a moment a lightning-flash strikes the mass, and it roars crumbling
to the deep.

This lightning-flash in the case of Achilles was the death of Patroclus
(xviii. 15). Patroclus has gone forth to aid the Achaians and has
fallen beneath Hector's sword. Antilochus, sent to bear the news to
Achilles, finds him standing before the ships, already anxious about
the long delay of his comrade. Antilochus does not break the news
gently. His tears betray the import of his message, and he begins:

    "Woe is me, son of brave Peleus! Verily thou shalt hear right
    sorrowful tidings--Patroclus lies slain; round his corpse they
    are fighting; stripped it lies, but plumèd Hector hath his

    "So he spake. But a black cloud of woe covered the hero. With
    both hands he took the dust of ashes and flung them down upon
    his head, and disfigured his fair face, and on his fragrant
    tunic lay the black cinders. But he, huge in his hugeness,
    stretched upon the dust lay, and with his hands he tore and
    ravaged his hair."

Thus Achilles receives the first shock of grief. When his mother rises
from the sea to comfort him, he refuses consolation, and cries:

    "My mother, the Olympian hath done all these things; but of
    what pleasure is this to me, now that my dear friend is dead,
    Patroclus, whom above all my comrades I honored, even as
    myself? Him have I slain!"

This is the pith and marrow of his anguish. I slew Patroclus: it was
I who sent him forth to fight. "Now," he resumes a few lines lower
down--"now my soul bids me no longer live or be with men, save only I
strike Hector first and slay him with my spear, and make him pay the
fine of Patroclus."

Thetis reminds him that if he slay Hector, his own life will be short.
This only serves to turn his anguish into desperate resolve:

    "Straight let me die, seeing I might not come to the aid of my
    comrade when he was dying. Far from his fatherland he perished.
    He looked for me that I should have been his helper. But now,
    since never to my home shall I return, nor was I a light in
    trouble to Patroclus, nor to my other comrades who are slain
    by hundreds by the godlike Hector--while I here sit beside
    the ships, a useless load upon the earth--I who am such as
    there is none else like me among brazen-coated Achaians in the
    war--others may be better perchance in council--now let strife
    perish from among gods and men, with anger which stirs up the
    prudent even to fury."

Thus he foregoes his wrath, and flings resentment from him like a
mantle. Then he rises ready for the fight. "If death come, let death
be welcome. Death came to Herakles. In his due time he comes to me.
Meanwhile I thirst to make Dardan ladies widows in the land."

When he next appears, his very form and outward semblance are
transfigured. He stands alone and unarmed in the trench. A fire
surrounds his head and flames upon his curls. His voice thrills the
armies like the blare of a victorious trumpet. This is how Homer has
described him shouting in the trench (xviii. 203):

    "But Achilles, dear to Zeus, arose, and around his mighty
    shoulders Athene cast her tasselled ægis; and about his head
    the queenly goddess set a crown of golden mist, and from it she
    made blaze a dazzling flame. As when smoke rises to the clear
    sky from a town, afar from an island which foemen beleaguer,
    who all day long contend in grisly war, issuing from their own
    town; but at sundown beacons blaze in rows, and on high the
    glare goes up, and soars for neighboring men to see, if haply
    warders-off of woe may come to them with ships--so from the
    head of Achilles the flame went up to heaven. He stood at the
    trench, away from the wall, nor joined the Achaians; for he
    honored his mother's wise command. There he stood and shouted;
    and beside him Pallas Athene cried; but among the Trojans
    he raised infinite tumult. As when a mighty voice, when the
    trumpet shrills for the murderous foemen that surround a town,
    so was the mighty voice of the son of Æacus. They then, when
    they heard the brazen cry of Æacides, in the breasts of all of
    them the heart was troubled; but the fair-maned horses turned
    the cars backward; for in their heart they knew the sorrows
    that were to be. And the charioteers were stricken when they
    saw the tireless flame terrible above the head of big-hearted
    Peleus's son blazing. The gray-eyed goddess Athene kindled it.
    Thrice above the trench shouted the godlike Achilles in his
    might; thrice were the Trojans and their noble allies troubled."

From this moment the action of the _Iliad_ advances rapidly. Achilles
takes his proper place, and occupies the whole stage. The body of
Patroclus is brought home to him; he mourns over it, and promises to
bury it when he shall have slain Hector, and slaughtered twelve sons of
the Trojans on the pyre. Then he reconciles himself with Agamemnon, and
formally renounces anger. Lastly, when he has put on the divine armor
made for him by Hephæstus, he ascends his car, and hastens into the
fight. But again at this point, when Achilles is at the very pitch and
summit of his glory, the voice of fate is heard. It is with the promise
of the tomb that he enters the battle. Turn to book xix. 399. Achilles
has just mounted his chariot:

    "Fiercely did he cheer the horses of his sire. Xanthus and
    Balius, far-famed children of Podargé, take other heed, I
    warn ye, how to save your master, and to bring him to the
    Danaan host, returning of war satisfied; nor leave him, like
    Patroclus, dead there on the field.

    "To him, then, from beneath the yoke spake the fleet-footed
    horse Xanthus, and straightway drooped his head; and all his
    mane, escaping from the collar by the yoke, fell earthward.
    Goddess Here, of the white arms, gave him speech:

    "Verily shall we save thee yet this time, fierce Achilles; but
    close at hand is thy doomsday. Nor of this are we the cause,
    but great God in heaven and resistless fate. For neither was
    it by our sloth or sluggishness that Trojans stripped the
    arms from Patroclus his shoulders; but of gods the best, whom
    fair-haired Leto bare, slew him among the foremost, and gave to
    Hector glory of the deed. We, though we should run apace with
    Zephyr's breath, the fleetest, as 'tis said, yet for thee it is
    decreed to perish by the might of God and man.

    "When he had thus spoken the Erinnyes stayed his voice; and,
    high in wrath, fleet-foot Achilles answered him:

    "Xanthus! why prophesy my death? Thou hast no call. Right well
    know I, too, that it is my fate to perish here, far from dear
    sire and mother; yet for all this will I not surcease before I
    satiate the Trojans with war.

    "He spoke, and vanward held his steeds with mighty yell."

This dialogue between Achilles and Xanthus is not without great
importance. Homer is about to show the hero raging in carnage,
exulting over suppliants and slain foes, terrible in his ferocity. It
is consistent with the whole character of Achilles, who is fiery, of
indomitable fury, that he should act thus. Stung as he is by remorse
and by the sorrow for Patroclus, which does not unnerve him, but rather
kindles his whole spirit to a flame, we are prepared to see him fierce
even to cruelty. But when we know that in the midst of the carnage he
is himself moving a dying man, when we remember that he is sending his
slain foes like messengers before his face to Hades, when we keep the
warning words of Thetis and of Xanthus in our minds, then the grim
frenzy of Achilles becomes dignified. The world is in a manner over for
him, and he appears the incarnation of disdainful anger and revengeful
love, the conscious scourge of God and instrument of destiny. We need
not go through the details of the battle, in which Achilles drives the
Trojans before him, and is only withheld by the direct interposition
of the gods from carrying Ilium by assault. To borrow a simile from
Dante, his foes are like frogs scurrying away from the approach of
their great foe, the water-snake. Then follow the episode of Lycaon's
slaughter, the fight with the river-gods, and the death of Hector. To
the assembled Greeks Achilles cries (xxii. 386):

    "By the ships, a corpse, unburied, unbewailed, lies Patroclus;
    but of him I will not be unmindful so long as I abide among
    the living and my knees have movement. Nay, should there be
    oblivion of the dead in Hades, yet I even there will remember
    my loved comrade. But rise, ye youths of Achaia, and singing
    Pæan, let us hasten to the ships, and take this slain man with
    us. Great glory have we got. Divine Hector have we slain, to
    whom the Trojans in their city prayed as to a god."

So the Pæan rings. But Achilles by the ships, after the hateful
banquet, as he calls it in the sorrowful loathing of all comfort, has
been finished, lays himself to sleep (xxiii. 59):

    "The son of Peleus by the shore of the roaring sea lay, heavily
    groaning, surrounded by his Myrmidons; on a fair space of sand
    he lay, where the waves lapped the beach. Then slumber took
    him, loosing the cares of his heart, and mantling softly around
    him; for sorely wearied were his radiant limbs with driving
    Hector on by windy Troy. There to him came the soul of poor
    Patroclus, in all things like himself--in stature, and in the
    beauty of his eyes and voice; and on his form was raiment like
    his own. He stood above the hero's head, and spake to him:

    "Sleepest thou, and me hast thou forgotten, Achilles? Not in
    my life wert thou neglectful of me, but in death. Bury me
    soon, that I may pass the gates of Hades. Far off the souls,
    the shadows of the dead, repel me, nor suffer me to join them
    on the river-bank; but, as it is, thus I roam around the
    wide-doored house of Hades. But stretch to me thy hand, I
    entreat; for never again shall I return from Hades when once
    ye shall have given me the meed of funeral fire. Nay, never
    shall we sit in life apart from our dear comrades, and take
    counsel together. But me hath hateful fate enveloped--fate that
    was mine at the moment of my birth. And for thyself, divine
    Achilles, it is doomed to die before the noble Trojans' wall.
    Another thing I will say to thee, and bid thee do it if thou
    wilt obey me: Lay not my bones apart from thine, Achilles, but
    lay them together; for we were brought up together in your
    house, when Menoetius brought me, a child, from Opus to your
    house, because of woful bloodshed on the day in which I slew
    the son of Amphidamas, myself a child, not willing it, but in
    anger at our games. Then did the horseman, Peleus, take me, and
    rear me in his house, and cause me to be called thy squire.
    So, then, let one grave also hide the bones of both of us, the
    golden urn thy goddess-mother gave to thee.

    "Him answered swift-footed Achilles:

    "Why, dearest and most honored, hast thou hither come, to
    lay on me this thy behest? All things most certainly will I
    perform, and bow to what thou biddest. But stand thou near:
    even for one moment let us throw our arms upon each other's
    neck, and take our fill of sorrowful wailing.

    "So spake he, and with his outstretched hands he clasped, but
    could not seize. The spirit, earthward, like smoke, vanished
    with a shriek. Then all astonished arose Achilles, and beat his
    palms together, and spoke a piteous word:

    "Heavens! is there, then, among the dead soul and the shade of
    life, but thought is theirs no more at all? For through the
    night the soul of poor Patroclus stood above my head, wailing
    and sorrowing loud, and bade me do his will. It was the very
    semblance of himself.

    "So spake he, and in the hearts of all of them he raised desire
    of lamentation; and while they were yet mourning, to them
    appeared rose-fingered dawn about the piteous corpse."

There is surely nothing more thrilling in its pathos throughout the
whole range of poetry than this scene, in which the iron-hearted
conqueror of Hector holds ineffectual communing in dreams with his
dear, lost, never-to-be-forgotten friend. But now the pyre is ready
to be heaped, and the obsequies of Patroclus are on the point of
being celebrated. Thereupon Achilles cuts his tawny curls, which he
wore clustering for Spercheius, and places them in the hand of dead
Patroclus. At the sight of this token that Achilles will return no more
to Hellas, but that he must die and lie beside his friend, all the
people fall to lamentation. Agamemnon has to arouse them to prepare
the pyre. A hundred feet each way is it built up; oxen and sheep are
slaughtered and placed upon the wood, with jars of honey and olive-oil.
Horses, too, and dogs are slain to serve the dead man on his journey;
and twelve sons of the great-souled Trojans are sacrificed to the
disconsolate ghost. Then Achilles cast fire upon the wood, and wailed,
and called on his loved friend by name:

    "Hail, Patroclus! I greet thee even in the tomb: for now I am
    performing all that erst I promised. Twelve valiant sons of the
    great-souled Trojans with thee the fire devours; but Hector,
    son of Priam, I will give to no fire to feed on, but to dogs."

Meanwhile the pyre of Patroclus refused to burn, and Achilles summoned
the two winds, Boreas and Zephyrus, to help him. They at this time were
feasting in the house of Zephyrus, and Iris had to fetch them from
their cups. They rose and drove the clouds before them, and furrowed up
the sea, and passed to fertile Troy, and fell upon the pyre, and the
great flame crackled, hugely blazing:

    "All night they around the pyre together cast a flame, blowing
    with shrill breath, and all night swift Achilles, from a golden
    bowl, holding a double goblet, drew wine, and poured it on the
    ground, and soaked the earth, calling upon the soul of poor
    Patroclus. As when a father wails who burns the bones of his
    son unwed, so wailed Achilles, burning his friend's bones,
    pacing slowly round the fire, and uttering groan on groan.

    "But when the star of dawn came to herald light upon the earth,
    whom following morn, with saffron robe, spread across the sea,
    then the pyre languished and the flame was stayed.

    "The winds again went homeward, back across the Thracian deep.
    It groaned beneath them, raging with the billow's swell. But
    the son of Peleus turned from the pyre, and lay down weary, and
    sweet sleep came upon him."

After this manner was the burning of Patroclus. And here the action of
the _Iliad_ may be said to end. What follows in the last two books is,
however, of the greatest importance in adding dignity to the character
of Achilles, and in producing that sense of repose, that pacification
of the more violent emotions, which we require in the highest works
of tragic art. First come the games around the barrow of Patroclus.
Presiding over them is Achilles, who opens his treasure-house to the
combatants with royal generosity, forever mindful that in honoring
them he is paying honor to the great sad ghost of his dead friend. The
bitterness of his sorrow is past; his thirst for vengeance is assuaged.
Radiant and tranquil he appears among the chiefs of the Achaians; and
to Agamemnon he displays marked courtesy.

But it is not enough to show us Achilles serene in the accomplishment
of his last service to Patroclus. As the crowning scene in the whole
_Iliad_, Homer has contrived to make us feel that, after all, Achilles
is a man. The wrathful and revengeful hero, who bearded Agamemnon on
his throne, and who slew the unarmed suppliant Lycaon, relents in
pity at a father's prayer. Priam, in the tent of Achilles, presents
one of the most touching pictures to be found in poetry. We know the
leonine fierceness of Achilles; we know how he has cherished the
thought of insult to dead Hector as a final tribute to his friend:
even now he is brooding in his lair over the Trojan corpse. Into this
lion's den the old king ventures. Instead of springing on him, as we
might have feared, Achilles is found sublime in generosity of soul.
Begging Patroclus to forgive him for robbing his ghost of this last
satisfaction, he relinquishes to Priam the body of his son. Yet herein
there is nothing sentimental. Achilles is still the same--swift to
anger and haughty, but human withal, and tender-hearted to the tears of
an enemy at his mercy.

This is the last mention made of Achilles in the _Iliad_. The hero,
whom we have seen so noble in his interview with Priam, was destined
within a few days to die before the walls of Troy, slain by the arrow
of Paris.[12] His ashes were mingled with those of Patroclus. In their
death they were not divided.

Once again in the Homeric poems does Achilles appear. But this time he
is a ghost among the pale shadows of Elysium (_Od._ xi. 466):

    "Thereupon came the soul of Achilles, son of Peleus, and of
    Patroclus, and of brave Antilochus, and of Ajax, who was first
    in form and stature among the Achaians after great Peleides.
    The soul of fleet Æacides knew me, and, wailing, he thus spake:

    "Zeus-born son of Laertes, wily Ulysses, why in thy heart,
    unhappy man, dost thou design a deed too great for mortals? How
    darest thou descend to Hades, where dwell the thoughtless dead,
    the phantoms of men whose life is done?

    "So he spake; but I in turn addressed him:

    "Achilles, son of Peleus, greatest by far of Achaians, I am
    come to learn of Teiresias concerning my return to Ithaca. But
    none of men in elder days, or of those to be, is more blessed
    than thou art, Achilles; for in life the Argives honored thee
    like a god, and now again in thy greatness thou rulest the
    dead here where thou art. Therefore be not grieved at death,

    "So spake I, and he straightway made answer:

    "Console not me in death, noble Odysseus! Would rather that I
    were a bondsman of the glebe, the servant of a master, of some
    poor man, whose living were but scanty, than thus to be the
    king of all the nations of the dead."

Some apology may be needed for these numerous quotations from a poem
which is hardly less widely known and read than Shakespeare or the
Bible. By no other method, however, would it have been possible to
bring out into prominence the chief features of the hero whom Homer
thought sufficient for the subject of the greatest epic of the world.
For us Achilles has yet another interest. He, more than any character
of fiction, reflects the qualities of the Greek race in its heroic age.
His vices of passion and ungovernable pride, his virtue of splendid
human heroism, his free individuality asserted in the scorn of fate,
are representative of that Hellas which afterwards, at Marathon and
Salamis, was destined to inaugurate a new era of spiritual freedom for
mankind. It is impossible for us to sympathize with him wholly, or
to admire him otherwise than as we admire a supreme work of art; so
far is he removed from our so-called proprieties of moral taste and
feeling. But we can study in him the type of a by-gone, infinitely
valuable period of the world's life, of that age in which the human
spirit was emerging from the confused passions and sordid needs of
barbarism into the higher emotions and more refined aspirations of
civilization. Of this dawn, this boyhood of humanity, Achilles is
the fierce and fiery hero. He is the ideal of a race not essentially
moral or political, of a nation which subordinated morals to art,
and politics to personality; and even of that race he idealizes the
youth rather than the manhood. In some respects Odysseus is a truer
representative of the delicate and subtle spirit which survived all
changes in the Greeks. But Achilles, far more than Odysseus, is an
impersonation of the Hellenic genius, superb in its youthfulness,
doomed to immature decay, yet brilliant at every stage of its brief

To exaggerate the importance of Achilles in the education of the
Greeks, who used the _Iliad_ as their Bible, and were keenly sensitive
to all artistic influences, would be difficult. He was the incarnation
of their chivalry, the fountain of their sense of honor. The full
development of this subject would require more space than I can here
give to it. It will be enough to touch upon the friendship of Achilles
for Patroclus as the central point of Hellenic chivalry; and to advert
to the reappearance of his type of character in Alexander at the very
moment when the force of Hellas seemed to be exhausted.

Nearly all the historians of Greece have failed to insist upon the
fact that fraternity in arms played for the Greek race the same part
as the idealization of women for the knighthood of feudal Europe.
Greek mythology and history are full of tales of friendship, which
can only be paralleled by the story of David and Jonathan in our
Bible. The legends of Herakles and Hylas, of Theseus and Peirithous,
of Apollo and Hyacinth, of Orestes and Pylades, occur immediately to
the mind. Among the noblest patriots, tyrannicides, law-givers, and
self-devoted heroes in the early times of Greece, we always find the
names of friends and comrades recorded with peculiar honor. Harmodius
and Aristogeiton, who slew the despot Hipparchus at Athens; Diocles
and Philolaus, who gave laws to Thebes; Chariton and Melanippus, who
resisted the sway of Phalaris in Sicily; Cratinus and Aristodemus, who
devoted their lives to propitiate offended deities when a plague had
fallen upon Athens--these comrades, stanch to each other in their love,
and elevated by friendship to the pitch of noblest enthusiasm, were
among the favorite saints of Greek legendary history. In a word, the
chivalry of Hellas found its motive force in friendship rather than in
the love of women; and the motive force of all chivalry is a generous,
soul-exalting, unselfish passion. The fruit which friendship bore among
the Greeks was courage in the face of danger, indifference to life
when honor was at stake, patriotic ardor, the love of liberty, and
lion-hearted rivalry in battle. "Tyrants," said Plato, "stand in awe of

It may seem at first sight paradoxical to speak at all of Greek
chivalry, since this word, by its very etymology, is appropriated to
a mediæval institution. Yet when we inquire what chivalry means, we
find that it implies a permanent state of personal emotion, which
raises human life above the realities of every-day experience, and
inspires men with unselfish impulses. Furthermore, this passionate
condition of the soul in chivalry is connected with a powerful military
enthusiasm, severing the knight from all vile things, impelling
him to the achievement of great deeds, and breeding in his soul a
self-regardless temper. Both the ancient and the mediæval forms of
chivalry included love and arms. The heroes and the knights alike were
lovers and warriors. The passion which Plato called madness in the
_Phædrus_, and which the Provençal troubadours knew by the name of
_Joie_, was excited in the heroes by their friends, and in the knights
by their ladies. But the emotion was substantially the same; nor, with
the tale of Patroclus and with the whole of Greek history before us,
can we allow our modern inaptitude for devoted friendship to blind us
to the seriousness of this passion among the Greeks. Besides war and
love, chivalry implies a third enthusiasm. In the case of the Greek
heroes this was patriotic; in the case of the mediæval knights it was
religious. Thus, antique chivalry may be described as a compound of
military, amatory, and patriotic passions meeting in one enthusiastic
habit of the soul; mediæval chivalry as a compound of military,
amatory, and religious passions meeting in a similar enthusiastic habit
of soul. It is hardly necessary to point out the differences between
Hellenic heroism and Teutonic knighthood, or to show how far the former
failed to influence society as favorably as the latter. The Christian
chivalry of mercy, forgiveness, gentleness, and long-suffering, which
claims the title of charity in armor, was a post-Hellenic ideal. Greeks
could not have comprehended the oath which Arthur imposed upon his
knights, and which ran in the following words: "He charged them never
to do outrage nor murder, and alway to flee treason; also by no means
to be cruel, but to give mercy unto him that asked mercy, and alway to
do ladies, damosels, and gentlewomen succor upon pain of death." The
murder of Lycaon by Achilles, the butchery of Dolon by Diomedes, and
the treachery practised upon Philoctetes by Odysseus are sufficiently
at variance with the spirit of this oath; nor do any of the heroic
legends tell a tale of courtesy towards women. Thus much about the
unchivalrous aspects of Greek heroism I have thought it right to say,
before returning to the view which I first stated, that military
friendship among the Greeks played for Hellenic civilization a part
not wholly dissimilar to that of chivalrous love among the nations
of mediæval Europe. Regarded as an institution, with ethics of its
own, and with peculiar social and political regulations, this Greek
chivalry was specially Dorian.[13] Yet it spread through all the states
of Hellas. In Athens it allied itself with philosophy, as afterwards
at Florence did the chivalry of knighthood; and in Thebes, during the
last struggle for Hellenic freedom, it blazed forth in the heroism of
the three hundred, who fell together face-forward to the Macedonian
lances at Chæronea.[14] Meanwhile, Achilles remained for all Greece
the eponym of passionate friendship; and even in the later periods of
Greek poetry the most appropriate title for a pair of noble comrades
was "Achilleian." Concerning the abuse and debasement of such passion
among the historic Greeks, this is not the place to speak. Achilles
and Patroclus cannot be charged with having sanctioned by example any
vice, however much posterity may have read its own moods of thought and
feeling into Homer.

Æschylus wrote a tragedy entitled the _Myrmidones_, in commemoration of
the love of Achilles; and, perhaps, few things among the lost treasures
of Greek literature are so much to be regretted as this play, which
would have cast clear light upon the most romantic of Greek legends. It
may also be mentioned in passing that we possess fragments of a play
of Sophocles which bears the name #Achilleôs erastai#, or _Lovers of
Achilles_; but what its subject was, and whether the drama was satyric,
as seems probable, or not, we do not know. The beautiful passage in
which love is compared to a piece of glittering ice held in the hand of
children, has been preserved from it by Stobæus.

Enough, fortunately, has survived the ruin of time to enable us to
conjecture how Æschylus, in the _Myrmidones_, handled the materials
afforded him by Homer. The play, as was frequent, took its name from
the chorus who represented the contingent of Thessalian warriors led
by Peleus's son against Troy. It opened, if we may trust the scholiast
to the _Frogs_ of Aristophanes, with a reproach uttered by the chorus
against Achilles for his inactivity:

    #tade men leusseis, phaidim' Achilleu,
    dorilymantous Danaôn mochthous
    hous ... eisô klisias.#

"Seest thou these things, glorious Achilles--the sufferings of the
Danaans beneath victorious spears? Whom thou within thy tent--" Here
the fragment breaks off; but enough has been said to strike the keynote
of the tragedy. The next fragment, according to Dindorf's arrangement,
formed, probably, part of Achilles' defence.[15] It is written in
iambics, and contains the famous simile of the eagle stricken to death
by an arrow fledged with his own feather. Like that eagle, argues the
hero, have we Greeks been smitten by our own ill-counsel. After the
drama has thus been opened, the first great incident seems to have been
the arrival of the embassy of Phoenix at Achilles' tent. One corrupt,
but precious fragment, put by Aristophanes as a quotation into the
mouth of Euripides in the _Frogs_, indicates the line of argument taken
by the ambassadors:

    #Phthiôt' Achileu, ti pot' androdaïkton akouôn
    iêkopon ou pelazeis ep' arôgan?#

Though the Greek as it stands is untranslatable, the meaning is pretty
clearly this: Achilles of Phthia, how can you bear to hear of these
woes nor lend a helping hand? The next fragment must be received with
caution. It occurs in the _Frogs_ as a quotation:

    #Beblêk' Achilleus dyo kybô kai tettara.#

    Achilles has cast two dice, and four.

On which the scholiast makes the following remark: "This is from the
_Myrmidones_; for the poet feigned them playing dice; and it is the
custom of gamesters to cry thus: two, four, three, five. Dionysus says
this to show that Æschylus has won." Another scholiast puts it in
doubt whether the verse be taken from the _Telephus_ of Euripides or
some other source. The foundation is, therefore, too slender to build
upon securely; else we might imagine that, after the departure of the
ambassadors, and perhaps after the equipment of Patroclus for the war,
Achilles was represented by Æschylus as whiling away the time with his
companions at a game of hazard. Then enters Antilochus, the messenger
of bad news. He recites the death of Patroclus, and lifts up his voice
in lamentation. Our next fragment brings the whole scene vividly before

    #Antiloch', apoimôxon me tou tethnêkotos
    ton zônta mallon.#

The words are spoken undoubtedly by Achilles: "Antilochus, wail thou
for me rather than for the dead--for me who live." It is again from
a comedy of Aristophanes, the _Ecclesiazusæ_, that this exclamation
comes; and in passing we may remark that such frequent citations from
this single play of Æschylus by a comic poet prove its popularity at
Athens. Between the narration of Antilochus and the bringing-in of
the dead body of Patroclus there must have been a solemn pause in
the dramatic action, which Æschylus, no doubt, filled up with one
of his great choric passages. Then followed the crowning scene in
the tragedy. Achilles, front to front with the corpse of his friend,
uttered a lamentation, which the ancients seem to have regarded as the
very ecstasy of grief and love and passionate remembrance. Lucian,
quoting one of the lines of this lament, introduces it with words that
prove the strong impression it produced: "Achilles, when he bemoaned
Patroclus's death, in his unhusbanded passion burst forth into the
very truth." To quote and comment upon the three lines which have
been preserved from this unique Threnos would be here impossible.
To understand them at all is difficult, and to recompose from them
the hero's speech is beyond our power. The value of the meagre and
conflicting citations given by Plutarch, Athenæus, and Lucian lies
in the impression they convey of the deep effect wrought upon Greek
sympathy by the passion of the soliloquy. When we call to mind the
lamentation uttered by Teucer over the corpse of Ajax in the tragedy of
Sophocles, we may imagine how the genius of Æschylus rose to the height
of this occasion in his _Myrmidones_. In what way the drama ended is
not known. We may, however, hazard a conjecture that the poet did not
leave the hero without some outlook into the future, and that the
solemn note of reconciliation upon which the tragedy closed responded
to the first querulous interrogation of the chorus at its commencement.
The situation was a grand one for working out that purification of the
passions which Greek tragedy required. The sullen and selfish wrath of
Achilles had brought its bitter consequence of suffering and sorrow
for the hero, as well as of disaster for the host. Out of that deadly
suffering of Achilles--out of the paroxysm of grief beside the body
of his friend--has grown a nobler form of anger, which will bring
salvation to his country at the certain loss of his own life. Can we
doubt that Æschylus availed himself of this so solemn and sublime a
cadence? The dead march and the funeral lamentations for Patroclus
mingle with the neighing of war-horses and the braying of the trumpets
that shall lead the Myrmidons to war. And over and above all sounds of
the grief that is passed and of the triumph that is to follow is heard
the voice of fate pronouncing the death-doom of the hero, on whose
#hamartia# the tragic movement has depended.

Thus, in the prime of Athens, the poet-warrior of Marathon, the prophet
of the highest Hellenic inspiration, handled a legend which was dear
to his people, and which to them spoke more, perhaps, than it can do
to us. Plato, discussing the _Myrmidones_ of Æschylus, remarks in the
_Symposium_ that the tragic poet was wrong to make Achilles the lover
of Patroclus, seeing that Patroclus was the elder of the two, and
that Achilles was the youngest and most beautiful of all the Greeks.
The fact, however, is that Homer himself raises no question in our
minds about the relations of lover and beloved. Achilles and Patroclus
are comrades. Their friendship is equal. It was only the reflective
activity of the Greek mind, working upon the Homeric legend by the
light of subsequent custom, which introduced these distinctions. The
humanity of Homer was purer, larger, and more sane than that of his
posterity among the Hellenes. Still, it may be worth while suggesting
that Homer, perhaps, intended in Hector and Achilles to contrast
domestic love with the love of comrades. The tenderness of Hector for
Andromache, side by side with the fierce passion of Achilles, seems to
account, at least in some measure, for the preference felt for Hector
in the Middle Ages. Achilles controlled the Greek imagination. Hector
attracted the sympathies of mediæval chivalry, and took his place
upon the list of knightly worthies.[16] Masculine love was Hellenic.
The love of idealized womanhood was romantic. Homer, the sovereign
poet, understood both passions of the human heart, delineating the one
in Achilles without effeminacy, the other in Hector without sickly
sentiment. At the same time, Hector's connection with the destinies of
Rome and his appearance in the _Æneid_, if only as a ghost, must not be
forgotten when we estimate the reasons why he eclipsed Achilles in the
Middle Ages.

It is not till we reach Alexander the Great that we find how truly
Achilles was the type of the Greek people, and to what extent he had
controlled their growth. Alexander expressed in real life that ideal
which in Homer's poetry had been displayed by Achilles. Alexander set
himself to imitate Achilles. His tutor, Lysimachus, found favor in the
eyes of the royal family of Macedon, by comparing Philip to Peleus,
his son to Achilles, and himself to Phoenix. On all his expeditions
Alexander carried with him a copy of the _Iliad_, calling it "a perfect
portable treasure of military virtue." It was in the spirit of the
Homeric age that he went forth to conquer Asia. And when he reached
the plain of Troy, it was to the tomb of Achilles that he paid special
homage. There he poured libations to the mighty ghost, anointed his
grave, and, as Plutarch says, "ran naked about his tomb, and crowned it
with garlands, declaring how happy he esteemed him in having, while he
lived, so faithful a friend, and, when he was dead, so famous a poet
to proclaim his actions." We have seen that the two chief passions
of Achilles were his anger and his love. In both of these Alexander
followed him. The passage just quoted from Plutarch hints at the envy
with which Alexander regarded the friendship of Achilles and Patroclus.
In his own life he entertained for Hephæstion a like passion. When
Hephæstion died of fever at Ecbatana, Alexander exaggerated the fury
and the anguish of the son of Peleus. He went forth and slew a whole
tribe--the Cosseans--as a sacrifice to the soul of his comrade. He
threw down the battlements of neighboring cities, and forbade all signs
of merry-making in his camp. Meanwhile he refused food and comfort,
till an oracle from Ammon ordained that divine honors should be paid
Hephæstion. Then Alexander raised a pyre, like that of Patroclus in the
_Iliad_, except that the pyre of Hephæstion cost 10,000 talents, and
was adorned with all the splendor of Greek art in its prime. Here the
Homeric ceremonies were performed. Games and races took place; then,
like Achilles, having paid this homage to his friend, of bloodshed,
costly gifts, and obsequies, Alexander at last rested from his grief.
In this extravagance of love for a friend we see the direct working
of the _Iliad_ on the mind of the Macedonian king. But the realities
of life fall far short of the poet's dream. Neither the love nor the
sorrow of Alexander for Hephæstion is so touching as the love and
sorrow of Achilles for Patroclus.

In his wrath, again, Alexander imitated and went beyond his model.
When he slew Clitus in a drunken brawl, there was no Athene at his
side to stay his arm and put the sword back in the scabbard. Yet his
remorse was some atonement for his violence. "All that night," says
Plutarch, "and the next day he wept bitterly, till, being quite spent
with lamenting and exclaiming, he lay, as it were, speechless, only
fetching deep sighs." It is noticeable that Alexander, here also like
Achilles, conqueror and hero though he was, scorned not to show his
tears, and to grovel on the ground in anguish. His fiery temper added
indomitable energy to all he did or felt. In a few years he swept Asia,
destroying kingdoms, and founding cities that still bear his name; and
though his rage betrayed him now and then into insane acts, he, like
Achilles, was not wholly without the guidance of Athene. In both we
have the spectacle of a gigantic nature moved by passions; yet both
are controlled by reason, not so much by the reflective understanding,
as by an innate sense of what is great and noble. Alexander was
Aristotle's pupil. In his best moments, in his fairest and most solid
actions, the spirit of Aristotle's teaching ruled him and attended him,
as Achilles was ruled and attended by Pallas. Again, in generosity,
Alexander recalls Achilles. His treatment of the wife and daughters
of Darius reminds us of the reception of Priam by the son of Peleus.
Grote, indeed, points out that good policy prompted him to spare the
life of the Persian queen. That may be true; but it would have been
quite consistent with the Greek standard of honor to treat her with
indignity while he preserved her life. This Alexander refrained from
doing. His entertainment of Stateira was not unworthy of a queen; and
if he did not exhibit the refined courtesy of the Black Prince, he
came as near to this ideal of modern chivalry as a Greek could do.
In the last place, Alexander, like Achilles, was always young. Like
Achilles, he died young, and exists for us as an immortal youth. This
youthfulness is one of the peculiar attributes of a Greek hero, one of
the distinguishing features of Greek sculpture--in a word, the special
mark of the Greek race. "O Solon! Solon!" said the priest of Egypt,
"you Greeks are always boys!" Achilles and Alexander, as Hegel has most
eloquently demonstrated, are forever adolescent. Yet, after all is
said, Alexander fell far below his prototype in beauty and sublimity.
He was nothing more than a heroic man. Achilles was the creature of a
poet's brain, of a nation's mythology. The one was the ideal in its
freshness and its freedom. The other was the real, dragged in the mire
of the world, and enthralled by the necessities of human life.

It is very difficult, by any process of criticism, to define the
impression of greatness and of glory which the character of Achilles
leaves upon the mind. There is in him a kind of magnetic fascination,
something incommensurable and indescribable, a quality like that
which Goethe defined as dæmonic. They are not always the most noble
or the most admirable natures which exert this influence over their
fellow-creatures. The Emperor Napoleon and our own Byron had each,
perhaps, a portion of this Achilleian personality. Men of their stamp
sway the soul by their prestige, by their personal beauty and grandeur,
by the concentrated intensity of their character, and by the fatality
which seems to follow them. To Achilles, to Alexander, to Napoleon, we
cannot apply the rules of our morality. It is, therefore, impossible
for us, who must aim first at being good citizens, careful in our
generation, and subordinate to the laws of society around us, to
admire them without a reservation. Yet, after all is said, a great and
terrible glory does rest upon their heads; and though our sentiments of
propriety may be offended by some of their actions, our sense of what
is awful and sublime is satisfied by the contemplation of them. No one
should delude us into thinking that true culture does not come from
the impassioned study of everything, however eccentric and at variance
with our own mode of life, that is truly great. Greatness, of whatever
species it may be, is always elevating and spirit-stirring. When we
listen to the Eroica Symphony, and remember that that master-work
of music was produced by the genius of Beethoven, brooding over
the thoughts of Achilles in the _Iliad_, and of Napoleon upon the
battle-fields of Lombardy, we may feel how abyss cries to abyss, and
how all forms of human majesty meet and sustain each other.


[12] That the poet of the _Iliad_ in its present form had this legend
before him is clear from books xxi. 297, xxii. 355-360.

[13] See Müller's _Dorians_, vol. ii. pp. 306-313.

[14] Sections 18 and 19 of Plutarch's _Life of Pelopidas_ contain
the best account of the sacred band, and place the Greek chivalrous
sentiment in the clearest light.

[15] It may be questioned whether this fragment ought not to be
referred to the scene with the embassy later on in the play.

[16] See Caxton's Preface to the _Mort d'Arthur_.



    Helen of Troy--Her Eternal Youth.--Variety of Legends
        connected with her.--Stesichorus.--Helen in the
        _Iliad_.--Helen in the _Odyssey_.--The Treatment of Helen
        by Æschylus.--Euripidean Handling of her Romance.--Helen
        in Greek Art.--Quintus Smyrnæus.--Apollonius of
        Tyana and the Ghost of Achilles.--Helen in the
        Faust Legend.--Marlowe and Goethe.--Penelope--Her
        Home-love.--Calypso and the Isle Ogygia.--Circe.--The
        Homeric and the Modern Circe.--Nausicaa--Her Perfect
        Girlishness.--Briseis and Andromache.--The Sense
        of Proportion and of Relative Distance in Homer's
        Pictures.--Andromache and Astyanax.--The Cult of Heroes
        and Heroines in Greece.--Artistic Presentation of Homeric

    For first of all the spherèd signs whereby
    Love severs light from darkness, and most high
    In the white front of January there glows
    The rose-red sign of Helen like a rose.

                    Prelude to _Tristram and Iseult_, lines 91-94.

Helen of Troy is one of those ideal creatures of the fancy over which
time, space, and circumstance, and moral probability exert no sway. It
would be impossible to conceive of her except as inviolably beautiful
and young, in spite of all her wanderings and all she suffered at the
hands of Aphrodite and of men. She moves through Greek heroic legend
as the desired of all men and the possessed of many. Theseus bore her
away while yet a girl from Sparta. Her brethren, Castor and Polydeukes,
recovered her from Athens by force, and gave to her Æthra, the mother
of Theseus, for bondwoman. Then all the youths of Hellas wooed her
in the young world's prime. She was at last assigned in wedlock to
Menelaus, by whom she conceived her only earthly child, Hermione.
Paris, by aid of Aphrodite, won her love and fled with her to Egypt
and to Troy. In Troy she abode more than twenty years, and was the
mate of Deiphobus after the death of Paris. When the strife raised for
her sake was ended, Menelaus restored her with honor to his home in
Lacedæmon. There she received Telemachus and saw her daughter mated to
Neoptolemus. But even after death she rested not from the service of
love. The great Achilles, who in life had loved her by hearsay, but had
never seen her, clasped her among the shades upon the island Leuké, and
begat Euphorion. Through all these adventures Helen maintains an ideal
freshness, a mysterious virginity of soul. She is not touched by the
passion she inspires, or by the wreck of empires ruined in her cause.
Fate deflours her not, nor do years impair the magic of her charm.
Like beauty, she belongs alike to all and none. She is not judged as
wives or mothers are, though she is both; to her belong soul-wounding
blossoms of inexorable love, as well as pain-healing poppy-heads of
oblivion; all eyes are blinded by the adorable, incomparable grace
which Aphrodite sheds around her form.[17]

Whether Helen was the slave or the beloved of Aphrodite, or whether, as
Herodotus hinted, she was herself a kind of Aphrodite, we are hardly
told. At one time she appears the willing servant of the goddess; at
another she groans beneath her bondage. But always and on all occasions
she owes everything to the Cyprian queen. Her very body-gear preserved
the powerful charm with which she was invested at her birth. When the
Phocians robbed the Delphian treasure-house, the wife of one of their
captains took and wore Helen's necklace, whereupon she doted on a young
Epirot soldier and eloped with him.

Whose daughter was Helen? The oldest legend calls her the child of Leda
and of Zeus. We have all read the tale of the Swan who was her father
amid the rushes of Eurotas--the tale which Leonardo and Buonarroti
and Correggio thought worthy of their loveliest illustration. Another
story gives her for the offspring of Oceanus and Tethys, as though, in
fact, she were an Aphrodite risen from the waves. In yet a third, Zeus
is her sire and Nemesis her mother; and thus the lesson of the tale of
Troy was allegorized in Helen's pedigree. She is always god-begotten
and divinely fair. Was it possible that anything so exquisite should
have endured rough ravishment and borne the travail of the siege of
Troy? This doubt possessed the later poets of the legendary age. They
spun a myth according to which Helen reached the shore of Egypt on
the ship of Paris; but Paris had to leave her there in cedar-scented
chambers by the stream of Nile, when he went forth to plough the foam,
uncomforted save by her phantom. And for a phantom the Greeks strove
with the Trojans on the windy plains of Ilium. For a phantom's sake
brave Hector died, and the leonine swiftness of Achilles was tamed,
and Zeus bewailed Sarpedon, and Priam's towers were levelled with the
ground. Helen, meanwhile--the beautiful, the inviolable--sat all day
long among the palm-groves, twining lotus-flowers for her hair, and
learning how to weave rare Eastern patterns in the loom. This legend
hides a delicate satire upon human strife. For what do men disquiet
themselves in warfare to the death, and tossing on sea-waves? Even for
a phantom--for the shadow of their desire, the which remains secluded
in some unapproachable, far, sacred land. A wide application may thus
be given to Augustine's passionate outcry: "Quo vobis adhuc et adhuc
ambulare vias difficiles et laboriosas? Non est requies ubi quæritis
eam. Quærite quod quæritis; sed ibi non est ubi quæritis. Beatam vitam
quæritis in regione mortis; non est illic." Those who spake ill of
Helen suffered. Stesichorus had ventured in the #Iliou Persis# to lay
upon her shoulders all the guilt and suffering of Hellas and of Troy.
Whereupon he was smitten with blindness, nor could he recover his sight
till he had written the palinode which begins:

    #ouk est' etymos logos houtos,
    oud' ebas en nausin euselmois,
    oud' hikeo pergama Troias.#[18]

Even Homer, as Plato hints, knew not that blindness had fallen on him
for like reason. To assail Helen with reproach was not less dangerous
than to touch the Ark of the Covenant, for with the Greeks beauty
was a holy thing. How perfectly beautiful she was we know from the
legend of the cups modelled upon her breasts suspended in the shrine
of Aphrodite. When Troy was taken, and the hungry soldiers of Odysseus
roamed through the burning palaces of Priam and his sons, their
swords fell beneath the vision of her loveliness. She had wrought all
the ruin, yet Menelaus could not touch her, when she sailed forth,
swan-like, fluttering white raiment, with the imperturbable sweet smile
of a goddess on her lips. It remained for a Roman poet to describe her
vile and shrinking:

    Illa sibi infestos eversa ob Pergama Teucros,
    Et poenas Danaûm et deserti conjugis iras
    Permetuens, Troiæ et patriæ communis Erinnys,
    Abdiderat sese atque aris invisa sedebat.[19]

The morality of these lines belongs to a later age of reflection upon
Greek romance. In Homer there are no such epigrams. Between the Helen
of the _Iliad_, reverenced by the elders in the Scæan gate, and the
Helen of the _Odyssey_, queen-like among her Spartan maidens, there has
passed no agony of fear. The shame which she has truly felt has been
tempered to a silent sorrow, and she has poured her grief forth beside
Andromache over the corpse of Hector.

If we would fain see the ideal beauty of the early Greek imagination
in a form of flesh-and-blood reality, we must follow Helen through the
Homeric poems. She first appears when Iris summons her to watch the
duel of Paris and Menelaus. Husband and lover are to fight beneath the
walls of Troy. She, meanwhile, is weaving a purple peplus with the
deeds of war done and the woes endured for her sake far and wide:

    She in a moment round her shoulders flings
    Robe of white lawn, and from the threshold springs,
    Yearning and pale, with many a tender tear.
    Also two women in her train she brings,
    The large-eyed Clymené and Æthra fair,
    And at the western gates right speedily they were.[20]

English eyes know well how Helen looked as she left her chamber and
hastened to the gate; for has not Leighton painted her with just so
much of far-off sorrow in her gaze as may become a daughter of the
gods? In the gate sat Priam and his elders, and as they looked at Helen
no angry curses rose to their lips, but reverential admiration filled
them, together with an awful sense of the dread fate attending her:

    These, seeing Helen at the tower arrive,
    One to another wingèd words addressed:
    "Well may the Trojans and Achæans strive,
    And a long time bear sorrow and unrest,
    For such a woman, in her cause and quest,
    Who like immortal goddesses in face
    Appeareth; yet 'twere even thus far best
    In ships to send her back to her own place,
    Lest a long curse she leave to us and all our race."

It is thus simply, and by no mythological suggestion of Aphrodite's
influence, that Homer describes the spirit of beauty which protected
Helen among the people she had brought to sore straits.

Priam accosts her tenderly; not hers the blame that the gods scourge
him in his old age with war. Then he bids her sit beside him and name
the Greek heroes as they march beneath. She obeys, and points out
Agamemnon, Odysseus, and Ajax, describing each, as she knew them of
old. But for her twin brothers she looks in vain; and the thought of
them touches her with the sorrow of her isolation and her shame. In the
same book, after Paris has been withdrawn, not without dishonor, from
the duel by Aphrodite, Helen is summoned by her liege-mistress to his
bed. Helen was standing on the walls, and the goddess, disguised as an
old spinning-woman, took her by the skirt, bidding her hie back to her
lover, whom she would find in his bedchamber, not as one arrayed for
war, but as a fair youth resting haply from the dance. Homer gives no
hint that Aphrodite is here the personified wish of Helen's own heart
going forth to Paris. On the contrary, the Cyprian queen appears in the
interests of the Phrygian youth, whom she would fain see comforted.
Under her disguise Helen recognized Aphrodite, the terrible queen,
whose bondwoman she was forced to be. For a moment she struggled
against her fate. "Art thou come again," she cried, "to bear me to
some son of earth beloved of thee, that I may serve his pleasure to my
own shame? Nay, rather, put off divinity and be thyself his odalisque."

                          "With _him_ remain,
    _Him_ sit with, and from heaven thy feet refrain;
    Weep, till his wife he make thee, or fond slave.
    I go to him no more, to win new stain,
    And scorn of Trojan women again outbrave,
    Whelmed even now with grief's illimitable wave."

But go she must. Aphrodite is a hard taskmistress, and the mysterious
bond of beauty which chains Helen to her cannot be broken. It is
in vain, too, that Helen taunts Paris: he reminds her of the first
fruition of their love in the island Cranaë; and at the last she has to
lay her down at his side, not uncomplying, conquered, as it were, by
the reflex of the passion she herself excites. It is in the chamber of
Paris that Hector finds her. She has vainly striven to send Paris forth
to battle; and the sense of her own degradation, condemned to love a
man love-worthy only for the beauty of his limbs, overcomes her when
she sees the noble Hector clothed in panoply for war. Her passionate
outbreak of self-pity and self-reproach is, perhaps, the strongest
indication given in the _Iliad_ of a moral estimate of Helen's crime.
The most consummate art is shown by the poet in thus quickening the
conscience of Helen by contact with the nobility of Hector. Like
Guinevere, she for a moment seems to say: "Thou art the highest, and
most human too!" casting from her as worthless the allurements of the
baser love for whose sake she had left her home. In like manner, it was
not without the most exquisite artistic intention that Homer made the
parting scene between Andromache and Hector follow immediately upon
this meeting. For Andromache in the future there remained only sorrow
and servitude. Helen was destined to be tossed from man to man, always
desirable and always delicate, like the sea-foam that floats upon the
crests of waves. But there is no woman who, reading the _Iliad_, would
not choose to weep with Andromache in Hector's arms, rather than to
smile like Helen in the laps of lovers for whom she little cared. Helen
and Andromache meet together before Hector's corpse, and it is here
that we learn to love best what is womanly in Leda's daughter. The
mother and the wife have bewailed him in high thrilling threni. Then
Helen advances to the bier and cries:

    Hector, of brethren dearest to my heart,
    For I in sooth am Alexander's bride,
    Who brought me hither: would I first had died!
    For 'tis the twentieth year of doom deferred
    Since Troyward from my fatherland I hied;
    Yet never in those years mine ear hath heard
    From thy most gracious lips one sharp accusing word;
    Nay, if by other I haply were reviled,
    Brother, or sister fair, or brother's bride,
    Or mother (for the king was alway mild),
    Thou with kind words the same hast pacified,
    With gentle words, and mien like summer-tide.
    Wherefore I mourn for thee and mine own ill,
    Grieving at heart: for in Troy town so wide
    Friend have I none, nor harborer of good-will,
    But from my touch all shrink with deadly shuddering chill.

It would have been impossible to enhance more worthily than
thus the spirit of courtesy and knightly kindness which was in
Hector--qualities, in truth, which, together with his loyalty to
Andromache, endeared the champion of the Trojans to chivalry, and
placed Hector upon the list of worthies beside King Arthur and Godfrey
of Bouillon.

The character of Helen loses much of its charm and becomes more
conventional in the _Odyssey_. It is difficult to believe that the
poet who put into her lips the last lines of that threnos could have
ventured to display the same woman calm and innocent and queen-like in
the home of Menelaus:

    While in his mind he sat revolving this,
    Forth from her fragrant bower came Helen fair,
    Bright as the golden-spindled Artemis.
    Adraste set the couch; Alcippe there
    The fine-spun carpet spread; and Phylo bare
    The silver basket which Alcandra gave,
    Consort of Polybus, who dwelt whilere
    In Thebes of Egypt, whose great houses save
    Wealth in their walls, large store, and pomp of treasure brave.

Helen shows her prudence and insight by at once declaring the stranger
guest to be Telemachus; busy with housewifely kindness, she prepares
for him a comfortable couch at night; nor does she shrink from telling
again the tales of Troy, and the craft which helped Odysseus in the
Wooden Horse. The blame of her elopement with Paris she throws on
Aphrodite, who had carried her across the sea:

    Leaving my child an orphan far away,
    And couch, and husband who had known no peer,
    First in all grace of soul and beauty shining clear.

Such words, no doubt, fell with honey-sweet flattery from the lips
of Helen on the ears of Menelaus. Yet how could he forget the grief
of his bereavement, the taunts of Achilles and Thersites, and the
ten years' toil at Troy endured for her? Perhaps he remembered the
promise of Proteus, who had said, "Thee will the immortals send to the
Elysian plains and farthest verge of earth; where dwells yellow-haired
Rhadamanthus, and where the ways of life are easiest for men; snow
falls not there, nor storm, nor any rain, but Ocean ever breathes
forth delicate zephyr breezes to gladden men; since thou hast Helen
for thine own, and art the son-in-law of Zeus." Such future was full
recompense for sorrow in the past. Besides, Helen, as Homer tells, had
charms to soothe the soul and drown the memory of the saddest things.
Even at this time, when thought is troublesome, she mixes Egyptian
nepenthé with the wine--nepenthé "which, whoso drinks thereof when it
is mingled in the bowl, begets for him oblivion of all woe; through a
whole day he drops no tear adown his cheek, not even should his sire
or mother die, nay, should they slay his brother or dear son before
his face, and he behold it with his eyes. Such virtuous juices had the
child of Zeus, of potent charm, which Polydamna, wife of Thon, gave to
her, the Egyptian woman, where earth yields many medicines, some of
weal and some of bane." This nepenthé was the secret of Helen's power.
In the fifteenth book of the _Odyssey_ we have yet another glimpse
of Helen in the palace of Menelaus. She interprets an omen in favor
of Odysseus, which had puzzled Menelaus, and gives to Telemachus a
costly mantle, star-bright, the weft of her own loom, produced from the
very bottom of the chest in which she stored her treasures. The only
shadow cast upon Helen in the _Odyssey_ is to be found lurking in the
ominous name of Megapenthes, Menelaus's son by a slave-woman, who was
destined after his sire's death to expel her from fair Lacedæmon. We
may remember that it was on the occasion of the spousal of this son to
Alector's daughter, and of the sending of Hermione to be the bride of
Neoptolemus, that Telemachus first appeared before the eyes of Helen.

The charm of Helen in the Homeric poems is due in a great measure to
the _naïveté_ of the poet's art. The situations in which she appears
are never strained, nor is the ethical feeling, though indicated,
suffered to disturb the calm influence of her beauty. This is not the
case with Æschylus. Already, as before hinted, Stesichorus in his lyric
interludes had ventured to assail the character of Helen, applying
to her conduct the moral standard which Homer kept carefully out of
sight. Æschylus goes further. His object was to use Hellenic romance as
the subject-matter for a series of dramatic studies which should set
forth his conception of the divine government of the world. A genius
for tragedy which has never been surpassed was subordinated by him to a
sublime philosophy of human life. It was no longer possible for Helen
to escape judgment. Her very name supplied the keynote of reproach.
Rightly was she called Helen--#helenaus, helandros, heleptolis#--"a
hell of ships, hell of men, hell of cities," she sailed forth to Troy,
and the heedless Trojans sang marriage-songs in her praise, which soon
were turned to songs of mourning for her sake. She, whom they welcomed
as "a spirit of unruffled calm, a gentle ornament of wealth, a darter
of soft glances, a soul-wounding love-blossom," was found to be no
less a source of mischief than is a young lion nurtured in the palace
for the ruin of its heirs. Soon had the Trojans reason to revile her
as a "Fury bringing woe on wives." The choruses of the _Agamemnon_
are weighted with the burden of her sin. "#Iô iô paranous Helena#,"
it breaks forth: "thine is the blood-guilt of those many, many souls
slain beneath Troy walls!" She is incarnate Até, the soul-seducing,
crime-engendering, woe-begetting curse of two great nations. Zeus,
through her sin, wrought ruin for the house of Priam, wanton in its
wealth. In the dark came blinded Paris and stole her forth, and she
went lightly through her husband's doors, and dared a hateful deed.
Menelaus, meanwhile, gazed on the desecrated marriage-bed, and seemed
to see her floating through his halls; and the sight of beauteous
statues grew distasteful to his eyes, and he yearned for her across
the sea in dreams. Naught was left, when morning came, but vain
forth-stretchings of eager hands after the shapes that follow on the
paths of sleep. Then war awoke, and Ares, who barters the bodies of
men for gold, kept sending home to Hellas from Troy a little white
dust stored in brazen urns. It is thus that Æschylus places in the
foreground, not the witchery of Helen and the charms of Aphrodite, but
her lightness and her sin, the woe it wrought for her husband, and
the heavy griefs that through her fell on Troy and Hellas. It would
be impossible to moralize the consequences of the woman's crime with
greater sternness.

Unfortunately we have no means of stating how Sophocles dealt with the
romance of Helen. Judging by analogy, however, we may feel sure that in
this, as in other instances, he advanced beyond the ethical standpoint
of Æschylus, by treating the child of Leda, no longer as an incarnation
of dæmonic Até, but as a woman whose character deserved the most
profound analysis. Euripides, as usual, went a step further. The bloom
of unconscious innocence had been brushed by Æschylus from the flower
of Greek romance. It was impossible for any subsequent dramatist to
avoid in some way moralizing the character of Helen. The way selected
by Euripides was to bring her down to the level of common life. The
scene in the _Troades_ in which Helen stands up to plead for her life
against Hecuba before the angry Menelaus is one of the most complete
instances of the Euripidean sophistry. The tragic circumstances of Troy
in ruins and of injured husband face to face with guilty wife are all
forgotten, while Helen develops a very clever defence of her conduct in
a long rhetorical oration. The theatre is turned into a law-court, and
forensic eloquence is substituted for dramatic poetry. Hecuba replies
with an elaborate description of the lewdness, vanity, and guile of
Helen, which we may take to be a fair statement of the poet's own
conception of her character, since in the _Orestes_ he puts similar
charges into the mouth of Agamemnon's daughter. There is no doubt that
Hecuba has the best of the argument. She paints the beauty of her son
Paris and the barbaric pomp which he displayed at Sparta. Then turning
to Helen--

    #ho sos d' idôn nin nous epoiêthê kypris;
    ta môra gar pant' estin Aphroditê brotois,
    kai tounom' orthôs aphrosynês archei theas.#[21]

Sententious epigrams like this, by which the myths were philosophized
to suit the occasions of daily life, exactly suited the temper of the
Athenian audience in the age of Euripides. But Hecuba proceeds: "You
played your husband off against your lover, and your lover against your
husband, hoping always to keep the one or the other by your artifice;
and when Troy fell, no one found you tying the halter or sharpening the
knife against your own throat, as any decent woman in your position
would have done." At the end of her speech she seems to have convinced
Menelaus, who orders the attendants to carry off Helen to the ships, in
order that she may be taken to Argos and killed there. Hecuba begs him
not to embark her on the same boat with himself. "Why?" he asks. "Is
she heavier than she used to be?" The answer is significant:

    #ouk est' erastês hostis ouk aei philei.#

"Once a lover, always a lover." And so it turns out; for, at the
opening of the _Orestes_, Helen arrives in comfort at the side of
Menelaus. He now is afraid lest she should be seized and stoned by the
Argives, whose children had been slain for her sake in Troy. Nor is
the fear vain. Orestes and Pylades lay hold of her, and already the
knife is at her throat, when Phoebus descends and declares that Helen
has been caught up to heaven to reign with her brothers Castor and
Polydeukes. A more unethical termination to her adventures can hardly
be imagined; for Euripides, following hitherto upon the lines of the
Homeric story, has been at great pains to analyze her legend into a
common tale of adultery and female fascination. He now suddenly shifts
his ground and deifies the woman he had sedulously vilified before. His
true feeling about Helen is expressed in the lines spoken by Electra to
Clytemnestra (_Electra_, 1062):

    #to men gar eidos ainon axion pherei
    Helenês te kai sou, dyo d' ephyte syngonô,
    amphô mataiô Kastoros t' ouk axiô.
    hê men gar harpastheis' hekous' apôleto,
    sy d' andr' ariston Hellados diôlesas.#

"You and your sister are a proper pair, and your beauty has brought you
the credit you deserve: both are light women and unworthy of Castor;
for Helen allowed herself to be ravished and undone, while you killed
the best man in Greece." Further illustrations of the Euripidean
conception of Helen as a worthless woman, who had the art to reconquer
a weak husband's affection, might be drawn from the tirade of Peleus
against Menelaus in the _Andromache_ (590, etc.).[22]

This Euripidean reading of the character of Helen was natural to a
sceptical and sophistical age, when the dimly moralized myths of
ancient Hellas had become the raw material for a poet's casuistry. Yet,
in the heart of the Greek people, Homer had still a deeper, firmer
place than even Euripides; and the thought of Helen, ever beautiful
and ever young, survived the rude analysis of the Athenian drama. Her
romance recovered from the prosaic rationalism to which it had been
subjected--thanks, no doubt, to the many sculptors and painters who
immortalized her beauty, without suggesting the woes that she had
brought upon the world. Those very woes, perhaps, may have added
pathos to her charm; for had not she too suffered in the strife of men?
How the artists dealt with the myth of Helen we only know by scattered
hints and fragments. One bass-relief, engraved by Millingen, reveals
her standing calm beneath the sword of Menelaus. That sword is lifted,
but it will not fall. Beauty, breathed around her like a spell, creates
a magic atmosphere through which no steel can pierce. In another
bass-relief, from the Campana Museum, she is entering Sparta on a
chariot, side by side with Menelaus, not like a captive, but with head
erect and haughty mien, and proud hand placed upon the horse's reins.
Philostratus, in his _Lives of the Sophists_, describes an exceedingly
beautiful young philosopher, whose mother bore a close resemblance to
the picture of Helen by Eumelus. If the lineaments of the mother were
repeated in the youth, the eyes of Helen in her picture must have been
large and voluptuous, her hair curled in clusters, and her teeth of
dazzling whiteness. It is probable that the later artists, in their
illustrations of the romance of Helen, used the poems of Lesches and
Arctinus, now lost, but of which the _Posthomerica_ of Quintus Smyrnæus
preserve to us a feeble reflection. This poet of the fourth century
after Christ does all in his power to rehabilitate the character of
Helen by laying the fault of her crime on Paris, and by describing at
length the charm which Venus shed around her sacred person. It was only
by thus insisting upon the dæmonic influence which controlled the fate
of Helen that the conclusions reached by the rationalizing process of
the dramatists could be avoided. The Cyclic poems thus preserved the
heroic character of Helen and her husband at the expense of Aphrodite,
while Euripides had said plainly: "What you call Aphrodite is your
own lust." Menelaus, in the _Posthomerica_, finds Helen hidden in the
palace of Deiphobus; astonishment takes possession of his soul before
the shining of her beauty, so that he stands immovable, like a dead
tree, which neither north nor south wind shakes. When the Greek heroes
leave Troy town, Agamemnon leads Cassandra captive, Neoptolemus is
followed by Andromache, and Hecuba weeps torrents of tears in the
strong grasp of Odysseus. A crowd of Trojan women fill the air with
shrill laments, tearing their tresses and strewing dust upon their
heads. Meanwhile, Helen is delayed by no desire to wail or weep; but
a comely shame sits on her black eyes and glowing cheeks. Her heart
leaps, and her whole form is as lovely as Aphrodite was when the gods
discovered her with Ares in the net of Hephæstus. Down to the ships
she comes with Menelaus hand in hand; and the people, "gazing on the
glory and the winning grace of the faultless woman, were astonished;
nor could they dare by whispers or aloud to humble her with insults;
but gladly they saw in her a goddess, for she seemed to all what each
desired." This is the apotheosis of Helen; and this reading of her
romance is far more true to the general current of Greek feeling than
that suggested by Euripides. Theocritus, in his exquisite marriage-song
of Helen, has not a word to say by hint or innuendo that she will bring
a curse upon her husband. Like dawn is the beauty of her face; like
the moon in the heaven of night, or the spring when winter is ended,
or like a cypress in the meadow, so is Helen among Spartan maids. When
Apollonius of Tyana, the most famous _medium_ of antiquity, evoked the
spirit of Achilles by the pillar on his barrow in the Troad, the great
ghost consented to answer five questions. One of these concerned Helen:
Did she really go to Troy? Achilles indignantly repudiated the notion.
She remained in Egypt; and this the heroes of Achaia soon knew well;
"but we fought for fame and Priam's wealth."

It is curious at the point of transition in the Roman world from
paganism to Christianity to find the name of Helen prominent. Helena,
the mother of Constantine, was famous with the early Church as
a pilgrim to Jerusalem, where she discovered the true cross, and
destroyed the temple of Venus. For one Helen, East and West had warred
together on the plains of Troy. Following the steps of another Helen,
West and East now disputed the possession of the Holy Sepulchre. Such
historical parallels are, however, little better than puns. It is far
more to the purpose to notice how the romance of Helen of Troy, after
lying dormant during the Middle Ages, shone forth again in the pregnant
myth of Faustus. The final achievement of Faust's magic was to evoke
Helen from the dead and hold her as his paramour. To the beauty of
Greek art the mediæval spirit stretched forth with yearning and begot
the modern world. Marlowe, than whom no poet of the North throbbed more
mightily with the passion of the Renaissance, makes his Faust exclaim:

    Was this the face that launched a thousand ships
    And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?
    Sweet Helen make me immortal with a kiss!
    Her lips suck forth my soul: see where it flies!
    Come, Helen, come, give me my soul again.
    Here will I dwell, for heaven is in these lips,
    And all is dross that is not Helena.
    I will be Paris, and, for love of thee,
    Instead of Troy shall Wertenberg be sacked;
    And I will combat with weak Menelaus,
    And wear thy colors on my plumèd crest;
    Yea, I will wound Achilles in the heel,
    And then return to Helen for a kiss.
    Oh, thou art fairer than the evening air
    Clad in the beauty of a thousand stars;
    Brighter art thou than flaming Jupiter
    When he appeared to hapless Semele;
    More lovely than the monarch of the sky
    In wanton Arethusa's azured arms;
    And none but thou shalt be my paramour.

Marlowe, as was natural, contented himself with an external handling of
the Faust legend. Goethe allegorized the whole, and turned the episode
of Helen into a parable of modern poetry. When Lynkeus, the warder, is
reprimanded for not having duly asked Helen into the feudal castle, he
defends himself thus;

    Harrend auf des Morgens Wonne,
    Oestlich spähend ihren Lauf,
    Ging auf einmal mir die Sonne
    Wunderbar im Süden auf.

    Zog den Blick nach jener Seite,
    Statt der Schluchten, statt der Höh'n,
    Statt der Erd-und Himmelsweite,
    Sie, die Einzige, zu spähn.[23]

The new light that rose upon the Middle Ages came not from the East,
but from the South, no longer from Galilee, but from Greece.

Thus, after living her long life in Hellas as the ideal of beauty,
unqualified by moral attributes, Helen passed into modern mythology as
the ideal of the beauty of the pagan world. True to her old character,
she arrives to us across the waters of oblivion with the cestus of the
goddess round her waist, and the divine smile upon her lips. Age has
not impaired her charm, nor has she learned the lesson of the Fall.
Ever virginal and ever fair, she is still the slave of Aphrodite. In
Helen we welcome the indestructible Hellenic spirit.

Penelope is the exact opposite to Helen. The central point in her
character is intense love of her home, an almost cat-like attachment to
the house where she first enjoyed her husband's love and which is still
full of all the things that make her life worth having. Therefore, when
at last she thinks that she will have to yield to the suitors and leave
it, these words are always on her lips:

    kouridion mala kalon enipleion biotoio,
    tou pote memnêsesthai oïomai enper oneirô.#[24]

We can scarcely think of Penelope except in the palace of Ithaca, so
firmly has this home-loving instinct been embedded in her by her maker.
Were it not that the passion for her home is controlled and determined
by a higher and more sacred feeling, this Haushälterischness of
Penelope would be prosaic. Not only, however, has Homer made it evident
in the _Odyssey_ that the love of Ithaca is subordinate in her soul
to the love of Odysseus, but a beautiful Greek legend teaches how in
girlhood she sacrificed the dearest ties that can bind a woman to her
love for the hero who had wooed and won her. Pausanias says that when
Odysseus was carrying her upon his chariot forth to his own land, her
father, Icarius, followed in their path and besought her to stay with
him. The young man was ready busked for the long journey. The old man
pointed to the hearth she had known from childhood. Penelope between
them answered not a word, but covered her face with her veil. This
action Odysseus interpreted rightly, and led his bride away, willing to
go where he would go, yet unwilling to abandon what she dearly loved.
No second Odysseus could cross the woman's path. Among the suitors
there was not one like him. Therefore she clung to her house-tree in
Ithaca, the olive around which Odysseus had built the nuptial chamber;
and none, till he appeared, by force or guile might win her thence.
It is precisely this tenacity in the character of Penelope which
distinguishes her from Helen, the daughter of adventure and the child
of change, to whom migration was no less natural than to the swan that
gave her life. Another characteristic of Penelope is her prudence.
Having to deal with the uproarious suitors camped in her son's halls,
she deceives them with fair words, and promises to choose a husband
from their number when she has woven a winding-sheet for Laertes. Three
years pass, and the work is still not finished. At last a maiden tells
the suitors that every night Penelope undoes by lamplight what she had
woven in the daytime. This ruse of the defenceless woman has passed
into a proverb; and has become so familiar that we forget, perhaps, how
true a parable it is of those who, in their weakness, do and undo daily
what they would fain never do at all, trifling and procrastinating with
tyrannous passions which they are unable to expel from the palace of
their souls. The prudence of Penelope sometimes assumes a form which
reminds us of the heroines of Hebrew story; as when, for example, she
spoils the suitors of rich gifts by subtle promises and engagements
carefully guarded. Odysseus, seated in disguise near the hall-door,
watches her success and secretly approves. The same quality of mind
makes her cautious in the reception of the husband she has waited for
in widowhood through twenty years. The dog Argus has no doubt. He sees
his master through the beggar's rags, and dies of joy. The handmaid
Eurycleia is convinced as soon as she has touched the wound upon the
hero's foot and felt the well-remembered scar. Not so Penelope. Though
the great bow has been bent and the suitors have been slain, and though
Eurycleia comes to tell her the whole truth, the queen has yet the
heart to seat herself opposite Odysseus by the fire, and to prove him
with cunningly devised tests. There is something provocative of anger
against Penelope in this cross-questioning. But our anger is dissolved
in tears, when at last, feeling sure that her husband and none other
is there verily before her eyes, she flings her arms around him in
that long and close embrace. Homer even in this supreme moment has
sustained her character by a trait which however delicate, can hardly
escape notice. Her lord is weary and would fain seek the solace of his
couch. But he has dropped a hint that still more labors are in store
for him. Then Penelope replies that his couch is ready at all times
and whensoever he may need; no hurry about that. Meanwhile, she would
like to hear the prophecy of Teiresias. Helen, the bondwoman of dame
Aphrodite, would not have waited thus upon the edge of love's delight,
long looked for with strained widow's eyes. Yet it would be unfair to
Penelope to dwell only on this prudent and somewhat frigid aspect of
her character. She is, perhaps, most amiable when she descends among
the suitors and prays Phemius to cease from singing of the heroes who
returned from Troy. It is more than she can bear to sit weaving in the
silent chamber mid her damsels, listening to the shrill sound of the
lyre and hearing how other men have reached their homes, while on the
waves Odysseus still wanders, and none knows whether he be alive or
dead. It may be noticed that just as Helen is a mate meet for easily
persuaded Menelaus and luxurious Paris, so Penelope matches the temper
of the astute, enduring, persevering Odysseus. As a creature of the
fancy, she is far less fascinating than Helen; and this the poet seems
to have felt, for side by side with Penelope in the _Odyssey_ he has
placed the attractive forms of Circe, Calypso, and Nausicaa. The gain
is double. Not only are the hearers of the romance gladdened by the
contrast of these graceful women with the somewhat elegiac figure of
Penelope, but the character of Odysseus for constancy is greatly
enhanced. How fervent must the love of home have been in the man who
could quit Calypso, after seven years' sojourn, for the sake of a wife
grown gray with twenty widowed years! Odysseus tells Calypso to her
face that she is far fairer than his wife:

                              #oida kai autos
    panta mal', houneka seio periphrôn Pênelopeia
    eidos akidnoterê, megethos t', eis omma idesthai.#[25]

"As far as looks go, Penelope is nothing beside thee." But what
Odysseus leaves unsaid--the grace of the first woman who possessed
his soul--constrains him with a deeper, tenderer power than any of
Calypso's charms. Penelope, meanwhile, is pleading that her beauty in
the absence of her lord has perished:

    #xein' êtoi men emên aretên eidos te demas te
    ôlesan athanatoi hote Ilion eisanebainon

These two meet at last together, he after his long wanderings, and she
having suffered the insistance of the suitors in her palace; and this
is the pathos of the _Odyssey_. The woman, in spite of her withered
youth and tearful years of widowhood, is still expectant of her lord.
He, unconquered by the pleasures cast across his path, unterrified by
all the dangers he endures, clings in thought to the bride whom he led
forth, a blushing maiden, from her father's halls. O just, subtle, and
mighty Homer!

There is nothing of Greek here more than of Hebrew, or of Latin, or of
German. It is pure humanity.

Calypso is not a woman, but a goddess. She feeds upon ambrosia and
nectar, while her maidens spread before Odysseus the food of mortals.
Between her and Hermes there is recognition at first sight; for god
knows god, however far apart their paths may lie. Yet the love that
Calypso bears Odysseus brings this daughter of Atlas down to earth;
and we may reckon her among the women of Homer. How mysterious, as
the Greek genius apprehended mystery, is her cavern, hidden far away
in the isle Ogygia, with the grove of forest-trees before it and the
thick vine flourishing around its mouth. Meadows of snow-flake and
close-flowering selinus gird it round; and on the branches brood all
kinds of birds. It is an island such as the Italian painters bring
before us in their rarest moments of artistic divination, where the
blue-green of the twilight mingles with the green-blue sea and the
overarching verdure of deep empurpled forest-shade. Under those trees,
gazing across the ocean, in the still light of the evening-star,
Odysseus wept for his far-distant home. Then, heavy at heart, he
gathered up his raiment, and climbed into Calypso's bed at night:

                 #epei ouketi hêndane nymphê.
    all' êtoi nyktas men iauesken kai anankêi
    en spessi glaphyroisi par' ouk ethelôn ethelousêi.#[27]

To him the message of Hermes recalling him to labor on the waves was
joy; but to the nymph herself it brought mere bitterness: "Hard are
ye, gods, and envious above all, who grudge that goddesses should
couch thus openly with mortal men, if one should make a dear bedfellow
for herself. For so the rosy-fingered morning chose Orion, till ye
gods that lead an easy life grew jealous, and in Ogygia him the
golden-throned maid Artemis slew with her kind arrows." This wail of
the immortal nymph Calypso for her roving spouse of seven short years
has a strange pathos in it. It seems to pass across the sea like a sigh
of winds awakened, none knows how, in summer midnight, that swells and
dies far off upon moon-silvered waves. The clear human activity of
Odysseus cuts the everlasting calm of Calypso like a knife, shredding
the veil that hides her from the eyes of mortals. Then he fares onward
to resume the toils of real existence in a land whereof she nothing
knows. There is a fragment of his last speech to Penelope, which sounds
like an echo of Calypso's lamentation. "Death," he says, "shall some
day rise for me, tranquil from the tranquil deep, and I shall die in
delicate old age." We seem to feel that in his last trance Odysseus
might have heard the far-off divine sweet voice of Calypso calling him
and have hastened to her cry.

Circe is by no means so mysterious as Calypso. Yet she belongs to
one of the most interesting families in Greek romance. Her mother
was Perse, daughter of Oceanus; her father was Helios; she is own
sister, therefore, to the Colchian Æetes, and aunt of the redoubtable
Medea. She lives in the isle of Ææa, not, like Calypso, deep embowered
in groves, but in a fair open valley sweeping downward to the sea,
whence her hearth-smoke may be clearly descried. Nor is her home an
ivy-curtained cavern of the rocks, but a house well built of polished
stone, protected from the sea-winds by oak-woods. Here she dwells in
grand style, with nymphs of the streams and forests to attend upon
her, and herds of wild beasts, human-hearted, roaming through her
park. Odysseus always speaks of her with respect as #potnia Kirkê ...
dia theaôn ... Kirkê e plokamos deinê theos audêessa#. Like Calypso,
she has a fair shrill voice that goes across the waters, and as her
fingers ply the shuttle, she keeps singing through the summer air. By
virtue of her birthright, as a daughter of the sun, she understands
the properties of plant and drug. Poppy and henbane and mandragora--all
herbs of subtle juice that draw soul-quelling poison from the fat
earth and the burning sun--are hers to use as she thinks fit. And the
use she makes of them is malicious; for, fairy-like and wanton, she
will have the men who visit her across the seas submit their reason to
her lure. Therefore she turns them to swine; and the lions and wolves
of the mountain she tames in like manner, so that they fawn and curl
their long tails and have no heart to ravin any more. This is how she
treats the comrades of Odysseus: "She drew them in and set them on
benches and on chairs, and put before them cheese and meat and yellow
honey, mixing therewith Pramnian wine; but with the food she mingled
baleful drugs, to make them quite forget their fatherland. But when
she had given them thereof and they had drunk, straightway she smote
them with a rod and shut them up in sties. Of swine they had the
head, the voice, the form, the bristles; but their mind stayed firm
as it had been before. So they then were penned up, weeping bitter
tears; but Circe threw before them acorns of the oak and ilex and
cornel-berries, food that the forest-ranging swine are wont to eat."
What is admirable in this description is its gravity. Circe is not made
out particularly wicked or malignant. She is acting only after her
kind, like some beautiful but baleful plant--a wreath, for instance,
of red briony-berries, whereof if children eat, they perish. Nor,
again, is there a touch of the burlesque in the narration. Therefore,
in the charming picture which Rivière has painted of Circe, we trace a
vein of modern feeling. Clasping her knees with girlish glee, she sits
upon the ground beneath a tangle of wild-vine, and watches the clumsy
hogs that tumble with half-comic, half-pathetic humanity expressed in
their pink eyes and grunting snouts before her. So, too, the solemn
picture by Burne Jones, a masterpiece of coloring, adds something
mediæval to the Homeric Circe. The tall sunflowers that remind us of
her father, the cringing panthers, black and lithe, the bending figure
of the saffron-vested witch, the jars of potent juices, and the distant
glimpse of sea and shore, suggest more of malignant intention than
belongs to the #potnia Kirkê#, the #Kirkê polypharmakos# of Homer's
tale. It was inevitable that modern art should infuse a deeper meaning
into the allegory. The world has lived long and suffered much and grown
greatly since the age of Homer. We cannot be so _naïf_ and childlike
any longer. Yet the true charm of Circe in the _Odyssey_, the spirit
that distinguishes her from Tannhaüser's Venus and Orlando's Fata
Morgana and Ruggiero's Alcina and Tancred's Armida, lies just in this,
that the poet has passed so lightly over all the dark and perilous
places of his subject. This delicacy of touch can never be regained
by art. It belonged to the conditions of the first Hellenic bloom of
fancy, to suggest without insistance and to realize without emphasis.
Impatient readers may complain of want of depth and character. They
would fain see the Circe of the _Odyssey_ as strongly moralized as the
Medea of Euripides. But in Homer only what is human attains to real
intensity. The marvellous falls off and shades away into soft air-tints
and delightful dreams. Still, it requires the interposition of the gods
to save Odysseus from the charms of the malicious maid. As Hermes came
to Priam on the path between Troy town and the Achaian ships, so now he
meets the hero:

                   #neêniêi andri eoikôs
    prôton hypênêtêi; touper chariestatê hêbê.#[28]

A plant of moly is in his hand; and this will be the antidote to
Circe's philter. Odysseus's sword and strong will must do the rest.
When Circe has once found her match, we are astonished at the
_bonhomie_ which she displays. The game is over. There remains nothing
but graceful hospitality on her part--elegant banquets, delicious
baths, soft beds, the restoration of the ship's crew to their proper
shape, and a store of useful advice for the future. "There all the
days, for a whole year, we sat feasting and drinking honeyed wine; but
when the year was full, and the seasons had gone round, moon waning
after moon, and the long days were finished, my dear comrades called on
me by name, and spake once more of home."

One more female figure from the _Odyssey_ remains as yet untouched; and
this is the most beautiful of all. Nausicaa has no legendary charm; she
is neither mystic goddess nor weird woman, nor is hers the dignity of
wifehood. She is simply the most perfect maiden, the purest, freshest,
lightest-hearted girl of Greek romance. Odysseus passes straight
from the solitary island of Ogygia, where elm and poplar and cypress
overshadow Calypso's cavern, into the company of this real woman. It is
like coming from a land of dreams into a dewy garden when the sun has
risen: the waves through which he has fared upon his raft have wrought
for him, as it were, a rough reincarnation into the realities of human
life. For the sea-brine is the source of vigor; and into the deep he
has cast, together with Calypso's raiment, all memory of her.

Nausicaa was asleep in her Phæacian chamber when Athene, mindful of
Odysseus's need, came down and warned her in a dream that she should
bestir herself and wash her clothes against her marriage-day. When the
damsel woke, she went straight to her father, Alcinous, and begged him
to provide a horse and mules. Like a prudent girl, she said nothing
of her marriage, but spoke of the cares of the household. Her five
brothers, she said, the two wedded and the other three in the bloom
of youth, want shining raiment for the dance, and her duty it is to
see that the clothes are always ready. Alcinous knew in his heart what
she really meant, but he answered her with no unseemly jest. Only he
promised a cart and a pair of mules; and her mother gave her food to
eat, and wine in a skin, and a golden cruse of oil, that she and her
maidens might spend a pleasant morning by the sea-beach, and bathe and
anoint themselves, when their clothes-washing was finished.

A prettier picture cannot be conceived than that drawn by Homer of
Nausicaa with her handmaidens thronging together in the cart, which
jogs downward through the olive-gardens to the sea. The princess holds
the whip and drives; and when she reaches the stream's mouth by the
beach, she loosens the mules from the shafts, and turns them out to
graze in the deep meadow. Then the clothes are washed, and the luncheon
is taken from the basket, and the game of ball begins. How the ball
flew aside and fell into the water, and how the shrill cries of the
damsels woke Odysseus from his sleep, every one remembers. The girls
are fluttered by the sight of the great naked man, rugged with brine
and bruised with shipwreck. Nausicaa alone, as becomes a princess,
stands her ground and questions him. The simple delicacy with which
this situation is treated makes the whole episode one of the most
charming in Homer. Nothing can be prettier than the change from pity
to admiration, expressed by the damsel, when Odysseus has bathed in
running water, and rubbed himself with oil and put on goodly raiment
given him by the girls. Pallas sheds treble grace upon his form, and
makes his hair to fall in clusters like hyacinth-blossoms, so that an
artist who moulds figures of gilt silver could not shape a comelier
statue. The princess, with yesternight's dream still in her soul,
wishes he would stay and be her husband. The girlish simplicity of
Nausicaa is all the more attractive because the Phæacians are the
most luxurious race described by Homer. The palace in which she dwells
with her father is all of bronze and silver and gold; it shines like
the sun, and a blue line marks the brazen cornice of the walls. Dogs
of silver and gold, Hephæstus's work, which never can grow old through
length of days, protect the entrance. Richly woven robes are cast upon
the couches in the hall, and light is shed upon the banquet-tables
from blazing torches in the hands of golden boys. Outside the palace
grows the garden with well-divided orchard-rows, where pears and
figs and pomegranates and burnished apples and olives flourish all
the year long. The seasons change not in Phæacian land for winter
or for summer. The west wind is always blowing. Pear follows after
pear, and apple after apple, and grape-bunch after grape-bunch, in a
never-ending autumn dance. Vintage, too, is there; and there are the
trim flower-beds; and through the garden flow two fountains. The whole
pleasure-ground seems to have been laid out with geometrical Greek
taste. It is a paradise of neatness, sun-bright, clear to take in at
a glance. In this delightful palace dwells Alcinous, a kind old man,
among his sons; and much delight they take in dance and song and games
of strength. The young men, whose beards are but just growing, leap
in rhythmic movement to the flute; the elder and more muscular run or
wrestle, and much contempt do these goodly fellows, like English lads,
reserve for men who are not athletes. Odysseus has to rebuke one of
them, Euryalus, by reminding him that faultlessly fair bodies are not
always the temples of a godlike soul. Zeus gives not all of his good
gifts to all; for some men owe grace and favor to eloquence, others
to beauty, and a man may be like to the immortals in face and form,
and yet a fool. Alcinous well describes the temper of his people when
he says: "We are not faultless boxers, nor yet wrestlers; but with
our feet we race swiftly, and none can beat us in rowing; and we aye
love the banquet, and the lyre, and dancing, and gay raiment, and
warm baths, and joys of love." It is therefore not without propriety
that Demodocus, their blind bard, "whom the Muse loved much, and gave
him good and evil--for she reft him of his sight and gave him honeyed
song"--sings of Aphrodite tangled with Ares in the net of Hephæstus.
From this soft, luxurious, comely, pleasure-loving folk Nausicaa
springs up like a pure blossom--anemone or lily of the mountains. She
has all the sweetness of temper which distinguishes Alcinous; but the
voluptuous living of her people has not spoiled her. The maidenly
reserve which she displays in her first reception of Odysseus, her
prudent avoidance of being seen with him in the streets of the town
while he is yet a stranger, and the care she takes that he shall suffer
nothing by not coming with her to the palace, complete the portrait
of a girl who is as free from coquetry as she is from prudishness.
Perhaps she strikes our fancy with most clearness when, after bathing
and dressing, Odysseus passes her on his way through the hall to the
banquet. She leaned against the pillar of the roof and gazed upon
Odysseus, and said: "Hail, guest, and be thou mindful of me when
perchance thou art in thine own land again, for to me the first thou
dost owe the price of life." This is the last word spoken by Nausicaa
in the _Odyssey_. She is not mentioned among the Phæacians who took
leave of the hero the day he passed to Ithaca.

Before quitting the women of Homer, we must return to the _Iliad_; for
without Briseis and Andromache their company would be incomplete. As
the figures in a bass-relief are variously wrought, some projecting
like independent statues in sharp light and shadow, while others are
but half detached, and a third sort offer mere outlined profiles
scarcely embossed upon the marble background: even so the poet has
obeyed a law of relative proportion in his treatment of character.
The subordinate heroes, for example, in the _Iliad_ fall away from
the central figure of Achilles into more or less of slightness.
This does not mean that we can trace the least indecision in Homer's
touch, or that he has slurred his work by haste or incapacity. On
the contrary, there is no poet from whom deeper lessons in the art
of subordinating accessories to the main subject without impairing
their real value can be learned. A sculptor like Pheidias knows how
to give significance to the least indication of a form which he has
placed upon the second plane in his bass-relief. Just so Homer inspires
his minor characters with personality. To detach this personality in
each case is the task of the critic; yet his labor is no light one;
for the Homeric characters draw their life from incidents, motives,
action. To the singer's fancy they appeared, not as products of the
self-conscious imagination, but as living creatures; and to separate
them from their environment of circumstance is almost to destroy
them. This is the specific beauty of the art of Homer. In its origin
it must have been the outcome, not of reflection, but of inspired
instinct; for in the Homeric age psychological analysis was unknown,
and the very nomenclature of criticism had yet to be invented. We
can draw inexhaustible lessons in practical wisdom from the Homeric
poems; but we cannot with impunity subject those delicate creations to
the critical crucible. They delight both intellect and senses with a
many-toned harmony of exquisitely modulated parts; but the instant we
begin to dissect and theorize, we run a risk of attributing far more
method and deliberation than was natural to a poet in the early age
of Hellas. It is almost impossible to set forth the persons of Homer
except in his own way, and in close connection with the incidents
through which they are revealed; whereas the characters of a more
self-conscious artist--the Medea, for example, or the Phædra of
Euripides--can be described without much repetition of their speeches
or reconstruction of the dramas in which they play their parts.

Andromache offers a not inapt illustration to these remarks. She
is beautiful, as all heroic women are; and Homer tells us she is
"white-armed." We know no more about her person than this; and her
character is exhibited only in the famous parting scene and in the two
lamentations which she pours forth for her husband. Yet who has read
the _Iliad_ without carrying away a distinct conception of this, the
most lovable among the women of Homer? She owes her character far less
to what she does and what she says than to how she looks in that ideal
picture painted on our memory by Homer's verse. The affection of Hector
for his wife, no less distinguished than the passion of Achilles for
his friend, has made the Trojan prince rather than his Greek rival
the hero of modern romance. When he leaves Ilion to enter on the long
combat which ends in the death of Patroclus, the last thought of Hector
is for Andromache. He finds her, not in their home, but on the wall,
attended by her nurse, who carries in her arms his only son:

    #Hektoridên agapêton alinkion asteri kalôi.#[29]

Her first words, after she has wept and clasped him, are: "Love, thy
stout heart will be thy death, nor hast thou pity of thy child or me,
who soon shall be a widow. My father and my mother and my brothers
are all slain; but, Hector, thou art father to me and mother and
brother, and thou too art the husband of my youth. Have pity, then,
and stay here in the tower, lest thy son be orphaned and thy wife a
widow." The answer is worthy of the hero. "Full well," he says, "know
I that Troy will fall, and I foresee the sorrow of my brethren and
the king; but for these I grieve not: to think of thee, a slave in
Argos, unmans me almost; yet even so I will not flinch or shirk the
fight. My duty calls, and I must away." He stretches out his mailed
arms to Astyanax, but the child is frightened by his nodding plumes.
So he lays aside his helmet, and takes the baby to his breast, and
prays for him. Andromache smiles through her tears, and down the
clanging causeway strides the prince. Poor Andromache has nothing left
to do but to return home and raise the dirge for a husband as good
as dead. When we see her again in the 22d _Iliad_, she is weaving,
and her damsels are heating a bath against Hector's return from the
fight. Then suddenly the cry of Hecuba's anguish thrills her ears.
Shuttle and thread drop from her hands; she gathers up her skirts,
and like a Mænad flies forth to the wall. She arrives in time to see
her husband's body dragged through dust at Achilles' chariot-wheels
away from Troy. She faints, and when she wakes it is to utter the most
piteous lament in Homer--not, however, for Hector so much, or for
herself, as for Astyanax. He who was reared upon a father's knees and
fed with marrow and the fat of lambs, and, when play tired him, slept
in soft beds among nursing-women, will now roam, an orphan, wronged and
unbefriended, hunted from the company of happier men, or fed by charity
with scanty scraps. The picture of an orphan's misery among cold
friends and hard oppressors is wrought with the pathos of exquisite
simplicity. And to the same theme Andromache returns in the _vocero_
which she pours forth over the body of Hector. "I shall be a widow and
a slave, and Astyanax will either be slaughtered by Greek soldiers or
set to base service in like bondage." Then the sight of the corpse
reminds her that the last words of her sorrow must be paid to Hector
himself. What touches her most deeply is the thought of death in battle:

    #ou gar moi thnêskôn lecheôn ek cheiras orexas;
    oude ti moi eipes pykinon epos, houte ken aiei
    memnêmên nyktas te kai êmata dakrycheousa.#[30]

As far as studied delineation of character goes, Briseis is still
more a silhouette than Andromache. We know her as the fair-cheeked
damsel who was fain to stay with Achilles, and who loved Patroclus
because he kept for her a soothing word. In her threnos for Patroclus
she exclaims, "How one woe after another takes me! I saw my husband
slain before our city, and my three brethren; but you, Patroclus,
then comforted me, and said I should be Achilles' wife: you were ever
gentle." This is really all we know about her. Yet Briseis lives in
our memory by virtue of the great passions gathered round her, and the
weighty actions in which she plays her part.

In course of years the heroes of the Homeric romances came to be
worshipped, not exactly like gods with #thysiai#, but like the more
than mortal dead with #enagismata#. They had their chapels and their
hearths, distinct from the temples and the altars of the deities. These
were generally raised upon the supposed spot of their sepulture, or in
places which owed them special reverence as oekists or as ancestors.
In the case of Oedipus, the translation of the hero to the company of
gods secured for him a cultus in Colonos. It was supposed that heroes
exercised a kindly influence over the people among whom they dwelt;
haunting the neighborhood in semi-corporeal visitations, conferring
benefits upon the folk, and exhibiting signs of anger when neglected.
Thus Philostratus remarks that Protesilaus had a fane in Thessaly, "and
many humane and favorable dealings doth he show the men of Thessaly,
yea, and angerly also if he be neglected."[31] The same Philostratus,
whose works are a treasure-house of information respecting the latest
forms of Hellenic paganism, reports the actual form of prayer used by
Appollonius of Tyana at the tomb of Palamedes,[32] and makes the ghost
of Achilles complain: "The Thessalians for a long time have remitted
my offerings; still I am not yet minded to display my wrath against
them." Achilles, who has been evoked above his tomb in the Troad by the
prayers of Apollonius, proceeds to remark that even the Trojans revere
him more than his own people, but that he cannot restore the town of
Troy to its old prosperity. He hints, however, pretty broadly, that if
the Thessalians do not pay him more attention, he will reduce them to
the same state of misery as the Trojans. The dæmon, it may be said in
passing, vanishes, like a mediæval ghost, at cockcrow.[33]

This cultus of the Homeric heroes was, of course, inseparable from a
corresponding growth of artistic associations; and here it is not a
little curious to compare our own indefinite conceptions of the outward
form of the heroic personages with the very concrete incarnation
they received from Greek sculptors and painters. The first memorable
attempt to express the heroes of Homer in marble was upon the pediment
at Ægina; the first elaborate pictorial representation was that of
Polygnotus on the walls of the _Lesche_ at Delphi. A Greek _Lesche_ was
not unlike an Italian or Oriental café, extended to suffice for the
requirements of a whole city. What has been discovered at Pompeii, in
addition to the full description of the Delphian _Lesche_ by Pausanias,
inclines us to believe that the walls of these public places of resort
were not unfrequently decorated with Homeric pictures. The beautiful
frescos of Achilles among the daughters of Lycomedes, of Achilles
bathed by Thetis in the Styx, of Briseis led forth by Patroclus into
the company of the Achaian chiefs, and of Penelope questioning the
disguised Odysseus about her husband, which have been discovered in
various parts of Pompeii, sufficiently illustrate to modern minds
the style of this wall-painting. The treatise surnamed #Eikones# of
Philostratus is an elaborate critical catalogue of a picture-gallery
of this sort; and from many indications contained in it we learn
how thoroughly the heroes of Homer had acquired a fixed corporeal
personality. In describing, for example, a picture of the lamentation
for Antilochus, he says: "These things are Homer's paintings, but the
painter's action." Then he goes on to point out the chief persons:
"You can distinguish Odysseus at once by his severe and wideawake
appearance, Menelaus by his gentleness, Agamemnon by his inspired
look; while Tydeus is indicated by his freedom, the Telamonian Ajax
by his grimness, and the Locrian by his activity."[34] In another
place he tells us that Patroclus was of an olive-pale complexion
(#melichlôros#), with black eyes and rather thick eyebrows; his head
was erect upon the neck, like that of a man who excels in athletic
exercises, his nose straight, with wide nostrils, like an eager horse.
These descriptions occur in the _Heroic Dialogue_. They are supposed to
have been communicated by the dæmon Protesilaus to a vine-dresser who
frequented his tomb. Achilles, on the other hand, had abundant hair,
more pleasant to the sight in hue than gold, with a nose inclining to
the aquiline, angry brows, and eyes so bright and lively that the soul
seemed leaping from them in fire. Hector, again, had a terrible look
about him, and scorned to dress his hair, and his ears were crushed,
not indeed by wrestling, for barbarians do not wrestle, but by the
habit of struggling for mastery with wild bulls.[35]

Some of the women of Homeric story, Helen for example, and
Iphigenia, received divine honors, together with suitable artistic
personification. But women were not closely connected with the
genealogical and gentile foundations of the Greek cultus; only a few,
therefore, were thus distinguished. What has here been said about
the superstition that gave form and distinctness to the creatures of
Homeric fancy may be taken as applying in general to the attitude
assumed by ancient art. The persons of a poem or a mythus were not
subjected to critical analysis as we dissect the characters of
_Hamlet_ or of _Faust_. But they were not on that account the less
vividly apprehended. They tended more and more to become external
realities--beings with a definite form and a fixed character. In a
word, through sculpture, painting, and superstition, they underwent
the same personifying process as the saints of mediæval Italy. To what
extent the Attic drama exercised a disturbing influence and interrupted
this process has been touched upon with reference to the Euripidean


[17] I take this occasion of calling attention to the essay on Helen
considered as an allegory of Greek Beauty, by Paul de St. Victor in his
_Hommes et Dieux_.

[18] "Not true is that tale; nor didst thou journey in benched ships,
or come to towers of Troy."


    She, shrinking from the Trojans' hate,
    Made frantic by their city's fate,
    Nor dreading less the Danaan sword,
    The vengeance of her injured lord:
    She, Troy's and Argos' common fiend,
    Sat cowering, by the altar screened.--_Conington._

[20] Worsley's _Iliad_, iii. 17. The other quotations are from the same

[21] "Thy own soul, gazing at him, became Kupris; for Aphrodite, as her
name denotes, is all the folly of mortals."

[22] Quite another view of Helen's character is developed in the
_Helena_, where Euripides has followed the Stesichorean version of her
legend with singular disregard for consistency. Much might be said on
this point about the license in handling mythical material the Attic
dramatists allowed themselves.


    Eastward was my glance directed,
    Watching for the sun's first rays;
    In the south--oh, sight of wonder!
    Rose the bright orb's sudden blaze.

    Thither was my eye attracted;
    Vanished bay and mountain height,
    Earth and heaven unseen and all things,
    All but that enchanted light.--_Anster._

[24] "The home of my wedded years, exceeding fair, filled with all the
goods of life, which even in dreams methinks I shall remember."

[25] "I know well that Penelope is inferior to thee in form and
stature, to the eyes of men."

[26] "Of a truth my goodliness and beauty of person the gods destroyed
what time the Argives went up into Troy town."

[27] "For the nymph pleased him no longer. Nathless, as need was, he
slept the night in hollow caverns, beside her loving him who loved her

[28] "Like to a young man when his beard has just begun to grow, whose
bloom is then most lovely."

[29] Hector's only son, like unto a fair star.

[30] "For, dying, thou didst not reach to me thy hand from the bed, nor
say to me words of wisdom, the which I might have aye remembered night
and day with tears."

[31] #Hêrôïkos#, 680.

[32] _Life of Apollonius_, 150.

[33] _Ibid._ 153, 154.

[34] #Eikones#, 820. (By Kayser, Zurich, 2d ed.)

[35] #Hêrôïkos#, 736, 733, 722. For the curious detail about Hector's
ears compare Theocr. 22, 45, where athletes are described #tethlagmenoi
ouata pygmais#. Statues of Hercules show this.



    The Difference between the Homeric and the Hesiodic
        Spirit.--The Personality of Hesiod more Distinct than that
        of Homer.--What we Know about his Life.--Perses.--The
        Hesiodic Rhapsodes.--_Theogony_ and _Works and
        Days_.--Didactic Poetry.--The Story of Prometheus.--Greek
        and Hebrew Myths of the Fall.--The Allegorical Element
        in the Promethean Legend.--The Titans.--The Canto of the
        Four Ages.--Hesiodic Ethics.--The Golden Age.--Flaxman's
        Illustrations.--Justice and Virtue.--Labor.--Bourgeois Tone
        of Hesiod.--Marriage and Women.--The Gnomic Importance of
        Hesiod for the Early Greeks.

Hesiod, though he belongs to the first age of Greek literature, and
ranks among the earliest of Hellenic poets, marks the transition from
the heroic period to that of the despots, when ethical inquiry began in
Greece. Like Homer, Hesiod is inspired by the Muses: alone, upon Mount
Helicon, he received from them the gift of inspiration. But the message
which he communicates to men does not concern the deeds of demigods and
warriors. It offers no material for tragedies upon the theme of

            Thebes or Pelops' line,
    Or the tale of Troy divine.

On the contrary, Hesiod introduces us to the domestic life of
shepherds, husbandmen, and merchants. Homely precepts for the conduct
of affairs and proverbs on the utility of virtue replace the glittering
pictures of human passions and heroic strife which the Homeric poems
present. A new element is introduced into literature, the element of
man reflecting on himself, questioning the divine laws under which he
is obliged to live, and determining the balance of good and evil which
the days of youth and age bring with them in his earthly course. The
individual is now occupied with his own cares and sorrows and brief
joys. Living in the present, and perforce accommodating his imagination
to the prose of human existence, he has forgotten to dream any longer
of the past, or to reconstruct in fancy the poetic charm of visionary
heroism. It was just this difference between Homer and Hesiod which led
the aristocratic Greeks of a later age to despise the poet of Ascra.
Cleomenes, the king of Sparta, chief of that proud military oligarchy
which had controlled the destinies of decaying Hellas, is reported by
Plutarch to have said that, while Homer was the bard of warriors and
noble men, Hesiod was the singer of the Helots. In this saying the
contempt of the martial class for the peaceable workers of the world is
forcibly expressed. It is an epigram which endears Hesiod to democratic
critics of the modern age. They can trace in its brief utterance the
contempt which has been felt in all periods--especially among the
historic Greeks, who regarded labor as ignoble, and among the feudal
races, with whom martial prowess was the main-stay of society--for the
unrecorded and unhonored earners of the bread whereby the brilliant and
the well-born live.

Hesiod, therefore, may be taken as the type and first expression of a
spirit in Greek literature alien from that which Homer represents. The
wrath and love of Achilles, the charm of Helen and the constancy of
Penelope, the councils of the gods, the pathos of the death of Hector,
the sorrows of King Priam and the labors of Odysseus, are exchanged for
dim and doleful ponderings upon the destiny of man, for the shadowy
mythus of Prometheus and the vision of the ages ever growing worse as
they advance in time. All the rich and manifold arras-work of suffering
and action which the _Odyssey_ and the _Iliad_ display yields to such
sombre meditation as a sad soul in the childhood of the world may pour
forth, brooding on its own wrongs and on the woes of men around. The
climax of the whole, after the justice of God has been querulously
arraigned, and the violence of princes has been appealed against with
pitiful vain iteration, is a series of practical rules for daily
conduct, and a calendar of simple ethics.

Very little is known about Hesiod himself; nor can the date at which
the poems ascribed to him were composed be fixed with any certainty.
Something of the same semi-mythical obscurity which surrounds Homer
envelops Hesiod. Just as Homer was the eponymous hero of the school of
epic poets in Asia Minor and the islands, so Hesiod may be regarded as
the titular president of a rival school of poets localized near Mount
Helicon in Boeotia. That is to say, it is probable that the Hesiodic,
like the Homeric, poems did not emanate from their supposed author as
we read them now; but we may assume that they underwent changes and
received additions from followers who imbibed his spirit and attempted
to preserve his style. And, further, the poems ascribed to Hesiod
became, as years went by, a receptacle for gnomic verses dear to the
Greeks. Like the elegies of Theognis, the ethical hexameters of Hesiod
were, practically, an anthology of anonymous compositions. Still Hesiod
has a more distinct historic personality than Homer. In the first
place, the majority of ancient critics regarded him as later in date
and more removed from the heroic age. Then again, he speaks in his own
person, recording many details of his life, and mentioning his father
and his brother. Homer remains forever lost, like Shakespeare, in the
creatures of his own imagination. Instead of the man Homer, we have
the Achilles and Odysseus whom he made immortal. Hesiod tells us much
about himself. A vein of personal reflection, a certain tone of peevish
melancholy, peculiar to the individual, runs through his poems. He is
far less the mouthpiece of the heavenly Muse than a man like ourselves,
touching his lyre at times with a divine grace, and then again
sweeping the chords with a fretfulness that draws some jarring notes.

We learn from the hexameters of Hesiod that he was born at Ascra in
Boeotia (_Works and Days_, line 640). His father was an emigrant from
Æolian Kumé, whence he came to Ascra in search of better fortune,
"forsaking not plenty nor yet wealth and happiness, but evil poverty
which Zeus gives to men: near Helicon he dwelt in a sorry village,
Ascra, bad in winter, rigorous in summer heat, at no time genial."
From the exordium of the _Theogony_ (line 23) it appears that Hesiod
kept sheep upon the slopes of Helicon; for it was there that the Muse
descended to visit him, and, after rebuking the shepherds for their
idleness and grossness, gave him her sacred laurel-branch and taught
him song. On this spot, as he tells us in the _Works and Days_ (line
656), he offered the first prize of victory which he obtained at
Chalkis. It would seem clear from these passages that poetry had been
recognized as an inspiration, cultivated as an art, and encouraged by
public contests long before the date of Hesiod.

Husbandry was despised in Boeotia, and the pastoral poet led a
monotonous and depressing life. The great event which changed its even
tenor was a lawsuit between himself and his brother Perses concerning
the division of their inheritance.[36] Perses, who was an idle fellow,
after spending his own patrimony, tried to get that of Hesiod into his
hands, and took his cause before judges whom he bribed. Hesiod was
forced to relinquish his property, whereupon he retired from Ascra to
Orchomenos. At Orchomenos he probably passed the remainder of his days.
This incident explains why Hesiod dwelt so much upon the subject of
justice in his poem of the _Works and Days_, addressed to Perses. #Mega
nêpie Persê# he always calls this brother, as though, while heaping the
coals of good counsel upon his head, he wished to humble his oppressor
by the parade of moral and intellectual superiority. Some of Hesiod's
finest passages, his most intense and passionate utterances, are wrung
from him by the injustice he had suffered; so true is the famous saying
that poets

    Learn in suffering what they teach in song.

One parable will for the moment serve as a specimen of the poetry which
the wrong-dealing of Perses drew from him. "Thus spake the hawk to the
nightingale of changeful throat, as he bore her far aloft among the
clouds, the prey of his talons: she, poor wretch, wailed piteously
in the grip of his crooked claws; but he insultingly addressed her:
'Wretch, why criest thou? Thou art now the prey of one that is the
stronger; and thou shalt go whither I choose to take thee, song-bird
as thou art. Yea, if I see fit, I will make my supper of thee, or else
let thee go. A fool is he who kicks against his betters: of victory is
he robbed, and suffers injury as well as insult.'" Hesiod himself is,
of course, meant by the nightingale, and the hawk stands for violence
triumphing over justice.

In verse and dialect the Hesiodic poems are not dissimilar from the
Homeric, which, supposing their date to have been later, proves that
the _Iliad_ had determined the style and standard of epic composition,
or, supposing a contemporary origin, would show that the Greeks of the
so-called heroic age had agreed upon a common literary language. We
may refer the _Theogony_ and the _Works and Days_, after the deduction
of numerous interpolations, to Hesiod, but only in the same sense and
with the same reservation as we assign the _Iliad_ and the _Odyssey_
to Homer.[37] Unlike the heroic epos, they were recited, not to the
accompaniment of the cithara, but by the poet standing with a laurel
staff, called #rhabdos# or #skêptron#, in his hand. Hesiod, at the
opening of the _Theogony_, tells us how he had received a staff of
this kind from the Muse upon Mount Helicon. Either, then, the laurel
#rhabdos# had already been recognized in that part of Greece as the
symbol of the poet's office, or else, from the respect which the
followers of Hesiod paid to the details of his poem, they adopted it as
their badge.

Of the two poems ascribed to Hesiod, the _Theogony_ and the _Works and
Days_, the former--though its genuineness as a Hesiodic production
seems to have been disputed from a very early period--was, perhaps, on
the whole, of greater value than the latter to the Greeks. It contained
an authorized version of the genealogy of their gods and heroes, an
inspired dictionary of mythology, from which to deviate was hazardous.
Just as families in England try to prove their Norman descent by an
appeal to the Roll of Battle Abbey, so the canon of the _Theogony_
decided the claims of god or demi-god to rank among celestials. In
this sense Herodotus should be interpreted when he says that Hesiod
joined with Homer in making their Theogonia for the Greeks. But though
this poem had thus a unique value for the ancients, it is hardly so
interesting in the light of modern criticism as the _Works and Days_.
The _Works and Days_, while for all practical purposes we may regard
it as contemporaneous with the _Iliad_, marks the transition from the
heroic epic to the moral poetry of the succeeding age, and forms the
basis of direct ethical philosophy in Hellas. Hesiod is thus not only
the mouthpiece of obscure hand-workers in the earliest centuries of
Greek history, the poet of their daily labors, sufferings, and wrongs,
the singer of their doubts and infantine reflections on the world in
which they had to toil; he is also the immediate parent of gnomic
verse, and the ancestor of those deep thinkers who speculated in the
Attic age upon the mysteries of human life.

The first ten verses of the _Works and Days_ are spurious--borrowed,
probably, from some Orphic hymn to Zeus, and recognized as not the work
of Hesiod by critics as ancient as Pausanias. The poem begins with
these words: "Not, as I thought, is there only one kind of strife;
but on the earth there are two, the one praiseworthy, the other to
be blamed." It has been conjectured that Hesiod is referring to that
passage of the _Theogony_[38] in which Eris, daughter of Night, is said
to have had no sister. We are, therefore, justified in assuming that
much of his mythology is consciously etymological; and this should
be borne in mind while dealing with the legend of Prometheus. The
strife whereof he speaks in his exordium is what we should now call
competition. It rouses the idle man to labor; it stirs up envy in the
heart of the poor man, making him eager to possess the advantages of
wealth; it sets neighbor against neighbor, craftsman against craftsman,
in commendable emulation. Very different, says the poet, is this sort
of strife from that which sways the law-courts; and at this point he
begins to address his brother Perses, who had litigiously deprived
him of his heritage. The form of didactic poetry, as it has since
been practised by the followers of Hesiod, was fixed by the appeal
to Perses. Empedocles, it will be remembered, addressed his poem on
Nature to the physician Pausanias; Lucretius invoked the attention
of Memmius, and Virgil that of Mæcenas; the gnomes of Theognis were
uttered to the Megarian Cyrnus; Poliziano dedicated his _Silva_ to
Lorenzo de' Medici, Vida his _Poetics_ to the Dauphin, Fracastorio his
medical poem to Bembo, and Pope the _Essay on Man_ to Bolingbroke.
After this preface on competition as the inducement to labor, and on
strife as the basis of injustice, the poet proceeds to the mythus of
Prometheus, which is so artificially introduced as to justify the
opinion that it may be an interpolation by some later craftsman of the
Hesiodic school. Work, he says, is necessary for men, because Zeus has
concealed and hidden far away our means of livelihood; so that we are
forced to toil and suffer in the search for sustenance. This grudge
Zeus owed mankind because of the sin of Prometheus. In the _Works and
Days_ the account given of the trick played upon Zeus is brief; Hesiod
only says, "seeing that Prometheus of crooked counsel deceived him."
We may, however, supplement the story from the _Theogony_.[39] In old
days the human race had fire, and offered burnt sacrifice to heaven;
but Prometheus by his craft deceived the gods of their just portion
of the victims, making Zeus take the bones and fat for his share.
Whereupon Zeus deprived men of the use of fire. Prometheus then stole
fire from heaven and gave it back to men. "Then," says Hesiod, "was
cloud-gathering Zeus full wroth of heart, and he devised a great woe
for all mankind." He determined to punish the whole race by giving them
Pandora. He bade Hephæstus mix earth and water, and infuse into the
plastic form a human voice and human powers, and liken it in all points
to a heavenly goddess. Athene was told to teach the woman, thus made,
household work and skill in weaving. Aphrodite poured upon her head the
charm of beauty, with terrible desire, and flesh-consuming thoughts of
love. But Zeus commanded Hermes to give to her the mind of a dog and
wily temper. After this fashion was the making of Pandora. And when she
had been shaped, Athene girded and adorned her; the Graces and divine
Persuasion hung golden chains about her flesh, and the Hours crowned
her with spring blossoms. Zeus called her Pandora, because each dweller
on Olympus had bestowed on her a gift. Then Pandora was sent under the
charge of Hermes to Epimetheus, who remembered not his brother's words,
how he had said: "Receive no gift from Zeus, but send it back again,
lest evil should befall the race of men." But as soon as Epimetheus
had housed her he recognized his error. Before this time men had lived
upon the earth apart from evils, apart from painful toil, and weariful
diseases which bring death on mortals. The woman with her hands lifted
the lid of the great jar where all these bad things were shut up, and
let them loose into the air. Hope alone remained behind--for the lot
of humanity is hopeless; but a hundred thousand woes abode at large to
plague the race of men. Earth is full of them; the sea is full; and
sickness roams abroad by night and day, where it listeth, bearing ills
to mortals in silence, for Zeus in his deep craft took away its voice
that men might have no warning. Thus not in any way is it possible to
avoid the will of God.

Such is the mythus of the Fall, as imagined by the early Greeks. Man in
rebellion against heaven, pitted in his weakness at a game of mutual
deception against almighty force, is beaten and is punished. Woman,
the instrument of his chastisement, is thrust upon him by offended and
malignant deity; the folly of man receives her, and repents too late.
Both his wisdom and his foolishness conspire to man's undoing--wisdom
which he cannot use aright, and foolishness which makes him fall into
the trap prepared for him. We are irresistibly led to compare this
legend with the Hebrew tradition of the Fall. In both there is an act
of transgression on the part of man. Woman in both brings woe into
the world. That is to say, the conscience of the Greeks and Jews,
intent on solving the mystery of pain and death, convicted them alike
of sin; while the social prejudices of both races made them throw the
blame upon the weaker but more fascinating sex, by whom they felt
their sterner nature softened and their passions quickened to work
foolishness. So far the two myths have strong points of agreement. But
in that of the Greeks there is no Manichæism. The sin of Prometheus
is not, like the sin of Adam, the error of weak human beings tempted
by the power of evil to transgress the law of good. It is rather a
knavish trick played off upon the sire of gods and men by a wily
gamester; and herein it seems to symbolize that tendency to overreach
which formed a marked characteristic of the Hellenes in all ages. The
Greek of Hesiod's time conceived of the relations between man and god
as involving mutual mistrust and guile; his ideal of intellectual
superiority, both in Prometheus and in Zeus, implied capacity for
getting the upper hand by craft. Again, the Greek god takes a
diabolical revenge, punishing the whole human race, with laughter on
his lips and self-congratulation for superior cunning in his heart. We
lack the solemn moment when God calls Adam at the close of day, and
tells him of the curse, but also promises a Saviour. The legend of
Prometheus has, for its part also, the prophecy of a redeemer; but the
redeemer of men from the anger of God does not proceed from the mercy
of the deity himself, who has been wronged, but from the iron will
of Fate, who stands above both god and man, and from the invincible
fortitude of the soul which first had sinned, now stiffening itself
against the might of Zeus, refusing his promises, rejecting his offers
of reconciliation, biding in pain and patience till Herakles appears
and cuts the Gordian knot. This is the spectacle presented by Æschylus
in his _Prometheus Bound_. To deny its grandeur would be ridiculous; to
contend that it offers some features of sublimity superior to anything
contained in the Hebrew legend would be no difficult task. In the
person of Prometheus, chained on Caucasus, pierced by fiery arrows in
the noonday and by frosty arrows in the night, humanity wavers not, but
endures with scorn and patience and stoical acceptance. Unfortunately
the outlines of this great tragic allegory have been blurred by time
and travestied by feeble copyists. What we know about the tale of
Prometheus is but a faint echo of the mythus apprehended by the
Greeks anterior to Hesiod, and handled afterwards by Æschylus. Enough,
however, remains to make it certain that it was the creation of a race
profoundly convinced of present injustice in the divine government of
the world. If the soul of man is raised by the attribution of stern
heroism, God is lowered to the infamy of a tyrant. But neither is the
Hebrew legend on its side theologically flawless. Greek and Jew fail
alike to offer a satisfactory solution of the origin of evil. While in
the Greek mythus Zeus plays with mankind like a cat with a mouse, the
Hebrew story does not explain the justice of that omnipotent Being who
created man with capacity for error, and exposed him to temptation.
The true critique of the second and third chapters of Genesis has been
admirably expressed by Omar Khayyam in the following stanzas:

    O Thou, who didst with pitfall and with gin
    Beset the road I was to wander in,
      Thou wilt not with predestination round
    Enmesh me, and impute my fall to sin?

    O Thou, who man of baser earth didst make,
    And who with Eden didst devise the snake,
      For all the sin wherewith the face of man
    Is blackened, man's forgiveness give--and take!

Both tales are but crude and early attempts to set forth the primitive
mystery of conscience, and to account for the prevalence of pain and
death. The æsthetic superiority of the Hebrew conception lies in its
idealization of the deity at all costs. God is at least grand and
consistent, justified by his own august counsels; and at the very
moment of punishing his creatures, he promises deliverance through
their own seed. Moreover, a vast antagonistic agency of evil is brought
into the field to account for the fall of man; and we are not precluded
from even extending our compassion to the deity, who has been thwarted
in his schemes for good.

Before quitting the discussion of this ancient tale of human suffering
and sin, it would be well to notice that Hesiod identifies Prometheus
with the human race. His hero is the son of the Titan Iapetus by
Clymene, daughter of the Titan Oceanus; and his brethren are Atlas,
Menoitios, and Epimetheus. These names are significant. Just as
Prometheus signifies the forecasting reason of humanity,[40] so
Epimetheus indicates the overhasty judgment foredoomed to be wise
too late. These are intellectual qualities. Atlas, in like manner,
typifies the endurance of man, who bears all to the very end, and
holds upon his back the bulk of heaven. In Menoitios is shadowed forth
the insolence and rebellious spirit for which a penalty of pain and
death is meted. These, then, are moral qualities. In the children
of Iapetus and Clymene we consequently trace the first rude attempt
at psychological analysis. The scientific import of the mythus was
never wholly forgotten by the Greeks. Pindar calls Prophasis, or
excuse, the daughter of Epimetheus, or back-thought as opposed to
fore-thought. Plato makes the folly of Epimetheus to have consisted
in his giving away the natural powers of self-preservation to the
beasts; whereupon Prometheus was driven to supplement with fire the
unprotected impotence of man. Lucian, again, says of Epimetheus that
repentance is his business; while Synesius adds that he provides not
for the future, but deplores the past. The Titans, it should further be
remarked, are demiurgic powers--elemental forces of air, fire, earth,
water--conditions of existence implied by space and time--distributors
of darkness and of light--parents, lastly, of the human race. Though
some later Greek authors identified Prometheus with the Titans, and
made him the benefactor of humanity, this was not the conception of
Hesiod. Prometheus is stated, both in the _Theogony_ and the _Works
and Days_, to have been the son of Titans, the protagonist of men, who
strove in vain to cope with Zeus. Zeus himself belongs in like manner
to a secondary order of existences. Begotten by the Titan Kronos, he
seems to typify the reason as distinguished from the brute powers of
the universe, mind emergent from matter, and overcoming it by contest.
Prometheus is connected, by his parentage, with the old material order
of the world; but he represents that portion of it which is human, and
which, _qua_ human, has affinity to Zeus. Herein we trace the mystery
of the divine in man, though man has been placed in antagonism to the
deity. The same notion is further symbolized by the theft of fire, and
by the fiction of Prometheus breathing a particle of the divine spirit
into the clay figures whereof he made men. In the decaying age of Greek
mythology this aspect of the legend absorbed attention to the exclusion
of the elder Hesiodic romance, as students of Horace will remember, and
as appears abundantly from Græco-Roman bass-reliefs. To reconcile man
and Zeus, cognate in their origin, yet hostile owing to their ancient
feud, it was needful that a deliverer, Herakles, should be born of god
and woman, of Zeus and Alcmene, who sets free the elementary principle
of humanity typified in Prometheus, and for the first time establishes
a harmony between the children of earth and the dwellers on Olympus.
So far I have remained within the limits of the Hesiodic legend, only
hinting at such divergences as were adopted by the later handlers of
the tale. The new aspect given to the whole myth by Æschylus deserves
separate consideration in connection with the tragedy of _Prometheus_.
It is to be regretted that we only possess so important a relique of
Greek religious speculation in fragments; and these fragments are so
tantalizingly incomplete that it is impossible to say exactly how much
may be the _débris_ of original tradition, or where the free fancy
of later poets has been remoulding and recasting the material of the
antique myth to suit more modern allegory.

The tale of Prometheus may be called the first canto of the _Works
and Days_. The second consists of the vision of the four ages of man.
Hesiod, in common with all early poets, imagined a state of primeval
bliss, which he called the Age of Gold. Then Kronos reigned upon the
earth, and men lived without care or pain or old age. Their death was
like the coming on of sleep, and the soil bore them fruits untilled.
When this race came to an end, Zeus made them genii of good-will,
haunting the world and protecting mortals. Theirs it is to watch the
decrees of justice, and to mark wrong-doing, wrapped around with mist,
going up and down upon the earth, the givers of wealth; such is the
royal honor which is theirs. The next age he calls the Silver, for it
was inferior to the first; and Zeus speedily swept it away, seeing
that the men of this generation waxed insolent, and paid no honor to
the gods. The third age is the Brazen. A terrible and mighty brood
of men possessed the land, who delighted in naught but violence and
warfare. They first ate flesh. Their houses and their armor and their
mattocks were of brass. In strife they slew themselves, and perished
without a name. After them came the heroes of romance, whom Zeus made
most just and worthy. They fell fighting before seven-gated Thebes
and Troy; but after death Father Zeus transferred them to the utmost
limits of the world, where they live without care in islands of the
blest, by ocean waves, blest heroes, for whom thrice yearly the soil
bears blooming fruitage honey-sweet. Then cries Hesiod, and the cry is
wrenched from him with agony, Would that I had never been born in the
fifth generation of men, but rather that I had died before or had lived
afterwards; for now the age is of iron! On the face of the world there
is naught but violence and wrong; division is set between father and
son, brother and brother, friend and friend; there is no fear of God,
no sense of justice, no fidelity, no truth; the better man is subject
to the worse, and jealousy corrupts the world. Soon, very soon, will
wing their way to heaven again--leaving the earth with her broad ways,
robed in white raiment, joining the immortal choir, deserting men--both
modest shame and righteous indignation. But dismal woes will stay and
harbor here, and against evil there shall be no aid. This ends the
second canto of the _Works and Days_, and brings us down to the two
hundredth line of the poem. The remainder consists for the most part of
precepts adapted to the doleful state in which mortals of the present
have to suffer.

What may be called the third canto is occupied with justice, the
advantages of which, from a purely utilitarian point of view, as well
as æsthetically conceived, are urged in verse. It begins with the
apologue of the hawk and nightingale already quoted. Then the condition
of a city where justice is honored, where the people multiply in peace,
and there is fulness and prosperity, where pestilence and calamity keep
far away, is contrasted with the plagues, wars, famines, wasting away
of population, and perpetual discomforts that beset the unjust nation.
For the innocent and righteous folk, says the poet, the earth bears
plenty, and in the mountains the oak-tree at the top yields acorns, and
in the middle bees, and the woolly sheep are weighed down with their
fleeces. The women give birth to children like their fathers. With
blessings do men always flourish, nor need they tempt the sea in ships,
but earth abundantly supplies their wants.

It is worth while to pause for a moment and contemplate the pastoral
ideal of perfect happiness and pure simplicity which, first set forth
by Hesiod in these passages, found afterwards an echo in Plato, in
Empedocles, in Lucretius, in Virgil, in Poliziano, and in Tasso;
all of whom have lingered lovingly upon the _bell' età dell' oro_.
The Hesiodic conception of felicity is neither stirring nor heroic.
Like the early Christian notion of heaven, expressed by the pathetic
iteration of _in pace_ on the sepulchral tablets of the catacombs, it
owes its beauty to a sense of contrast between tranquillity imagined
and woe and warfare actually experienced. We comprehend why the
Spartan king called Hesiod the poet of the Helots, when, in the age
that idealized Achilles and Odysseus, the all-daring, all-affronting
heroes of a radiant romance, we find that his sole aspiration was to
live in peace, decorously fulfilling social duties, and growing old
in the routine of moderate labor. It is a commonplace, and what the
French would call a _bourgeois_, aspiration. Just this lot in life
Achilles rejected with disdain, in exchange for the dazzling prospect
of victory and death, that fascinated the noblest of the Greeks, and
produced their Alexander. Still we must remember that Hesiod was not,
like Homer, singing in the halls of fiery and high-fed chieftains, who
stood above the laws. His plaintive note was uttered to the watchers
of the seasons and the tillers of the soil, whose very livelihood
depended on the will and pleasure of #dôrophagoi basileis#. In the
semi-barbarous state of society which Homer and Hesiod represent from
different points of view, when violence prevails, and when life and
property alike are insecure, justice may well be selected as the prime
of virtues, and peace be idealized as heaven on earth. In one sense, as
the Greek philosophers argued, justice does include all the excellences
of a social being. The man who is perfectly just will be unimpeachable
in all his conduct; and the simpler the state of society, the more
outrageous the wrongs inflicted by one man on another, the more
apparent will this be.

Putting aside, however, for further consideration, the ethical aspect
of Hesiod's ideal, we find in it an exquisite and permanently
attractive æsthetic beauty. Compared with the fierce heroism of
Achilles, the calm happiness of Hesiod's pastoral folk soothes our
fancy, like the rising of the moon in twilight above harvest sheaves at
the end of a long intolerable day. Therefore great poets and artists,
through all the resonant and gorgeous ages of the world, have turned
their eyes with sympathy and yearning to these lines; and the best
that either Virgil or Poliziano could achieve was to catch an echo of
Hesiod's melody, to reproduce a portion of his charm. Perhaps the most
complete homage to the poetry of Hesiod on this point has been rendered
by Flaxman. Nature, so prodigal to the English race in men of genius
untutored, singular, and solitary, has given us but few seers who,
in the quality of prolific invention, can be compared with Flaxman.
For pure conceptive faculty, controlled by unerring sense of beauty,
we have to think of Pheidias or Raphael before we find his equal.
His powers were often employed on uncongenial subjects; nor had he,
perhaps, a true notion of the limitations of his art, else he would not
have attempted to give sculpturesque form, even in outline, to many
scenes from the _Divine Comedy_. The conditions, again, of modern life
were adverse to his working out his thought in marble, and precluded
him from gaining a complete mastery over the material of sculpture. It
may also be conceded that, to a large extent, his imagination, like a
parasite flower, was obliged to bloom upon the branches of Greek art.
What Flaxman would have been without the bass-reliefs, the vases, and
the hand-mirrors of the ancients, it is difficult to conceive. Herein,
however, he did no more than obey the law which has constrained the
greatest modern minds by indissoluble bondage to the service of the
Greek spirit. Allowing for all this, the fact remains that within a
certain circle, the radius of which exceeds the farthest reach of many
far more frequently be-lauded artists, Flaxman was supreme. Whatever
could be expressed according to the laws of bass-relief, embossed in
metal, or hewn out of stone, or indicated in pure outline, he conveyed
with a truth to nature, a grace of feeling, and an originality of
conception absolutely incomparable. Moreover, in this kind his genius
was inexhaustible. Nowhere are the fruits of his creative skill so
charming as in the illustrations of the _Works and Days_. The ninth
plate, in which the Age of Gold is symbolized by a mother stretching
out her infant to receive his father's kiss, might be selected as a
perfect idyl, conveyed within the strictest and severest bounds of
sculptural relief. The man and his girl-wife are beautiful and young.
Age, we feel, will never touch them, by whitening her forehead or
spoiling his smooth chin with hair. Both are naked, seated on the
ground; their outstretched arms enfold, as in a living cradle, the
robust and laughing boy. On one side shoots a heavy sheaf of barley; on
the other stands an altar, smoking with bloodless offerings to heaven;
above, the strong vine hangs its clusters and its wealth of lusty
leaves. More elaborate, but scarcely more beautiful--like a double rose
beside a wilding blossom from the hedge of June--is the seventeenth
plate, which sets forth the felicity of god-fearing folk who honor
justice. These, too, are seated on the ground, young men and girls,
with comely children, pledges of their joy. One child is suckled at her
mother's breast; another lies folded in his father's arms; a girl and
boy are kissing on their parents' knees; while a beardless youth pipes
ditties on the double reed. Above the group vine-branches flourish,
and the veiled Hours, givers of all goodly things, weave choric dance
with song, scattering from their immortal fingers flowers upon the men
beneath. In order to comprehend the purity of Flaxman's inspiration,
the deep and inborn sympathy that made him in this nineteenth century
a Greek, we ought to compare these illustrations with the picture of
the Golden Age by Ingres. For perfection of scientific drawing from
the nude, this masterpiece of the great French painter has never been
excelled. It is a treasure-house of varied attitude and rhythmically
studied line. Yet the whole resembles a theatrical _tableau vivant_,
which an enlightened choreograph, in combination with an enterprising
manager, might design to represent the Garden of Eden on a grand scale.
The power displayed by Flaxman is of a very different order. There is
no effort, no _mise en scène_, no parade of science, no suggestion of
voluptuousness. His outlines are as simple and as pure as Hesiod's
verse. We feel that, whereas Ingres is using the old vision as a schema
for the exhibition of his skill, Flaxman has felt its poetry and given
form to its imagination. This is not the occasion to linger over these
illustrations; yet, before closing the volume that contains them, I
cannot forbear from turning a page, and pointing to the pictures of the
Pleiads. Seven beautiful interwoven female shapes are rising, in the
one plate, like a wreath of light or vapor moulded into human form,
above the reapers; in the other are descending, with equal grace of now
inverted movement, over the ploughman at his toil. By no other artist's
hand have the constellations elsewhere been converted, with so much
feeling for their form, into the melodies of rhythmically moving human
shapes. Flaxman's outlines of the Pleiads might be described as a new
celestial imagery, a hitherto unapprehended astronomical mythology.

Continuing what I have called the third canto of the _Works and Days_,
Hesiod addresses himself in the next place to the Basileis, or judges
of the people: "Kings in judgment, do ye also ponder this divine
justice; for the immortals, dwelling near and among men, behold who
waste their fellows by wrong judgment, scorning the wrath of God.
Verily, upon earth are thrice ten thousand immortals of the host of
Zeus, guardians of mortal man. They watch both justice and injustice,
robed in mist, roaming abroad upon the earth." Again he reminds them
that Justice, virgin child of Zeus, is ever ready with ear open to
observe the injury to right and fair dealing done against her honor.
She complains of the wrongful judge; but it is the people who suffer
for his sin. Therefore let the princes so greedy of bribes take heed,
forego their crooked sentences, and bear in mind that the man who
works evil for another, works it for himself, that bad intentions
harm those who have conceived them, and that Zeus sees all and knows
all. This period is concluded with a bitterly ironical repudiation of
the poet's own precepts: May neither I nor my son be just; for now
the wrongful man has by far the best of it upon the earth! It will be
observed that Zeus throughout this tirade on justice is a different
being from the Zeus in the mythus of Prometheus. The dramatic personage
of the legend, whose guile inflicts so much misery on men, has been
supplanted by a moral idea personified. It is not that a new mythology
has been superinduced upon the old one, or that we are now in the
track of esoteric religious teaching: the poet is only expressing his
internal certainty that though fraud and violence prevail on earth,
yet somewhere in the eternal and ideal world justice still abides. It
is not a little singular, considering his querulous and hopeless tone
in other passages, that Hesiod should here assert the cognizance which
Zeus takes of unfair dealing, and the continued action of protective
and retributive dæmons. We could scarcely find stronger faith in
the superiority of justice among the moral writings of the Jews.
Furthermore, Hesiod reminds Perses that justice is human, violence
bestial, and that in the long run honesty will be found to be the best
policy. Then follows the sublimest passage of the whole poem--one of
great celebrity among the Greeks, who quoted it, and worked it up
in poems, parables, and essays: "Behold, thou mayest choose badness
easily, even in heaps; for the path is plain, and she dwells very near.
But before excellence the immortal gods have placed toil and labor:
afar and steep is the road that leads to her, and rough it is at
first; but when you reach the height, then truly is it easy, though so
hard before."[41]

The subject of Justice being now exhausted, Hesiod passes, in the
fourth canto of the _Works and Days_, to the eulogy of labor, regarded
as the source of all good. The unheroic nature of his life-philosophy
is very apparent in this section. He thinks and speaks like a peasant,
whose one idea it is to add pence to pence, and to cut a good figure
in his parish. A man must work in order to avoid hunger and grow rich:
gods and men hate the idle, who are like drones in the hive: if you
work, you will get flocks and herds, and folk will envy you: to grow
rich from dishonest gains brings no profit, for they are unlucky:
the great aim for a good man is to live a respectable life, to work
soberly, to fulfil righteousness, to be punctual in paying homage to
the gods--to go to church, in fact--with this end in view, that he may
buy the estates of his neighbor, instead of having to sell his own.
Such is the bathos of Hesiod's ethical ideal: Do right and abstain from
wrong, in order that you may be richer than the tenant of the adjacent
farm. Many other precepts of like tenor might be quoted: Call your
friend to your banquet, and leave your enemy alone: invite him most who
lives nearest, for he will be most useful in time of need: love him who
loves you, and cleave to him who cleaves to you: give to him who gives,
and give not to him who gives not, for to a giver gifts are given, but
to him who gives not no man hath given. Of such sort are the Hesiodic
rules of conduct. They reveal the spirit of a prudent clown, the
practical and calculating selfishness which the doleful conditions of
the early age of Hellenic civilization intensified. The social life of
great political centres and the patriotism of the Persian war helped at
a later period to raise the Greeks above these low and sordid aims in
life. It was only in a century when justice could be bought and penury
meant starving, unheeded or derided, by the roadside, that a poet of
Hesiod's temper could write,[42] Money is a man's soul--

    #chrêmata gar psychê peletai deiloisi brotoisi.#

In criticising the Solonian reforms at Athens, we should never forget
the dismal picture of Hellenic misery revealed to us by Hesiod.

Thus ends the first part of the _Works and Days_. The second half of
the poem consists of rules for husbandry. Hesiod goes through the
seasons of the year, detailing the operations of the several months,
and adorning his homely subject with sober but graceful poetry. It is
an elegant farmer's calendar, upon which Virgil founded his _Georgics_,
translating into Augustan Latin the rude phrases of the bard of Ascra,
and turning all he touched to gold. Scattered among precepts relating
to the proper seasons and successions of agricultural labor are
descriptive passages and moral reflections. One picture of winter is
so long and elaborate as to justify the notion that it is a separate
interpolated poem. The episode upon procrastination (line 408) and the
rules for the choice of a wife (line 693) might be selected as offering
special topics for comment. The latter passage deserves particular
attention; since, if the condition of the working-man was wretched in
this early age of Greece, far more miserable, may we argue, was that
of his helpmate. A man, according to Hesiod, ought to be about thirty
when he marries, and his wife about nineteen. He should be very careful
in choosing her, to insure that she will not bring him into contempt
among his neighbors; and he must remember that if a good wife be a
prize, it is not possible to get a worse plague than a bad one. What
his general notion about women was, we gather from the long invective
against the female sex in the _Theogony_.[43] Pandora was the greatest
curse imaginable to the human race, for from her sprang women; and now,
if a man refrains from marriage, he must endure a wretched old age, and
leave his money to indifferent kindred; or if he marries and gets a
good wife, curses and blessings are mingled in his lot; if his wife be
of the bad sort, his whole life is ruined. So utterly impossible is it
to avoid the misery devised for the human race by Zeus.

The whole argument of Hesiod in this passage, taken in connection with
his few lines on the choice of a wife in the _Works and Days_, and
with his grim silence upon the subject of women as the companions of
men, proves that he regarded them as a necessary deduction from the
happiness of life--the rift within the lute that spoils its music--the
plague invented by the malice of an all-wise god in vengeance for a
man's deceit. This appreciation of women is substantially consistent
with the curious poem by Simonides of Amorgos; with the treatment of
the female sex at Athens; with the opinion of Pindar and Plato that
to be a woman-lover as compared with a boy-lover was sensual and
vile; with the disdainful silence of Thucydides; with the caricatures
of society presented by the comic poets; with the famous epigram of
Pericles; with the portrait of Xanthippe; and with the remarkable
description of female habits in Lucian's _Amores_. Thus, running
through the whole literature of the Greeks, we can trace a vein of
contempt for women, which may fairly be indicated as the greatest
social blot upon their brilliant but imperfect civilization. Exceptions
can, of course, be found. In the age of the despots women rose into
far more importance than they afterwards enjoyed in democratic Athens.
At Sparta their right to engross property (severely criticised by
Aristotle) gave them a social status which they had in no other Greek
state. At Lesbos, during the brief blooming period of Æolian culture,
in freedom of action and in mental training they were at least the
equals of the male sex. The fact, however, remains that in Athens, the
real centre of Hellenic life, women occupied a distinctly inferior
rank. It is significant that in the _Lives of Plutarch_, whereas we
read of many noble Lacedæmonian ladies, comparatively little account is
taken of the wives or mothers of Athenian worthies.

Some scattered proverbs about the conduct of the tongue and the choice
of friends, followed by an enumeration of lucky and unlucky days, and
by a list of truly rustic rules of personal behavior, conclude the
poem of the _Works and Days_. How far these saws and maxims belong to
the original work of Hesiod it is quite impossible to say. The book
became popular in education, and consequently suffered, like the gnomes
of Theognis and Phocylides, from frequent interpolations at a later
period. As it stands, the whole is chiefly valuable for the concrete
picture which it offers of early peasant life in Hellas. As the epics
of Homer present us with the ideal towards which the princes and great
nobles raised their souls amid the plenty and the splendor of their
palaces, so in the lines of Hesiod we learn how the Thetes, whom
Achilles envied in Elysium, toiled and suffered in their struggle for
their only source of comfort, gold.


[36] _Works and Days_, 219, 261, 637.

[37] There are probably few scholars who would now venture to maintain
confidently that the _Iliad_ and the _Odyssey_ were composed by one and
the same poet. The name Homer must be used like the _x_ of algebra for
an unknown power.

[38] Line 225.

[39] Line 535.

[40] That Prometheus was _Pramanthas_, the fire-lighting stick, has
been ascertained by modern philology, but was not known by Hesiod.

[41] _Works and Days_, 286.

[42] _Works and Days_, 686. It must here again be repeated that
though it is convenient to talk of Hesiod as a poet and a person, the
miscellaneous ethical precepts of the _Works and Days_ are derived from
a variety of sources.

[43] Lines 587-612.



    Greek Philosophical Poetry.--The Emergence of
        Philosophy from Mythology.--The Ionian Sages.--The
        Eleatics.--Heraclitus.--Xenophanes of Colophon.--His
        Critique of the Myths.--Assertion of Monotheism.--Fragments
        of his Poem on Nature.--Parmenides of Elea.--His Political
        Importance.--Parmenides in the Dialogues of Plato.--His
        Metaphysic of Being.--His Natural Philosophy.--The Logic
        Deduced from him by Zeno and Melissus.--Translation of
        the Fragments of his Poem.--The Dualism of Truth and
        Opinion.--Impossibility of Obtaining Absolute Knowledge.

It might well be questioned whether the founders of the Eleatic
School deserve to rank among Greek poets; for though they wrote
hexameters, composing what the Greeks call #epê#, yet it is clear
that they did this with no artistic impulse, but only because in the
dawn of thought it was easier to use verse than prose for fixed and
meditated exposition. The moment in the development of human thought
when abstractions were being wrung for the first time with toil from
language, and when as yet the vehicle of rhythmic utterance seemed
indispensable, is so interesting that a point in favor of Xenophanes
and Parmenides may be fairly stretched, and a place may be given them
between Hesiod, the creator of didactic poetry, and Empedocles, the
inspired predecessor of Lucretius.

The problem which lay before the earliest philosophers of Greece was
how to emerge from mythological conceptions concerning the origin and
nature of the world into a region of more exact and abstract thought.
They had their list of demiurgic agencies, Titans and deities, some of
them dramatically personified in the poems of Homer and the legends
of Olympus, others but vaguely indicated by the names of Earth and
Ocean, Heaven and Time. The polytheistic and mythologizing instincts
of the race at large tended to individualize these primal powers
with more and more distinctness, collecting legends around the more
popular among them, and attributing moral sympathies and passions to
those who were supposed to have relations with humanity. But there
remained a background of dimly descried and cloudy forces upon which
the mythopoeic imagination had taken little hold; and these supplied a
starting-point for scientific speculation. It was in this field that
the logical faculty of the Greek mind, no less powerful and active than
its poetic fancy, came first into play. Thus we find Thales brooding
in thought upon the mythus of Oceanus, and arriving at the conception
of water as the elementary principle of the universe; while Gaia, or
Earth, in like manner is said to have stimulated Pherecydes. Anaximenes
is reported to have chosen air as the groundwork of his cosmogony, and
Heraclitus developed the material world from fire.

It must not be supposed that any of these early speculators invented
a complete hypothesis for deducing phenomena from earth, air, fire,
or water as apprehended by the senses. Their elements, or #archai#,
are rather to be regarded in the light of symbols--metaphors adopted
from experience for shadowing forth an extremely subtle and pervasive
substance, a material of supersensible fluidity and elasticity,
capable of infinite modification by rarefaction and condensation. At
the same time they were seeking after intellectual abstractions; but
the problems of philosophy as yet presented themselves in crude and
concrete form to their intellects.

A further step in the direction of the abstract was taken by
Anaximander, the Milesian astronomer, who is reported to have made a
sundial, to have calculated the recurrence of the equinoxes and the
solstices, and to have projected geographical charts for the first
time in Greece. This practical mathematician derived the universe
from the unlimited, #to apeiron#, hurling thought thus at a venture,
as it were, into the realm of metaphysical conceptions. It would
appear from the dim and hazy tradition which we have received about
Anaximander, that he instituted a polemic against the so-called
physicists, arguing that to the elements of fire or water there can be
attributed a beginning and an ending, but that the abstract indefinite,
as uncreate and indestructible, takes precedence of all else. His
thought, however, though fruitful of future consequences, was in itself
barren; nor have we any reason to conclude that by the #apeiron# he
meant more than a primordial substance, or _Grund_, without quality
and without limitation--a void and hollow form containing in itself
potentialities of all things. It is characteristic of this early age of
Greek speculation that Simplicius found it necessary to criticise even
Anaximander for using poetic phraseology, #poiêtikôterois onomasin#. In
his polemic, however, he started one of the great puzzles, the contrast
between birth and death, and the difficulty of discovering an element
subject to neither, which agitated the schools of Greece throughout
their long activity.

While the thinkers of Ionia were endeavoring to discover terms
of infinite subtlety, through which to symbolize the uniform and
unchangeable substance underlying the multiplicity of phenomena,
the Pythagoreans in Italy turned their attention to the abstract
relations of which numbers are the simplest expression. Numbers,
they saw, are both thoughts and also at the same time universally
applicable to things of sense. There is nothing tangible which can
escape the formulæ of arithmetic. Mistaking a power of the mind for
a power inherent in the universe, they imagined that the figures of
the multiplication-table were the essential realities of things,
the authentic inner essence of the sensible world; and to number
they attributed a mystic potency. Speculation was still so immature
that they failed to observe the sterility of the conception. This
much, however, they effected: by resting upon the essentially mental
conception of quantity, and by apprehending the whole universe as
number, they took the first important step in the direction of pure

Anaxagoras of Clazomenæ, following another path, pronounced that the
really efficient agency in the universe is Mind. For this utterance
he has been justly eulogized by the metaphysicians of all succeeding
centuries. It was, in fact, the starting-point of what in German
phraseology is called _Begriffsphilosophie_. Anaxagoras insisted on a
point which had been neglected by his contemporaries--the form-giving
activity of mind, as known to us immediately in the human reason--and
asserted the impossibility of leaving this out of the account of the
universe. But, as Socrates complained, he stopped here, and diverged
into material explanations, talking about attraction and repulsion and
homogeneous particles, without attempting to connect them with the
action of his #Nous#.

Democritus of Abdera, a little later in time than the thinkers who
have hitherto been mentioned, was so attracted by the indefinite
divisibility of matter that he explained the universe by the theory
of a void in which an infinity of atoms moved and met in varied
combination. It is well known that this hypothesis, the parent of
the Epicurean and the Lucretian systems, has been the main-stay
of materialism in all ages, and that it has lately been received
into favor by some of the most advanced physicists. Yet it must not
be imagined that the Atomism of Democritus was in any true sense
scientific according to our acceptation of the term. Like the Infinite
of Anaximander, the Mind of Anaxagoras, the Numbers of Pythagoras, the
Fire of Heraclitus, his Plenum and Vacuum was a conjectural hypothesis
founded upon no experiment or observation properly so called. All
these early systems were freaks of fancy, shrewd guesses, poetic
thoughts, in which abstractions from language, elementary refinements
upon mythology, together with crude speculations about natural objects,
were made the groundwork of dogmatism. At the same time thought at this
period was both active and creative; nearly all the permanent problems
which occur to human ignorance--the antitheses of a beginning and an
ending, of being and not being, of rest and motion, of the continuous
and the discrete, of the one and the many--the criterion of knowledge
and opinion, the antagonism of the senses and the reason, the relation
of the vital principle to inanimate existence--were posed in the course
of animated controversy. Logic had not been formulated as a method.
Philosophical terminology had not as yet been settled. But the logical
faculty was working in full vigor, and language was being made to yield
abstractions hitherto unapprehended.

This brief survey of the origin of Greek philosophy will enable us to
understand the position of the Eleatics. Regarded collectively, and as
a school developing a body of doctrine, they advanced in abstraction
beyond any of their predecessors or contemporaries. Whereas other
philosophers had sought for the abstract in phenomenal elements, the
Eleatics went straight through language to the notion of pure being:
even the numbers of Pythagoras were not sufficient for the exigencies
of their logic. The unity of being, as the one reality, and the
absolute impossibility of not-being, revealed by the consciousness and
demonstrated by language in the copula #esti#, forms the groundwork of
their dogmatism. How important was the principle thus introduced into
the fabric of European thought, is evident to every student of the
history of philosophy. It is enough in this place to point out to what
extent it has influenced our language through such words as entity,
existence, essence. The Eleatics may claim as their own coinage the
title of all metaphysics--Ontology, or the Science of Being.

In order to make the attitude of these earliest Greek thinkers still
more clear, we must return for a moment to Heraclitus, who instituted
a polemic against the Eleatic doctrine of Being. He asserted that
Being is no more than not-Being. Regarded in itself as an abstraction,
Being turns out to be identical with nothing. The relation of Being
to not-Being in Becoming formed the central point of his metaphysic,
and was enunciated in the axiom, All is flowing, #panta rhei#. Though
the Heraclitean polemic was directed against the school at large, it
would be in the last degree inaccurate to treat the Eleatic doctrine,
as maintained by Xenophanes, Parmenides, Zeno, and Melissus, from the
point of view of one consistent system. By so doing not only would the
truth of history be violated, but one of the most valuable examples of
the growth of thought in Greece would be lost.

Xenophanes, who is regarded as the founder of the school, was a native
of Colophon. He left his fatherland, and spent the greater portion of
his life in Sicily and Magna Græcia. We hear of him first at Messana,
then at Catana; and there is good reason to believe that he visited
the Phocæan colony of Elea (afterwards Velia) on the western coast of
Calabria, a little to the south of Pæstum. At all events, antiquity
spoke of him as the father of philosophy at Elea, and Diogenes Laertius
mentions a poem of two thousand hexameters which he composed in joint
praise of this city and Colophon. Xenophanes lived to a great age. In a
couplet preserved from one of his elegies he speaks of having wandered,
absorbed in thought and contemplation, for sixty-seven years through
Hellas, and fixes twenty-five years as the age at which he began his
travels. He was celebrated, like his fellow-countryman, Mimnermus, for
his elegiac poetry, some fragments of which are among the most valuable
relics we possess of that species of composition. About 538 B.C. is the
date usually assigned to him.

The starting-point of philosophy for Xenophanes was found in theology.
"Looking up to universal heaven," says Aristotle, "he proclaimed that
unity is God." The largest fragment of his metaphysical poem consists
of a polemic against polytheism, both as regards the anthropomorphic
conception of deity prevalent in Greece, and also as regards the
immorality attributed by Homer and Hesiod to the gods. His own god
is a high abstraction of mind, one and indivisible, without motion,
without beginning or ending, in no way like to man. To the divine unity
he attributed thought and volition; but he does not appear to have
attempted to connect God with the universe. Like the other speculators
of his age and nation, he theoretically deduced the world from simple
elements, choosing earth and water, as we gather from some fragments of
his poem, for the primordial constituents. At the same time he held a
doctrine which afterwards became the central point of Eleatic science.
This was a disbelief in the evidence of the senses, a despair of
empirical knowledge, which contrasts singularly with his own vehement
dogmatism upon the nature of the Divine Being. Thus the originality
of Xenophanes consisted in his pronouncing, without proof, that the
universe must be regarded as a unity, and that this unity is the Divine
Existence, all human mythology being but dreams and delusions. Of his
philosophical poem only inconsiderable portions have been preserved.
These, however, are sufficient to make clear the line he took, both in
his assertion of monotheism and his polemic against the anthropomorphic
theology of the Greeks. Such as they are, I have translated them as

    "One god there is, among gods and men the greatest, neither in
    body like to mortals, nor in mind.

    "With the whole of him he sees, with the whole of him he
    thinks, with the whole of him he hears.

    "Without exertion, by energy of mind he sways the universe of

    "That he abides forever in the same state, without movement, or
    change from place to place, is evident.

    "But mortals fancy that gods come into being like themselves,
    and have their senses, voice, and body. But, of a truth, if
    oxen or lions had hands, and could draw with their hands, and
    make what men make, then horses like unto horses, and oxen like
    unto oxen, would both paint the images of gods, and shape their
    bodies also after the similitude of their own limbs.

    "Homer and Hesiod attributed to gods everything that is
    disgraceful and blameworthy among men, and very many lawless
    deeds of gods they recorded--theft, adultery, and mutual

Another set of scattered fragments, small in number and meagre in their
information, from the poem by Xenophanes on #physis#, show that he held
the views afterwards developed by Parmenides concerning the uncertainty
of human opinion, and that the elemental substances which he favored
in his cosmogonical theory were earth and water. These also I have

    "For all of us from earth and water sprang.

    "Earth and water are all things that come into being and have

    "The spring of water is the sea.

    "This upper surface of the earth beneath our feet is open to
    the sight, and borders on the air; but the lower parts reach
    down into infinity.

    "What we call Iris, that also is a cloud, purple-dark,
    scarlet-bright, yellow-pale to look upon.

    "The very truth itself no man who hath been or will be can know
    concerning gods and all whereof I speak; for though he publish
    the most absolute, yet even so he does not know: opinion is
    supreme o'er all things.

    "These things are matters of opinion, shadows of the truth.

    "Not from the beginning did gods reveal all things to mortals;
    but in course of time by seeking they make progress in

The essential weakness of the Eleatic way of thinking was not glaringly
apparent, though implicit, in the utterance of Xenophanes. This
consisted in the unreconciled antithesis between the world of unity,
of true being, of rational thought, and the world of multiplicity,
of phenomenal appearance, of opinion. By pushing the tenets of his
master to their logical conclusions, and by exchanging theological
for metaphysical phraseology, Parmenides, the greatest teacher of the
school, exposed the fatal insufficiency of Eleatic dualism. At the same
time he achieved an ever-memorable triumph in philosophy by forcing the
problem of essential reality upon the earliest Greek speculators, and
by defining the battle-ground of future ontological controversy.

Parmenides, a native of Elea, who flourished about the year 503 B.C.,
enjoyed a reputation in his native city scarcely inferior to that of
Pythagoras at Crotona, of Empedocles at Acragas, or of Solon at Athens.
Speusippus, quoted by Diogenes Laertius, asserts that the magistrates
of Elea were yearly sworn to observe the laws enacted by Parmenides.
Cebes talks about a "Pythagorean or Parmenidean mode of life," as if
the austere ascesis of the Samian philosopher had been adopted or
imitated by the Eleatic. Indeed, there is good reason to suppose that
Parmenides held intercourse with members of the Pythagorean sect, his
neighbors in the south of Italy. Diogenes Laertius relates that he was
united in the bonds of closest friendship to Ameinias and Diochætes,
two Pythagoreans. Of these the latter was a poor man, but excellent in
breeding and in character; Parmenides so loved him and respected him
that, when he died, he dedicated a hero's chapel to his memory. The
philosophers of this period in Greece, as might be proved abundantly,
were no mere students but men of action and political importance.
Their reputation for superior wisdom caused them to be consulted in
affairs of state, and to be deferred to in matters of constitutional
legislation. Some of them, like Thales, Anaximander, and Empedocles,
were employed on works of public utility. Others, like Pythagoras,
remodelled the society of cities, or, like Anaxagoras, through their
influence with public men like Pericles, raised the tone of politics
around them. All of them devoted a large portion of their time and
attention to the study of public questions. It was this kind of
prestige, we may conjecture, which, in the next phase of Greek thought,
threw so much power into the hands of sophists, and which finally
encouraged Plato in his theory that those states would be best governed
where the sages were the rulers.

Of Parmenides himself some precious notices have been preserved by
Plato. It appears that the great Eleatic teacher visited Athens in his
old age. Socrates was a young man at the period of this visit; and
Plato, whether inventing an occasion for their meeting or relying on
actual tradition, brings them into conversation. In the prelude to the
dialogue _Parmenides_, we read:[45]

    "He told us that Pythodorus had described to him the appearance
    of Parmenides and Zeno; they came to Athens, he said, at
    the great Panathenæa; the former was, at the time of his
    visit, about sixty-five years old, very white with age, but
    well-favored. Zeno was nearly forty years of age, of a noble
    figure and fair aspect; and in the days of his youth he was
    reported to have been beloved of Parmenides. He said that they
    lodged with Pythodorus in the Ceramicus, outside the wall,
    whither Socrates and others came to see them; they wanted to
    hear some writings of Zeno, which had been brought to Athens
    by them for the first time. He said that Socrates was then
    very young, and that Zeno read them to him in the absence of
    Parmenides, and had nearly finished when Pythodorus entered,
    and with him Parmenides and Aristoteles, who was afterwards one
    of the Thirty; there was not much more to hear, and Pythodorus
    had heard Zeno repeat them before."

The _Theætetus_ contains another allusion to Parmenides, which proves
in what reverence the old philosopher was held by Socrates:

    "My reason is that I have a kind of reverence, not so much for
    Melissus and the others, who say that 'all is one and at rest,'
    as for the great leader himself, Parmenides, venerable and
    awful, as in Homeric language he may be called--him I should be
    ashamed to approach in a spirit unworthy of him. I met him when
    he was an old man and I was a mere youth, and he appeared to me
    to have a glorious depth of mind. And I am afraid that we may
    not understand his language, and may fall short even more of
    his meaning."

Finally, in the _Sophistes_ a passing allusion to the same event is
put into the mouth of Socrates: "I remember hearing Parmenides use
the latter of the two methods, when I was a young man and he was far
advanced in years, in a very noble discussion." These notices of
the Eleatic sage, we feel, are not in any sense accidental. Plato
has introduced them in important moments of his three most studied
dialogues upon those very points which occupied the mind of Parmenides,
and by the elaboration of which he made his greatest contribution
to philosophy. The problems of knowledge and of the relation of
the phenomenal universe to real existence were for the first time
methodically treated in the school of Elea. Their solution in the
theory of Ideas was the main object of Plato's philosophical activity.

The unity asserted by Xenophanes gave its motto to the Eleatic school;
#hen ta panta# became their watchword. Parmenides, however, abstracted
from this unity all theological attributes. Plain existence, obtained
apparently by divesting thought of all qualifications derived from
sensation and imagination, and regarding it in primitive and abstract
nakedness or nothingness, was the only positive condition which he
left to the principle of Being; and though he seems to have identified
this Being with Thought, we must be careful not to be misled by
modern analogies into fancying that his #archê# involved a purely
intellectual idealism. Nor, again, can we regard it as the totality
of things presented to the senses; the most earnest polemic of the
philosopher is directed against this view. The Unity, the Being, of
Parmenides, was in truth the barest metaphysical abstraction, deduced,
we are tempted to believe, in the first instance from a simple
observation of language, and yet, when formed, not wholly purged
from corporeity. Being is proved by the word #esti#. The singular
number indicates the unity of the subject; the present tense proves
its eternity, for it neither asserts a _has been_ nor a _will be_,
but an everlasting _is_. Its antithesis not-Being is impossible and
inconceivable; #ouk esti#. Completing his conception of Being as the
sole reality, and carrying out the arguments attributed by Aristotle to
his master,[46] Parmenides shows that the eternal One is indivisible,
immovable, continuous, homogeneous, absolutely self-identical, beyond
the reach of birth, or change, or dissolution. Furthermore, it is
finite and spheroid. In rounding and completing his notion of the
Unity of Being, Parmenides seems at this point to have passed into the
region of geometrical abstractions. The sphere of mathematics requires
to be circumscribed by a superficies equidistant at all points from
the centre. These conditions of perfection Parmenides attributed to
Being, forgetting that the finite sphere thus conceived by him implied,
by a necessity of human thought, a beyond against which it should be
defined. At the same time, this geometrical analogy prevents us from
assuming that the further identification of Being with Thought excluded
a concrete and almost material conception of the Ens.

As opposed to this unique #archê#, the sole and universal reality,
which can only be apprehended by the reason, and which is eternally
and continuously One, Parmenides places the totality of phenomena,
multiplex, diverse, subject to birth, change, division, dissolution,
motion. These, he asserts, are non-existent, the illusions of the
senses, mere names, the vague and unreal dreamworld of impotent
mortals. Not having advanced in his analysis of thought beyond the
first category of Being, he felt obliged to abandon the multiplicity
of things as hopeless and unthinkable. Yet he cannot deny their
phenomenal existence; there they are, deceiving the sage and the
simple man alike: experience asserts them; language and the opinion of
humanity take them for granted as realities. Parmenides feels bound
to offer an explanation of this cosmos of illusion, this many-formed
and many-colored mirage. His teaching consequently contains a paradox
deeply embedded in its very substance. Having first expounded the law
of absolute truth, he proceeds to render a grave and meditated account
of error. Having demonstrated the sole existence of abstract Being, he
turns a page and begins to discourse, like any physicist of his age
in Greece, concerning Light and Night, Hot and Cold, Fire and Earth,
Active and Passive, Male and Female, Rare and Dense. By a singular
irony of fate it was precisely for this portion of his teaching that
he received the praise of Bacon in the _Novum Organum_. To connect the
doctrine of Being, #ta pros alêtheian#, and the doctrine of Appearance,
#ta pros doxan#, was beyond his power. It was what Plato afterwards
attempted in his theory of ideas, and Aristotle in the theory of
forms and matter, #eidê# and #hylê#. Parmenides himself seems to have
regarded man as a part of the cosmos, subject to its phantasmagoric
changes and illusions, yet capable of comprehending that, while the
substratum of Being is alone immutable, real, and one, all else is
shifting, non-existent, and many. Neglect, he says, the object of
sense, the plurality of things obedient to change, and you will arrive
at the object of reason, the unity that alters not and can be only
apprehended by thought. Yet, while on the one hand he did not disdain
to theorize the universe of sense, so, on the other hand, as already
hinted, he had not arrived at the point of abstracting corporeity
from Being. To do this from his point of view was indeed impossible.
Having posited pure Being as the sole reality, he was obliged to form
a figurative presentation of it to his own mind. A new stage had to be
accomplished by human thought before the intellect could fairly grapple
with the problems nakedly and paradoxically propounded by the sage of

From the immense importance attached by Parmenides to the verb
#esti#, and from his assertion that men deal with names and not with
realities, it followed that to his metaphysical teaching a logical set
of corollaries had to be appended. To construct these was the task of
Zeno, his beloved pupil and authorized successor. Zeno undertook to
maintain the Parmenidean Unity, both against the vulgar evidence of the
senses and also against philosophers who, like Heraclitus, directed
their attention to the flux and multiplicity of things. His method
was, not to prove the necessity of unity at rest, but to demonstrate
the contradictions involved in the ideas of plurality and motion. The
intellectual difficulties implied in the divisibility of time and
space and matter were developed by Zeno with a force and subtlety that
justified Aristotle in calling him the founder of dialectic. His logic,
however, was but the expansion of positions implicit in Xenophanes and
clearly indicated by Parmenides. How the Eleatic arguments, as further
handled by Melissus, helped the Sophists, and influenced the school of
Megara, who went so far as to refuse any but identical propositions,
are matters that belong to another chapter of Greek history. So, too,
is Plato's attempt to resolve the antinomies revealed in human thought
by the polemic of his predecessors. Enough has now been said to serve
as preface to the following version of the fragments of Parmenides.

His poem--for, strange as it must always seem, Parmenides committed
the exposition of his austerely abstract and argumentative doctrine
to hexameters--begins with an epical allegory. He feigns to have been
drawn by horses on a chariot to the house of Truth: the horses may,
perhaps, be taken, as in Plato's vision of the _Phædrus_, to symbolize
faculties of the soul; and the gates of Truth open upon two roads--one
called the way of night, or error; the other, of light, or real
knowledge. The goddess who dwells here, divine Sophia, instructs him
equally in the lore of truth and of opinion, and makes no attempt, as
will be seen from her own words, to conceal the futility of the second
part of her discourse. From a literary point of view the poem has no
merit. Even the exordium is stiff and tame. It begins thus:

    "The steeds which bear me, and have brought me to the bounds of
    my desire, since they drew and carried me into the way renowned
    of her who leads the wise man to all knowledge--on that road I
    journeyed, on that road they bore me, those steeds of thought
    that whirl the car along. But maidens showed the way, sun-born
    maids, who left the halls of gloom and brought us to the light,
    withdrawing with their fingers from their brows the veils. And
    the axle in the socket made a whistling sound, glowing as by
    two round wheels on either side it ran, while the steeds drove
    the car swiftly on. There are the gates which open on the paths
    of Night and Day. A lintel shuts them in above, and a floor of
    stone beneath; but the airy space they close is fastened with
    huge doors, which Justice the avenger locks or unlocks by the
    key she holds. Her did the maidens sue with gentle words, and
    wisely won her to draw for them the bolted barrier from the
    gates. The gates flew open, and the doors yawned wide, back
    rolling in the sockets their brazen hinges wrought with clasps
    and nails. Straight through the portal drove the maidens car
    and horses on the broad highway. And me the goddess graciously
    received; she took my right hand in her hand, and spoke these
    words, addressing me: 'Child of man, companion of immortal
    charioteers, that comest drawn by horses to our home, welcome!
    for thee no evil fate sent forth to travel on this path--far
    from the track of men indeed it lies--but Right and Justice
    were thy guides. Thy lot it is all things to learn; both the
    sure heart of truth that wins assent, and the vain fancies of
    mortals which have no real ground of faith. Yet these, too,
    shalt thou learn, since it behooves thee to know all opinions,
    testing them, and travelling every field of thought.'"

Here the exordium, as we possess it, ends, and we start upon the
fragments of the lecture addressed by divine Sophia to the mortal sage.
The order and the connection of these fragments are more than doubtful.
So much, however, is clear, that they fall into two sections--the
first treating of scientific truth, the second of popular opinion. The
instrument of knowledge in the one case is the reason; in the other the
senses bear confused and untrustworthy witness to phenomena.

    "Come now, for I will tell, and do thou hear and keep my words,
    what are the only ways of inquiry that lead to knowledge. The
    one which certifies that being is, and that not-being is not,
    is the pathway of persuasion, for truth follows it. The other,
    which declares that being is not, and that not-being must be,
    that I affirm is wholly unpersuasive; for neither couldst thou
    know not-being, since it cannot be got at, nor couldst thou
    utter it in words, seeing that thought and being are the same.

    "To me it is indifferent where I begin, for again to the same
    point I shall return. It must be that speech and thought are
    being, for being is, and that not-being is nothing: which
    things I bid thee ponder. First, keep thy mind from that path
    of inquiry, then, too, from that on which mortals who know
    nothing wander in doubt; helplessness sways in their breasts
    the erring mind; hither and thither are they borne, deaf, yea,
    and blind, in wonderment, confused crowds who fancy being and
    not-being are the same and not the same; the way of all of them
    leads backwards."

Some light is thrown upon these fragments by a passage in the
_Sophistes_ of Plato, where the Eleatic stranger is made to say: "In
the days when I was a boy, the great Parmenides protested against
this (_i.e._, against asserting the existence of not-being), and to
the end of his life he continued to inculcate the same lesson--always
repeating, both in verse and out of verse, _Keep your mind from this
way of inquiry, for never will you show that not-being is._" The
fragment which immediately follows, if we are right in assuming the
continuity and order of its verses, forms the longest portion of the
poem extant.

    "Never do thou learn to fancy that things that are not,
    are; but keep thy mind from this path of inquiry; nor let
    custom force thee to pursue that beaten way, to use blind
    eyes and sounding ear and tongue, but judge by reason the
    knotty argument which I declare. One only way of reasoning
    is left--that being is. Wherein are many signs that it is
    uncreate and indestructible, whole in itself, unique in kind,
    immovable and everlasting. It never was, nor will be, since
    it exists as a simultaneous present, a continuous unity. What
    origin shall we seek of it? Where and how did it grow? That it
    arose from not-being I will not suffer thee to say or think,
    for it cannot be thought or said that being is not. Then, too,
    what necessity could have forced it to the birth at an earlier
    or later moment? for neither birth nor beginning belongs to
    being. Wherefore either to be or not to be is the unconditioned
    alternative. Nor will the might of proof allow us to believe
    that anything can spring from being but itself. Therefore
    the law of truth permits no birth or dissolution in it, no
    remission of its chains, but holds it firm. This, then, is the
    point for decision: it is, or it is not. Now we have settled,
    as necessity obliged, to leave the one path, inconceivable,
    unnamed, for it is not the true way; but to affirm, as sure,
    that being is. How then could being have a future or a past?
    If it began to be, or if it is going to be, then it is not:
    wherefore birth and death are alike put aside as inconceivable.
    Nor is it divisible, since it is all homogeneous, in no part
    more itself than in another, which would prevent its coherence,
    nor in any part less; but all is full of being. Wherefore it
    is one continuous whole, for being draws to being. Immovable
    within the bounds of its great chains it is, without beginning,
    without end, since birth and dissolution have moved far away,
    whom certainty repelled. Eternally the same, in the same state,
    for and by itself, it abides; thus fixed and firm it stays, for
    strong necessity holds it in the chains of limit and clinches
    it around. Wherefore being cannot be infinite, seeing it lacks
    nothing; and if it were, it would lack all.

    "Look now at things which, though absent, are present to the
    mind. For never shall being from being be sundered so as to
    lose its continuity by dispersion or recombination.

    "Thought and the object of thought are the same, for without
    being, in which is affirmation, thou wilt not find thought. For
    nothing is or will be besides being, since fate hath bound it
    to remain alone and unmoved, which is named the universe--all
    things that mortal men held fixed, believing in their
    truth--birth and death, to be and not to be, change of place,
    and variety of color.

    "Now since the extreme limit of being is defined, the whole is
    like a well-rounded sphere, of equal radius in all directions,
    for it may not be less or greater in one part or another.
    For neither is there not-being to prevent its attaining to
    equality, nor is it possible that being should in one place be
    more and in another less than being, since all is inviolably
    one. For this is certain, that it abides, an equal whole all
    round, within its limits.

    "Here, then, I conclude my true discourse and meditation upon
    Truth. Turn now and learn the opinions of men listening to the
    deceptive order of my words."

The divine Sophia calls the speech which she is about to utter
deceptive (#apatêlon#), because it has to do no longer with the
immutable and imperturbable laws of entity, but only with the delusions
to which the human mind is exposed by the evidence of the senses. If
Parmenides had been in any true sense of the word a poet, he would
not have subjected Sophia to the ridicule of condemning her own
observations, when he might have invented some other machinery for
the conveyance of his physical hypothesis. Nothing, in fact, can be
more artistically monstrous than to put lies into the mouth of Truth
personified. The fragments of this portion of his poem may, in spite of
their scientific worthlessness, be translated, if only for the sake of
completeness. We must suppose, therefore, that Wisdom has resumed her
parable, and is speaking as follows:

    "Two forms have they determined by their minds to name, for
    those are wrong who take but one of these. Corporeally and by
    signs they have distinguished them, setting on the one side
    fire, ethereal, gentle, very subtle, everywhere identical, but
    different from the other element. That, too, is self-identical,
    diverse from fire, dark night, a thick and weighty body.
    Of these I will reveal to you the whole disposition, as it
    appears, so that no thought of mortals may ever elude you.

    "Now, seeing that all things are called by the name of light
    and night, and the qualities that severally pertain to them,
    the universe is full of light and murky night, rivals equally
    balanced, since neither partakes of the other.

    "For the narrower spheres have been fashioned of impure fire;
    those next of night, interpenetrated by a portion of flame;
    and in the midst of all is the goddess who controls the whole.
    For everywhere she is the cause of dire parturition and
    procreation, making female mix with male, and male with female."

At this point in the murky exposition there shines forth a single line,
which, seized upon by poets and poetic souls in after-years, traverses
the dismal waste of false physics and imperfect metaphysics like a
streak of inspiration--"fair as a star when only one is shining in the

    "Love, first of all the gods, she formed."

    "Thou, too, shalt know the nature of ether, and in ether all
    the signs, and the hidden acts of the bright sun's pure lamp,
    and whence they sprang; and thou shalt learn the revolutions
    of the round-eyed moon, and whence she is; and thou shalt
    understand the all-surrounding heaven, whence it arose, and how
    fate ruling it bound it to keep the limits of the stars.

    "How earth and sun and moon and ether shared by all, and the
    galaxy and farthest Olympus, and the hot might of stars sprang
    into being.

    "Another light that shines in revolution round the earth by

    "Forever gazing at the radiant sun.

    "For as the elements are mixed in the jointed framework of our
    limbs, so are the minds of men made up. For the nature of the
    members is the same as that which thinks in the case of all and
    each; it is mind that rules.

    "From the right side boys, from the left girls.

    "Thus, according to opinion, were born and now are these
    things; and afterwards, when they have grown to the full, will
    perish: whereto men have affixed unto each a name."

It is only by a complete translation of the extant fragments of
Parmenides that any notion can be formed of the hiatus between what
he chose to call truth and what he termed opinion. As a thinker,
he revealed both the weakness of his metaphysical system and the
sincerity of his intention by proclaiming this abrupt division between
the realm of the pure reason and the field of the senses, without
attempting a synthesis. No other speculator has betrayed the vanity
of dogmatism about the absolute more conclusively by the simultaneous
presentation of lame guesses in the region of the relative. The
impartial student of his verse is forced to the conclusion that the
titles #ta pros alêtheian# and #ta pros doxan#, which have been given
to the two departments of his exposition, are both arbitrary; for what
warrant have we that his intuitions into the nature of pure being
are more certain than his guesses about the conditions of phenomenal
existence? Parmenides might, indeed, be selected as a parable of the
human mind pretending to a knowledge of the unconditioned truth,
and, after all, arriving at nothing more cogent than opinion.
The innumerable ontological assertions which in the pride of the
speculative reason have been made by men are #doxai#; and the epigram
pointed by Parmenides against the common folk is equally applicable to
his own sect--

    #Kôphoi homôs typhloi te, tethêpotes, akrita phyla.#

As soon as men begin to dogmatize, whether the supposed truth to
which they pin their faith be the barest metaphysical abstraction or
some assumed intuition into the divine nature, they create a schism
between the multiplicity of the universe and the unity which they
proclaim. In other words, they distinguish, like Parmenides, between
what they arbitrarily denote as truth and what they cannot account
for as phenomena. To quit the sphere of our own mind is impossible;
and, therefore, nothing can be discovered which is not some mode of
the mind. The utmost the metaphysician can do is to describe the
operations of the human intellect without explaining its existence, and
all systematized knowledge is but a classification of the categories
of consciousness. Thus the sophistic position that man is for man
the measure of all things is irrefutable. But when he attempts to
hypostasize his own thoughts as realities, to argue outward from
his conceptions to the universe, this is the same as taking a leap
in the dark across an undefined abyss from the only ascertained
standing-ground to a hypothetical beyond.

During the two-and-twenty centuries which have elapsed since the days
of Parmenides, the philosophers have learned wisdom. They are now too
wary to parade the distinction between two kinds of opinion, and to
construct one system of truth, another of illusion. They either content
themselves with omitting what they regard as the insoluble, or they
endeavor to invent an all-embracing schema, which shall supersede the
cruder distinctions between subject and object, mind and nature, ego
and non-ego. Yet nothing in the realm of absolute knowledge has been
gained in all this space of time.

The owl of Minerva, to quote one of Hegel's most luminous epigrams,
still starts upon its flight when the evening twilight, succeeding the
day of work, has fallen. Metaphysic goes on shaping from the human
consciousness a fabric which it calls reality. Science has magnified
and multiplied phenomena until, instead of one, we have in every
case a million problems to employ intelligence. Social conditions
grow more complex, and more and more is ascertained about the inner
life of man. But the fact remains that, while theologian, logician,
physicist, and moralist, each from his own standing-point, may cry
"Eureka!" we can know nothing in itself. The most complicated system,
created by the Aristotle of the modern world, involves at the outset an
assumption. From reflection on the laws of human thought, on the varied
acquisitions of the human mind, and on the successive phases of human
history, it carries over the synthetic statement of its conclusions
to the account of the universe. In other words, it postulates the
identity of the human and the divine mind, and ends by asserting that
thought is the only reality. Does not a fallacy lie in this, that while
the mind possesses the faculty of reflecting upon itself, everything
which it knows is of necessity expressed in terms of itself, and
therefore in pretending to give an account of the universe it is only
giving an account of its own operations? The philosophy of the _Idée_
is thus a way of looking at things; to explain them or deduce them is
beyond its reach. How, for example, except by exercise of faith, by
dogmatism and initial begging of the question, can we be assured that
an intelligence differently constituted from the human mind should
not cognize a different #kosmos noêtos#, or intelligible world, and
be equally justified in claiming to have arrived at truth? It is
comparatively easy to acquire encyclopædic knowledge, to construct a
system, to call the keystone of the system the _Idée_, and to assert
that the _Idée_ is God. But is all this of any value except as a
machine for arranging and formulating thoughts and opinions? At the end
of philosophies one feels tempted to exclaim:

    I heard what was said of the universe,
    Heard it and heard it of several thousand years:
    It is middling well as far as it goes,--But is that all?


[44] In my translations of the fragments of Xenophanes and Parmenides,
I have followed the text of their most recent editor, W. A. Mullach,
not without reference, however, to that of Karsten, some of whose
emendations seem almost necessary to the sense. The meaning of
many Parmenidean sentences may, however, be fairly said to be now
irrecoverable, owing to the uncertainty of readings and the lack of

[45] This and the two following translations from Plato are Professor

[46] See the treatise _De Xenophane, Zenone, et Gorgia_.



    The Grandeur of his Fame.--His Versatility of Genius.--His
        Mysticism.--His Supposed Miracles.--Legends about his
        Death.--His Political Action.--His Poems.--Estimation
        in which the Ancients held them.--Their Prophetic
        Fervor.--Belief in Metempsychosis.--Purifying
        Rites.--Contempt for the Knowledge of the Senses.--Physical
        Theories.--The Poem on Nature.--The Four Elements.--The
        Sphærus.--Love and Discord.--The Eclecticism of Empedocles.

The figure of Empedocles of Agrigentum, when seen across the
twenty-three centuries which separate us from him, presents perhaps
a more romantic appearance than that of any other Greek philosopher.
This is owing, in a great measure, to the fables which invest his life
and death with mystery, to his reputation for magical power, and to
the wild sublimity of some of his poetic utterances. Yet, even in his
lifetime, and among contemporary Greeks, he swept the stage of life
like a great tragic actor, and left to posterity the fame of genius
as a poet, a physician, a patriot, and a philosopher. The well-known
verses of Lucretius are enough to prove that the glory of Empedocles
increased with age, and bore the test of time. Reading them, we cannot
but regret that poems which so stirred the reverent enthusiasm of
Rome's greatest singer have been scattered to the winds, and that what
we now possess of their remains affords but a poor sample of their
unimpaired magnificence.

Nothing is more remarkable about Empedocles than his versatility
and comprehensiveness. Other men of his age were as nobly born, as
great in philosophic power, as distinguished for the part they bore
in politics, as celebrated for poetic genius, as versed in mystic
lore, in medicine, and in magic arts. But Parmenides, Pythagoras,
Pausanias, and Epimenides could claim honor in but one, or two at most,
of these departments. Empedocles united all, and that too, if we may
judge by the temper of his genius and the few legends handed down to
us about his life, in no ordinary degree. He seems to have possessed
a warmth and richness of nature which inclined him to mysticism and
poetry, and gave a tone of peculiar solemnity to everything he did or
thought or said. At the same time, he was attracted by the acuteness
of his intellect to the metaphysical inquiries which were agitating
the western colonies of Greece, while his rare powers of observation
enabled him to make discoveries in the then almost unexplored region
of natural science. The age in which he lived had not yet thrown off
the form of poetry in philosophical composition. Even Parmenides had
committed his austere theories to hexameter verse. Therefore, the
sage of Agrigentum was easily led to concentrate his splendid powers
on the production of one great work, and made himself a poet among
philosophers, and a philosopher among poets, without thereby impairing
his claims to rank highly both as a poet and also as a thinker among
the most distinguished men of Greece. But Empedocles had not only
deeply studied metaphysics, nature, and the arts of verse; whatever was
mysterious in the world around him, in the guesses of past ages, and
in the forebodings of his own heart, possessed a powerful attraction
for the man who thought himself inspired of God. Having embraced the
Pythagorean theories, he maintained the fallen state of men, and
implored his fellow-creatures to purge away the guilt by which they had
been disinherited and exiled from the joys of heaven. Thus he appeared
before his countrymen not only as a poet and philosopher, but also as
a priest and purifier. Born of a wealthy and illustrious house, he did
not expend his substance merely on horse-racing and chariots, by which
means of display his ancestors had gained a princely fame in Sicily;
but, not less proud than they had been, he shod himself with golden
sandals, set the laurel crown upon his head, and, trailing robes of
Tyrian purple through the streets of Agrigentum, went attended by a
crowd of serving-men and reverent admirers. He claimed to be a favorite
of Phoebus, and rose at length to the pretension of divinity. His own
words show this, gravely spoken, with no vain assumption, but with a
certainty of honor well deserved:

    "Friends who dwell in the great city hard by the yellow
    stream of Acragas, who live on the Acropolis, intent on
    honorable cares, harbors revered of strangers, ignorant of
    what is vile, welcome; but I appear before you an immortal
    god, having overpassed the limits of mortality, and walk with
    honor among all, as is my due, crowned with long fillets and
    luxuriant garlands. No sooner do I enter their proud prosperous
    cities than men and women pay me reverence, who follow me in
    thousands, asking the way to profit, some desiring oracles, and
    others racked by long and cruel torments, hanging on my lips to
    hear the spells that pacify disease of every kind."

We can hardly wonder that some of the fellow-citizens of Empedocles
were jealous of his pretensions, and regarded him with suspicious envy
and dislike, when we read such lines of lofty self-exaltation. Indeed,
it is difficult for men of the nineteenth century to understand how
a great and wise philosopher could lay claim to divine honors in his
own lifetime. This arrogance we have been accustomed to associate
with the names of a Caligula and a Claudius. Yet when we consider the
circumstances in which Empedocles was placed, and the nature of his
theories, our astonishment diminishes. The line of demarcation between
this world and the supernatural was then but vague and undetermined.
Popular theology abounded in legends of gods who had held familiar
intercourse with men, and of men who had been raised by prowess or
wisdom to divinity. The pedigrees of all distinguished families ended
in a god at no great distance. Nor was it then a mere figure of speech
when bards and priests claimed special revelations from Apollo, or
physicians styled themselves the children of Asclepius. Heaven lay
around the first Greeks in their infancy of art and science; it was
long before the vision died away and faded into the sober daylight of
Aristotelian philosophy. Thus when Empedocles proclaimed himself a
god, he only stretched beyond the usual limit a most common pretension
of all men learned in arts and sciences. His own speculations gave
him further warrant for the assumption of the style of deity; for he
held the belief that all living souls had once been dæmons or divine
spirits, who had lost their heavenly birthright for some crime of
impurity or violence, and yet were able to restore themselves to
pristine splendor by the rigorous exercise of abstinence and expiatory
rites. These rites he thought he had discovered. He had prayed and
fasted; he had held communion with Phoebus the purifier, and received
the special favor of that god, by being made a master in the arts of
song and magic and healing and priestcraft. Was he not, therefore,
justified in saying that he had won again his rights divine, and
transformed himself into a god on earth? His own words tell the history
of his fall:

    "Woe to me that I did not fall a prey to death before I took
    the cursed food within my lips!... From what glory, from what
    immeasurable bliss, have I now sunk to roam with mortals on
    this earth?"

Again, he says:

    "For I have been in by-gone times a youth, a maiden, and a
    flowering shrub, a bird, yea, and a fish that swims in silence
    the deep sea."

From this degraded state the spirit gradually emerges. Of the noblest
souls he says:

    "Among beasts they become lions dwelling in caverns of the
    earth upon the hills, and laurels among leafy trees, ... and at
    last prophets and bards and physicians and chiefs among the men
    of earth, from whence they rise to be gods supreme in honor,
    ... sitting at banquets with immortal comrades, in their feasts
    unvisited by human cares, beyond the reach of fate and wearing

Empedocles, by dint of pondering on nature, by long penance, by the
illumination of his intellect and the coercion of his senses, had been
raised before the natural term of life to that high honor, and been
made the fellow of immortal gods. His language upon this topic is one
of the points in which we can trace an indistinct resemblance between
him and some of the Indian mystics. There is, however, no reason to
suppose that Asiatic thought had any marked or direct influence on
Greek philosophy. It is better to refer such similarities to the
working of the same tendencies in the Greek and Hindoo minds.

To those who disbelieved his words he showed the mighty works which
he had wrought. Empedocles, during his lifetime, was known to have
achieved marvels, such as only supernatural powers could compass.
More than common sagacity and ingenuity in the treatment of natural
diseases, or in the removal of obstacles to national prosperity, were
easily regarded by the simple people of those times as the evidence
of divine authority. Empedocles had devised means for protecting the
citizens of Agrigentum from the fury of destructive winds. What these
means were, we do not know; but he received in consequence the title of
#kôlysanemas#, or warder-off of winds. Again, he resuscitated, from the
very jaws of death, a woman who lay senseless and unable to breathe,
long after all physicians had despaired of curing her. This entitled
him to be regarded as a master of the keys of life and death; nor
did he fail to attribute his own power to the virtue of supernatural
spells. But the greatest of his achievements was the deliverance which
he wrought for the people of Selinus from a grievous pestilence. It
seems that, some exhalations from a marsh having caused this plague,
Empedocles, at his own cost, cut a channel for two rivers through the
fen, and purged away the fetid vapors. A short time after the cessation
of the sickness, Empedocles, attired in tragic state, appeared before
the Selinuntians at a banquet. His tall and stately figure wore the
priestly robe; his brazen sandals rang upon the marble as he slowly
moved with front benign and solemn eyes; beneath the sacrificial
chaplet flowed his long Phoebean locks, and in his hand he bore a
branch of bay. The nobles of Selinus rose; the banquet ceased; all did
him reverence, and hailed him as a god, deliverer of their city, friend
of Phoebus, intercessor between angry heaven and suffering men.

Closely connected with his claim to divinity was the position which
Empedocles assumed as an enchanter. Gorgias, his pupil, asserts that
he often saw him at the magic rites. Nor are we to suppose that this
wizardry was a popular misinterpretation of his real power as a
physician and philosopher. It is far more probable that Empedocles
himself believed in the potency of incantations, and delighted in the
ceremonies and mysterious songs by which the dead were recalled from
Hades, and secrets of the other world wrung from unwilling fate. We can
form to ourselves a picture of this stately and magnificent enchanter,
convinced of his own supernatural ascendency, and animated by the wild
enthusiasm of his ardent nature, alone among the mountains of Girgenti,
or by the sea-shore, invoking the elemental deities to aid his
incantations, and ascribing the forebodings of his own poetic spirit
to external inspiration or the voice of gods. In solitary meditations
he had wrought out a theory of the world, and had conceived the notion
of a spiritual God, one and unseen, pure intellect, an everlasting
omnipresent power, to whom might be referred those natural remedies
that stopped the plague, or cured the sick, or found new channels for
the streams. The early Greek philosophers were fond of attributing to
some "common wisdom" of the world, some animating soul or universal
intellect, the arts and intuitions to which they had themselves
attained. Therefore, with this belief predominating in his mind, it is
not strange that he should have trusted to the divine efficacy of his
own spells, and have regarded the results of observation as a kind of
supernatural wisdom. To his friend Pausanias the physician he makes
these lofty promises, "Thou shalt learn every kind of medicines that
avert diseases and the evils of old age. Thou too shalt curb the fury
of untiring winds, and when it pleases thee thou shalt reverse thy
charms and loose avenging storms. Thou shalt replace black rain-clouds
with the timely drought that men desire, and when the summer's arid
heat prevails, thou shalt refresh the trees with showers that rustle
in the thirsty corn. And thou shalt bring again from Hades the life
of a departed man." Like the Pythagoreans whom he followed, he seems
to have employed the fascination of music in effecting cures: it is
recorded of him that he once arrested the hand of a young man about to
slay his father, by chanting to the lyre a solemn soul-subduing strain.
The strong belief in himself which Empedocles possessed inspired him
with immense personal influence, so that his looks and words and tones
went further than the force of other men. He compelled them to follow
and confide in him, like Orpheus, or like those lofty natures which
in every age have had the power of leading and controlling others by
innate supremacy. That Empedocles tried to exhibit this superiority,
and to heighten its effect by gorgeous raiment and profuse expenditure,
by public ceremonies and mysterious modes of life, we need not
doubt. There was much of the spirit of Paracelsus in Empedocles, and
vanity impaired the simple grandeur of his genius. In every age of
the world's history there have been some such men--men in whom the
highest intellectual gifts are blended with weakness inclining them
to superstitious juggleries. Not content with their philosophical
pretensions, or with poetical renown, they seek a more mysterious fame,
and mix the pure gold of their reason with the dross of idle fancy.
Their very weakness adds a glow of color, which we miss in the whiter
light of more purely scientific intellects. They are men in whom two
natures cross--the poet and the philosopher, the mountebank and the
seer, the divine and the fortune-teller, the rigorous analyst and the
retailer of old wives' tales. But none have equalled Empedocles, in
whose capacious idiosyncrasy the most opposite qualities found ample
room for coexistence, who sincerely claimed the supernatural faculties
which Paracelsus must have only half believed, and who lived at a time
when poetry and fact were indistinguishably mingled, and when the
world was still absorbed in dreams of a past golden age, and in rich
foreshadowings of a boundless future.

We are not, therefore, surprised to read the fantastic legends which
involve his death in a mystery. Whatever ground of fact they may
possess, they are wholly consistent with the picture we have formed
to ourselves of the philosopher, and prove at least the superstition
which had gathered round his name. One of these legends has served
all ages as a moral for the futility of human designs, and for the
just reward of inordinate vanity. Every one who knows the name of
Empedocles has heard that, having jumped into Etna in order to conceal
the time and manner of his death, and thus to establish his divinity,
fate frustrated his schemes by casting up his brazen slippers on the
crater's edge. According to another legend, which resembles that of the
death of Romulus, of Oedipus, and other divinized heroes, Empedocles is
related to have formed one of a party of eighty men who assembled to
celebrate by sacrifice his restoration of the dying woman. After their
banquet they retired to sleep. But Empedocles remained in his seat at
table. When morning broke, Empedocles was nowhere to be found. In reply
to the question of his friends, some one asserted that he had heard a
loud voice calling on Empedocles at midnight, and that, starting up,
he saw a light from heaven and burning torches. Pausanias, who was
present at the sacrificial feast, sent far and wide to inquire for his
friend, wishing to test the truth of this report. But piety restrained
his search, and he was secretly informed by heavenly messengers that
Empedocles had won what he had sought, and that divine honors should be
paid to him. This story rests on the authority of Heraclides Ponticus,
who professed to have obtained it from Pausanias. The one legend we may
regard as the coinage of his foes, the other as a myth created by the
superstitious admiration of his friends.

We have hitherto regarded Empedocles more in his private and priestly
character than as a citizen. Yet it was not to be expected that a man
so nobly born, and so remarkable for intellectual power, should play no
public part in his native state. A Greek could hardly avoid meddling
with politics, even if he wished to do so, and Empedocles was not one
to hide his genius in the comparative obscurity of private life. While
he was still a young man, Theron, the wise tyrant of Agrigentum, died,
and a powerful aristocracy endeavored to enslave the state. Empedocles
manfully resisted them, supporting the liberal cause with vehemence,
and winning so much popular applause that he is even reported to have
received and refused the offer of the kingly power. By these means he
made himself many foes among the nobility of Agrigentum; it is also
probable that suspicion attached to him for trying to establish in his
native city the Pythagorean commonwealth, which had been extirpated in
South Italy. That he loved spiritual dominion we have seen; and this he
might have hoped to acquire more easily by taking the intellectual lead
among citizens of equal rights than by throwing in his lot with the
aristocratic party, or by exposing himself to the dangers and absorbing
cares of a Greek tyrant. At any rate, it is recorded that he impeached
and procured the execution of the leaders of the aristocracy; thus
rescuing the liberty of his nation at the expense of his own security.
After a visit to Peloponnesus, Empedocles returned to Agrigentum,
but was soon obliged to quit his home again by the animosity of his
political enemies. Where he spent the last years of his life, and died,
remains uncertain.

It remains to estimate the poetical and philosophical renown of
Empedocles. That his genius was highly valued among the ancients
appears manifest from the panegyric of Lucretius. Nor did he fail to
exhibit the versatility of his powers in every branch of poetical
composition. Diogenes Laertius affirms that forty-three tragedies
bearing his name were known to Hieronymus, from whom he drew materials
for the life of Empedocles. Whether these tragedies were really written
by the philosopher or by another Sicilian of the same name admits of
doubt. But there is no reason why an author possessed of such varied
and distinguished talents as Empedocles should not have tried this
species of composition. Xenophanes is said to have composed tragedies;
and Plato's youthful efforts would, we fondly imagine, have afforded
the world fresh proofs of his commanding genius, had they escaped
the flames to which they were condemned by his maturer judgment.
No fragments of the tragedies of Empedocles survive; they probably
belonged to the class of semi-dithyrambic compositions which prevailed
at Athens before the days of Æschylus, and which continued to be
cultivated in Sicily. Some of the lyrical plays of the Italians--such,
for instance, as the _Orfeo_ of Poliziano--may enable us to form an
idea of these simple dramas. After the tragedies, Diogenes makes
mention of political poems. These may be referred to the period of the
early manhood of Empedocles, when he was engaged in combat with the
domineering aristocracy, and when he might have sought to spread his
liberal principles through the medium of gnomic elegies, like those
of Solon or Theognis. The fragments of the #katharmoi#, or poem on
lustral rites, sufficiently display his style of earnest and imperious
exhortation to make us believe that at a time of political contention
he would not spare this powerful instrument of persuasion and attack.
In the next place, we hear of an epic poem on the invasion of Greece by
Xerxes, which Empedocles is said to have left unfinished, and which his
sister or his daughter burned with other papers at his death. The great
defeat of the Medes took place while Empedocles was still a youth. All
Hellas had hung with breathless expectation on the events of Marathon
and Salamis. The fall of Xerxes brought freedom and relief from
terrible anxiety, not only to the towns of Attica and the Peloponnesus,
but also to the shores of Sicily and Italy. It is not, therefore,
unlikely that the triumph which excited Simonides and Æschylus to
the production of masterpieces may have stirred the spirit of the
youthful patriot of Agrigentum. Another composition of Empedocles which
perished under his sister's hands was a Proemium to Apollo. The loss
of this poem is deeply to be regretted. Empedocles regarded himself
as specially protected by the god of song and medicine and prophetic
insight. His genius would therefore naturally take its highest flight
in singing praises to this mighty patron. The hymn to Zeus, which has
been ascribed to Cleanthes, and some of the pseudo-Orphic declamations,
may give us an idea of the gravity and enthusiasm which Empedocles
would have displayed in treating so stirring a theme. Of his remaining
works we possess fragments. The great poem on Nature, the Lustral
Precepts, and the Discourse on Medicine were all celebrated among
the ancients. Fortunately, the inductions to the first and second of
these have been preserved, and some lines addressed to Pausanias may
be regarded as forming the commencement of the third. It is from these
fragments, amounting in all to about 470 lines, that we must form our
judgment of Empedocles, the poet and the sage.

That Empedocles was a poet of the didactic order is clear from the
nature of his subjects. Even as early as the time of Aristotle, critics
disputed as to whether poems written for the purpose of scientific
instruction deserved the name of poetry. In the _Poetics_, Aristotle
says, #ouden de koinon estin Homêrôi kai Empedoklei plên to metron;
dio ton men poiêtên dikaion kalein, ton de physiologon mallon ê
poiêtên#.[47] The title #physiologos#, or philosopher of nature, was
of course generic, and might have been claimed by Heraclitus, on the
strength of his prose writings, no less than by Empedocles. Lucretius,
in the exordium to his poem, argues for the utility of disguising
scientific precepts under the more attractive form of art; as we
sweeten the lips of the vessel that contains bitter medicine, in order
to induce the child to take it readily. And not only had Empedocles
this reason in his favor for the use of verse, but also, at the age in
which he lived, it was still a novelty to write prose at all; nor would
it have been consistent with his theories of inspiration, and with the
mysticism he professed, to abandon the poetic form of utterance. He
therefore thought and wrote hexameters as naturally as the scientific
men of the present day think and write their sentences and paragraphs,
until the discourse is formed into a perfect whole. Allowing, then, for
the subject of his poem, Empedocles was regarded by antiquity as first
among the Greek didactic singers, though he competed with Parmenides
for this distinction, and was placed upon a level with Lucretius.
Lactantius mentions them both together, in his definition of this kind
of poetry. And Aristotle, in another treatise, now lost, but quoted
by Diogenes, praises the artistic genius of the philosopher in these
words: #Kai Homêrikos ho Empedoklês kai deinos peri tên phrasin gegone
metaphorikos te ôn kai tois allois peri tên poiêtikên epiteugmasi
chrômenos#.[48] The epithet #Homêrikos# is very just; for not only is
it clear that Empedocles had studied the poems of Homer with care, and
had imbibed their phraseology, but he also possessed a genius akin
to that of Homer in love of simplicity, in fidelity to nature, in
unimpeded onward flow of energetic verse.

The simile of the girl playing with a water-clock, whereby Empedocles
illustrates his theory of respiration, and that of the lantern,
which serves to explain his notion of the structure of the eye,
are both of them Homeric in their unadorned simplicity and vigor.
Again, such epithets as these, #polyaimaton# (full-blooded) for the
liver, #hilaeira# (gentle) for the moon, #oxybelês# (quick-darting)
for the sun, #polystephanos# (crowned) for majesty, #themerôpis#
(grave-visaged) for harmony, and the constant repetition of #theoi
dolichaiônes timêisi pheristoi# (the long-aged gods in honor foremost),
have the true Homeric ring. Like Homer, he often chooses an epithet
specific of the object which he wishes to describe, but not especially
suited to the matter of his argument. Thus #polyklautôn gynaikôn#
(women given to tears) occurs where there is no particular reason to
fix the mind upon the tearfulness of women. But the poetic value of
the passage is increased by the mind being thus carried away from the
logical order of ideas to a generality on which it can repose. At
other times, when this is necessary, the epithets are as accurately
descriptive as those of a botanist or zoologist: #en konchaisi
thalassonomois barynôtois# (in whelks that inhabit the sea with heavy
backs) ... #lithorrhinôn te chelônôn# (stony-coated tortoises), for
example. Again, Empedocles gives rein to his imagination by creating
bold metaphors; he calls the flesh #sarkôn chitôn# (a robe of flesh),
and birds #pterobamonas kymbas# (boats that move with wings). Referring
to his four elements, he thus personifies their attributes: "Fiery
Zeus, and Herè, source of vital breath, and Aidoneus, and Nestis, with
her tears." At another time he speaks of "earth, and ocean with his
countless waves, and liquid air, the sun-god and ether girdling round
the universe in its embrace."

The passage, too, in which he describes the misery of earth rises to
a sublime height. It may well have served as the original of Virgil's
celebrated lines in the sixth Æneid:

    "I lifted up my voice, I wept and wailed, when I beheld the
    unfamiliar shore. A hideous shore, on which dwell murder, envy,
    and the troop of baleful destinies, wasting corruption, and
    disease. Through Até's meadow they go wandering up and down in
    gloom. There was the queen of darkness, and Heliope with her
    far-searching eyes, and bloody strife, and mild-eyed peace,
    beauty and ugliness, swiftness and sloth, and lovely truth, and
    insincerity with darkling brows. Birth too and death, slumber
    and wakefulness, motion and immobility, crowned majesty and
    squalid filth, discordant clamor and the voice of gods."

We can understand by these passages how Empedocles not only was
compared with Homer by Aristotle, but also with Thucydides and Æschylus
by Dionysius of Halicarnassus, who speaks of his "austere harmony"
(#austêran harmonian#). The conciseness of his argumentative passages,
the breadth of his treatment, and the dryness of his coloring, to quote
the terms of painting, resemble the style of Thucydides, while his
bold figures and gloomy grandeur are like those of Æschylus. Plutarch,
in the treatise on the genius of Socrates, speaks of the style of
Empedocles at large, both as regards his poems and his theories, as
"inspired with dithyrambic ecstasy" (#mala bebakcheumenê#). This seems
a contradiction to the "austere harmony" of Dionysius. But there are
passages which justify the title. This exordium, for instance, savors
of prophetic fury:

    "It stands decreed by fate, an ancient ordinance of the
    immortal gods, established from everlasting, ratified by ample
    oaths, that, when a spirit of that race, which has inherited
    the length of years divine, sinfully stains his limbs with
    blood, he must go forth to wander thrice ten thousand years
    from heaven, passing from birth to birth through every form of
    mortal mutability, changing the toilsome paths of life without
    repose, even as I now roam, exiled from God, an outcast on this
    world, the bondman of insensate strife.

    "Alas, ill-fated race of mortals, thrice accursed! from what
    dire struggles and what groans have ye been born! The air in
    its anger drives them to the sea, and ocean spues them forth
    upon the solid land, earth tosses them into the flames of the
    untiring sun, he flings them back again into the whirlwinds of
    the air; from one to the other are they cast, and all abhor

And the following adjuration has a frantic energy, to modern readers
almost laughable but for its indubitable gravity:

    Wretches, thrice wretches, keep your hands from beans!

or, again, with reference to the abomination of animal food:

    "The father drags along his dear son changed in form, and slays
    him, pouring prayers upon his head. But the son goes begging
    mercy from his maniac sire. The father heeds him not, but goads
    him on, and, having slaughtered him, prepares a cursed meal.
    In like manner sons take their fathers, and children their
    mothers, and tearing out the life devour the kindred flesh.
    Will ye not put an end to this accursed slaughter? Will ye not
    see that ye consume each other in blind ignorance of soul?"

It is not strange that the poems of Empedocles were pilfered by
oracle-mongers in after-ages.

Besides these passages, there are some of a milder beauty which deserve
high praise for their admirable power of suggesting the picture that
the poet wishes to convey. The following lines describe the golden age
of old, to which Empedocles looked back with melancholy longing:

    "There every animal was tame and familiar with men, both beasts
    and birds, and mutual love prevailed. Trees flourished with
    perpetual leaves and fruits, and ample crops adorned their
    boughs through all the year. Nor had these happy people any
    Ares or mad Uproar for their god; nor was their monarch Zeus,
    or Kronos, or Poseidon, but Queen Cypris. Her favor they
    besought with pious symbols and with images, and fragrant
    essences, and censers of pure myrrh, and frankincense, and with
    brown honey poured upon the ground. The altars did not reek
    with bullocks' gore."

It may sound ridiculous to say so, yet Empedocles resembles Shelley in
the quality of his imagination and in many of his utterances. The lines
just quoted, the belief in a beneficent universal soul of nature, the
hatred of animal food, the love of all things moving or growing on the
face of earth, the sense of ancient misery and present evil, are all,
allowing for the difference of centuries and race and education, points
by which the Greek and the English poets meet in a community of nature.
Two more passages illustrative of the poetical genius of Empedocles may
be quoted. In the first he describes the nature of God, invisible and
omnipresent. In the second he asserts the existence of a universal law.
They are both remarkable for simplicity and force, and elevation of

    "Blessed is the man who hath obtained the riches of the wisdom
    of God; wretched is he who hath a false opinion about things

    "He (God) may not be approached, nor can we reach him with our
    eyes or touch him with our hands. No human head is placed upon
    his limbs, nor branching arms; he has no feet to carry him
    apace, nor other parts of man; but he is all pure mind, holy,
    and infinite, darting with swift thought through the universe
    from end to end."

    "This law binds all alike, and none are free from it: the
    common ordinance which all obey prevails through the vast
    spaces of wide-ruling air and the illimitable fields of light
    in endless continuity."

The quotations which have served to illustrate the poetical genius
of Empedocles have also exhibited one aspect of his philosophy--that
wherein he was connected with the Pythagoreans. It is quite consistent
with the whole temper of his intellect that he should have been
attracted to the semi-Oriental mysticism which then was widely spread
through Grecian Italy and Sicily. After the dissolution of the monastic
commonwealth founded by Pythagoras, it is probable that refugees
imbued with his social and political theories scattered themselves
over the adjacent cities, and from some of these men Empedocles may
have imbibed in early youth the dream-like doctrines of an antenatal
life, of future immortality, of past transgression and the need of
expiation, of abstinence, and of the bond of fellowship which bound man
to his kindred sufferers upon the earth. It is even asserted in one
legend that the philosopher of Agrigentum belonged to the Pythagorean
Society, and was expelled from it for having been the first to divulge
its secrets. In later life these theories were developed by Empedocles
after his own fashion, and received a peculiar glow of poetic coloring
from his genius. There is no need to suppose that he visited the East
and learned the secrets of Gymnosophists. A few Pythagorean seeds sown
in his fruitful soil sprang up and bore a hundred-fold. Referring
to the exordium of his poem on Nature, and to the lines in which he
describes the unapproachable Deity, we find that Empedocles believed
in a pristine state of happiness, when the "Dæmons," or "gods, long of
life, supreme in honor," dwelt together, enjoying a society of bliss.
Yet this state was not perfect, for some of these immortals stained
their hands with blood, and some spoke perjury, and so sin entered
in and tainted heaven. After such offence the erring spirit, by the
fateful, irrevocable, and perennial law of the divine commonwealth,
had to relinquish his heavenly throne and wander "thirty thousand
seasons" apart from his comrades. In this period of exile he passed
through all the changes of metempsychosis. According to the rigorous
and gloomy conception of Empedocles, this change was caused by the
hatred of the elements: earth, air, fire, and water refusing to retain
the criminal, and tossing him about from one to the other without
intermission. Thus, he might be a plant, a bird, a fish, a beast, or
a human being in succession. But the transmigration did not depend
upon mere chance. If the tortured spirit, environed, as he was, by the
conflicting shapes and contradictory principles and baleful destinies
which crowded earth--"the over-vaulted cave," the "gloomy meadow of
discord," as Empedocles in his despair described our globe--could yet
discover some faint glimmering of the truth, seize and hold fast some
portion of the heavenly clue, then he might hope to reascend to bliss.
Instead of abiding among birds and unclean beasts and common plants,
his soul passed into the bodies of noble lions and mystic bay-trees,
or became a bard, a prophet, a ruler among men, and lastly rose again
to the enjoyment of undying bliss. Throughout these wanderings death
was impossible. Empedocles laughed at the notion of birth and death;
he seems to have believed in a fixed number of immortal souls, capable
of any transformation, but incapable of perishing. Therefore, when
his spirits, falling earthward, howled at the doleful aspect of the
hideous land, the very poignancy of their grief consisted in that
bitter thought of Dante's, "questi non hanno speranza di morte"--in
that thought which makes the Buddhist welcome annihilation. It has
been already hinted, that although the soul by its forced exile lost
not only happiness but also knowledge, yet the one might be in part
retrieved, and the other toilsomely built up again in some degree by
patient observation, prayer, and magic rites. On this point hinges
the philosophy of Empedocles. It is here that his mysticism and his
science are united into one system. In like manner, Plato's philosophy
rests upon the doctrine of Anamnesis, and is connected with the vision
of a past beatitude, the tradition of a miserable fall, and the
prospect of a possible restoration. Empedocles, like Parmenides and
Xenophanes in their disquisitions on the eternal Being, like Plato in
his references to the Supreme Idea, seems to have imagined that the
final Essence of the universe was unapproachable, and to have drawn a
broad distinction between the rational and sensual orders, between the
world as cognizable by pure intellect, and the world as known through
the medium of human sense. The lines of Empedocles upon God, which
have been already quoted, are similar to those of Xenophanes: both
philosophers assert the existence of an unknown Deity pavilioned in
dense inscrutability, yet not the less to be regarded as supreme and
omnipresent and omnipotent--as God of gods, as life of life. How to
connect this intuition with the physical speculations of Empedocles
is difficult. The best way seems to be to refrain from identifying
his eloquent description of the unknown God with the Sphærus of his
scientific theories, and to believe that he regarded the same universe
from different points of view at different times, as if in moments
of high exaltation he obtained a glimpse of the illimitable Being by
a process of ecstatic illumination, while in more ordinary hours of
meditation his understanding and his senses helped him to obtain a
knowledge of the actual phenomena of this terrestrial globe. His own
language confirms this view of the case:

    "Weak and narrow," he says, "are the powers implanted in the
    limbs of men; many the woes that fall on them and blunt the
    edge of thought; short is the measure of the life in death
    through which they toil; then are they borne away, like smoke
    they vanish into air, and what they dream they know is but the
    little each hath stumbled on in wandering about the world; yet
    boast they all that they have learned the whole--vain fools!
    for what _that_ is, no eye hath seen, no ear hath heard, nor
    can it be conceived by mind of man. Thou, then, since thou hast
    fallen to this place, shalt know no more than human wisdom may

    "But, O ye gods, avert the madness of those babblers from my
    tongue, and cause the stream of holy words to issue from my
    hallowed lips. And thou, great Muse of Memory, maiden with
    the milk-white arms, I pray to thee to teach me things that
    creatures of a day may hear. Come from the House of Holiness,
    and bring to me her harnessed car."

Here we see plainly set forth the impossibility of mortal, fallen
intellects attaining to a perfect knowledge of the Universe, the
impiety of seeking such knowledge, or pretending to have found it; and,
at the same time, the limitations under which true science remains
within the reach of human beings. How this science may be reached,
he tells us in some memorable lines, probably supposed to issue from
the lips of the Muse whom he invokes: "But come, search diligently,
and discover what is clear in every realm of sense, ... check the
conviction of thy senses, and judge by reason what is evident in every

Thus the senses, although feeble and erring guides, are, after all,
the gates to knowledge; and their reports, when tested by the light of
reason, form the data for human speculation. The senses, resident in
the limbs, are composed in certain proportions of the four elements,
which also constitute the earth. Therefore, between the frame of man
and the world outside him, there is a community of substance, whereby
he is enabled to know. #Homoia homoiois gignôsketai# (likes are known
by likes) is the foundation of our philosopher's theory of knowledge.
The rational soul, being that immortal part of man whereon depends
his personal identity, whether he take the shape of plant or animal,
receives and judges the results of sensation. This theory, it will
be observed, has a kind of general similarity to that of Parmenides.
Empedocles draws a marked difference between the province of the
senses and of the reason, and inveighs against the impotence of the
former. Again, he speaks of the real being of the world as pure and
perfect intellect; and at the same time elaborately describes the
universe as it appears to human sense and understanding. But here
the likeness ends. Parmenides has no mysticism, and indulges in no
theology. He believes in the actual truth of his rational ontology,
and sneers at the senses. "Thy fate it is," he says, "all mysteries
to learn, both the unswerving mind of truth that wins a sure assent,
and the vain thoughts of men, in which no certainty abides. But,
baseless as they are, these also shalt thou learn; since thou must
traverse every field of knowledge, and discern the fabric of the
dreams of men." His ontology is just as elaborate as his physics, and
he evidently considers its barren propositions of more value than any
observations on astronomy or physiology. Empedocles, on the other
hand, despaired of ontology, and gave all his mind to explanations of
the physical universe--how it came to be, and what laws governed its
alternations--believing all along that there was a higher region of
pure intellect beyond the reach of his degraded soul. "Here we see in
a glass darkly, but then face to face." In this respect he resembled
Xenophanes more than Parmenides. Xenophanes had said, "No man hath
been, nor will ever be, who knows for certain all about the gods, and
everything of which I speak; for should one publish the most sure and
settled truth, yet even he cannot be said to _know_: opinion is supreme
in all things." Empedocles belonged more to the age behind him than to
that which followed; and his extensive knowledge of nature was a part
of his artistic rather than his scientific temperament.

Yet, allowing for the march of human progress during twenty-three
centuries, we are bound to hold much the same language as Empedocles
regarding the limitations of knowledge. We have, indeed, infinitely
extended our observation of phenomena; we have gained fuller
conceptions of the Deity and of the destinies of man. But the plummet
which he threw into the bottomless abyss of science has as yet found
no bottom, and the circle which it made by striking on the surface
of the illimitable ocean has grown and grown, but yet has touched
no shore on any side. Like him, we still speak of an unapproachable
God, utterly beyond the reach of human sense and intellect; like him,
we still content ourselves with receiving the reports of our senses,
comparing and combining them by means of our understanding, and thus
obtaining some conception of the universe in which we live. If we
reject the light of Christianity, the guesses which we form about a
future world are less vague than those of Empedocles, but founded on
no surer scientific basis; the God we worship still remains enveloped
in symbols; we still ascribe to him, if not a human form, at least
the reason, partialities, and passions of mankind. Indeed, in this
respect, the sage of Agrigentum stood unconsciously upon the platform
which only our profoundest thinkers have attained. He felt the awe
of the Unseen--he believed in the infinite Being; but he refused
to dogmatize about his attributes, confining his own reason to the
phenomenal universe which he strove in every way to understand, and to
employ for the good of his race. Empedocles was greater than most of
his contemporaries, for he neither believed it possible to explain the
whole mystery of the world, nor did he yet reject the notion of there
being a profound mystery. He steered clear between the Parmenides and
Democritus of his own day--between the Spinoza and the materialist
of modern speculation. Herein the union of philosophy and poetry, of
thought and feeling, in his nature, gave the tone to all his theories.
We must not, however, in our praise forget that all these problems
appeared in a far more simple form to the Greeks of that age than
to ourselves, and were therefore more hastily and lightly answered.
Between the ontology of Parmenides and that of Hegel what a step there
is! What meagre associations gather round the one; what many-sided
knowledge gives substance to the other!

Remembering, therefore, in what light Empedocles regarded his own
physical speculations, we may proceed to discuss them more in detail.
We shall find that he deserved a large portion of that praise which
Bacon rather whimsically lavished on the pre-Socratic philosophers, to
the disadvantage of the mightier names of Plato and Aristotle.

The poem on Nature is addressed to Pausanias the physician, who was
a son of Anchitus of Agrigentum, and a special friend of Empedocles.
To Pausanias the philosopher begins his instruction with these words:
"First learn what are the four chief roots of everything that is: fiery
Zeus, and Herè, source of vital breath, and Aidoneus, and Nestis with
her tears, who is the fount of moisture in the world." Thus Empedocles,
after the fashion of the Pythagoreans, allegorized his four elements.
In other passages he calls them "fire, water, earth, and air's
immeasurable height;" or, "earth, and ocean with his countless waves,
and liquid air, the sun-god, and ether girdling the universe in its
embrace;" or again, "Hephæstus, rain, and radiant ether;" or lastly,
"light, earth, heaven, and ocean." It will be seen that he designated
his elements sometimes by mythological titles, sometimes by abstract
terms, and sometimes by selecting one or other natural object--such
as the sun, the air, the ocean--in which they were most manifest. It
is well known that Empedocles was the first philosopher to adopt the
four elements, which, since his day, continued to rule supreme over
natural science, until modern analysis revealed far simpler and broader
bases. Other speculators of the Ionian sect had maintained each of
these four elements--Thales the water, Anaximenes the air, Heraclitus
the fire, and perhaps (but this rests on no sure evidence), Pherecydes
the earth. Xenophanes had said, "Of earth and water are all things
that come into existence." Parmenides had spoken of dark and light,
thick and subtile, substances. Each of these fundamental principles is
probably to be regarded not as pure fire, or pure water, or pure air,
but as a universal element differing in rarity, and typified according
to the analogical necessities of language, by means of some familiar
object. The four elements of Empedocles appear to have been suggested
to him, partly by his familiarity with contemporary speculation, and
partly by his observation of Nature. They held their ground so long in
scientific theory, because they answered so exactly to a superficial
view of the world. Earth with everything of a solid quality, water
including every kind of fluid, fire that burns or emits light, air that
can be breathed, appear to constitute an exhaustive division of the
universe. Of the eternity of these four primal substances, according to
the Empedoclean theory, there is no doubt. The philosopher frequently
reiterates his belief in the impossibility of an absolute beginning
or ending, though he acquiesces in the popular use of these terms to
express the scientific conceptions of dissolution and recombination.

These elements, then, were the material part of the world according
to Empedocles. But inherent in them, as a tendency is inherent in
an organism, and yet separable in thought from them, as the soul is
separable from the body, were two conflicting principles of equal
power, love and discord. Love and discord by their operation wrought
infinite changes in the universe: for it was the purpose of love to
bind the elements together into a compact, smooth, motionless globe;
and of discord to separate them one from another, and to keep them
distinct in a state of mutual hostility. When, therefore, either love
or discord got the upper-hand, the phenomenal universe could not be
said to exist, but in the intermediate state was a perpetual order
of growth and decay, composition and dissolution, whereby the world,
as we behold it, came into existence. This intermediate state, _das
Werdende_, #to gignomenon kai apollymenon# (the Becoming, that which
comes into existence and passes out of it again by dissolution), was
#physis#, or Nature. The conflicting energies of love and discord
formed the pulses of its mighty heart, the systole and diastole of its
being, the one power tending to life, the other power to death, the one
pushing all the elements forward to a perfect unity of composition,
the other rending them apart. To the universe when governed by love
in supremacy Empedocles gave the name of #sphairos# (perfect globe),
which he also called a god. This #sphairos# answered to the Eleatic
#hen#, while the disjointed elements subservient to the force of strife
corresponded to the Eleatic #polla#. Thus the old Greek antagonism of
Good and Evil, One and Many, Love and Hatred, Being and Not-being, were
interpreted by Empedocles. He looked on all that is, _das Werdende_, as
transitory between two opposite and contradictory existences.

Again, according to his system, the alternate reigns of love and
discord succeeded one another at fixed intervals of time; so that,
from one point of view, the world was ceaselessly shifting, and from
another point of view, was governed by eternal and unalterable Law.
Thus he reconciled the Heraclitean flux and the Parmenidean immobility
by a middle term. Each of the elements possessed a separate province,
had separate functions, and was capable of standing by itself. To fire
it would seem that the philosopher assigned a more active influence
than to any of the other elements; therefore a kind of dualism may
be recognized in his Universe between this ruling principle and the
more passive ingredients of air, earth, and water. The influence of
love and harmony kept them joined and interpenetrated, and so mingled
as to bring the different objects which we see around us into being.
Empedocles professed to understand the proportions of these mixtures,
and measured them by Pythagorean rules of arithmetic. Thus everything
subsists by means of transformation and mixture; absolute beginning and
ending are impossible.

Such, briefly stated, is the theory of Empedocles. The following
passage may be quoted to show how the phenomenal Universe comes into
being under the influence of love:

    "When strife has reached the very bottom of the seething mass,
    and love assumes her station in the centre of the ball, then
    everything begins to come together, and to form one whole--not
    instantaneously, but different substances come forth, according
    to a steady process of development. Now, when these elements
    are mingling, countless kinds of things issue from their union.
    Much, however, remains unmixed, in opposition to the mingling
    elements, and these malignant strife still holds within his
    grasp. For he has not yet withdrawn himself altogether to the
    extremities of the globe; but part of his limbs still remain
    within its bounds, and part have passed beyond. As strife,
    however, step by step, retreats, mild and innocent love pursues
    him with her force divine; things which had been immortal
    instantly assume mortality; the simple elements become confused
    by interchange of influence. When these are mingled, then the
    countless kinds of mortal beings issue forth, furnished with
    every sort of form--a sight of wonder."

In another passage this development is compared to the operation
of a painter mixing his colors, and forming with them a picture of
various objects. Discord is said to have made the elements immortal,
because he kept them apart, and would willingly have preserved their
separate qualities; whereas love mixes them together, breaks up
their continuity, and confuses their kinds. What Empedocles exactly
meant by Sphæris is hard to understand; nor do we know how far he
intended Chance to operate in the formation of the Universe. He often
uses such expressions as these, "So they chanced to come together,"
and describes the amorphous condition of the first organisms in a
way that makes one think he fancied a perfectly chaotic origin.
Yet "the art of Aphrodite," "so Cypris ordained their form," are
assertions of designing intelligence. In fact, we may well believe
that Empedocles, in the infancy of speculation, was led astray by his
double nomenclature. When talking of Aphrodite, he naturally thought
of a person ruling creation; when using the term "Love," he naturally
conceived an innate tendency, which might have been the sport of chance
in a great measure. It also appears probable that, when Empedocles
spoke of "Chance" and "Necessity," he referred to some inherent quality
in the elements themselves, whereby they grew together under certain
laws, and that the harmony and discord which ruled them in turn were
regarded by him as forces aiding and preventing their union.

To understand the order of creation, we may begin by imagining the
sphere, which, in the words of Empedocles, "by the hidden bond of
harmony is stablished, and rejoices in unbroken rest ... in perfect
equipoise, of infinite extent, it stays a full-orbed sphere rejoicing
in unbroken rest." Love now is omnipotent; she has knit all the
elements into one whole; Discord has retreated, and abides beyond the
globe. But soon his turn begins: he enters the sphere, and "all the
limbs of the god begin to tremble." Now the elements are divided one
from the other--ether first, then fire, then earth, then water from
the earth. Still the elements are chaotic; but wandering about the
spaces of the world, and "permeating each the other's realm," they form
alliances and tend to union. Love is busy no less than Discord. The
various tribes of plants and animals appear at first in a rudimentary
and monstrous condition: "many heads sprouted up without necks, and
naked arms went wandering forlorn of shoulders, and solitary eyes
were straying destitute of foreheads." Still the process of seething
and intermingling continued; "when element with element more fully
mixed, these members fell together by hap-hazard ... many came forth
with double faces and two breasts, some shaped like oxen with a human
front, others, again, of human race with a bull's head; and some were
mixed of male and female parts." Unfortunately, the lines in which
he describes the further progress of development have been lost, and
we do not know how the interval between chaos and order was bridged
over in his system. Only with reference to human beings he asserts
that in the earliest stage they were produced in amorphous masses,
containing the essence, as it were, of both male and female; and that
after the separation of these masses into two parts, each part yearned
to join its tally. And therefrom sprang the passion of desire in human
hearts. This theory has been worked out by Plato artistically in the
_Symposium_. Also with reference to the accretion of the phenomenal
universe, he says that earth formed the basis of all hard and solid
substances preponderating in the shells of fish, and so on. Bones were
wrought of earth and fire and water, "marvellously jointed by the
bonds of Harmony." It is needless to follow Empedocles through all
his scattered fancies, to show that he knew that the night was caused
by the earth intercepting the sun's rays, or that he thought the sun
reflected heaven's fire like a mirror, or that he placed the intellect
in the blood, and explained respiration by a theory of pores, and the
eyesight by imagining a fire shut up within the pupil. The fragments we
possess are too scanty to allow of our obtaining a perfect view of his
physical theory; all we gather from them is that Empedocles possessed
more acquired and original knowledge than any of his contemporaries.

It may appear from what has been said about his system that Empedocles
was at best a great eclectic. But this is not entirely the case. If
he deserves the name of eclectic, he deserves it in the same sense
as Plato, though it need not be said how infinitely inferior, as an
original thinker, he is to Plato. Empedocles was deeply versed in all
the theories, metaphysical, cosmogonical, mystical, and physiological,
of his age. He viewed from a high station all the problems,
intellectual, social, and moral, which then vexed Greece. But he did
not pass his days in a study or a lecture-room, nor did he content
himself with expounding or developing the theories of any one master.
He went abroad, examined nature for himself, cured the sick, thought
his own thoughts, and left an impress on the constitution of his native
state. In his comprehensive mind all the learning he had acquired from
men, from books, from the world, and from reflection, was consolidated
into one system, to which his double interest for mysticism and
physics gave a double aspect. He was the first in Greece to reconcile
Eleatic and Heraclitean speculations, the puzzle of plurality and
unity, the antagonism of good and evil, in one theory, and to connect
it with another which revealed a solemn view of human obligations and
destinies, and required a life of social purity and self-restraint. The
misfortune of Empedocles as a philosopher consisted in this--that he
succeeded only in resuming the results of contemporary speculation, and
of individual research, in a philosophy of indisputable originality,
without anticipating the new direction which was about to be given to
human thought by Socrates and Plato. He closed one period--the period
of poetry and physical theories and mysticism. The period of prose,
of logic, and of ethics was about to begin. He was the last of the
great colonial sages of Greece. The Hellenic intellect was destined
henceforth to centre itself at Athens.


[47] Between Homer and Empedocles there is nothing in common except
their metre: therefore it is right to call the former a poet, the
latter a natural philosopher rather than a poet.

[48] Empedocles again was Homeric in style, and clever in his use of
phrase, for he inclined to metaphor, and employed the other admirable
instruments of the poetic art.



    Definition of the Term Gnomic.--The Elegiac Metre.--The
        Age of the Despots in Greece.--Three Periods in
        Elegiac Poetry: the Martial, the Erotic, the
        Epicurean Philosophy of Life.--Solon.--The
        Salaminian Verses.--Doctrine of Hereditary
        Guilt.--Greek Melancholy.--Phocylides.--His Bourgeois
        Intellect.--Xenophanes.--Theognis.--The Politics
        of Megara.--Cyrnus.--Precepts upon Education and
        Conduct in Public and Private Life.--The Biography of
        Theognis.--Dorian Clubs.--Lamentations over the Decay of
        Youth and Beauty.

The term Gnomic, when applied to a certain number of Greek poets,
is arbitrary. There is no definite principle for rejecting some and
including others in the class. It has, however, been usual to apply
this name to Solon, Phocylides, Theognis, and Simonides of Ceos. Yet
there seems no reason to exclude some portions of Callinus, Tyrtæus,
Mimnermus, and Xenophanes. These poets, it will be observed, are
all writers of the elegy. Some of the lyric poets, however, and
iambographers, such as Simonides of Amorgos and Archilochus, have
strong claims for admission into the list. For, as the derivation of
the name implies, gnomic poets are simply those who embody #gnômai#,
or sententious maxims on life and morals, in their verse; and though
we find that the most celebrated masters of this style composed
elegies, we yet may trace the thread of gnomic thought in almost all
the writers of their time. Conversely, the most genuine authors of
elegiac gnomes trespassed upon the domain of lyric poetry, and sang
of love and wine and personal experience no less than of morality. In
fact, the gnomic poets represent a period of Greek literature during
which the old and simple forms of narrative poetry were giving way to
lyrical composition on the one hand, and to meditative writing on the
other; when the epical impulse had become extinct, and when the Greeks
were beginning to think definitely. The elegy, which seems to have
originated in Asia Minor, and to have been used almost exclusively by
poets of the Ionian race for the expression of emotional and reflective
sentiments, lent itself to this movement in the development of the
Greek genius, and formed a sort of midway stage between the impassioned
epic of the Homeric age and the no less impassioned poetry and prose of
the Athenian age of gold.

Viewed in this light, the gnomic poets mark a transition from Homer and
Hesiod to the dramatists and moralists of Attica. The ethical precepts
inherent in the epos received from them a more direct and proverbial
treatment; while they in turn prepared for the sophists, the orators,
and Socrates.

This transitional period in the history of Greek literature,
corresponding, as it does, to similar transitions in politics,
religion, and morality, offers many points of interest. Before Homer,
poetry had no historical past; but after the age of the epic, a long
time elapsed before the vehicle of verse was exchanged for that of
prose. Xenophanes, Parmenides, and Empedocles wrote poems upon nature
in hexameters. Solon and Theognis committed their state-craft and
ethics to elegiac couplets. Yet at the same time Heraclitus and the
seven sages were developing the germs of prose, and preparing the way
for Attic historians and philosophers.

Again, whereas Homer introduces us to a Hellas small in its extent, and
scarcely separated from surrounding tribes, we find in the transitional
period that the strength and splendor of the Greek race are dissipated
over distant colonies, Hellenic civilization standing out in definite
relief against adjacent barbarism. The first lyrical and elegiac poets
come from the islands of the Archipelago, or from the shores of Asia
Minor. The first dramatists of note are Sicilian. Italy and Sicily
afford a home to the metaphysical poets, while the philosophers of the
Ionian sect flourish at Ephesus and Miletus.

Corresponding to this change in the distribution of the race, a change
was taking place in the governments of the states. The hereditary
monarchies of Homer's age have disappeared, and, after passing through
a period of oligarchical supremacy, have given place to tyrannies.
The tyrants of Miletus and of Agrigentum, rising from the aristocracy
itself; those of Corinth, Athens, and Megara, owing their power to
popular favor; others, like Cylon, flourishing awhile by force of mere
audacity and skill; others, again, like Pittacus of Mitylene, using
the rights of their dictatorship for the public benefit, had this one
point in common--it was the interest of all of them to destroy the
traditional prejudices of the race, to gather a powerful and splendid
court around them, to patronize art, to cultivate diplomacy, and to
attach men of ability to their persons. As the barons of feudalism
encouraged the romances of the Niebelungen, Carlovingian, and Arthurian
cycles, so the hereditary monarchies had caused the cyclical epos
to flourish. It was not for the interest of the tyrants to revive
Homeric legends, but rather to banish from the State all traces of the
chivalrous past. With this view Cleisthenes of Sicyon put down the
worship of Adrastus, and parodied the heroic names of the three tribes.
Poetry, thus separated from the fabulous past, sought its subjects
in the present--in personal experience, in pleasure, in politics, in
questions of diplomacy, in epigrammatic morality.

Such, then, was the period during which the gnomic poets flourished--a
period of courts and tyrannies, of colonial prosperity, of political
animation, of social intrigue, of intellectual development, of
religious transformation, of change and uncertainty in every
department. Behind them lay primitive Homeric Hellas; before them,
at no great distance, was the time when the Greek genius would find
its home in Athens. Poetry and science were then to be distinguished;
the philosophers, historians, and orators were to make a subtle and
splendid instrument of Greek prose; the dramatists were to develop
the choric and dialectic beauty of the Greek language to its highest
possible perfection; tyrannies were to be abolished, and the political
energies of Hellas to be absorbed in the one great struggle between
the Dorian and Ionian families. But in the age of gnomic poetry these
changes were still future; and though the mutations of Greek history
were accomplished with unparalleled rapidity, we yet may draw certain
lines and say, Here was a breathing-time of indecision and suspense;
this period was the eve before a mighty revolution. I propose,
therefore, to consider the gnomic poets as the representatives, to some
extent, of such an age, and as exponents of the rudimentary, social,
and political philosophy of Greece before Socrates.

Three periods may be marked in the development of the early Greek
elegiac poetry--the Martial, the Erotic, and the Gnomic. Callinus and
Tyrtæus are the two great names by which the first is distinguished.
Mimnermus gave a new direction to this style of composition, fitting
the couplet, which had formerly been used for military and patriotic
purposes, to amatory and convivial strains.[49] In after-years it never
lost the impress of his genius; so that Ovid, Tibullus, and Propertius
may be regarded as the lineal descendants of the Colophonian bard.
Solon at a later date applied the elegiac measure to severer subjects.
He was the first, perhaps, to use it for purely gnomic purposes,
maintaining, however, the martial spirit in his Salaminian verses,
and imitating the example of Mimnermus in his lighter compositions.
Phocylides, to judge by the scanty fragments which we possess of his
poems, was almost wholly gnomic in his character. But Theognis, who is
the latest and most important of the elegiac writers of this period,
combined the political, didactic, and erotic qualities to a remarkable
degree. As a poet, Simonides was greater than any of those whom I have
named; but his claims to rank among the sententious philosophers rest
more upon the fragments of his lyrics than upon the elegiac epitaphs
for which he was so justly famed.

These are the poets of whom I intend to speak in detail. Taken
together with Homer and Hesiod, their works formed the body of a
Greek youth's education at the time when Gorgias and Hippias were
lecturing at Athens. From them the contemporaries of Pericles, when
boys, had learned the rules of good society, of gentlemanly breeding,
of practical morality, of worldly wisdom. Their saws and precepts were
on the lips of the learned and the vulgar; wise men used them as the
theses for subtle arguments or the texts for oratorical discourses.
Public speakers quoted them as Scripture might be quoted in a synod of
the clergy. They pointed remarks in after-dinner conversation or upon
the market-place. Polemarchus, for instance, in Plato's _Republic_,
starts the dialogue on Justice by a maxim of Simonides. Isocrates,
the Rhetor, alludes to them as being "the best counsellors in respect
of human affairs;" and Xenophon terms the gnomes of Theognis "a
comprehensive treatise concerning men." Having been used so commonly
and largely by the instructors of youth, and by men of all conditions,
it was natural that these elegies should be collected into one
compendious form, and that passages of a gnomic tendency should be
extracted from larger poems on different subjects. In this way a body
of sententious poetry grew up and received the traditional authority
of Solon, Phocylides, Simonides, and Theognis. But in the process of
compilation confusion and mistakes of all kinds occurred, so that the
same couplets were often attributed to several authors. To bear this
in mind at the outset is a matter of some moment; for at this distance
of time it is no longer possible to decide the canon of the several
elegists with accuracy. In dealing with them, we must, therefore, not
forget that we are handling masses of heterogeneous materials roughly
assigned to a few great names.

The earliest elegiac poet was Callinus, a native of Ephesus, between
the years 730 and 678 B.C. His poems consist almost exclusively of
exhortations to bravery in battle. "How long will ye lie idle?" he
exclaims; "put on your valor; up to the fight, for war is in the land!"
He discourses in a bold and manly strain upon the certainty of death,
and the glory of facing it in defence of home and country, winding up
with this noble sentiment: "The whole people mourns and sorrows for
the death of a brave-hearted man; and while he lives he is the peer of
demigods." The lines of Tyrtæus, whose prominent part during the second
Messenian war is the subject of a well-known legend, embody the same
martial and patriotic sentiments in even more masculine verse.

It would be alien from my purpose to dwell long upon these military
poems, since the only gnomic character which they display is the
encouragement of a heightened honor, unselfishness, indifference to
gain, devotion to the State, and love of public fame. Yet the moment
in the history of Hellas represented by Tyrtæus, the leader whose
voice in the battle-field was like a clarion to his manly Spartans,
and in the council-chamber was a whisper of Athene quelling strife, is
so interesting that I cannot omit him in this place. "Never," to use
the words of Müller, "was the duty and the honor of bravery impressed
on the youth of a nation with so much beauty and force of language,
by such natural and touching motives." If of a truth it be, as Milton
says, the function of the poet "to inbreed and cherish in a great
people the seeds of virtue and public civility," then Tyrtæus, less
by his specific maxims than by the spirit that his verses breathe,
deserves an honored place among the bards whom Aristotle would have
classed as #êthikôtatoi#, most serviceable for the formation of a
virile and powerful temperament, most suited for the education of Greek
youth. The following translation stands as Thomas Campbell made it from
a martial elegy ascribed to the bard of Lacedæmon:[50]

    How glorious fall the valiant, sword in hand,
    In front of battle for their native land!
    But oh! what ills await the wretch that yields,
    A recreant outcast from his country's fields!
    The mother whom he loves shall quit her home,
    An aged father at his side shall roam;
    His little ones shall weeping with him go,
    And a young wife participate his woe;
    While scorned and scowled upon by every face,
    They pine for food, and beg from place to place.

    Stain of his breed! dishonoring manhood's form,
    All ills shall cleave to him: affliction's storm
    Shall blind him wandering in the vale of years,
    Till, lost to all but ignominious fears,
    He shall not blush to leave a recreant's name,
    And children, like himself, inured to shame.

    But we will combat for our fathers' land,
    And we will drain the life-blood where we stand,
    To save our children:--fight ye side by side,
    And serried close, ye men of youthful pride,
    Disdaining fear, and deeming light the cost
    Of life itself in glorious battle lost.

    Leave not our sires to stem the unequal fight,
    Whose limbs are nerved no more with buoyant might;
    Nor, lagging backward, let the younger breast
    Permit the man of age (a sight unblest)
    To welter in the combat's foremost thrust,
    His hoary head dishevell'd in the dust,
    And venerable bosom bleeding bare.
    But youth's fair form, though fallen, is ever fair,
    And beautiful in death the boy appears,
    The hero boy, that dies in blooming years:
    In man's regret he lives, and woman's tears;
    More sacred than in life, and lovelier far,
    For having perished in the front of war.[51]

Strangely different are the elegies of Mimnermus, the poet of Colophon,
who flourished towards the end of the seventh century B.C.[52] His
name has passed into a proverb for luxurious verse, saddened by
reflections on the fleeting joys of youth, and on the sure and steady
progress of old age and death. Tyrtæus, though a native of Attica,
wrote for Spartans at war with a strong nation; Mimnermus was born
and lived among Ionian Greeks emasculated by barbarian control and
by contact with the soft Lydians. It was of these Colophonians that
Xenophanes, a native poet, said, "Instructed in vain luxury by the
Lydians, they trailed their robes of purple through the streets, with
haughty looks, proud of their flowing locks bedewed with curious
essences and oils." For such a people the exquisitely soft and
musical verses of Mimnermus, pervaded by a tone of lingering regret,
were exactly suited. They breathe the air of sunny gardens and cool
banquet-rooms, in which we picture to ourselves the poet lingering out
a pensive life, endeavoring to crowd his hours with pleasures of all
kinds, yet ever haunted and made fretful among his roses by the thought
of wrinkles and death. "When your youth is gone," he says, "however
beautiful you may have been, you lose the reverence of your children
and the regard of your friends." "More hideous is old age than death.
It reduces the handsome and the plain man to one level--cares attend
it--the senses and the intellects get deadened--a man is forgotten
and put out of the way." The Greek sentiment of hatred for old age is
well expressed in one epithet which Mimnermus employs--#amorphon#,
_formless_. The Greeks detested the ugliness and loss of grace which
declining years bring with them almost more than weakened powers or
the approach of death. Nay, "when the flower of youth is past," says
Mimnermus, "it is best to die at once." Men are like herbs, which
flourish for a while in sunshine--then comes the winter of old age,
with poverty or disease, or lack of children. His feeling for the
charm of youth was intense; he expressed it in language that reminds
us of the fervency of Sappho: "Down my flesh the sweat runs in rivers,
and I tremble when I see the flower of my equals in age gladsome and

This tender and regretful strain is repeated by Mimnermus with a
monotonous, almost pathetic persistency, as if the one thought of
inevitable age oppressed him like a nightmare day and night. His
delight in the goodliness of youth and manhood is so acute, and his
enjoyment of existence is so exquisite, that he shrinks with loathing
from the doom imposed on all things mortal to decline and wither. "May
I complete my life without disease or cares, and may death strike me
at my sixtieth year!" Such is the prayer he utters, feeling, probably,
that up to sixty the senses may still afford him some enjoyment, and
that, after they are blunted, there is nothing left for man worth
living for. In all this, Mimnermus was true to one type of the Greek
character. I shall have occasion farther on to revert to this subject,
and to dwell again upon the fascination which the flower of youth
possessed for the Greeks, and the horror with which the ugliness of
age inspired them.[53] That some escaped this kind of despair, which
to us appears unmanly, may be gathered from the beautiful discourse
upon old age with which the _Republic_ of Plato opens. Mimnermus,
however, belonged to a class of men different from Cephalus: nowhere in
the whole range of literature can be found a more perfect specimen of
unmitigated _ennui_.[54] In his verse we trace the prostrate tone of
the Oriental, combined with Greek delicacy of intellect and artistic
expression. The following passage may be cited as at once illustrative
of his peculiar lamentation, and also of his poetical merits:

    What's life or pleasure wanting Aphrodite?
      When to the gold-haired goddess cold am I,
    When love and love's soft gifts no more delight me,
      Nor stolen dalliance, then I fain would die!
    Ah! fair and lovely bloom the flowers of youth;
      On men and maids they beautifully smile:
    But soon comes doleful eld, who, void of ruth,
      Indifferently afflicts the fair and vile:
    Then cares wear out the heart; old eyes forlorn
      Scarce reck the very sunshine to behold--
    Unloved by youths, of every maid the scorn--
    So hard a lot God lays upon the old.[55]

We are not surprised to hear that the fragments of Mimnermus belonged
to a series of elegies addressed to a flute-player called Nanno.[56]
They are worthy of such a subject. Nanno, according to one account, did
not return the passion of the poet.

In Mimnermus, however luxurious he may have been, we yet observe
a vein of meditation upon life and destiny which prepares us for
the more distinctly gnomic poets. Considered in the light of Greek
philosophy, Mimnermus anticipates the ethical teaching of the Hedonists
and Epicureans. In other words, he represents a genuine view of life
adopted by the Greeks. Horace refers to him as an authority in these
well-known lines:

    Si, Mimnermus uti censet, sine amore jocisque
    Nil est jucundum, vivas in amore jocisque;[57]

on which the scholiast observed that the elegiac poet "agreed with the
sect of the Epicureans."

Next to Mimnermus in point of time is Solon. Perhaps the verses of this
great man were among his least important productions. Yet their value,
in illustrating the history of Athens, would have been inestimable,
had they been preserved to us in a more perfect state. "There is
hardly anything," says Grote, "more to be deplored, amidst the lost
treasures of the Grecian mind, than the poems of Solon; for we see
by the remaining fragments that they contained notices of the public
and social phenomena before him, which he was compelled attentively
to study, blended with the touching expression of his own personal
feelings, in the post, alike honorable and difficult, to which the
confidence of his countrymen had exalted him." The interest of Solon
as a gnomic poet is derived chiefly from the fact that he was reckoned
one of the seven wise men of Greece, that he was one of the two most
distinguished Nomothetæ of Hellas, that he is said to have conversed
familiarly with the great Lydian monarch, and that he endeavored at
Athens to resist the growing tyranny of Pisistratus. Thus Solon bore
a prominent part in all the most important affairs of the period to
which the gnomic poetry belongs. Its politics, diplomacy, and social
theories, its constitutional systems and philosophy, were perfectly
familiar to him, and received a strong impress from his vigorous mind.
It is thought that his poems belong to an early period of his life; yet
they embody the same sentiments as those which Herodotus refers to his
old age, and express in the looser form of elegiac verse the gist of
apothegms ascribed to him as one of the seven sages.

Literature and politics were cultivated together at this period among
the Greeks; philosophy was gained in actual life and by commerce with
men of all descriptions. The part which Tyrtæus, Alcæus, Pythagoras,
Parmenides, Empedocles, and Archilochus played in the history of their
states need not be more than alluded to. Simonides of Amorgos founded a
colony; Theognis represented a large and important party. But Solon, in
a truer sense than any of these men, combined decisive action in public
life with letters. Nor is it, perhaps, necessary to agree with Grote in
depreciating the poetical value of his verses. Some of them are very
fine and forcible. The description, for example, of the storm which
sweeps away the clouds, and leaves a sunny sky (Frag. 13, ed. Bergk),
is full of noble imagery.

The first three fragments of Solon's elegies form part of the ode
recited by him in the market-place of Athens, when he braved the
penalty of death, and urged his fellow-citizens "to rise and fight for
the sweet isle of Salamis." These lines are followed by a considerable
fragment of great importance, describing the misery of ill-governed and
seditious Athens. Among the sayings attributed to Solon (Diog. Laer.,
i. 63) is one that gives the keynote to this poem. When asked what made
an orderly and well-constituted state, he answered, "When the people
obey the rulers, and the rulers obey the laws." The paraphrase which
I subjoin exhibits in strong contrast the difference between Dysnomia
and Eunomia, as conceived by the Athenian lawgiver. Demosthenes, who
used the name of Solon on all occasions with imposing rhetorical
effect, quotes these lines in a celebrated passage of the speech _De
Fals. Leg._, 254: "The citizens seek to overthrow the state by love
of money, by following indulgent and self-seeking demagogues, who
neglect religion and pervert the riches of the temples. Yet justice,
silent but all-seeing, will in time bring vengeance on them for these
things. War, want, civil discord, slavery, are at our gates; and all
these evils threaten Athens because of her lawlessness. Whereas good
laws and government set all the state in order, chain the hands of
evil-doers, make rough places plain, subdue insolence, and blast the
budding flowers of Até, set straight the crooked ways of tortuous law,
root out sedition, quell the rage of strife; under their good influence
all things are fair and wise with men." Thus early and emphatically
was the notion of just balance enunciated among the Greeks. It formed
the ruling principle of their philosophy as well as of their politics;
for the #mêden agan# (nothing overmuch) of Solon corresponded to the
#metron# (measure) of the Ionic speculators, and contained within
itself the germ of Aristotle's ethical system, no less than of the
political philosophy of Plato's _Republic_.

In the fifth and sixth fragments Solon describes the amount of power
he would wish to see intrusted to the Athenian Demus; in the ninth, he
prophesies the advent of a despot: "From storm-clouds descend furious
snow and hail, and thunder is born of bright lightning; so great men
produce the overthrow of states, and into the bondage of a despot's
power the people fall unwittingly. Easy it is to raise the storm, but
hard to curb the whirlwind; yet must we now take thought of all these
things." Fragment the second contains a farther warning on the subject
of impending tyranny. The power of Pisistratus was growing to a head,
and Solon told the Athenians that if he proved despotic, they would
have no one but themselves to blame for it.

The remaining fragments of Solonian poetry are more purely meditative.
"Bright daughters of Memory and Olympian Zeus," he begins, "Pierian
Muses! hear my prayer. Grant me wealth from the blessed gods, and from
all men a good name. May I be sweet to my friend and bitter to my foe;
revered by the one and dreaded by the other. Money I desire, but no
ill-gotten gain: for the wealth that the gods give lasts, and fleets
not away; but the fruits of insolence and crime bring vengeance--sure,
though slow. Zeus seeth all things, and like a wind scattering the
clouds, which shakes the deep places of the sea and rages over the
corn-land, and comes at last to heaven, the seat of gods, and makes a
clear sky to be seen, whereupon the sun breaks out in glory, and the
clouds are gone--so is the vengeance of Zeus. He may seem to forget,
but sooner or later he strikes; perchance the guilty man escapes,
yet his blameless children or remote posterity pay the penalty." Two
points are noticeable in this passage--first, the dread of ill-gotten
gain; and secondly, the conception of implacable justice. There was
nothing which the Greeks more dreaded and detested than wealth procured
by fraud. They were so sensitive upon this point that even Plato and
Aristotle regarded usury as criminal, unnatural, and sure to bring
calamity upon the money-lender. Thus Chilon, the Lacedæmonian sage,
is reported to have said, "Choose loss rather than dishonorable gain;
for the one will hurt you for the moment, the other will never cease
to be a curse." There are few of the seven sages who have not at least
one maxim bearing on this point. It would seem as if the conscience of
humanity were touched at a very early period by superstitious scruples
of this kind. The Jewish law contains warnings similar to those of
Solon; and among our own people it has been commonly believed that
wealth unlawfully acquired, money taken from the devil, or property
wrested from the Church, is disastrous to its owner, and incapable of
being long retained in the possession of his family. Theognis expresses
nearly the same sentiments as Solon in the following verses: "He who
gets wealth from Zeus by just means, and with hands unstained, will
not lose it; but if he acquire it wrongfully, covetously, or by false
swearing, though it may seem at first to bring him gain, at last it
turns to calamity, and the mind of Heaven prevails. But these things
deceive men, for the blessed gods do not always take vengeance on crime
at the moment of its being committed; but one man in his person pays
for a bad deed, another leaves disaster hanging over his own children,
a third avoids justice by death."

Both Solon and Theognis, it will be observed, express emphatically
their belief in a vengeance of Heaven falling upon the children, and
the children's children, of offenders. This conception of doom received
its most splendid illustration at the hands of the tragic poets, and
led philosophers like Empedocles to devise systems of expiation and
purification, by means of which ancestral guilt might be purged away,
and the soul be restored to its pristine blamelessness. Theognis
in another fragment (731-752) discusses the doctrine, and calls in
question its justice. He takes it for granted, as a thing too obvious
to be disputed, that children suffer for their father's sin, and argues
with Zeus about the abstract right and policy of this law, suggesting
that its severity is enough to make men withdraw their allegiance from
such unjust governors. The inequality of the divine rule had appeared
in the same light to Hesiod and Homer (see _Iliad_, xiii. 631; Hesiod,
_Op. et Dies_, 270). But it is in the gnomic poets that we first
discover a tendency to return and reason upon such questions: the wedge
of philosophical scepticism was being inserted into the old beliefs
of the Greek race. In some respects these gnomic poets present even a
more gloomy view of human destinies than the epic poets. Solon says,
"It is fate that bringeth good and bad to men; nor can the gifts of
the immortals be refused;" and in Theognis we find, "No man is either
wealthy or poor, mean or noble, without the help of the gods." ...
"Pray to the gods; naught happens to man of good or ill without the
gods." ... "No one, Cyrnus, is himself the cause of loss and gain; but
of both these the gods are givers."[58] It would be easy to multiply
passages where the same conception of the divine government as that
for which Plato (_Rep._, p. 379) blamed Homer is set forth; but the
gnomic poets go beyond this simple view. They seem to regard Heaven as
a jealous power, and superstitiously believe all changes of fortune
to be produced by the operation of a god anxious to delude human
expectations. This theology lies at the base of the Solonian maxim,
that you ought not to judge of a man's happiness until his death;
"for," in the language of Herodotus, "there are many to whom God has
first displayed good-fortune, and whom he afterwards has rooted up and

Thus Solon moralizes in his elegies upon the vicissitudes of life:
"Danger lies everywhere, nor can a man say where he will end when he
begins; for he who thinks to do well, without fore-thought, comes to
grief; and often when a man is doing ill, Heaven sends him good-luck,
and he ends prosperously." It must, however, be observed that Solon in
no passage of his elegiac poems alludes distinctly to the intervention
of a jealous or malicious destiny. He is rather deeply impressed with
the uncertainty of human affairs--an uncertainty which the events of
his own life amply illustrated, and which he saw displayed in every
town about him. Simonides repeats the same strain of despondency,
dwelling (Frag. 2, ed. Gaisford) upon the mutabilities of life, and
exclaiming with a kind of horror: "One hideous Charybdis swallows all
things--wealth and mighty virtue."

At this period in Greece the old simplicity of life was passing away,
and philosophy had not yet revealed her broader horizons, her loftier
aims, and her rational sources of content. We have seen how Mimnermus
bemoaned the woes of old age. Solon, whose manliness contrasts in every
other respect with the effeminacy and languor of the Colophonian poet,
gave way to the same kind of melancholy when he cried, "No mortal man
is truly blessed; but all are wretched whom the sun beholds." What can
be more despairing than the lamentations of Simonides?--"Few and evil
are our days of life; but everlasting is the sleep which we must sleep
beneath the earth." ... "Small is the strength of man, and invincible
are his sorrows; grief treads upon the heels of grief through his short
life; and death, which no man shuns, hangs over him at last: to this
bourn come the good and bad alike." In the midst of this uncertainty
and gloom Theognis cannot find a rule of right conduct. "Nothing," he
says, "is defined by Heaven for mortals, nor any way by which a man
may walk and please immortal powers." Nor can we point to any more
profoundly wretched expression of misery than the following elegy of
the same poet: "It is best of all things for the sons of earth not to
be born, nor to see the bright rays of the sun, or else after birth
to pass as soon as possible the gates of death, and to lie deep down
beneath a weight of earth." This sentiment is repeated by Bacchylides,
and every student of Greek tragedy knows what splendid use has been
made of it by Sophocles in one of the choruses of _Oedipus Coloneüs_.
Afterwards it passed into a commonplace. Two Euripidean fragments
embody it in words not very different from those of Theognis, and
Cicero is said to have translated it. When we consider the uneasy
and uncertain view of human life expressed in these passages, it
seems wonderful that men, conscious of utter ignorance, and believing
themselves, like Herodotus, to be the sport of almost malignant
deities, could have grown so nobly and maintained so high a moral
standard as that of the Greek race.[59]

The remaining fragments of Solon contain the celebrated lines upon
the Life of Man, which he divided into ten periods of seven years. He
rebuked Mimnermus for wishing to make sixty the term of human life,
and bade him add another decade. We also possess some amorous verses
of questionable character, supposed to have been written in his early
youth. The prudes of antiquity were scandalized at Solon, a lawgiver
and sage, for having penned these couplets. The libertines rejoiced
to place so respectable a name upon their list of worthies. To the
student of history they afford, in a compact form, some insight into
the pursuits and objects of an Athenian man of pleasure. Plato quotes
one couplet in the _Lysis_, and the author of the dialogue #peri
erôtôn# (On Loves), attributed to Lucian, makes use of the same verses
to prove that Solon was not exempt from the passion for which he is
apologizing. Apuleius mentions another as "lascivissimus ille versus."
It should be added that the most considerable of these elegies has also
been ascribed to Theognis. The doubt of authorship which hangs over all
the gnomic fragments warns us, therefore, to be cautious in ascribing
them to Solon. At the same time there is no strong external or internal
argument against their authenticity. Solon displays no asceticism in
his poetry, or in anything that is recorded of his life or sayings.[60]
It is probable that he lived as a Greek among Greeks, and was not
ashamed of any of their social customs.

Passing from Solon to Phocylides, we find a somewhat different tone
of social philosophy. Phocylides was a native of Miletus who lived
between 550 and 490 B.C. If Mimnermus represents the effeminacy of
the Asiatic Greeks, Phocylides displays a kind of prosaic worldly
wisdom, for which the Ionians were celebrated. He is thoroughly
_bourgeois_, to use a modern phrase; contented with material felicity,
shrewd, safe in his opinions, and gifted with great common-sense.
Here are some of his maxims: "First get your living, and then think
of getting virtue." ... "What is the advantage of noble birth, if
favor follow not the speech and counsel of a man?" ... "The middle
classes are in many ways best off; I wish to be of middle rank in
the State." Aristotle (_Pol._, iv. 9, 7) quotes the last of these
sayings with approbation. It is a thoroughly Ionian sentiment. Two
of his genuine fragments contain the germ of Greek ideas afterwards
destined to be widely developed and applied by the greatest thinkers
of Greece. One of these describes the Greek conception of a perfect
State: "A small city, set upon a rock, and well governed, is better
than all foolish Nineveh." We here recognize the practical wisdom and
thorough solidity of Greek good-sense. Wealth, size, and splendor
they regarded as stumbling-blocks and sources of weakness. To be
compact and well governed expressed their ideal of social felicity.
Plato in the _Republic_, and Aristotle in the _Politics_, carry the
thought expressed in this couplet of Phocylides to its utmost logical
consequences. Again he says, "In justice the whole of virtue exists
entire." This verse, which has also been incorporated into the elegies
of Theognis, was probably the common property of many early moralists.
Aristotle quotes it in the fifth book of the _Ethics_, with the
preface, #Dio kai paroimiazomenoi phamen# (wherefore in a proverb too
we say). It might be placed as a motto on the first page of Plato's
_Republic_, for justice is the architectonic virtue which maintains the
health and safety of the State.

Phocylides enjoyed a high reputation among the ancients. Though few
genuine fragments of his sayings have been handed down to us, there is
a long and obviously spurious poem which bears his name. Some moralist
of the Christian period has endeavored to claim for his half-Jewish
precepts the sanction of a great and antique authority. The greater
number of those which we may with safety accept as genuine are prefaced
by the words #kai toge Phôkylideô# (and this too of Phocylides),
forming an integral part of a hexameter. Phocylides was author of an
epigram in imitation of one ascribed to Demodocus, which is chiefly
interesting as having furnished Porson with the model of his well-known
lines on Hermann. He also composed an epigrammatic satire on women,
in which he compares them to four animals, a dog, a bee, a pig, and a
horse, in the style of the poem by Simonides of Amorgos.

Xenophanes, a native of Colophon, and the founder of the Eleatic school
of philosophy, has left some elegies of a gnomic character, which
illustrate another point in the Ionian intellect. While Phocylides
celebrated the superiority of comfort and the solid goods of life,
Xenophanes endeavored to break down the prejudice in favor of mere
physical advantages, and to assert the absolute pre-eminence of
intellectual power. In his second fragment (ed. Bergk) he says, "You
give all kinds of honors--precedence at festivals, pensions, and public
maintenance--to runners, boxers, pentathletes, wrestlers, pancratists,
and charioteers, who bear away the prize at Olympia; yet these men are
not so worthy of reward as I am; for better than the strength of men or
horses is our wisdom. What is the use of all this muscular development?
It will not improve the constitution of the State or increase the
revenue."[61] In this paraphrase, I have, for the sake of brevity,
modernized the language of Xenophanes, while seeking to preserve the
meaning of an elegy which admirably illustrates the principles of the
Ionian race, and of Athens in particular, as contrasted with those
of the Dorians. Plato, Aristotle, and all the political moralists
of Greece blamed Sparta and Thebes for training mere soldiers and
gymnasts, to the exclusion of intellectual culture; thus retarding
the growth of their constitutions and forcing them to depend in all
emergencies upon brute force. Had all Ionians been like Solon and
Xenophanes, had there been nothing of Mimnermus or Phocylides in their
character, then the Athenians might have avoided the contrary charge of
effeminacy and ignobility of purpose and merely æsthetical superiority
with which they have been taxed.

Contemporary with Phocylides was Theognis, a poet of whose gnomic
elegies nearly fourteen hundred lines are still extant. Some of these
are identical with verses of Solon, and of other writers; yet we need
not suppose that Theognis was himself an imitator. It is far more
probable that all the gnomic poets borrowed from the same sources, or
embodied in their couplets maxims of common and proverbial wisdom. That
Aristotle so regarded one of their most important aphorisms on the
architectonic supremacy of justice, we have already seen. Besides, it
is not certain on what principle the elegies which bear the names of
different poets were assigned to them. Theognis covers more ground than
any of his predecessors, and embraces a greater variety of subjects. It
has never been imagined that the fragments we possess formed part of an
elaborate and continuous poem. They rather seem to have been written as
occasion served, in order to express the thoughts of the moment; while
not a few included in the canon of Theognis belong probably to other
poets. Many of them contain maxims of political wisdom, and rules for
private conduct in the choice of friends; others seem to have been
composed for the lyre, in praise of good society, or wine, or beauty;
again we find discussions of moral questions, and prayers to the gods,
mixed up with lamentations on the miseries of exile and poverty; a few
throw light upon the personal history of Theognis; in all cases the
majority are addressed to one person, called Cyrnus.[62]

Theognis was a noble, born at Megara about the middle of the sixth
century B.C. His city, though traditionally subject to the yoke
of Corinth, had under the influence of its aristocracy acquired
independence. In course of time Theagenes, a demagogue, gained for
himself despotical supremacy, and exiled the members of the old
nobility from Megara. He, too, succumbed to popular force, and for many
years a struggle was maintained between the democratic party, whom
Theognis persistently styles #kakoi# and #deiloi# (bad and cowardly),
and the aristocracy, whom he calls #agathoi# and #esthloi# (good and
stanch). Theognis himself, as far as we can gather from the fragments,
spent a long portion of his life in exile from Megara; but before
the period of his banishment he occupied the position of friend and
counsellor to Cyrnus, who, though clearly younger than himself, seems
to have been in some sense leader of the Megarian aristocracy. A large
number of the maxims of Theognis on State-government are specially
addressed to him.

Before proceeding to examine these elegies in detail, we may touch
upon the subject of the friendship of Theognis for Cyrnus, which has
been much misunderstood. It must be remembered that Theognis was the
only Doric poet of the gnomic class--all those who have been hitherto
mentioned belonging without exception to the Ionian family of the
Greek race. We are not, therefore, surprised to find some purely
Dorian qualities in the poetry of Theognis. Such, for instance, are
the invocations to Phoebus and Artemis, with which our collection of
fragments opens; but such, in a far more characteristic sense, is the
whole relation of the poet to his friend. From time immemorial it had
been the custom among the Dorian tribes for men distinguished in war or
State-craft to select among the youths one comrade, who stood to them
in the light of pupil and squire. In Crete this process of election was
attended with rites of peculiar solemnity, and at Sparta the names of
#eispnêlês# and #aïtês#, or "in-breather" and "listener," were given
to the pair. They grew up together, the elder teaching the younger
all he knew, and expecting to receive from him in return obedience
and affection. In manhood they were not separated, but fought and sat
in the assembly side by side, and were regarded in all points as each
other's representatives. Thus a kind of chivalry was formed, which,
like the modern chivalry of love and arms, as long as it remained
within due limits, gave birth to nothing but honorable deeds and noble
friendships, but which in more degenerate days became the curse and
reproach of Hellas. There is every reason to believe that Theognis
was united to Cyrnus in the purest bonds of Doric chivalry; and it
is interesting to observe the kind of education which he gives his
friend (see 1049-1054, Theogn., ed. Bergk). Boys in the Doric States
were so soon separated from their home, and from the training of the
family, that some substitute for the parental discipline and care
was requisite. This the institution to which I have briefly alluded
seems to have to some extent supplied. A Spartan or Cretan settlement
resembled a large public school, in which the elder boys choose their
fags, and teach them and protect them, in return for duty, service, and

Lines 87-100 describe the sincere and perfect affection, the
truthfulness and forbearance, which the poet requires from Cyrnus. In
another passage (1259-1270) he complains of the changeable character of
the youth, and compares him to a skittish horse. One of his longest,
and, in point of poetry, most beautiful elegies, celebrates the
immortality which his songs will confer on Cyrnus (237-254). He tells
his friend that he has given him wings to fly with over land and sea,
that fair young men at festivals will sing of him to sweetly sounding
pipes, and that even Hades shall not prevent him from wandering on
wings of fame about the isles and land of Hellas so long as earth and
sun endure. The lofty enthusiasm and confidence of these promises
remind us of Shakespear's most pompous sonnets. Again, he bewails the
difficulties and dangers of this kind of friendship (1353 and 1369),
or entreats Cyrnus not to let malicious slanders interrupt their
intimacy. In some cases we cannot acquit Theognis any more than Solon
of licentiousness in the expression of his love. But the general tone
of his language addressed to Cyrnus is so dignified and sober that we
are inclined to think his looser verses may refer to another and more
scandalous attachment.

The first elegy of great importance (43-69) describes the state of
Megara when under the control of a democracy. It expresses the
bitter hatred and contempt which the Greek nobles in a Dorian state
felt for the Perioeci, or farmers of the neighboring country, whom
they strove to keep beneath them, and to exclude from all political
rights: "Cyrnus, this city is still a city, but the people are all
changed, who some time since knew neither law nor justice, but wore
goatskins, and dwelt like deer beyond the walls. Now they are noble,
son of Polypas; and the brave of heretofore are base. Who can endure
to look upon these things?" Again he says (1109-1114), "The nobles
of old days are now made base, and the base are noble, ... a man of
birth takes his bride from a low man's house." In another place he
complains that the rabble rule the State with monstrous laws, that the
sense of shame has perished, and that impudence and insolence lord it
over the land (289-292). In these perilous times he compares the State
to a ship managed by incompetent and unruly mariners: the waves are
breaking over her, but the sailors prevent the good pilot from guiding
her helm, while they make pillage of the common good (667-682). This
simile bears a striking resemblance to the passage of the _Republic_
in which Plato compares a state possessed by demagogues and the mob to
an ill-governed ship. Lastly, says Theognis, "Porters rule, and the
nobles are subject to the base." In this state of disorder the very
principles of Dorian society are neglected. Money is regarded as the
charter of nobility, and no attempts are made to maintain a generous
breed of citizens. "We are careful," he says (183-196), "to select the
best race of horses and the like, but a noble man doubts not about
marrying a mean woman if she bring him money; nor does a woman reject
the suit of a mean man if he be rich. Wealth is honored; wealth has
confused our blood." This passage has great interest, both as showing
the old prejudices of the Dorian aristocracy, and also as proving that
a new order of things was beginning in Greece. Even the Dorian States
could not resist the progress of commerce and republican institutions;
and little Megara, situated between mercantile Corinth and democratic
Athens, had but small strength to stem the tide. But the party of
Theognis were not always out of power. When Cyrnus and his friends
held sway in Megara, he gives them this advice (847-850): "Trample on
the empty-headed rabble; strike them with the stinging goad; and put a
galling yoke upon their neck; for never shall you find so despot-loving
a demus in the whole earth." That he had frequent cause to apprehend
the rising of some tyrant from the body of the people may be noticed in
the fragments. Among the earliest of these in our arrangement (39-42)
occurs this elegy: "Cyrnus, this city is pregnant; but I fear that it
will bring forth a man to chastise our evil violence." He then proceeds
to lay down the axioms of the oligarchical State theory: the nobility,
he says, never ruined a city; it is only when base leaders get the
upper-hand, and wrest justice in order to indulge the populace and make
their own gain, that civil dissension and ruin ensue. Tyrants were as
hateful to the true oligarchs as a democracy, and Theognis in one place
actually advises tyrannicide: "To lay low a despot who consumes the
people is no sin, and will not be punished by the gods" (1181). This
sentiment corresponds with the couplet of Simonides on Harmodius and
Aristogeiton, and with the apothegms of several of the sages.

Theognis, seeing Cyrnus environed with political difficulties, thought
fit to furnish him with rules of conduct. He was very particular
about the choice of proper friends. One elegy (31-38), in which he
discourses on the desirability of consorting with none but the best
company, and of avoiding the contagion of low comrades, attained a
wide celebrity among the Greeks. So much of their life was spent in
public, and so much of their education depended on society, that the
question of social intercourse was one of paramount importance. Plato
in the _Meno_, Xenophon in his _Memorabilia_, and Aristotle in the
ninth book of the _Ethics_, all make use of these verses: "Come not
into the company of bad men, but cling always to the good; eat and
drink with them; sit with them, and seek to please those who have great
power. For from the noble you will learn what is noble; but if you
mix with base men you will lose the wits you have." It must always be
borne in mind that by #esthloi# and #agathoi# Theognis meant the men
of his own party. The "good" and "noble" were men of birth, wealth,
breeding, and power, on whom, by prejudice and habit, he conferred
these moral titles. In course of time, however, as the words acquired
a more ethical significance, the philosophers were able to appropriate
maxims of worldly prudence to their own more elevated purposes; nor
were they even in the times of Theognis other than ambiguous, for
the identification of aristocratic position and moral worth was so
conventionally complete that words which were intended to be taken
in the one sense had an equal application in the other. In another
elegy (305-308) Theognis repeats this advice, when he observes that
no one is born utterly bad by nature, but that he contracts habits of
depravity from his associates. Here it is obvious how much of ethical
meaning the words "good" and "bad" involved, even in the times of the
Megarian poet, and how vastly important he considered the society of
well-bred companions to be in the formation of character. A different
view of moral habits seems to be taken in another fragment (429-438),
where Theognis attributes more influence to nature than to training:
"To beget and rear a child," he says, "is easier than to instil good
principles. No one ever devised means for making fools wise, or bad
men good. If Heaven had given to the sons of Æsculapius the gift of
healing wickedness and folly, great fees would they have earned. If you
could fashion or insert what minds you liked, good men would never have
bad sons. But no amount of teaching will make a bad man good." These
verses are quoted both by Plato and Aristotle, with whose inquiries
on the subject of Education _versus_ Nature, of #trophê# as opposed to
#physis#, they had, of course, considerable correspondence.

In connection with this subject of moral habits and companionship,
Theognis thought fit to give his pupil advice about his deportment at
the public dinners of the Dorians. At these social meetings there was
ample scope for political intrigue; and hence it followed that a public
man was forced to be particular about his associates. The poet devotes
a series of couplets (61-82) to this point, recommending Cyrnus to be
reticent, and not to communicate the whole of his plans even to his
friends. He warns him how difficult it is to get a faithful friend. You
could not find, he says (83-86), one shipload of really trustworthy
and incorruptible men upon the face of the world. Moreover, nothing
requires more skill than to discover the insincerity of a hypocrite
(117-128). You may test gold and silver, but there are no means of
getting at the thoughts of men. This sentiment, together with the
metaphor of pinchbeck metal, is used by Euripides in _Medea_ (line
515). Aristotle also quotes the passage in his Eudemian _Ethics_ (vii.
2). Time, however, says Theognis (963-970), and experience and calamity
are the true tests of friendship. If a man will bear misfortune with
you, or will help you in a serious undertaking, you may then, but not
till then, rely upon his expressions of attachment. This suspicious
temper recalls the social philosophy of Machiavelli; indeed, Greek
politics in no respect resembled those of modern Italy more closely
than in the diplomatic footing upon which all the relations of
society were placed. There are two very curious passages (213-218 and
1071-1074) in which Theognis bids his friend be as much as possible all
things to all men. "Turn a different side of your character," he says,
"to different men, and mix part of their temper with your own. Get the
nature of the cuttlefish, which looks exactly like the rock it clings
to: be versatile, and show a variety of complexions." Again, he boasts
that "among madmen I am exceeding mad; but among the just no man is
more just than I am." Nor is this subtlety to be confined to friendly
relations merely. In one most Jesuitical couplet (363) Theognis urges
his friend "to beguile his foe with fair words; but when he has him in
his power, to take full vengeance and to spare not." As to the actual
events of the life of Cyrnus, we know nothing except what is told us in
one of the elegies (805--810), that he went as a theorus to the shrine
of Delphi. We may gather from some expressions of the poet that he was
of a rash and haughty and unconciliatory temper.

Passing now to the personal history of Theognis, we are struck with
his frequent lamentations over poverty and the wretchedness of exile.
"Miserable poverty!" he cries, "go elsewhere; prithee stay not with
a host that hates thee." "Poverty breaks the spirit of a noble man
more than anything, more even than age or ague. The poor man is gagged
and bound; he cannot speak or act.... Poverty comes not to the market
or the lawsuits; everywhere she is laughed and scoffed at, and hated
by all men, ... mother she is of helplessness; she breaks the spirit
of a man within his breast, so that he suffers shame and wrong in
silence, and learns to lie and cheat and do the sin his soul abhors....
Wretched want, why, seated on my shoulders, dost thou debase body and
mind alike" (267, 351, 385, 173-182, 649). Wealth, on the other hand,
he cries with bitterness, is omnipotent (1117): "O wealth! of gods
the fairest and most full of charm! with thy help, though I am a mean
man, I am made noble." "Every one honors a rich man and slights a poor
man: the whole world agrees upon this point." But the finest and most
satirical of all his poems on this subject is one (699-718) in which he
says: "Most men have but one virtue, and that is wealth; it would do
you no good if you had the self-control of Rhadamanthus himself, or if
you knew more wiles than Sisyphus, or if you could turn falsehood into
truth with the tongue of a Nestor, or if you were more fleet of foot
than the children of Boreas. You must fix your mind on wealth--wealth
alone. Wealth is almighty." It was poverty that gave its bitterness
to exile. My friends, he says, pass me by; "no one is the friend or
faithful comrade of an exile. This is the sting of exile." "I have
suffered what is as bad as death, and worse than anything besides. My
friends have refused me the assistance which they owed, and I am forced
to try my foes" (811-814). Hope, which has always been the food and
sustenance of exiles, alone remained to him. There is one beautiful
elegy (1135-1150) in which he imitates Hesiod, singing how faith and
temperance and the graces have left the earth, how oaths are broken
and religion is neglected, how holiness hath passed away; yet, if a
pious man remain, let him wait on Hope, to Hope pray always, to Hope
sacrifice first and last.

Verses 825-830 and 1197-1202 describe his condition while living as a
poor man, stripped of his paternal farms, in Megara. The voice of the
harvest-bird brings him sorrow, for he knows that other men will reap
his fields. How can he pipe or sing, when from the market-place he sees
his own land made the prey of revellers? The same sense of the _res
angusta domi_ is expressed in the welcome to Clearistus. We gather from
another elegy (261-266) that Theognis had lost not only his land, but
also a girl to whom he was betrothed. Her parents gave her in marriage
to a man less noble and less worthy than himself. Nor do we fail to get
some insight into his domestic circumstances. Mr. Frere explains one
fragment (271-278), full of Lear's indignation, by conjecturing that
Theognis had left a wife and children behind him at Megara during his
wanderings, and had returned to find them estranged and thankless. He
translates the fragment thus:

    One single evil, more severe and rude
    Than age or sickness or decrepitude,
    Is dealt unequally, for him that rears
    A thankless offspring; in his latter years,
    Ungratefully requited for his pains,
    A parsimonious life and thrifty gains,
    With toil and care acquired for their behoof;
    And no return! but insolent reproof;
    Such as might scare a beggar from the gate,
    A wretch unknown, poor and importunate!
    To be reviled, avoided, hated, curst;
    This is the last of evils, and the worst!

The same kind of ingenious conjecture supplies us with a plausible
explanation of some obscure couplets (1211-1216), in which it appears
that Theognis, having been taunted by a female slave, replied by
making most sarcastic remarks on the servile physiognomy, and by
boasting that among all his miseries he had remained a free man and a
noble-minded gentleman. He often bids his soul be strong and bear bad
fortune, like Ulysses when he cried, #tetlathi dê kradiê kai kynteron
allo pot' etlês#.[63] Nor does he fail to ease his heart by praying
for vengeance, and indulging the hope that he may live to drink the
blood of his foes (349), and to divide their property among his friends
(562). That he was kindly entertained in the various states he visited,
he tells us; and it is thought that he received the citizenship of
Hyblæan Megara. Sicily, Euboea, and Sparta (783-788) are specially
mentioned by him as his homes in exile. Wherever he went he carried
with him fame, and found a welcome. "Yet," says the poet, "no joy of
those fair lands entered my soul, so far was anything from seeming
dearer than my native land."

Among the elegies of general interest attributed to Theognis, none is
more beautiful than the following hymn to the goddesses of Song and
Beauty, which has been very elegantly rendered into English verse:

    Muses and Graces! daughters of high Jove,
    When erst you left your glorious seats above
    To bless the bridal of that wondrous pair,
    Cadmus and Harmonia fair,
    Ye chanted forth a divine air:
        "What is good and fair
        Shall ever be our care."
    Thus the burden of it rang:
        "That shall never be our care
        Which is neither good nor fair."
    Such were the words your lips immortal sang.[64]

The very essence of the Greek feeling for the beautiful is expressed
in these simple lines. Beauty, goodness, and truth were to the Greeks
almost convertible terms; and the nearest approach which Plato made
to the conception of a metaphysical deity was called by him the #idea
tou kalou#. Not less Greek is the sentiment expressed in the following
lines (1027): "Easy among men is the practice of wickedness, but hard,
friend Cyrnus, is the method of goodness." Theognis here expresses very
prosaically what Hesiod and Simonides have both enunciated in noble
verse (_Op. et Dies_, 285-290, and Simonides, Frag. 15, ed. Gaisford).
It is noticeable that in his couplet #to agathon# is used instead of
#aretê#. The thought, however, is the same; nor does it differ widely
from that which is contained in the Aristotelian "Hymn to Virtue,"
where we see that what the Greeks meant by this word included not only
moral rectitude, but also the labor of a Hercules, and all noble or
patriotic deeds which implied self-devotion to a great cause.

The occasions for which the elegies of this class were composed by
Theognis seem to have been chiefly banquets and drinking-parties. In
the Dorian States of Greece it was customary for men to form select
clubs, which met together after the public meals for the purpose of
drinking, conversing, and enjoying music. These friendly societies
formed an appendix to the national #pheiditia#, or public tables.
Great care was taken in the selection of members, who were admitted by
ballot; and in time the clubs acquired political importance. Periander
is said (Aris. _Pol._, v. 9, 2) to have abolished them in Corinth
because they proved favorable to aristocracy--no doubt by keeping
up the old Doric traditions which he took pains to break down. In
the verses of Theognis we are introduced to many members of his club
by name--Onomacritus, Clearistus, Demonax, Democles, Timagoras, and
doubtless Cyrnus. Of course these customs were not confined to Doric
cities; on the contrary, the Symposia and Erani of the Athenians are
more celebrated for their wit and humor, while readers of Thucydides
remember how large a part the clubs played in the history of the 8th
book. But the custom was systematized, like everything else, with
greater rigor among Dorians. It appears that, after having eaten,
the cups were filled and libations were made to the Doric patron
Phoebus (cf. Theogn., Frag. 1); then came the Comus, or drinking-bout:
flute-players entered the room, and some of the guests sang to the
lyre, or addressed an elegy to the company at large, or to some
particular person. These facts may be gathered from different fragments
of Theognis (997, 757); but if we wish to gain a complete picture of
one of these parties, we may seek it in an elegy of Xenophanes, which
is so fresh and pretty that I feel inclined to paraphrase it at length:

    "Now the floor is cleanly swept; the hands of all the guests
    are washed; the cups shine brightly on the board. Woven wreaths
    and fragrant myrrh are carried round by the attendants,
    and in the middle stands a bowl full of that which maketh
    glad the heart of man. Wine, too, is ready in reserve, wine
    inexhaustible, honey-sweet in jars, smelling of flowers.
    Frankincense breathes forth its perfume among the revellers,
    and cold water, sweet and pure, waits at their side. Loaves,
    fresh and golden, stand upon the table, which groans with
    cheese and rich honey. In the midst is an altar hung about
    with flowers, and singing and merriment resound throughout the
    house. First must merry-making men address the gods with holy
    songs and pure words; libations must they pour, and pray for
    strength to act justly; then may they drink as much as a man
    can carry home without a guide--unless he be far gone in years.
    This also is right, to speak of noble deeds and virtue over our
    cups; not to tell tales of giants or Titans or the Centaurs,
    mere fictions of our grandfathers, and foolish fables."

It was customary at these banquets to sing the praises of youth and
to lament old age, ringing endless changes on the refrain "Vivamus
atque amemus," which antiquity was never weary of repeating. Very sad
and pathetic is the tone of these old songs, wherein the pæan mingles
with the dirge; for youth and the grave are named in the same breath,
and while we smell the roses we are reminded that they will wither.
Then comes the end--the cold and solitary tomb, eternal frost and
everlasting darkness, to which old age, the winter and night of life,
is but a melancholy portal. _Gaudeamus igitur, juvenes dum sumus._

    To pleasure, in life's bloom, yield we our powers,
    While yet to be and to enjoy are ours;
    For swift as thought our glorious youth goes by,
    Swift as the coursers that to battle fly,
    Bearing the chief with quivering spear in hand,
    Madly careering o'er the rich corn-land--

so sings Theognis (977), and with even more of pathos he exclaims--

    Ah me! my youth! alas for eld's dark day:
    This comes apace, while that fleets fast away.

The same idea is repeated in many other elegies, always with the same
sad cadence: "No man, as soon as the earth covers him, and he goes
down to Erebus, the home of Persephone, takes any pleasure in the
sound of the lyre, or the voice of the flute-player, or in the sweet
gifts of Dionysus" (973-976). At another time he reckons up the ills
of life: "When I am drinking I take no heed of soul-consuming poverty
or of enemies who speak ill of me; but I lament delightful youth
which is forsaking me, and wail for grim old age who cometh on apace"
(1129-1132). Their tone reminds us of Mimnermus, who said the utmost
when he cried--

    Zeus to Tithonus gave a grievous ill--
    Undying age, than death more horrible!

To multiply more elegies of this description would be useless. We may,
however, allude to a poem of Simonides (Frag. 100, ed. Gaisford),
which combines the sweetness of Mimnermus and the energy of Theognis:
"Nothing human endures for aye. Well said the bard of Chios, that
like the leaves so is the race of men: yet few who hear this keep it
in their mind; for hope is strong within the breast of youth. When
the flower of youth lasts, and the heart of a man is light, he nurses
idle thoughts, hoping he never will grow old or die; nor does he
think of sickness in good health. Fools are they who dream thus, nor
know how short are the days of youth and life. But learn thou this,
and live thy life out, cheering thy soul with good things." The tone
of these elegies pervades a great many monuments of Greek sculpture.
Standing before the Genius of Eternal Repose, or the so-called Genius
of the Vatican, we are moved almost to tears by the dumb sadness with
which their perfect beauty has been chastened. Like the shade of
young Marcellus in Virgil, they seem to carry round them a cloud of
gloom, impalpable, yet overshadowing their youth with warnings and
anticipations of the tomb.

With Theognis the list of gnomic poets, strictly so called, may be
said to close. Simonides, from whom I have adduced some passages in
illustration of the elder elegiac writers, survived the bard of Megara,
and attained a far greater reputation than he enjoyed, at the Syracusan
and Athenian courts. How highly his maxims were valued by the moralists
of the succeeding age is known by every reader of the _Protagoras_
and _Republic_ of Plato. But a more detailed analysis of his verses
would be out of place, when we consider that his chief fame rests upon
epitaphs, patriotic epigrams, and lyrical fragments--none of them
strictly gnomic in their character.

To modern readers the philosophy of the poets whom we have considered
will perhaps seem trite, their inspiration tame, their style
pedestrian. But their contemporaries were far from arriving at this
criticism. To obtain concise and abstract maxims upon the ethics of
society, politics, and education was to them a new and inestimable
privilege. In the gnomic poets the morality which had been merely
implicit in Homer and Hesiod received separate treatment and
distinct expression. The wisdom which had been gradually collecting
for centuries in the Greek mind was tersely and lucidly condensed
into a few pregnant sentences. These sentences formed the data for
new syntheses and higher generalizations, the topics for enlarged
investigation, the "middle axioms" between the scattered facts of life
and the unity of philosophical system. _We_ may regard the gnomic
poets with interest, partly on account of the real, if rare, beauty
of some of their fragments; partly on account of their historical
and illustrative value; partly because all efforts of the human mind
in its struggle for emancipation, and all stages in its development,
are worthy of attentive study. To the sophists, to the orators, to
Socrates and his friends, to the tragic writers, to educated men at
large in Hellas, they were authorities on moral questions; and their
maxims, which the progress of the centuries has rendered commonplace,
appeared the sentences of weightiest wisdom, oracles almost, and
precepts inspired by more than human prudence.


[49] This seems to have been recognized by the ancients, as is proved
by the lines quoted from Hermesianax in _Athenæus_, xiii. 597, where
the epithet #malachos#, assigned to his pentameter, is meant to be
emphatic. Mimnermus gave it a luxurious and tender quality.

[50] Without attempting to discuss the vexed question whether Tyrtæus
was a native Spartan, or, according to the ancient tale, an Athenian
naturalized in Sparta, his self-identification with the people he
inspired justifies the phrase that I have used above.

[51] The sentiment of these last lines is not only ethically spirited,
but it is also singularly, exquisitely Greek. The æsthetic tact of
the Greek race felt the plastic charm of a youth's form dead upon the
battle-field. Like a statue marbled by the frost of death he lies,
the perfection of life-moulded clay; and his red wounds are the lips
of everlasting praise. Not so the elder man. Nakedness and mutilation
bring no honor to him; he has no loveliness of shape to be revealed
and heightened by the injuries of war; for him the flowing beard and
the robes of reverend eld are a majestic covering, to be withdrawn by
no hand seeking to unveil secluded beauties. His lot is cast no longer
in those fields, intense and passionate of art and love, where death,
cropping the bloom unset, confers a crown of immortality. Cf. _Iliad_,
xxii. 71. An echo of this Greek feeling for the beautiful young dead
may be traced in David's picture of the drummer-boy at Avignon, in Walt
Whitman, and in Lord Albemarle's "Recollections of Waterloo."

[52] The birthplace of Mimnermus is not very certain. Fragment 9 in
Bergk's _Collection_ would seem to justify the opinion that he was a
native of Smyrna colonized from Colophon.

[53] Notice particularly the couplets of Theognis beginning #ômoi egôn
hêbês# and #aphrones anthrôpoi#, Bergk, vol. ii. pp. 420, 550.

[54] Fragment 9 in Bergk's _Collection_ might seem to express a manlier
spirit, if we could suppose that it referred to personal exploits
of the poet. It forms, however, part of a description of the early
colonization of Smyrna from Pylos; when Mimnermus alludes to martial
deeds, he does so with a tone of regret, as one who has no share in
them, and lives his own life in political stagnation.

[55] _Miscellanies_, by the late John Addington Symonds, M.D.
(Macmillan & Co., 1871), p. 410.

[56] Strabo quotes "the Nanno" as Athenæus quotes "the Leontion" of
Hermesianax, another Colophonian amourist.

[57] _Epistles_, bk. i. 6. Translated thus by Conington: "If, as
Mimnermus tells you, life is flat with naught to love, devote yourself
to that."

[58] The well-known passage in the _Iliad_ (xxiv. 527) which describes
the two casks at the threshold of the house of Zeus contains the germ
of this belief. But after Homer there arose a darker sense of the
jealousy of the gods, accompanied in speculative minds by a tendency to
call the principles of the divine rule in question.

[59] This subject will be resumed in the introduction to my chapter on
Euripides, where I attempt to show how the Herodotean notion of divine
jealousy was moralized at the time of the Persian war into the idea of

[60] See the passage quoted from _Philemon_ by Athenæus, xiii. 569,
where the institution of public _lupanaria_ is ascribed to Solon.

[61] We may compare with this fragment a passage preserved from the
_Autolycus_ of Euripides, translated by me below in the chapter on the
Fragments of Æschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides.

[62] very ingenious attempt was made by Mr. Hookham Frere to
reconstruct the life of Theognis from his elegies. It would be too
much to assert that his conjectures are always successful. Indeed,
he often introduces foreign matter and modern sentiment, while he
neglects the peculiarly Greek relations of the poet to his friend.
Those who are curious about such works of hypercriticism would do well
to study his _Theognis Restitutus_. (Frere's Works, vol. ii.) In doing
so, they must, however, bear in mind, as already observed above, that
a great many of the couplets and short poems ascribed to Theognis
by the later Greeks were not really his own. Theognis, like Hesiod,
Solon, and Phocylides, was credited with more proverbial wisdom than
he can be held responsible for. Contradictory utterances are therefore
not unfrequent in his elegies, and this fact renders a trustworthy
restoration of his biography and body of opinion almost impossible.

[63] "Be stout, O heart of mine: ere now thou hast endured even more
grimly grief than this."

[64] _Miscellanies_, by the late John Addington Symonds, M.D., p. 411.



    Invention of the Iambic Metre.--Archilochus.--His Parentage and
        Life.--His Fame among the Ancients.--Ancient and Modern
        Modes of Judging Artists.--The Originality of Archilochus
        as a Poet.--Simonides of Amorgos.--His Satire on
        Women.--The Ionian Contempt for Women.--Hipponax.--Limping
        Iambics.--Differences between the Satire of the Greeks and

The Greeks displayed their æsthetic instinct in nothing more remarkably
than in their exact adaptation of the forms of art to the nature of
the subjects which they undertook to treat. The hexameter had sufficed
for the needs of the epic. The elegiac had fulfilled the requirements
of pathetic or contemplative meditation. But with the development
of the national genius a separate vehicle for satire was demanded.
Archilochus of Paros created a new style, and presented in the iambic
metre a new instrument to the poets of his race. The circumstances of
the birth and parentage of Archilochus are significant. He was the son
of Telesicles, a noble Ionian, and of Enipo, a slave-woman. Thus from
the very first there were inequalities in his circumstances which may
have sufficed to sour his temper. His birth, which may be fixed about
729 B.C., was predicted, according to old tradition, by the oracle
at Delphi. The same oracle busied itself at a later period with his
death, by cursing the Naxian soldier Calondas, who had killed him
in battle, because he had "slain the servant of the Muses." As the
fragments we possess of Archilochus render it difficult to understand
the very high estimation in which he was held by the Greeks, and which
these stories indicate, it may be well to preface this account of
him with some quotations from the ancient critics. Longinus,[65] to
begin with, explains the incongruities of his poetry by saying that he
"dragged disorderly elements into his verse under the impulse of divine
inspiration." Plato[66] calls him #ho sophôtatos Archilochos#, "the
prince of sages," which, in the mouth of a philosopher, is the highest
panegyric. The Alexandrian critic Aristophanes, when asked which of the
poems of Archilochus he liked best, answered with laconic brevity, "the
longest." Hadrian,[67] in an epigram, says that the Muses turned the
attention of Archilochus to mad iambics, in order that their darling
Homer might not have so dangerous a rival in the field of the epic. All
antiquity agreed in naming him second only to Homer: "Maximus poeta aut
certe summo proximus," "a poet of the highest order, or surely next
unto the greatest," says Valerius Maximus. The birthdays of Homer and
Archilochus were celebrated on the same day; their busts were joined
in Janus fashion--two faces and one head: Hippodromus the Sophist[68]
called Homer the Voice, Archilochus the Breath or Soul, of the students
of wisdom. The epithet #kallistos# (most beautiful) was ascribed to
him because of his perfect style, though the subjects of his poetry
were anything but beautiful. Of this style Quintilian[69] says that it
excelled in "powerful as well as short and quivering sentences," that
it contained "the greatest possible amount of blood and sinews." The
highest praise which Gorgias could pronounce on Plato when he published
his dialogues upon the Sophists was to say that Athens had produced a
new Archilochus. To multiply these panegyrics would be easy. But enough
has been adduced to prove that the ancients looked on Archilochus as
a worthy rival of Homer, as a poet supreme in his own department, as
the creator of a new kingdom in poetry, as the sire of a long line of
mighty artists.

What remains of the verse of Archilochus and what we know of his
life are curiously at variance with this enthusiasm. Nothing proves
the difference between ancient and modern views of art more strongly
than the fact that all antiquity concurred in regarding as a divinely
inspired benefactor of the human race a man who in the present day
would have been hunted from society with execrations. This son of the
slave-woman, born in an Ionian island, where license was more tolerated
than in a Dorian state, devoted himself to satire, making his genius
the instrument of private hate, and turning the golden gifts of the
Muses to the service of his selfish spite. A greater contrast cannot
be conceived than that which exists between Homer, the priest of gods
and heroes, the poet of high actions and lofty passions, whose own
life is buried in sacred and sublime mystery, and this satirist who
saw the world with jaundiced eyes, prying about for subjects of his
wrath and bitterness and scorn, whose themes were the passions of his
own heart, the sordid misadventures of his personality. It was this
contrast between Archilochus and Homer that gave the former a right
in the estimation of the Greeks to take equal rank with the father of
the epos. He, the greatest poet next in date to Homer, by virtue of a
divine originality of genius, exercised his art in exactly the opposite
field to that which Homer ruled as his demesne. Clearer sign than this
of inspiration could not be demanded; and how should posterity withhold
its gratitude from the poet who had unlocked a new chamber of the
treasure-house of art? This was how the ancients reasoned, instead of
measuring their poets, as the moderns try to do, by moral standards and
conventional conceptions of propriety.

The facts in the life of Archilochus are briefly these. He was engaged
to be married to Neobulé, daughter of Lycambes. Her father retracted
his consent to the marriage, having possibly discovered that the temper
of his proposed son-in-law was a mixture of gall, wormwood, vinegar,
verjuice, vitriol, and nitric acid. Thereupon, as Horace says:

    Archilochum proprio rabies armavit iambo.[70]

He made the iambic metre his own, and sharpened it into a terrible
weapon of attack. Each verse he wrote was polished and pointed like
an arrow-head. Each line was steeped in the poison of hideous charges
against his sweetheart, her sisters, and her father. The set of poems
which he produced, and, as it would appear, recited publicly at the
festival of Demeter, were so charged with wit and fire that the country
rang with them. The daughters of Lycambes, tradition avers, went
straightway and hanged themselves--unable to endure the flight of fiery
serpents that had fallen on them; for, to quote the words of Browning,
Archilochus had the art of writing verse that "bit into the live man's
flesh like parchment," that sent him wandering, branded and forever
shamed, about his native streets and fields. After this murderous
exhibition of his power, Archilochus left Paros.[71]

    Away with Paros! her figs and fishy life!

He removed to Thasos, where the Parians founded a colony. But Thasos
was worse than Paros:[72] "Like the backbone of an ass, it stood
bristling with wild wood; for, in sooth, it is not a fair land, or
pleasant, or delightful, like that which spreads by Siris's stream."
It was here he threw his shield away in a battle with the Thracians,
and gave Horace and Alcæus a precedent by writing a poem on his want
of prowess. The remainder of his life was spent in wandering. He
visited Sparta, where, however, he was not suffered to remain an hour.
The Ephors judged rightly that this runaway soldier and foul-mouthed
Ionian satirist might corrupt the Spartan youth, or sow dissension
in the State. The publication of his works was forbidden in this the
most conservative of all Greek states. Finally Archilochus returned to
Paros, and was killed in battle by a native of Naxos. A more unhappy
existence, wretched in itself and the cause of wretchedness to others,
can scarcely be imagined, if the tale of the life of Archilochus be
true. Dishonored by the inequality of his parentage, slighted in the
matter of his marriage, discontented at home, restless and rejected
abroad, he seems to have been formed by the facts of his biography for
the creation of satire. And this is his greatest title to fame.

It is possible that the iambic metre existed before the date of
Archilochus. An old myth connects it with the festivals of Demeter.
Demeter, it is said, could not be made to laugh after her daughter's
loss, until a nymph, Iambé, by her jests and sarcasms, raised a
smile upon her lips. This legend proves that the Greeks referred the
origin of the iambic to those jokes and gibes which were common in
the feasts of Demeter, and from the licentious mirth of which the
satiric element of comedy was developed. The iambic is nearest in
cadence to the language of common life; it is, therefore, the fit
vehicle for dialogue, and for all poetry that deals with common and
domestic topics. Again, it is essentially rapid in movement: Horace
speaks of _celeres iambi_ (swift iambi); Hadrian calls them #lyssôntes
iamboi# (raging iambi): this rapidity fitted them for sharp attack
and swift satiric pungency. Admitting, then, that the metre may have
been employed in early attempts at colloquial satire, Archilochus,
perceiving its capacities, fashioned it to suit the purpose of his
own consummate art. He was celebrated among the ancients for having
perfected the metres belonging to what they called the #diplasion
genos#, as distinguished from the #ison genos#--that is to say, the
iambic and trochaic rhythms, in which either the arsis or the thesis
has twice the time of the other. In a trochee the first syllable
equals two of the same time as the second; in an iamb this order is
reversed; whereas the dactyl and the spondee, on which the hexameter
and elegiac metres are based, are feet each member of which has the
same time, the two shorts of the dactyl being equivalent to the second
long of the spondee. Archilochus, if not absolutely the inventor, was
the creator of these two metres, the iambic and trochaic, as truly as
Homer was the creator of the heroic measure. No proof of the power of
his genius can be greater than the fact that, whatever changes may
have been subsequently wrought in the iambic and trochaic metres, they
remained substantially the same as those which Archilochus employed,
whether afterwards adapted to satire, tragedy, or comedy. While
speaking of Archilochus as a technical artist, it ought to be mentioned
that he gave further proof of his originality by elaborating the
metrical systems which the Greeks called Asynartêtes, or unconnected.
These consisted of a mixture of dactylic and anapæstic with trochaic
feet. The ithyphallic, which was marked by a succession of three
trochees at the end of the line, was the most distinguished.

To translate Archilochus is almost impossible. His merit is the
perfection of style, which will admit of no transplantation. His
language is the language of common life, exquisitely chosen, and
kept within the most exact limits, with a view to the production of
a carefully studied effect. It is hopeless to render such fragments
as we possess without making them seem coarse or prosy, the poet's
supremacy having been achieved by his artistic handling of vernacular
Greek. When we compare its pithy terseness with the flowing grandeur of
the epic--a grandeur which had already become conventional in Greece,
a fluency which poetasters abused--it is easy to understand that the
racy epigrams of Archilochus, in which the subject was set forth
with exquisite point and without circumlocution, must have been an
acceptable novelty to his audience. Greek sculpture is not more pure in
outline than the following fragment,[73] which sets before our eyes the
figure of a girl embossed on marble or engraved in chalcedony:

    #echousa thallon myrsinês eterpeto
    rhodês te kalon anthos, hê de hoi komê
    ômous kateskiaze kai metaphrena.#

Archilochus flourished between 714 and 676 B.C. The date of the next
iambic poet, Simonides of Amorgos, is 660 B.C. It is noticeable that
both of these satirists are Ionian. The relaxation of Ionian life and
the freedom of Ionian manners, as concerned the artist and the public,
rendered the development of satire in Ionia more natural than it could
ever have been in a Dorian state. Simonides owes his celebrity to
a poem upon women, a very ungallant production of 119 lines, which
presents one of the most curious examples upon record of a perfectly
smooth and yet crushing satire. The iambic lines flow quietly and
swiftly off the poet's lips, in mild and polished phraseology, with
none of the concentrated fury of Archilochus. Yet Simonides aims at
no less than destroying the character of a whole sex. In a sort of
gentle, well-mannered, lazy way he is successful, not so much by
persuading us through examples, after the method of Juvenal, that his
satire is justified, as by the imperturbable expression of a profound
conviction. The interest of this poem is very great, as marking a
departure from the personalities of Archilochus and an attempt to
introduce generalities into the region of satiric delineation. In
this respect it is in Greek literature almost unique, if we except
Sicilian, Megarian, and Attic comedy, whereof this is not the place to
speak. The rhetorical treatment of a problem of social ethics from the
point of view of satire was, as we shall see hereafter, alien to Greek

This is the plan of the poem. Simonides describes the nature of the
different sorts of women by comparing them successively to a hog, a
fox, a dog, mud, sea-water, an ass, a weasel, a mare, an ape, a bee.
Thus there are ten kinds, and only one respectable or industrious. He
rushes at once _in medias res_: "God made the mind of women in the
beginning of different qualities: for one he fashioned of a bristly
hog; in whose house everything tumbles about in disorder, bespattered
with mud, and rolls upon the ground: she, dirty, with unwashed clothes,
sits and grows fat in a dung-heap." The woman like mud is thus hit
off: "This woman is ignorant of everything both good and bad; her only
accomplishment is eating; cold though the winter be, she is too stupid
to draw near the fire." Here is the woman who takes after the sea: "She
has two minds; when she laughs and is glad, the stranger seeing her
at home will give her praise--there is not a better woman than this
on the earth, no, nor a fairer; but another day she is unbearable,
not to be looked at or approached, but she is right mad. To friend
and foe she is alike implacable and odious. Thus as the sea often is
calm and innocent, a great delight to sailors in summer-time, and
oftentimes again is frantic, tearing along with roaring billows; so
is this woman in her temper." The woman who resembles a mare offers
other disagreeable qualities. She is "delicate and long-haired, unfit
for drudgery or toil: _she_ would not touch the mill or lift the sieve
or clean the house out! She bathes twice or thrice a day, and smears
herself with myrrh; then she wears her hair combed out, long and wavy,
decked with flowers. It follows that this woman is a rare sight to
one's guests, but to her husband she's a curse, unless he be a tyrant
who prides himself on such expensive luxuries." The ape-like wife is
treated even worse. But at last we reach the bee: "The man who gets
her is lucky; to her alone belongs no blame: his property thrives
and increases under her; and loving with a loving helpmate she grows
old, the mother of a fair and famous race. Such wives are the best
and wisest Zeus grants to men." Yet even after this pretty picture
Simonides winds up with a comprehensive condemnation of the female sex:
"Zeus made this supreme evil--women: even though they seem to be of
good, when one has got one, she becomes a plague."

The spirit of this invective is derived in a great measure from
Hesiod, whose myth of Pandora marked his estimate of women, and whose
precepts concerning the choice of a wife must have depressed the
Boeotian bachelors with the certainty that nine women out of ten would
prove a curse. This is precisely the proportion of bad to good that
Simonides establishes. His tenth and virtuous wife is praised because
she is industrious and quiet, and the mother of many children. We here
get the primitive ideal of the helpmeet for man. Modern theorists
would condemn it as the model of a slave. And it is certain that, as
Greek civilization advanced, without a corresponding elevation of
the conception of wifehood, the chivalrous sentiment of the Greeks
sought other channels than that of sexual love, exalting a form of
passionate friendship between men as the real source of heroic action
and inspiring thought.[74] The outline traced by Simonides was filled
in by subsequent satirists. Susarion, the comic poet, makes this
grandiloquent proclamation: "Hear, O ye people! These are the words of
Susarion of Tripodiscus, Philinus's son, of Megara: Woman is a curse!"
Aristophanes in his plays the _Lysistrata_, the _Thesmophoriazusæ_,
and the _Ecclesiazusæ_, gives to the Athenian women all the attributes
of the hog, the ape, the clay, the sea, and the fox; in the _Clouds_
he draws the picture of one who is like the old blood-mare; but he
does not hint, even by way of parody, that there existed any bees.
The Greeks never learned the art of making women their companions
in the noblest sense. It must, however, be borne in mind that the
Ionians were less civilized in this respect than the Dorians, who
had a higher regard for the excellences of women, and allowed them
greater liberty.[75] Simonides is expressing Ionian rather than Dorian
sentiments, and at the same time may be reasonably supposed to be
overstraining them for the sake of a burlesque effect.

Next in date to Simonides among the iambographers ranks Hipponax of
Ephesus, who flourished about 540 B.C. He, too, was an Ionian. The
satire which Archilochus had directed against private enemies was
extended, as we have seen, by Simonides to a whole sex; and thus its
purely selfish character had been considerably modified. But Hipponax
restored it to its primitive function. He used the iambic as a weapon
of personal attack; and as Archilochus had shot his arrows against
Lycambes and his daughters, so Hipponax found a butt in Bupalus and
Athenis, sculptors of Chios. These two artists had begun by ridiculing
the poet, who was short and thin and ugly. They seem to have made
caricatures of him, piquing themselves, no doubt, upon the durability
of the marble in which they worked. But they found more than their
match in Hipponax, whose biting verses are said to have driven Bupalus
to hang himself. Whether this is a mere echo of the tale of Lycambes
remains doubtful; but, at any rate, the statues of the sculptor have
perished, while the poet's iambics exist in sufficient force to justify
his reputation among the ancients for having been the most caustic,
crabbed, and sour of satirists. They called him #ho pikros# (the
pungent), and in their epigrams made merry over his traditional bad
temper. Leonidas of Tarentum, for instance, warns travellers not to
touch his tomb, lest they should rouse the sleeping wasp; and Alcæus
of Messene says that no ivy, vine, or rose should adorn his grave, but
only thorns and thistles.

In order apparently to bring the metre still more within the sphere
of prose and common speech, Hipponax ended his iambics with a spondee
or a trochee instead of an iambus, doing thus the utmost violence to
the rhythmical structure. These deformed and mutilated verses were
called #chôliamboi# or #iamboi skazontes# (lame or limping iambics).
They communicate a curious crustiness to the style. The choliambi are
in poetry what the dwarf or cripple is in human nature. Here again,
by their acceptance of this halting metre, the Greeks displayed their
acute æsthetic sense of propriety, recognizing the harmony which
subsists between crabbed verses and the distorted subjects with which
they dealt--the vices and perversions of humanity--as well as their
agreement with the snarling spirit of the satirist. Deformed verse
was suited to deformed morality. Meanwhile it is but just to Hipponax
to record that he appears to have been a sincere castigator of crime,
extravagance, and folly. Without the sublime perfection and fervid
energy of Archilochus, he does not seem to have shared the unamiable
personal qualities of the greater poet. Two of his lines give a
sufficient notion of his style:

    #dy' hêmerai gynaikos eisin hêdistai,
    hotan gamêi tis kakpherêi tethnêkuian.#

A woman gives two days of happiness to man, in her bridal and her

The satire which these three Ionians, Archilochus, Simonides, and
Hipponax, inaugurated in Greece was continued by the Attic comic poets.
Satire in the Roman and the modern sense of the term never flourished
among the Greeks. The life of the Agora, the Ecclesia, and the Theatre
was too complete and free to need the supplement of rhetorical
invective intended either for reading or for recitation. Of satirical
comments upon individuals and of pasquinades of every kind the Greeks
had plenty. We hear, for example, that Alcæus exercised his poetical
talent in satirizing Pittacus, and one of the most considerable
fragments of Anacreon contains a very ludicrous caricature of Artemon,
his rival for the affections of a certain yellow-haired Eurypyle. But
their satire did not incline to the form which the earlier writers of
iambics had invented. It found its true sphere in the Dorian comedy
of Epicharmus and the Athenian comedy of Aristophanes, who combined
the personalities of Archilochus and the generalities of Simonides in
his own consummate work of dramatic art. Among the lost treasures of
Greek literature we have to regret few things more than the plays of
the Syracusan Epicharmus, from whom we might have learned directly
what now we can only infer--that the Dorians, when uncontrolled by the
severe taste of Sparta, indulged a humor for drollery and sarcasm,
which, though rougher than that of the Ionians, must have had its own
flavor of raciness and fun. Roman satire maintained a strictly moral
intention; _facit indignatio versus_ is the motto of Juvenal, while
Horace holds the mirror of worldly philosophy to the follies and the
vices of his age, and Persius applies the canons of Stoical ethics to
the phenomena of society as he observed them. This is the lead which
our modern satirists--the Regnier of France, the Dryden or the Pope
of England, have followed. Greek literature furnishes no specimen of
this species of composition. Wherever in the Comedies of Aristophanes,
or the Dialogues of Lucian, or the Epigrams of the Anthology, we meet
with satire, we find the simple motives of Archilochus and Simonides
at work. Personal animosity gives a barb and a venom to the shaft;
or the poet delineates with more or less of comic wit the social
anomalies that have struck his fancy. Of serious invective and of moral
preaching, the Greeks, in their satiric art at least, knew nothing.
Plato himself is only accidentally a satirist in the sense of the term
which we moderns have adopted from the Romans.


[65] _On the Sublime_, xxxiii. 5.

[66] _Rep._, 365, c.

[67] _Anth. Pal._, vii. 674.

[68] _Philostr. Bioi Soph._, 620.

[69] x. 1. 60.

[70] It was rage that armed Archilochus with his own iambic.

[71] Bergk, _Poetæ Lyrici_, p. 696.

[72] _Ib._ p. 689.

[73] Bergk, p. 691:

    Holding a myrtle-rod she blithely moved,
    And a fair blossoming rose; the flowing hair
    Shadowed her shoulders, falling to her girdle.

[74] The degradation of women was undoubtedly the source of many of
the worst faults of the Greek race. Yet it is easy to overestimate the
importance of such satires as that of Simonides; nor would it be fair
to take them as expressing the deliberate opinion of the nation. The
Jews, who gave a nobler place in social life to women, ascribed the
fall of man to Eve. Modern literature again, in spite of Christianity
and chivalry, is not wanting in epigrams like the following, ascribed
to Leo Battista Alberti: "Levity and inconstancy were given to women as
a counterbalance to their perfidy and badness; for, could woman stick
to her purpose, she would destroy all the fair works of man."

[75] Plutarch's _Life of Cleomenes_ contains two historical pictures of
heroic wifehood.



    The Æsthetic Instinct of the Greeks in their
        Choice of Metres.--Different Species of
        Lyrical Poetry.--The Fragments in Bergk's
        and Dorian Lyrists.--The Flourishing Period of
        of the Dorian Lyrists.--Spartan
        Greek Troubadours.--Style of Simonides.--Pindar.--Later
        Literary Odes.

To compress into a single essay all that should be said about the Greek
lyrical poets is impossible. Yet by eliminating the writers of elegies
and iambics, who have been considered separately as gnomic poets and
satirists, the field is somewhat narrowed. Simonides of Amorgos,
Archilochus, Theognis, Solon, not to mention lesser names, are by this
process legitimately excluded. The Æolian lyrists, with Sappho at
their head, and the so-called Dorian lyrists, who culminate in Pindar,
remain. Casting a glance backward into the remote shadows of antiquity,
we find that lyrical poetry, like all art in Greece, took its origin
in connection with primitive Nature-worship. The song of Linus,[76]
referred to by Homer in his description of the shield of Achilles, was
a lament sung by reapers for the beautiful dead youth who symbolized
the decay of summer's prime.[77] In the funeral chant for Adonis,
women bewailed the fleeting splendor of the spring; and Hyacinthus,
loved and slain by Phoebus, whom the Laconian youths and maidens
honored, was again a type of vernal loveliness defloured. The Bacchic
songs of alternating mirth and sadness, which gave birth, through
the dithyramb, to tragedy, and through the Comus-hymn to comedy,
marked the waxing and the waning of successive years, the pulses
of the heart of Nature, to which men listened as the months passed
over them. In their dim beginnings these elements of Greek poetry
are hardly to be distinguished from the dirges and the raptures of
Asiatic ceremonial, in which the dance and chant and song were mingled
in a vague monotony--generation after generation expressing the same
emotions according to traditions handed down from their forefathers.
But the Greek genius was endowed with the faculty of distinguishing,
differentiating, vitalizing, what the Oriental nations left hazy and
confused and inert. Therefore with the very earliest stirrings of
conscious art in Greece we remark a powerful specializing tendency.
Articulation succeeds to mere interjectional utterance. Separate
forms of music and of metre are devoted, with the unerring instinct
of a truly æsthetic race, to the expression of the several moods and
passions of the soul. An unconscious psychology leads by intuitive
analysis to the creation of distinct branches of composition, each
accurately adapted to its special purpose.

From the very first commencement of their literature, the Greeks
thus determined separate styles and established critical canons,
which, though empirically and spontaneously formed, were based
on real relations between the moral and æsthetical sides of art,
between feeling and expression, substance and form. The hexameter was
consecrated to epical narrative; the elegy was confined to songs of
lament or meditation; the iambic assumed a satiric character. To have
written a narrative in iambics or a satire in hexameters would have
been odious to Greek taste; the stately march of the dactylic metre
seemed unfit for snarling and invective; the quick flight of the iambic
did not carry weight enough or volume to sustain a lengthy narrative.
In the same way the infinite divisions of lyrical poetry had all their
own peculiar properties. How could a poet have bewailed his loves
or losses in the stately structure of the Pindaric ode? Conversely,
a hymn to Phoebus required more sonorousness and elaboration than
the recurring stanzas of the Sapphic or Alcaic offered. It was the
business, therefore, of the Greek poet, after duly considering his
subject, to select the special form of poetry consecrated by long usage
for his particular purpose; to conform his language to some species
of music inseparable from that style, and then, within the prescribed
limits, both of metre and of melody, to exercise his imagination as
freely as he could, and to produce novelty. This amount of fixity in
the forms of poetry and music arose from the exquisite tact and innate
taste of the Greek race. It was far from being a piece of scholastic
pedantry or of Chinese conservatism. No; the diction, metre, and music
of an elegy or an ode tended to assume a certain form as naturally as
the ingredients of a ruby or a sapphire crystallize into a crimson
or an azure stone. The discrimination shown by the Greeks in all the
technicalities of art remained in full vigor till the decline of their
literature. It was not until the Alexandrian age that they began to
confound these delicate distinctions, and to use the idyllic hexameter
for all subjects, whether narrative, descriptive, elegiac, encomiastic,
hymeneal.[78] Then, and not till then, the Greeks descended to that
degradation of art which prevailed, for instance, in England during
what we call the classic period of our literature. Under the influence
of Dryden and of Pope, an English poet used no metre but the heroic
couplet, whether he were writing a play, an epigram, a satire, an epic,
an eclogue, an elegy, or a didactic epistle; thus losing all elasticity
of style, all the force which appropriate form communicates to thought.

To catalogue the minute subdivisions of the art of lyric poetry in
Greece, to show how wisely their several limits were prescribed, how
firmly adhered to, and to trace the connection of choral song with
all the affairs of public and private life, would be a task of some
magnitude. Colonel Mure, in a well-known passage, writes: "From Olympus
down to the workshop or the sheep-fold, from Jove and Apollo to the
wandering mendicant, every rank and degree of the Greek community,
divine or human, had its own proper allotment of poetical celebration.
The gods had their hymns, nomes, pæans, dithyrambs; great men had
their encomia and epinikia; the votaries of pleasure their erotica
and symposiaca; the mourner his threnoi and elegies; the vine-dresser
had his epilenia; the herdsmen their bucolica; even the beggar his
eiresione and chelidonisma." Lyrical poetry in Greece was not produced,
like poetry in modern times, for the student, by men who find they have
a taste for versifying. It was intimately intertwined with actual life,
and was so indispensable that every town had its professional poets
and choruses, just as every church in Europe now has its organist,
of greater or less pretension. The mass of lyrical poetry which must
have existed in Greece was probably enormous. We can only compare it
to the quantity of church music that exists in Germany and Italy, in
MS. and print, good, bad, and indifferent, unknown and unexplored, so
voluminous that no one ventures to sift it or reduce it to order. Of
this large mass we possess the fragments. Just as the rocky islands of
the Ægean Archipelago testify to the existence of a submerged tract
of mountain heights and valleys, whose summits alone appear above
the waves, so the odes of Pindar, the waifs and strays of Sappho,
Simonides, and others, are evidences of the loss we have sustained.
They prove that beneath the ocean of time and oblivion remain forever
buried stores of poetry which might have been sufficient to form the
glory of a literature less rich in masterpieces than the Greek. To
collect the fragments, to piece them together, to ponder over them
until their scattered indications offer some suggestion of the whole
which has been lost, is all that remains for the modern student.
Like the mutilated marbles of Praxiteles, chips broken off from
bass-reliefs and statues, which are disinterred from the ruins of Rome
or Herculaneum, the minutest portions of the Greek lyrists have their
value. We must be thankful for any two words of Sappho that survive in
authentic juxtaposition, for any hemistich that may be veritably styled
a relic of "some tender-hearted scroll of pure Simonides."

Chance has wrought fantastically with these relics. The lyrists,
even in classical days, fell comparatively early into neglect. They
were too condensed in language, too difficult in style, too sublime
in imagination for the pedants of the later empire. Long before its
close, Greek literature was oppressed with its own wealth; in the
words of Livy, _magnitudine laboravit sua_. Taste, too, began to
change; sophistic treatises, idyllic verses, novelettes in prose,
neat epigrams, usurped upon the grander forms of composition. The
stagnation, again, of civic life under imperial sway proved unfavorable
to the composition of national odes and to choric celebrations in
which whole peoples took a part. So disdainful in her alms-giving
has Fortune been, that she has only flung to us the epinikian odes
of Pindar; while his hymns to the gods, his processional chants, and
his funeral dirges, are lost. Young Athens, Alexandria, and Byzantium
cared, we may conceive, for poems which shed lustre on athletic sports
and horse-racing. Trainers, boxers, riders, chariot-drivers--all the
muscular section of the public--had some interest in by-gone Pythian
or Olympian victories. But who sought to preserve the antiquated
hymns to Phoebus and to Zeus, when the rites of Isis and Serapis and
the Phrygian mother were in vogue? The outspoken boldness of the
erotic and satiric lyrists stood them in bad stead. When Theodora
was exhibiting her naked charms in the arena, who could commend the
study of Anacreon in the school-room? Degeneracy of public morals and
prudery of literary taste go not unfrequently together. Therefore, the
Emperor Julian proscribed Archilochus; and what Julian proscribed,
the Christians sought to extirpate. To destroy an ode of Sappho was
a good work. Consequently, we possess no complete edition of even a
section of the works of any lyrist except Pindar: what remains of the
others has been preserved in the works of critics, anecdote-mongers,
and grammarians; who cite tantalizing passages to prove a rule in
syntax, to illustrate a legend or a custom, to exemplify a canon of
taste. Imbedded in ponderous prose, these splintered jewels escaped
the iconoclastic zeal of the monks. Thanks be to Athenæus above all
men (the author of an imaginary dialogue in fifteen bulky books on
every topic of Greek antiquity), to Longinus, to Philostratus, to
Maximus Tyrius, to Plutarch the moralist, to Stobæus, to Hephæstion,
to Herodian, and to the host of other Dryasdusts from whose heaps of
shot rubbish Bergk and his predecessors have sorted out the fragments
of extinguished stars! As a masterpiece of patient, self-denying,
scientific, exhaustive investigation, the three volumes of Bergk are
unrivalled. Every author of antiquity has been laid under contribution,
subjected to critical analysis, compared and confronted with his
fellow-witnesses. The result, reduced to the smallest possible compass,
yields a small glittering heap of pure gold-dust, a little handful of
auriferous deposit sifted from numberless river-beds, crushed from
huge masses of unfertile quartz. In our admiration of the scholar's
ingenuity, we almost forget our sorrow for so much irreparable waste.

Before proceeding to consider the justice of the time-honored division
of Greek lyrics into Æolian and Dorian, it will be well to pass in
review a few of the principal classes into which Greek choral poetry
may be divided. Only thus can any idea of its richness and variety
be formed. The old Homeric #hymnoi#, or hymns dedicated to special
deities, were intended to be sung at festivals and rhapsodical
contests. Their technical name was proemia, or preludes--preludes, that
is, to a longer recitation; and on this account, as they were chanted
by the poet himself, they were written in hexameters. With them,
therefore, we have nothing here to do. Processional hymns, or prosodia,
on the contrary, were strictly lyrical, and constituted a large portion
of the poetry of Pindar, Alcman, and Stesichorus. They were sung at
solemn festivals by troops of men and maidens walking, crowned with
olive, myrtle, bay, or oleander, to the shrines. Their style varied
with the occasion and the character of the deity to whom they were
addressed. When Hecuba led her maidens in dire necessity to the shrine
of Pallas, the prosodion was solemn and earnest. When Sophocles, with
lyre in hand, headed the chorus round the trophy of Salamis, it was
victorious and martial. If we wish to present to our mind a picture of
these processional ceremonies, we may study the frieze of the Parthenon
preserved among the Elgin Marbles. Those long lines of maidens and
young men, with baskets in their hands, with flowers and palm-branches,
with censers and sacred emblems, are marching to the sound of flutes
and lyres, and to the stately rhythms of antiphonal chanting. When they
reach the altar of the god, a halt is made; the libations are poured;
and now the music changes to a solemn and spondaic measure--for the
term spondaic seems to be derived from the fact that the libation-hymn
was composed in a grave and heavy metre of full feet. Hephæstion has
preserved a spondaic verse of Terpander which illustrates this rhythm:

    #spendômen tais Mnamas
    paisin Môsais
    kai tôi Môsarchôi
    Latous huiei.#[79]

In the age of Greek decadence the honors of the prosodion were
sometimes paid to men. Athenæus gives this lively description of
the procession which greeted Demetrius Poliorketes: "When Demetrius
returned from Leucadia and Corcyra to Athens, the Athenians received
him not only with incense and garlands and libations, but they even
sent out processional choruses, and greeted him with ithyphallic hymns
and dances: stationed by his chariot-wheels, they sang and danced and
chanted that he alone was a real god; the rest were sleeping, or were
on a journey, or did not exist; they called him son of Poseidon and
Aphrodite, eminent for beauty, universal in his goodness to mankind;
then they prayed and besought and supplicated him like a god." The hymn
which they sang may be read in Bergk, vol. iii. p. 1314. It is one of
the most interesting relics of antiquity.[80]

For the sake of its rare and curious metre alternating the iambic and
trochaic rhythms, I have faced the difficulties of translation, and
have ventured on the following version:

    See how the mightiest gods, and best-beloved
        Towards our town are winging!
    For lo, Demeter and Demetrius
        This glad day is bringing!
    She to perform her daughter's solemn rites;
        Mystic pomps attend her:
    He, joyous as a god should be, and blithe,
        Comes with laughing splendor.
    Show forth your triumph! Friends all, troop around!
        Let him shine above you!
    Be you the stars to circle him with love;
        He's the sun to love you.
    Hail, offspring of Poseidon, powerful god,
        Child of Aphrodite!
    The other gods keep far away from earth;
        Have no ears, though mighty;
    They are not, or they will not hear us wail:
        Thee our eye beholdeth;
    Not wood, not stone, but living, breathing, real,
        Thee our prayer enfoldeth.
    First give us peace! Give, dearest, for thou canst:
        Thou art Lord and Master!

    The Sphinx, who not on Thebes, but on all Greece
        Swoops to gloat and pasture;
    The Ætolian, he who sits upon his rock,
        Like that old disaster;
    He feeds upon our flesh and blood, and we
        Can no longer labor;
    For it was ever thus the Ætolian thief
        Preyed upon his neighbor;
    Him punish thou, or if not thou, then send
        Oedipus to harm him,
    Who'll cast this Sphinx down from his cliff of pride,
        Or to stone will charm him.

A special kind of prosodia were the Parthenia, or processional hymns
of maidens; such, for example, as the Athenian girls sang to Pallas
while they climbed the staircase of the Parthenon. Aristophanes has
presented us with a beautiful example of antiphonal Parthenia at
the end of his _Lysistrata_, where choruses of Athenian and Spartan
girls sing turn and turn about in rivalry. Alcman won his laurels at
Sparta by the composition of this kind of hymn. A fragment (Bergk,
p. 842) only remains to show what they were like: "No more, ye
honey-voiced, sweet-singing maidens, can my limbs support me: oh,
oh, that I were a cerylus, who skims the flower of the sea with
halcyons, of a dauntless heart, the sea-blue bird of spring!" Such
Parthenia, when addressed to Phoebus, were called Daphnephorica; for
the maidens carried laurel-branches to his shrine. A more charming
picture cannot be conceived than that which is presented to our fancy
by these white-robed virgins, each with her rod of bay and crown of
laurel-leaves, ascending the marble steps of the temple of the Dorian
god. John Lyly, who had imbibed the spirit of Greek life, has written a
hymn, "Sing to Apollo, god of day!" which might well have been used at
such a festival.

The prosodia of which we have been speaking were addressed to all
the gods. But there were other choric hymns with special names,
consecrated to the service of particular deities. Of this sort was the
pæan, sung to Phoebus in his double character of a victorious and
a healing god. The pæan was both a song of war and of peace; it was
the proper accompaniment of the battle and the feast. In like manner
the hyporchem, which, as its name implies, was always accompanied
by a dance, originally formed a portion of the cult of Phoebus. The
chorus described in the _Iliad_, xviii. 590, and the glorious pageant
of Olympus celebrated in the _Hymn to Apollo_, 186, were, technically
speaking, hyporchems. As the pæan and the hyporchem were originally
consecrated to Apollo, so the dithyramb and the phallic hymn belonged
to Dionysus. The dithyramb never lost the tempestuous and enthusiastic
character of Bacchic revelry; but in time it grew from being a wild
celebration of the mystic sufferings of Bacchus into the sublime art
of tragedy. Arion forms the point of this transition. He seems to
have thrown a greater reality of passion and dramatic action into
his choruses, which led to the introduction of dialogue, and so by
degrees to tragedy proper. Meanwhile the dithyramb, as a tumultuous
choric song, retained its individual existence. As Arion had devoted
his genius to the cultivation of the tragic or cyclic chorus, Lasos,
the master of Pindar, stamped his own style upon the dithyrambic ode
as it continued to be used at festive meetings. Every town in Greece
had its chorodidascalus, a functionary whom Aristophanes ridicules in
the person of Kinesias in the _Birds_.[81] He is introduced warbling
the wildest, windiest nonsense, and entreating to have a pair of
wings given him that he may chase his airy ideas through the sky.
The phallic hymn, from which in like manner comedy took its origin,
was a mad outpouring of purely animal exultation. Here the wine-god
was celebrated as the pleasure-loving, drunken, lascivious deity.
Aristophanes, again, our truest source of information respecting all
the details of Greek life, supplies us with an instance of one of these
songs, and of the simple rites which accompanied its performance.[82]
In the _Frogs_, also, the Master of Comedy has presented us with an
elaborate series of Bacchic hymns.[83] Here the phallic and satyric
element is combined with something of the grandeur of the dithyrambic
ode; the curious mixture of sarcasm, obscenity, and splendid
poetry offers a striking instance of Greek religious feeling, so
incomprehensible to modern minds. It is greatly to be regretted that
our information respecting the dithyramb and the phallic chorus has to
be obtained from a dramatic poet rather than from any perfect specimens
of these compositions. Bergk's Collection, full as it is, yields
nothing but hints and fragments.[84]

Passing to the lyrics, which were connected with circumstances of human
life, the first to be mentioned are epinikia, or odes sung in honor of
victors at the games. Of these, in the splendid series of Pindar and in
the fragments of Simonides, we have abundant examples. We are also able
to trace their development from the simple exclamation of #tênella ô
kallinike#,[85] the composition of which was ascribed to Archilochus,
and which Pindar looked back upon with scornful triumph. Indeed, in his
hands, to use the phrase of Wordsworth, "the thing became a trumpet,
whence he blew soul-animating strains." The epinikian ode was the most
costly and splendid flower in the victor's wreath. Pindar compares
the praise which he pours forth for Diagoras the Rhodian to noblest
wine foaming in the golden goblet, which a father gives to honor his
son-in-law, the prime and jewel of his treasure-house.

The occasions on which such odes were sung were various--either when
the victor was being crowned, or when he was returning to his native
city, or by torchlight during the evening of the victorious day, or at
a banquet after his reception in his home. On one of these occasions
the poet would appear with his trained band of singers and musicians,
and, taking his stand by the altar of the god to whom the victor
offered a thanksgiving sacrifice, would guide the choric stream of
song through strophe and antistrophe and epode, in sonorous labyrinths
of eulogy and mythological allusion--prayer, praise, and admonition
mingling with the fumes of intoxicating poetry. Of all these occasions
the most striking must have been the commemoration of a victory in
the temple of Zeus at Altis, near Olympia, by moonlight. The contest
has taken place during the day; and the olive-wreath has been placed
upon the head, say, of Myronides, from Thebes. Having rested from his
labors, after the bath and the banquet, crowned with his victorious
garland and with fillets bound about his hair, he stands surrounded
by his friends. Zeus, in ivory and gold, looks down from his marble
pedestal. Through the open roof shines a moon of the south, glancing
aslant on statue and column and carved bass-relief; while below, the
red glare of torches, paling its silver, flickers with fitful crimson
on the glowing faces of young men. Then swells the choral hymn, with
praise of Myronides and praise of Thebes, and stormy flights of
fancy shooting beyond sun and stars. At its close follow libation,
dedication, hands upraised in prayer to Zeus. Then the trampling of
sandalled feet upon the marble floor, the procession with songs still
sounding to the temple-gate, and on a sudden, lo! the full moon, the
hills and plain and solemn night of stars. The band disperses, and the
Comus succeeds to the thanksgiving.

As a contrast to the epinikia we may take the different kinds of
threnoi, or funeral songs. The most primitive was called epikedeion,
a dirge or coronach, improvised by women over the bodies of the
dead.[86] The lamentations of Helen and Andromache for Hector, and
of the slave-girls for Patroclus, are Homeric instances of this
species. Euripides imitates them in his tragedies--in the dirge sung
by Antigone, for instance, in the _Phoenissæ_, and in the wailings
of Hecuba for Astyanax in the _Troades_. A different kind of threnos
were the songs of Linus, Hyacinth, Adonis, and others, to which I
have already alluded in the beginning of this chapter. The finest
extant specimen of this sort is Bion's _Lament for Adonis_, which,
however, was composed in the idyllic age, when the hexameter had been
substituted for the richer and more splendid lyric metres. A third
class of threnos consisted of complex choral hymns composed by poets
like Simonides or Pindar, to be sung at funeral solemnities. Many of
our most precious lyric fragments, those which embody philosophical
reflections on life and dim previsions of another world, belong to
dirges of this elaborate kind.

Marriage festivals offered another occasion for lyric poetry. The
hymeneal, sung during the wedding ceremony, the epithalamium, chanted
at the house of the bridegroom, and many other species, have been
defined by the grammarians. Unfortunately we possess nothing but the
merest _débris_ of any true Greek ode of this kind. Sappho's are
the best. We have to study the imitations of her style in Catullus,
the marriage chorus at the end of the _Birds_ of Aristophanes, and
the epithalamium of Helen by Theocritus, in order to form a remote
conception of what a Sapphic marriage chorus might have been. In
banquet songs we are more fortunate. Abundant are the paroenia of
Alcæus, Anacreon, Theognis, and others. Scolia, or catches, so called
from their irregular metrical structure, were also in vogue at
banquets; and of these popular songs a sufficient number are preserved.
A drunken passage in the works of Aristophanes brings before us
after a lively fashion the ceremonies with which the scolion and the
wine-cup circled the symposium together.[87] Of all these catches the
most celebrated in ancient days was the panegyric of Harmodius and
Aristogeiton, attributed to Callistratus. As I have the opportunity
of printing from MS. a translation of this song by the late Professor
Conington, I will introduce it here:

    In a wreath of myrtle I'll wear my glaive,
    Like Harmodius and Aristogeiton brave,
      Who, striking the tyrant down,
      Made Athens a freeman's town.

    Harmodius, our darling, thou art not dead!
    Thou liv'st in the isles of the blest, 'tis said,
      With Achilles first in speed,
      And Tydides Diomede.

    In a wreath of myrtle I'll wear my glaive,
    Like Harmodius and Aristogeiton brave,
      When the twain on Athena's day
      Did the tyrant Hipparchus slay.

    For aye shall your fame in the land be told,
    Harmodius and Aristogeiton bold,
      Who, striking the tyrant down,
      Made Athens a freeman's town.

The whole collection of scolia in Bergk (pp. 1287-1296) is full of
interest, since these simple and popular songs carry us back more
freshly than elaborate poems to the life of the Greeks. One of these,
attributed to Simonides, sums up the qualities which a Greek most

    #hygiainein men ariston andri thnatôi,
    deuteron de phyan kalon genesthai,
    to triton de ploutein adolôs,
    kai to tetarton hêban meta tôn philôn.#[88]

Unlike Solomon, when asked what he would take from the Lord as a gift,
the Greek poet does not answer Wisdom, but first Health, secondly
Beauty, thirdly Wealth untainted by fraud, and fourthly Youth in the
society of friends. The last thought of this little poem is expanded
very beautifully in another scolion:

    #syn moi pine, synêba, synera, systephanêphorei,
    syn moi mainomenôi maineo, syn sôphroni sôphronei#:

"Drink with me, be young with me, love with me, wear crowns with me,
when I am mad be mad with me, be wise with me when I am wise." The verb
#synêban# is almost untranslatable. Of another kind is the scolion
of Hybrias the Cretan, translated thus into English verse by Thomas

    My wealth's a burly spear and brand,
    And a right good shield of hides untanned,
        Which on my arm I buckle:
    With these I plough, I reap, I sow,
    With these I make the sweet vintage flow,
        And all around me truckle.

    But your wights that take no pride to wield
    A massy spear and well-made shield,
        Nor joy to draw the sword:
    Oh, I bring those heartless, hapless drones,
    Down in a trice on their marrow-bones,
        To call me king and lord.

This catch brings before our eyes in a very lively picture the lawless
Freiherr of early Dorian barbarism. Another species of the scolion is
more sentimental: "Would that I were a fair lyre of ivory, and that
fair boys bore me to the Bacchic Choir; would that I were a fair,
new, and mighty golden jar, and that a fair woman bore me with a
pure heart." Again, we find moral precepts in these catches. "Whoso
betrayeth not a friend hath great honor among men and gods, according
to my mind."

While on the subject of scolia, it will not do to pass over the most
splendid specimen we have in this order of composition. It is a
fragment from Pindar (Bergk, p. 327), to translate which, I feel, is

    O soul, 'tis thine in season meet,
    To pluck of love the blossom sweet,
        When hearts are young:
    But he who sees the blazing beams,
    The light that from _that_ forehead streams,
        And is not stung;--
    Who is not storm-tost with desire,--
    Lo! he, I ween, with frozen fire,
    Of adamant or stubborn steel,
    Is forged in his cold heart that cannot feel.

    Disowned, dishonored, and denied
    By Aphrodite glittering-eyed,
        He either toils
    All day for gold, a sordid gain,
    Or bent beneath a woman's reign,
        In petty broils,
    Endures her insolence, a drudge,
    Compelled the common path to trudge;
    But I, apart from this disease,
    Wasting away like wax of holy bees,
    Which the sun's splendor wounds, do pine,
    Whene'er I see the young-limbed bloom divine
    Of boys. Lo! look you well; for here in Tenedos,
    Grace and Persuasion dwell in young Theoxenos.

Of the many different kinds of lyric poetry consecrated to love and
intended for recitation by single musicians, it is not possible to give
a strict account. That the Greeks cultivated the serenade is clear
from a passage in the _Ecclesiazusæ_ of Aristophanes, which contains
a graceful though gross specimen of this kind of song. The children's
songs (Bergk, 1303-1307) about flowers, tortoises, and hobgoblins are
too curiously illustrative of Greek manners not to merit a passing
notice, nor can I here omit a translation of the only Swallow-song
preserved to us. Athenæus, to whom we owe this curious relic, localizes
the Chelidonisma in Rhodes, referring it particularly to the district
of Lindus.[89] In spring time the children went round the town,
collecting doles and presents from house to house, and singing as they

    She is here, she is here, the swallow!
    Fair seasons bringing, fair years to follow!
          Her belly is white,
          Her back black as night!
          From your rich house
          Roll forth to us
          Tarts, wine, and cheese:
          Or if not these,
          Oatmeal and barley-cake
          The swallow deigns to take.

    What shall we have? or must we hence away?
    Thanks, if you give; if not, we'll make you pay!
          The house-door hence we'll carry;
          Nor shall the lintel tarry;
          From hearth and home your wife we'll rob;
          She is so small,
          To take her off will be an easy job!
    Whate'er you give, give largess free!
    Up! open, open to the swallow's call!
    No grave old men, but merry children we!

After this lengthy, but far from exhaustive, enumeration of the kinds
and occasions of lyrical poetry in Greece, we may turn to consider
the different parts played in their cultivation by the several chief
families of Hellas. It is remarkable that all the great writers of
elegies and iambics were Ionians; Theognis of Megara is the only Dorian
whose genuine poems are celebrated; and against his we have to set
the bulk of Solon, Mimnermus, Phocylides, Callinus, and Tyrtæus, all
Ionians.[90] Not a single Dorian poet seems to have composed iambics,
the rigid discipline and strong sense of decorum in a Dorian state
probably rendering the cultivation of satire impossible. We are told
that the Spartans would not even suffer Archilochus to lodge as a
stranger among them. But when we turn to lyric poetry--to the poetry of
stanzas and strophes--the two other families of the Greeks, the Æolians
and the Dorians, take the lead. As a Dorian was exceptional among
the elegists, so now an Ionian will be comparatively rare among the
lyrists. So great was the æsthetical conservatism of the Greeks that
throughout their history their primitive distinctions of dialect are
never lost sight of. When the Athenians developed tragedy, they wrote
their iambics in pure Attic, but they preserved a Dorian tone in their
choruses. The epic hexameter and the elegy, on the other hand, retained
an Ionian character to the last.

The paths struck out by the Æolians and Dorians in the domain of lyric
poetry were so different as to justify us in speaking of two distinct
species. When Milton in the _Paradise Regained_ catalogued the poetical
achievements of the Greeks, he assigned their true place to these two
species in the line--

    Æolian charms and Dorian lyric odes.

The poets and poetesses of the Ægean Islands cultivated a rapid and
effusive style, polishing their passionate stanzas so exquisitely that
they well deserve the name of charms. The Dorian poets, inspired by a
graver and more sustained imagination, composed long and complex odes
for the celebration of gods and heroes. The Æolian singer dwelt on his
own joys and sorrows; the Dorian bard addressed some deity, or told the
tales of demigods and warriors. The Æolian chanted his stanzas to the
lyre or flute; the Dorian trained a chorus, who gave utterance to his
verse in dance and song.

Though the Æolians were the eldest family of the Hellenic stock, their
language retaining more than any other dialect the primitive character
of the Greek tongue, yet they never rose to such historical importance
as the Dorians and Ionians. Geographically they were scattered in
such a way as to have no definite centre. We find Æolians in Elis, in
Boeotia, in Lesbos, and on the Asian sea-coast south of the Troad.
But in course of time the Æolians of Elis and Boeotia were almost
identified with the Dorians as allies of Sparta, while the Æolians of
Lesbos and Asia merged themselves in the Athenian empire. Politically,
mentally, and morally, they showed less activity than their cousins of
the blood of Dorus and Ion. They produced no law-givers like Lycurgus
and Solon; they had no metropolis like Sparta and Athens; they played
no prominent part in the struggle with Persia, or in the Peloponnesian
war. In the later days of Greece, Thebes, when Dorized by contact with
the Spartans, for a short time headed Greece, and flourished with
brief splendor. But it would not be accurate to give to the Æolian
character the credit of the fame of Thebes at that advanced period.
Yet, for a certain space of time, the Æolians occupied the very
foreground of Greek literature, and blazed out with a brilliance of
lyrical splendor that has never been surpassed. There seems to have
been something passionate and intense in their temperament, which made
the emotions of the Dorian and the Ionian feeble by comparison. Lesbos,
the centre of Æolian culture, was the island of overmastering passions:
the personality of the Greek race burned there with a fierce and
steady flame of concentrated feeling. The energies which the Ionians
divided between pleasure, politics, trade, legislation, science, and
the arts, and which the Dorians turned to war and state-craft and
social economy, were restrained by the Æolians within the sphere of
individual emotions, ready to burst forth volcanically. Nowhere in
any age of Greek history, or in any part of Hellas, did the love of
physical beauty, the sensibility to radiant scenes of nature, the
consuming fervor of personal feeling, assume such grand proportions and
receive so illustrious an expression as they did in Lesbos. At first
this passion blossomed into the most exquisite lyrical poetry that the
world has known: this was the flower-time of the Æolians, their brief
and brilliant spring. But the fruit it bore was bitter and rotten.
Lesbos became a byword for corruption. The passions which for a moment
had flamed into the gorgeousness of art, burning their envelope of
words and images, remained a mere furnace of sensuality, from which
no expression of the divine in human life could be expected. In this
the Lesbian poets were not unlike the Provençal troubadours, who made
a literature of love, or the Venetian painters, who based their art
upon the beauty of color, the voluptuous charms of the flesh. In each
case the motive of enthusiastic passion sufficed to produce a dazzling
result. But as soon as its freshness was exhausted there was nothing
left for art to live on, and mere decadence to sensuality ensued.

Several circumstances contributed to aid the development of lyric
poetry in Lesbos. The customs of the Æolians permitted more social
and domestic freedom than was common in Greece. Æolian women were
not confined to the harem like Ionians, or subjected to the rigorous
discipline of the Spartans. While mixing freely with male society, they
were highly educated, and accustomed to express their sentiments to an
extent unknown elsewhere in history--until, indeed, the present time.
The Lesbian ladies applied themselves successfully to literature. They
formed clubs for the cultivation of poetry and music. They studied the
arts of beauty, and sought to refine metrical forms and diction. Nor
did they confine themselves to the scientific side of art. Unrestrained
by public opinion, and passionate for the beautiful, they cultivated
their senses and emotions, and indulged their wildest passions. All
the luxuries and elegances of life which that climate and the rich
valleys of Lesbos could afford were at their disposal; exquisite
gardens, where the rose and hyacinth spread perfume; river-beds ablaze
with the oleander and wild pomegranate; olive-groves and fountains,
where the cyclamen and violet flowered with feathery maiden-hair;
pine-tree-shadowed coves, where they might bathe in the calm of a
tideless sea; fruits such as only the southern sun and sea-wind can
mature; marble cliffs, starred with jonquil and anemone in spring,
aromatic with myrtle and lentisk and samphire and wild rosemary through
all the months; nightingales that sang in May; temples dim with dusky
gold and bright with ivory; statues and frescos of heroic forms. In
such scenes as these the Lesbian poets lived, and thought of love. When
we read their poems, we seem to have the perfumes, colors, sounds, and
lights of that luxurious land distilled in verse. Nor was a brief but
biting winter wanting to give tone to their nerves, and, by contrast
with the summer, to prevent the palling of so much luxury on sated
senses. The voluptuousness of Æolian poetry is not like that of Persian
or Arabian art. It is Greek in its self-restraint, proportion, tact.
We find nothing burdensome in its sweetness. All is so rhythmically
and sublimely ordered in the poems of Sappho that supreme art lends
solemnity and grandeur to the expression of unmitigated passion.

The world has suffered no greater literary loss than the loss of
Sappho's poems. So perfect are the smallest fragments preserved in
Bergk's _Collection_--the line, for example (p. 890), #êros angelos
imerophônos aêdôn#,[91] which Ben Jonson fancifully translated, "the
dear glad angel of the spring, the nightingale"--that we muse in a
sad rapture of astonishment to think what the complete poems must
have been. Among the ancients Sappho enjoyed a unique renown. She
was called "The Poetess," as Homer was called "The Poet." Aristotle
quoted without question a judgment that placed her in the same rank
as Homer and Archilochus. Plato in the _Phædrus_ mentioned her as the
tenth muse. Solon, hearing one of her poems, prayed that he might not
see death till he had learned it. Strabo speaks of her genius with
religious awe. Longinus cites her love-ode as a specimen of poetical
sublimity. The epigrammatists call her Child of Aphrodite and Eros,
nursling of the Graces and Persuasion, pride of Hellas, peer of Muses,
companion of Apollo. Nowhere is a hint whispered that her poetry was
aught but perfect. As far as we can judge, these praises were strictly
just. Of all the poets of the world, of all the illustrious artists
of all literatures, Sappho is the one whose every word has a peculiar
and unmistakable perfume, a seal of absolute perfection and inimitable
grace. In her art she was unerring. Even Archilochus seems commonplace
when compared with her exquisite rarity of phrase.

About her life--her brother Charaxus, her daughter Cleis, her rejection
of Alcæus and her suit to Phaon, her love for Atthis and Anactoria,
her leap from the Leucadian cliff--we know so very little, and that
little is so confused with mythology and turbid with the scandal of
the comic poets, that it is not worth while to rake up once again
the old materials for hypothetical conclusions. There is enough of
heart-devouring passion in Sappho's own verse without the legends of
Phaon and the cliff of Leucas. The reality casts all fiction into the
shade; for nowhere, except, perhaps, in some Persian or Provençal
love-songs, can be found more ardent expressions of overmastering
emotion. Whether addressing the maidens, whom even in Elysium, as
Horace says, Sappho could not forget; or embodying the profounder
yearnings of an intense soul after beauty, which has never on earth
existed, but which inflames the hearts of noblest poets, robbing their
eyes of sleep and giving them the bitterness of tears to drink--these
dazzling fragments,

    Which still, like sparkles of Greek fire,
    Burn on through time and ne'er expire,

are the ultimate and finished forms of passionate utterance, diamonds,
topazes, and blazing rubies, in which the fire of the soul is
crystallized forever. Adequately to translate Sappho was beyond the
power of even Catullus: that love-ode which Longinus called "not one
passion, but a congress of passions," and which a Greek physician
copied into his book of diagnoses as a compendium of all the symptoms
of corroding emotion, appears but languid in its Latin dress of "Ille
mi par." Far less has any modern poet succeeded in the task: Rossetti,
who deals so skilfully with Dante and Villon, is comparatively tame
when he approaches Sappho. Instead of attempting, therefore, to
interpret for English readers the charm of Sappho's style,[92] it is
best to refer to pp. 874-924 of Bergk, where every vestige that is left
of her is shrined.

Beside Sappho, Alcæus pales. His drinking-songs and war-songs have,
indeed, great beauty; but they are not to be named in the same breath,
for perfection of style, with the stanzas of Sappho. Of his life we
know a few not wholly uninteresting incidents. He was a noble of
Mitylene, the capital of Lesbos, where he flourished as early as 611
B.C. Alcæus belonged to a family of distinguished men. His brothers
Cicis and Antimenidas upheld the party of the oligarchy against the
tyrant Melanchrus; and during the troubles which agitated Mitylene
after the fall of this despot, while other petty tyrants--Myrsilus,
Megalagyrus, and the Cleanactids--were attempting to subdue the island,
the three brothers ranged themselves uniformly on the side of the
aristocracy. At first they seem to have been friendly with Pittacus.
It was while fighting at his side against the Athenians at Sigeum that
Alcæus threw his shield away--- an exploit which, like Archilochus,
he celebrated in a poem without apparently damaging his reputation
for valor. Being a stout soldier, a violent partisan, the bard of
revolutions, and the brother of a pair of heroes, he could trifle with
this little accident, which less doughty warriors must have concealed.
When Pittacus was chosen Æsymnetes, or dictator with despotic power for
the preservation of public order, in 589 B.C., Alcæus and his brothers
went into opposition and were exiled. All three of them were what
in modern politics we should call High Tories. They could not endure
the least approach to popular government, the slightest infringement
of the rights of the nobility. During his exile Alcæus employed his
poetic faculty in vituperating Pittacus. His satires were esteemed
almost as pungent as those of Archilochus. But the liberal-minded ruler
did not resent them. When Alcæus was on one occasion taken prisoner,
he set him free, remarking that "forgiveness is better than revenge."
Alcæus lived to be reconciled with him and to recognize his merits.
As a trait in the domestic life and fortunes of the Greeks of this
time, it is worth mentioning that Alcæus took refuge in Egypt during
his banishment from Lesbos, and that his brother Antimenidas entered
the service of the king of Babylon. In the same way two Englishmen in
the times of the Edwards might have travelled in Germany or become
soldiers of the Republic of Florence. Of the Greek oligarch who lent
his sword to Nebuchadnezzar--in his wars, perhaps, against Jehoiakim
or Pharaoh-Necho--we get a curious glimpse. Alcæus greeted him on his
return in a poem of which we possess a fragment, and which may be
paraphrased thus:

    From the ends of the earth thou art come
    Back to thy home;
    The ivory hilt of thy blade
    With gold is embossed and inlaid;
    Since for Babylon's host a great deed
    Thou didst work in their need,
    Slaying a warrior, an athlete of might,
    Royal, whose height
    Lacked of five cubits one span--
    A terrible man.

We can fancy with what delight and curiosity Alcæus, who, as may
be gathered from his poems, was an amateur of armor, examined this
sword-handle, wrought perhaps from Ethiopian tusks by Egyptian artists,
with lotos-flowers or patterns of crocodiles, monkeys, and lions. This
story of the polished Greek citizen's adventure among the Jews and
Egyptians, known to us through Holy Writ, touches our imagination with
the same strange sense of novelty as when we read of the Persian poet
Sâdy, a slave in the camp of Richard Coeur de Lion's Crusaders.

Considering the life Alcæus led, it is not strange that he should
have sung of arms and civic struggles. Many fragments, preserved in
all probability from the _Stasiotica_, or Songs of Sedition, which
were very popular among the ancients, throw light upon the stormier
passages of his history. One of these pieces[93] describes the poet's
armory--his polished helmets and white horse-hair plumes, the burnished
brazen greaves that hang upon the wall, the linen breastplates and
bucklers thrown in heaps about the floor, with Chalkidian blades and
girdles and tunics. The most striking point about this fragment is its
foppery. Alcæus spares no pains to make us know how bright his armor
is, how carefully his greaves are fixed against the wall by pegs you
cannot see (#passalois kryptoisi perikeimenai#), how carelessly the
girdles and small gear are tossed about in sumptuous disarray. The poem
seems to reveal a luxurious nature delighting in military millinery. No
Dorian would have described his weapons from this point of view, but
would have rather told us how often they had been used with effect in
the field. The Æolian character is here tempered with Orientalism.

Of the erotic poems of Alcæus, only a very few and inconsiderable
fragments have survived. Horace says of them, addressing his lyre:

    Lesbio primum modulate civi,
    Qui ferox bello, tamen inter arma,
    Sive jactatam religârat udo
        Littore navim,
    Liberum et Musas Veneremque et illi
    Semper hærentem puerum canebat;
    Et Lycum nigris oculis nigroque
        Crine decorum.[94]

Of Lycus we only know, on the authority of Cicero,[95] that he had
a wart upon the finger, which Alcæus praised in one of his poems.
It has also been conjectured that the line #oinos, ô phile pai,
kai alathea#--"wine, dear boy, and truth"--which Theocritus quotes
as a proverb at the beginning of his Æolic Idyl, was addressed to
Lycus. A fragment of far greater interest is the couplet preserved
by Hephæstion,[96] in which Alcæus calls on Sappho by her name:
"Violet-crowned, pure, sweet-smiling Sappho! I want to say something,
but shame prevents me." To this declaration Sappho replied: "If thy
wishes were fair and noble, and thy tongue designed not to utter what
is base, shame would not cloud thine eyes, but thou wouldst speak thy
just desires." This is all we know about the love-passages between the
greatest lyrists of the Æolian school. In this way do the ancient
critics tantalize us. Aristotle,[97] in order to illustrate a moral
proposition, Hephæstion, with a view to proving a metrical rule, fling
these scraps of their wealth forth, little dreaming that after twenty
centuries the men of new nations and other thoughts will eagerly
collect the scraps, and long for more of that which might have been so
freely lavished. Whether Sappho wrote her reply in maidenly modesty
because the advances of Alcæus were really dishonorable, or whether she
affected indignation to conceal a personal dislike for the poet, we
cannot say. Aristotle or Hephæstion might, probably, have been able to
tell us. But the one was only thinking of the signs of shame, while the
attention of the other was riveted upon the "so-called _dodecasyllable

The most considerable remains of the lyrics of Alcæus are
drinking-songs--praises of wine, combined with reflections upon life
and appropriate descriptions of the different seasons. No time was
amiss for drinking, to his mind: the heat of summer, the cold of
winter, the blazing dog-star and the driving tempest, twilight with
its cheerful gleam of lamps, mid-day with its sunshine--all suggest
reasons for indulging in the cup. Not that we are justified in fancying
Alcæus to have been a vulgar toper: he retained Æolian sumptuousness in
his pleasures, and raised the art of drinking to an æsthetic altitude.
One well-known piece from the _Paroenia_ of Alcæus is capable of
translation into Elizabethan rhymed verse as follows:

    The rain of Zeus descends, and from high heaven
          A storm is driven:
    And on the running water-brooks the cold
          Lays icy hold:
    Then up! beat down the winter; make the fire
          Blaze high and higher;
    Mix wine as sweet as honey of the bee
    Then drink with comfortable wool around
          Your temples bound.
    We must not yield our hearts to woe, or wear
          With wasting care;
    For grief will profit us no whit, my friend,
          Nor nothing mend:
    But this is our best medicine, with wine fraught
          To cast out thought.

The debt of Horace to Alcæus must have been immense. The fragment
just translated is the original of the ninth ode of the first book.
The fragment on the death of Myrsilus, #nyn chrê methysthên#, shows
where Horace found the model for the last ode of the first book.
Again, "O navis referent" (Hor., _Carm._, i. 14) is based on an ode
of the Lesbian poet of which we possess a fragment.[98] Between the
temperaments of Horace and of Alcæus, as between those of Catullus and
of Sappho, there were marked similarities and correspondences. The
poetry of both Horace and Alcæus was polished rather than profound,
admirably sketched rather than richly colored, more graceful than
intense, less passionate than reflective. In Sappho and Catullus, on
the other hand, we meet with richer and more ardent natures: they are
endowed with keener sensibilities, with a sensuality more noble because
of its intensity, with emotions more profound, with a deeper faculty of
thought, that never loses itself in the shallows of "Stoic-Epicurean
acceptance," but simply and exquisitely apprehends the facts of human
life. Where Horace talks of Orcus and the Urn, Catullus sings:

    Soles occidere et redire possunt,
    Nobis cum semel occidit brevis lux
    Nox est perpetua una dormienda.

This contrast between the polished sententiousness of Horace and the
pathetic outcry of Catullus marks the difference between two classes
of poets to whom Horace and Alcæus, Sappho and Catullus, respectively

Of the other Lesbian poets, Erinna and Damophila, we know but little:
the one survives in a single epigram--if we reject the epitaphs on
Baucis; the other is a mere name. It is noticeable that of the four
Lesbian poets three are women. We may remember that in Thebes, which
was also an Æolian city, Myrtis and Corinna rivalled Pindar.

To the list of Æolian poets, Anacreon, though an Ionian by birth and
an Ionian in temperament, is generally added, because he cultivated
the lyrical stanza of personal emotion. Into the Æolian style Anacreon
introduced a new and uncongenial element. His passion had none of
Sappho's fiery splendor, none of the haughtiness and restlessness which
distinguished Alcæus. There was a vein of levity, almost of vulgarity,
in the Ionians, which removed them from the altitudes of Dorian heroism
and Æolian enthusiasm. This tincture of flippancy is discernible in
Anacreon. Life and love come easily to him. The roses keep no secrets
for his ears, such as they told to Sappho: they serve very well for
garlands when he drinks, and have a pleasant smell, especially in
myrrh. The wine-cup does not suggest to him variety of seasons--the
frozen streams of winter, the parched breath of the dog-star--as with
Alcæus: he tipples and gets drunk. His loves, too, are facile--neither
permanent nor tempestuous. The girls and boys of whom he sings were
flute-players and cupbearers, servants of a tyrant, _instrumenta
libidinis_, chosen for their looks, as the poet had been selected for
the sweetness of his lyre with twenty chords. He never felt the furnace
of Sappho, whose love, however criminal in the estimation of modern
moralists, was serious and of the soul. The difference between the
lives of these three lyrists is very striking. Alcæus was a politician
and party leader. Sappho was the centre of a free society of female
poets. Anacreon was the courtier and laureate of tyrants. He won his
first fame with Polycrates, at whose death Hipparchus fetched him to
Athens in a trireme of fifty oars. Between Bacchus and Venus he spent
his days in palaces; and died at the ripe age of eighty-five at Teos,
choked, it is reported, by a grape-stone--a hoary-headed _roué_, for
whom the rhyme of the mediæval Arcipoeta might have been written:

    Meum est propositum,
    In taberna mori, etc.

It need not be remarked that of the genuine poems of Anacreon we
possess but few (pp. 1011-1045 of Bergk). His great popularity in
Greece led to innumerable imitations of his lighter style.[99] These
are fully preserved in Bergk's _Collection_ (pp. 1046-1108).

The Dorian style offers a marked contrast to the Æolian. In the case of
the Ionian satirists and elegists, and in that of the Æolian lyrists,
the national peculiarities of the art resulted from national qualities
in the artists. This is not the case with the so-called Dorian poets.
The great lyrists of this school are, with one exception, of extraction
foreign to the Dorian tribe. Alcman was a Lydian; Stesichorus
acknowledged an Ionian colony for his fatherland; Arion was a Lesbian;
Simonides and Bacchylides were Ionian; Pindar was Boeotian; Ibycus of
Rhegium alone was a Dorian. Why, then, is the style called Dorian?
Because the poets, though not Dorian by birth, wrote for Dorian patrons
in the land of Dorians, to add splendor to ceremonies and solemnities
in vogue among the Dorians. The distinctive features of this, the most
sublime branch of Greek lyrical poetry, have been already hinted at:
these elaborate choral hymns, in which strophe answers to antistrophe,
and epode to epode, chanted by bands of singers and accompanied at
times by dancing, were designed to give expression, no longer to
personal emotions, but to the feelings of great congregations of men
engaged in the celebration of gods and heroes and illustrious mortals.
Why this species of choral poetry received the patronage and name of
the Dorian tribe may be seen by glancing at the institutions peculiar
to this section of the Hellenic family. The Dorians, more than any
other Greeks, lived in common and in public. Their children were
educated, not at home, but in companies, beneath the supervision of
state-officers. Girls as well as boys submitted to gymnastic training,
and were taught to sacrifice domestic and personal to political
and social interests. Tutored to merge the individual in the mass,
habituated to associate together in large bodies, the Dorians felt no
need of venting private feeling. Their personal emotions were stunted:
they had no separate wants and wishes, aspirations and regrets,
to utter. Yet the sense of melody and harmony which was rooted so
profoundly in the Greek temperament needed some outlet even here;
while the gymnastic and athletic exercises practised by the Dorians
rendered them peculiarly sensitive, not only to the beauties of the
human body, but also to the refinements of rhythmical movement. The
spiritual enthusiasm for great and glorious actions, which formed the
soul of the Greek race, flamed with all the greater brilliancy among
Dorians, because it was not narrowed, as among the Æolians, to the
selfish passions of the individual, or diverted, as among Ionians,
to meditation or satire; but was concentrated on public interests, on
religious and heroic traditions, on all the thoughts and feelings which
stimulate a large political activity. The Dorians required a poetry
which should be public, which should admit of the participation of many
individuals, which should give utterance to national enthusiasms, which
should combine the movements of men and women in choric evolutions with
the melodies of music and the sublime words of inspired prophecy. In
brief, the Dorians needed poets able--

    "to inbreed and cherish in a great people the seeds of virtue
    and public civility, to allay the perturbations of the mind,
    and set the affections in right tune; to celebrate in glorious
    and lofty hymns the throne and equipage of God's Almightiness,
    and what he works, and what he suffers to be wrought with high
    Providence.... Lastly, whatsoever in religion is holy and
    sublime, in virtue amiable or grave; whatsoever hath passion
    or admiration in all the changes of that which is called
    fortune from without, or the wily subtleties and reflexes of
    man's thoughts from within; all these things, with a solid and
    treatable smoothness, to paint out and describe."

But here arose a difficulty. With all their need of the highest and
most elaborate poetry, with all their sensibility to beauty, the
Dorians thought it beneath the dignity of a citizen to practise the
arts. Their education, almost exclusively military and gymnastic,
unfitted them, at all events in Sparta, for studies indispensable
towards gaining proficiency in any science so elaborate as that of
choral poetry. Drilled to abstinence, obedience, and silence, dwelling
in a camp, without privacy or leisure, how could a Spartan, that
automaton of the State, be expected to produce poetry, or excel in
any fine art? A Spartan king, on being shown the most distinguished
musician of his age, pointed to his cook as the best maker of black
broth. Music, if music they must have; poetry, if poetry were required
by some divinely implanted instinct; dancing, if dancing were a
necessary compliment to the Deity, must be imported by these warriors
from foreign lands. Thus the Spartans became the patrons of stranger
artists, on whom they imposed their laws of taste. They pressed the
flexible Ionian, the passionate Lesbian, the languid Lydian, the acute
Athenian, into their service, and made them use the crabbed Dorian
speech. They said: We want such and such odes for our choruses; we
wish to amuse our youths and maidens, and to honor the gods with
pompous harmonies; you, men of art, write for us, sing for us; but be
careful to comprehend our character; and remember that, though you are
Ionians or Lesbians, your inspiration must be Dorian. They got what
they required. The so-called Dorian lyric is a genuine product of the
Dorian race, although its greatest masters were foreigners and aliens.
Much after the same fashion did England patronize Handel in the last
century; in the same way may Handel's oratorios be called English
music; for though the English are not musicians, and are diffident
in general of the artist class, yet neither Germans nor Italians nor
French have seen produced upon their soil such colossal works of art in
the service of a highly intellectual religion.

It is interesting to reflect upon the influence of the Dorian race
in the evolution of Greek art. That, as a nation, they possessed
the germs of artistic invention, and that their character expressed
itself very clearly in æsthetic forms, is evident from the existence
of the Dorian style in architecture, and the Dorian mood in music,
both of which reflect their broad simplicity and strength disdaining
ornament. The same stamp they impressed upon Greek poetry, through the
instruments they selected from other tribes. Had it not been for the
strict legislation of Lycurgus, which, by forcing Sparta into a purely
political development, and establishing a complete community of life
among the citizens, checked the emergence of that individuality which
is so all-important to the artist, Sparta might have counted her great
sculptors, poets, musicians, orators, and painters, in rivalry with
Pheidias, Sophocles, Damon, Pericles, Polygnotus. As it was, though
without hands to paint and carve, without lips to sing and plead, the
stubborn Dorian race set its seal on a wide field of Greek art.[100]

The elaborate works of the choral lyrists may be regarded as the highly
wrought expansions of rudiments already existing among the Dorians.
Alcman, Arion, and Stesichorus, the three masters who formed choral
poetry from the materials indicated to us in the poems of Homer, and
who had to blend in one harmonious whole the sister arts of dancing,
music, and poetry, so as to present a pompous appeal to the intellect
through speech, and through the ear and eye, found ready to their hands
such simple songs as may be read in Bergk, pp. 1297-1303. The dithyramb
of the women of Elis: "Come, hero, Dionysus, to the holy sea-temple,
attended by the Graces, and rushing on with oxen-hoof! Holy ox! Holy
ox!" The chorus of the old men, men, and boys at Sparta: "We once were
stalwart youths: we are; if thou likest, try our strength: we shall be;
and far better too!" The march-song of the Spartans in their rhythmic
revels: "Advance, boys, set your feet forward, and dance in the reel
better still." From these had to be trained the complex and magnificent
work of art, which culminated in a Pythian ode of Pindar! Alcman was a
native of Sardis, and a slave of Agesilaus the Spartan. He flourished
at Sparta between 671 and 631 B.C., composing Parthenia for the maidens
of Taygetus. Who does not know his lines upon the valley of Eurotas?
"Sleep holds the mountain summits and ravines, the promontories and
the watercourses; leaves, and creeping things, and whatsoever black
earth breeds; and wild beasts of the hills, and bees, and monsters
in the hollows of the dark blue deep; and all the wide-winged birds
are sleeping." Junior to Alcman was Arion, who spent most of his time
with Periander at Corinth. His contribution to choral poetry was the
elaboration of the dithyramb. But of his work we have unfortunately not
a single fragment left. The piece that bears his name (Bergk, p. 872)
has to be ascribed to some tolerable poet of the Euripidean period.
His life is involved in mythology; most beautiful is the oft-told tale
of his salvation from the sea waves by an enamoured dolphin--a fish,
by the way, which Athenæus dignified by the title of #philôidos te
kai philaulos# (song-loving and flute-loving), and which Aristotle
calls #philanthrôpos# (affectionate to men). Rather more is known
about Stesichorus. He was a native of Himera in Sicily, but possibly a
Locrian by descent. His parents called him Tisias, but he took his more
famous name from his profession. Stesichorus is a title that might have
been given to any chorus-master in a Greek city; but Tisias of Himera
won it by being emphatically the author of the choric system. Antiquity
recognized in him the inventor of strophe, antistrophe, and epode, with
the corresponding movements of the dance, which were designated the
Triad of Stesichorus. A remark made by Quintilian about this poet--that
he sustained the burden of the epos with his lyre--forms a valuable
criticism on his style. In the days of Stesichorus, the epic proper
had lost its vitality; but people still felt the liveliest interest
in heroic legends, and loved to connect the celebration of the past
with their ceremonies. A lyrical poet had therefore so to treat the
myths of Hellas that choruses should represent them in their odes and
semi-dramatic dances. It is probable that Stesichorus made far more
use of mythical material than Pindar, dealing with it less allusively
and adhering more closely to the epic form of narrative. When we hear
of his ode, the Orestea, being divided into three books (whatever
that may mean), and read the titles of the rest--Cerberus, Cycnus,
Scylla, Europa, the Sack of Troy, the Nostoi, and Geryonis--we are led
to suspect that his choral compositions were something of the nature
of mediæval mystery-plays--semi-lyrical, semi-dramatic poems, founded
on the religious legends of the past. Stesichorus did not confine
himself to this species of composition, but wrote hymns, encomia, and
pæans, like other professional lyrists who succeeded him, and invented
a curious kind of love-tale from real life. One of these romantic
poems, called Calycé, was about a girl who loved purely but unhappily,
and died. Another, called Rhadina, told the forlorn tale of a Samian
brother and sister put to death by a cruel tyrant. It is a pity that
these early Greek novels in verse are lost. We might have found in them
the fresh originals of Daphnis and Chloe, or of the romances of Tatius
and Heliodorus. Finally, Stesichorus composed fables, such as the Horse
and the Stag, and pastorals upon the death of Daphnis, in which he
proved himself true to his Sicilian origin, and anticipated Theocritus.
Enough has been said about Stesichorus to show that he was a richly
inventive genius--one of those facile and abundant natures who excel in
many branches of art, and who give hints by which posterity may profit.
Yet with all his genius he was not thoroughly successful. His pastorals
and romances were abandoned by his successors; his epical lyrics were
lost in the tragic drama. Like many other poets, he failed by coming
at a wrong moment, or else by adhering to forms of art which could not
long remain in vogue. In his attempt to reconcile the epical treatment
of mythology with the choric system of his own invention, he proved
that he had not fully grasped the capabilities of lyrical poetry. In
his endeavor to create an idyllic and romantic species, he was far
before his age.

The remaining choral poets of the Dorian style, of whom the eldest,
Ibycus, dates half a century later than Arion, received from their
predecessors an instrument of poetical expression already nearly
complete. It was their part to use it as skilfully as possible, and to
introduce such changes as might render it more polished. Excellence
of workmanship is particularly noticeable in what remains of Ibycus,
Simonides, Bacchylides. These latter lyrists are no longer local poets:
under the altered circumstances of Hellas at the time of the Persian
war, art has become Panhellenic, the artists cease to be the servants
of one state or of one deity; they range from city to city, giving
their services to all who seek for them, and embracing the various
tribes and religious rites of the collected Greeks in their æsthetic
sympathy. Now, for the first time, poets began to sell their songs
of praise for money. Simonides introduced the practice, which had
something shocking in it to Greek taste, and which Plato especially
censures as sophistic and illiberal in his _Protagoras_. Now, too,
poets became the friends and counsellors of princes, mixing freely
in the politics of Samos, Syracuse, Agrigentum, Thessaly; aiding the
tyrants Polycrates, Hiero, Theron, the Scopads, with their advice.
Simonides is said to have suspended hostilities between Theron and
Hiero by his diplomatic intercession after their armies had been drawn
up in battle-array. Petrarch did not occupy a more important place
among the princes and republics of mediæval Italy. Under these new
conditions, and with this expansion of the poet's calling, the old
character of the Dorian lyric changed. The title Dorian is now merely
nominal, and the dialect is a conventional language consecrated to this

Ibycus was a native of Rhegium, a colony of mixed Ionians and Dorians.
To which of these families he belonged is not certain. If we judged
by the internal evidence of his poems, we should call him an Ionian;
for they are distinguished by voluptuous sweetness, with a dash of
almost Æolian intensity. Ibycus was a poet-errant, carrying his songs
from state to state. The beautiful story of the cranes who led to the
discovery of his murder at Corinth, though probably mythical, like
that of Arion's dolphin, illustrates the rude lives of these Greek
troubadours, and shows in what respect the _sacer vates_, servant of
the Muses and beloved of Phoebus, was held by the people. Ibycus was
regarded by antiquity as a kind of male Sappho. His odes, composed
for birthday festivals and banquets, were dedicated chiefly to the
praise of beautiful youths; and the legends which adorned them, like
those of Ganymede or Tithonus, were appropriate to the erotic style.
Aristophanes, in the _Thesmophoriazusæ_, makes Agathon connect him
with Anacreon and Alcæus, as the three refiners of language. It is
clear, therefore, that in his art Ibycus adapted the manner of Dorian
poetry to the matter of Æolian or Ionian love-chants. Of his poetry
we have but few fragments. The following seems to strike the keynote
of his style: "Love once again looking upon me from his cloud-black
brows, with languishing glances, drives me by enchantments of all kinds
to the endless nets of Cypris: verily I tremble at his onset, as a
chariot-horse, who hath won prizes, in old age goes grudgingly to try
his speed in the swift race of cars." In another piece he compares
the onset of Love to a downrush of the Thracian north wind armed with
lightning. This fragment, numbered first in Bergk's _Collection_, is
taken from Athenæus, who quotes it to prove the vehement emotion of the

    In spring Cydonian apple-trees,
    Watered by fountains ever flowing
    Through crofts unmown of maiden goddesses,
    And young vines, 'neath the shade
    Of shooting tendrils, tranquilly are growing.
    Meanwhile for me Love never laid
    In slumber, like a north-wind glowing
    With Thracian lightnings, still doth dart
    Blood-parching madness on my heart,
    From Kupris hurtling, stormful, wild,
    Lording the man as erst the child.

It is interesting to compare the different metaphors whereby the early
lyrists imaged the assaults of the Love-god. Sappho describes him in
one place as a youth arrayed with a flame-colored chlamys descending
from heaven; in another she calls him "a limb-dissolving, bitter-sweet,
impracticable wild beast;" again, she compares the state of her soul
under the influence of love to oak-trees torn and shaken by a mountain
whirlwind. Anacreon paints a fine picture of Love like a blacksmith,
forging his soul and tempering it in icy torrents. The dubious winged
figure armed with a heavy sword, which is carved upon the recently
discovered column from the Temple of Ephesus, if he be the Love-god,
and not, as some conjecture, Death, seems to have been conceived in
the spirit of these energetic metaphors. The Greeks, at the period of
Anacreon and Ibycus, were far from having as yet imagined the baby
Cupid of Moschus, the Epigrammatists, and the Alexandrian Anacreontics.
He was still a terrible and passion-stirring power--no mere malicious
urchin coming by night with drenched wings and unstrung bow to reward
the poet's hospitality by wounding him; no naughty boy who runs away
from his mother and steals honeycombs, no bee-like elf asleep in

Simonides is a far more brilliant representative than Ibycus, both of
Greek choral poetry in its prime, and also of the whole literary life
of Hellas during the period which immediately preceded and followed
the Persian war. He was born in the island of Ceos, of pure Ionian
blood and breeding; but the Ionians of Ceos were celebrated for their
#sôphrosynê# (reserve, or self-restraint), a quality strongly marked
in the poems of Simonides. In his odes we do not trace that mixture of
Æolian passion and that concentration upon personal emotions which
are noticeable in those of Ibycus, but rather a Dorian solemnity of
thought and feeling, qualifying Simonides for the arduous functions to
which he was called, of commemorating in elegy and epigram and funeral
ode the achievements of Hellas against Persia. Simonides belonged to
a family of professional poets; for the arts among the early Greeks
were hereditary; a father taught the trade of flute-playing and
chorus-leading and verse-making to his son, who, if he had original
genius, became a great poet, as was the fate of Pindar; or, if he
were endowed with commonplace abilities, remained a journeyman in
art without discredit to himself, performing useful functions in his
native place.[101] Simonides exercised his calling of chorus-teacher
at Carthæa in Ceos, and lived at the #chorêgeion#, or resort of the
chorus, near the temple of Apollo. But the greater portion of his
life, after he had attained celebrity, was passed with patrons--with
Hipparchus, who invited him to Athens, where he dwelt at amity with
Anacreon, and at enmity with Pindar's master, Lasos; with the Scopads
and Aleuads of Thessaly, for whom he composed the most touching threnoi
and the most brilliant panegyrics, of which fragments have descended
to us; finally, with Hiero of Syracuse, who honored him exceedingly,
and when he died consigned him to the earth with princely funeral
pomp. The relations of Simonides to these patrons may be gathered from
numerous slight indications, none of which are very honorable to his
character. For instance, after receiving the hospitality of Hipparchus,
he composed an epigram for the statue of Harmodius, in which he calls
the murder of the tyrant "a great light rising upon Athens." Again, he
praised the brutal Scopas, son of Creon, in an ode which is celebrated,
both as being connected with the most dramatic incident in the poet's
life, and also as having furnished Plato with a theme for argument, and
Aristotle with an ethical quotation--"To be a good man in very truth,
a square without blame, is hard." This proposition Plato discusses
in the _Protagoras_, while Aristotle cites the phrase, #tetragônos
aneu psogou# (four-square without fault). From the general tenor of
the fragments of this ode, from Plato's criticism, and from what is
known about the coarse nature of Scopas, who is being praised, we must
conjecture that Simonides attempted to whitewash his patron's character
by depreciating the standard of morality. With Ionian facility and
courtly compliment, he made excuses for a bad man by pleading that
perfect goodness was unattainable. Scopas refused to pay the price
required by Simonides for the poem in question, telling him to get half
of it from the Dioscuri, who had also been eulogized. This was at a
banquet. While the king was laughing at his own rude jest, a servant
whispered to the poet that two goodly youths waited without, desiring
earnestly to speak with him. Simonides left the palace, but found no
one. Even as he stood looking for his visitors, he heard the crash of
beams and the groans of dying men. Scopas with his guests had been
destroyed by the falling of the roof, and Simonides had received a
godlike guerdon from the two sons of Tyndareus. This story belongs,
perhaps, to the same class as the cranes of Ibycus and the dolphin
of Arion. Yet there seems to be no doubt that the Scopad dynasty was
suddenly extinguished; for we hear nothing of them at the time of the
Persian war, and we know that Simonides composed a threnos for the

The most splendid period of the life of Simonides was that which he
passed at Athens during the great wars with Persia. Here he was the
friend of Miltiades, Themistocles, and Pausanias. Here he composed his
epigrams on Marathon, Thermopylæ, Salamis, Platæa--poems not destined
to be merely sung or consigned to parchment, but to be carved in
marble or engraved in letters of imperishable bronze upon the works
of the noblest architects and statuaries. The genius of Simonides
is unique in this branch of monumental poetry. His couplets--calm,
simple, terse, strong as the deeds they celebrate, enduring as the
brass or stone which they adorned--animated succeeding generations
of Greek patriots; they were transferred to the brains of statesmen
like Pericles and Demosthenes, inscribed upon the fleshy tablets of
the hearts of warriors like Cleomenes, Pelopidas, Epaminondas. We are
thrice fortunate in possessing the entire collection of these epigrams,
unrivalled for the magnitude of the events they celebrate, and for the
circumstances under which they were composed. When we reflect what
would have become of the civilization of the world but for these Greek
victories--when we remember that the events which these few couplets
record transcend in importance those of any other single period of
history--we are almost appalled by the contrast between the brevity of
the epigrams and the world-wide vastness of their matter. In reviewing
the life of Simonides, after admitting that he was greedy of gain and
not adverse to flattery, we are bound to confess that, as a poet, he
proved himself adequate to the age of Marathon and Salamis. He was
the voice of Hellas--the genius of Fame, sculpturing upon her brazen
shield with a pen of adamant, in austere letters of indelible gold,
the achievements to which the whole world owes its civilization. Happy
poet! Had ever any other man so splendid a heritage of song allotted to

In style Simonides is always pure and exquisitely polished. The
ancients called him the sweet poet--Melicertes--_par excellence_. His
#sôphrosynê#, or tempered self-restraint, gives a mellow tone not
merely to his philosophy and moral precepts, but also to his art.
He has none of Pindar's rugged majesty, volcanic force, gorgeous
exuberance: he does not, like Pindar, pour forth an inexhaustible
torrent of poetical ideas, chafing against each other in the eddies of
breathless inspiration. On the contrary, he works up a few thoughts,
a few carefully selected images, with patient skill, producing a
perfectly harmonious result, but one which is always bordering on
the commonplace. Like all correct poets, he is somewhat tame, though
tender, delicate, and exquisitely beautiful. Pindar electrifies his
hearer, seizing him like the eagle in Dante's vision, and bearing him
breathless through the ether of celestial flame. Simonides leads us by
the hand along the banks of pleasant rivers, through laurel groves, and
by the porticos of sunny temples. What he possesses of quite peculiar
to his own genius is pathos--the pathos of romance. This appears most
remarkably in the fragment of a threnos which describes Danaë afloat
upon the waves at night. It is with the greatest diffidence that I
offer a translation of what remains one of the most perfect pieces of
pathetic poetry in any literature:

    When, in the carven chest,
    The winds that blew and waves in wild unrest
    Smote her with fear, she, not with cheeks unwet,
    Her arms of love round Perseus set,
      And said: O child, what grief is mine!
    But thou dost slumber, and thy baby breast
    Is sunk in rest,
    Here in the cheerless brass-bound bark,
    Tossed amid starless night and pitchy dark.
      Nor dost thou heed the scudding brine
    Of waves that wash above thy curls so deep,
    Nor the shrill winds that sweep,--
    Lapped in thy purple robe's embrace,
    Fair little face!
    But if this dread were dreadful too to thee,
    Then wouldst thou lend thy listening ear to me;
    Therefore I cry,--Sleep, babe, and sea be still,
    And slumber our unmeasured ill!
      Oh, may some change of fate, sire Zeus, from thee
    Descend, our woes to end!
    But if this prayer, too overbold, offend
    Thy justice, yet be merciful to me!

The careful development of simple thoughts in Simonides may best be
illustrated by the fragment on the three hundred Spartans who died at

    "Of those who died at Thermopylæ glorious is the fate and fair
    the doom; their grave is an altar; instead of lamentation,
    they have endless fame; their dirge is a chant of praise.
    Such winding-sheet as theirs no rust, no, nor all-conquering
    time, shall bring to naught. But this sepulchre of brave men
    hath taken for its habitant the glory of Hellas. Leonidas is
    witness, Sparta's king, who hath left a mighty crown of valor
    and undying fame."

The antitheses are wrought with consummate skill; the fate of the
heroes is glorious, their doom honorable. So far the eulogy is
commonplace; then the same thought receives a bolder turn: their grave
is an altar. We do not lament for them so much as hold them in eternal
memory; our very songs of sorrow become pæans of praise. What follows
is a still further expansion of the leading theme: rust and time cannot
affect their fame; Hellas confides her glory to their tomb. Then
generalities are quitted; and Leonidas, the protagonist of Thermopylæ,

In his threnoi Simonides has generally recourse to the common grounds
of consolation, which the Ionian elegists repeat _ad nauseam_, dwelling
upon the shortness and uncertainty and ills of life, and tending rather
to depress the survivors on their own account than to comfort them for
the dead.[102] In one he says, "Short is the strength of men, and vain
are all their cares, and in their brief life trouble follows upon
trouble; and death, that no man shuns, is hung above our heads--for
him both good and bad share equally." It is impossible, while reading
this lachrymose lament, to forget the fragment of that mighty threnos
of Pindar's which sounds like a trumpet-blast for immortality, and,
trampling under feet the glories of this world, reveals the gladness of
the souls who have attained Elysium:

          For them the night all through,
          In that broad realm below,
    The splendor of the sun spreads endless light;
          'Mid rosy meadows bright,
    Their city of the tombs with incense-trees,
          And golden chalices
          Of flowers, and fruitage fair,
          Scenting the breezy air,
    Is laden. There with horses and with play,
    With games and lyres, they while the hours away.

          On every side around
          Pure happiness is found,
    With all the blooming beauty of the world;
          There fragrant smoke, upcurled
    From altars where the blazing fire is dense
          With perfumed frankincense,
          Burned unto gods in heaven,
          Through all the land is driven,
    Making its pleasant place odorous
    With scented gales and sweet airs amorous.

The same note of melancholy reflection upon transient human life
may be traced in the following fragment ascribed to Simonides. He is
apparently rebuking Cleobulus of Lindus in Rhodes for an arrogant
epigraph inscribed upon some stelé.

    Those who are wise in heart and mind,
    O Lindian Cleobulus, find
    Naught in thy shallow vaunt aright;
    Who with the streams that flow for aye,
    The vernal flowers that bloom and die,
    The fiery sun, the moon's mild rays,
    The strong sea's eddying water-ways,
    Matchest a marble pillar's might--
    Lo, all things that have being are
    To the high gods inferior far;
    But carven stone may not withstand
    Even a mortal's ruthless hand.
    Therefore thy words no wisdom teach
    More than an idiot's idle speech.

What has been said about Simonides applies in a great measure also to
Bacchylides, who was his nephew, pupil, and faithful follower. The
personality of Bacchylides, as a man and a poet, is absorbed in that
of his uncle--the greater bard, the more distinguished actor on the
theatre of the world. While Simonides played his part in public life,
Bacchylides gave himself up to the elegant pleasures of society; while
Simonides celebrated in epigrams the military glories of the Greeks,
Bacchylides wrote wine-songs and congratulatory odes. His descriptions
of Bacchic intoxication and of the charms of peace display the same
careful word-painting as the description by Simonides of Orpheus, with
more luxuriance of sensual suggestion. His threnoi exhibit the same
Ionian despondency and resignation--a dead settled calm, an elegant
stolidity of epicureanism. That this excellent, if somewhat languid,
lyrist may receive his due meed of attention, I have selected his most
important fragment, the _Praise of Peace_, for translation (Bergk, vol.
iii. p. 1230):

    To mortal men Peace giveth these good things:
    Wealth, and the flowers of honey-throated song;
    The flame that springs
    On carven altars from fat sheep and kine,
    Slain to the gods in heaven; and, all day long,
    Games for glad youths, and flutes, and wreaths, and circling wine.
    Then in the steely shield swart spiders weave
    Their web and dusky woof:
    Rust to the pointed spear and sword doth cleave;
    The brazen trump sounds no alarms;
    Nor is sleep harried from our eyes aloof,
    But with sweet rest my bosom warms:
    The streets are thronged with lovely men and young,
    And hymns in praise of boys like flames to heaven are flung.

The tone common to Simonides and Bacchylides in funeral poems will be
illustrated by the four following fragments:[103]

    Being a man, say not what comes to-morrow,
    Nor, seeing one in bliss, how long 'twill last;
    For wide-winged fly was ne'er of flight so fast
    As change to sorrow.

    Nay, not those elder men, who lived of yore,
    Of sceptred gods the half-immortal seed,
    Not even they to prosperous old age wore
    A life from pain and death and danger freed.

    Short is the strength of men, and vain their trouble,
    Through their brief age sorrows on sorrows double;
    O'er each and all hangs death escaped by none;
    Of him both good and bad an equal lot have won.

    For mortal men not to be born is best,
    Nor e'er to see the bright beams of the day;
    Since, as life rolls away,
    No man that breathes was ever alway blest.

Here we must stop short in the front of Pindar--the Hamlet among these
lesser actors, the Shakespeare among a crowd of inferior poets. To
treat of Greek lyrical poetry and to omit Pindar is a paradox in
action. Yet Pindar is so colossal, so much apart, that he deserves a
separate study, and cannot be dragged in at the end of a bird's-eye
view of a period of literature. At the time of Pindar, poetry was
sinking into mannerism. He by the force of his native originality gave
it a wholly fresh direction, and created a style as novel as it was
inimitable. Like some high mountain-peak, upon the border-land of plain
and lesser hills, he stands alone, sky-piercing and tremendous in his
solitary strength.

Before, however, entering upon the criticism of Pindar's poetry, it
will be of service to complete this review of the Greek lyric by some
specimens of those later artificial literary odes, a few of which
have been preserved for us by the anthologists and grammarians. The
following Hymn to Virtue has a special interest, since it is ascribed
to Aristotle, the philosopher, and makes allusion to his friend, the
tyrant of Atarneus. The comparative dryness of the style is no less
characteristic of the age in which the poem is supposed to have been
written, than its animating motive, the beauty of Virtue, is true to
the Greek conception of morality and heroism.

    Virtue, to men thou bringest care and toil;
    Yet art thou life's best, fairest spoil!
    O virgin goddess, for thy beauty's sake
    To die is delicate in this our Greece,
    Or to endure of pain the stern strong ache.
              Such fruit for our soul's ease
    Of joys undying, dearer far than gold
    Or home or soft-eyed sleep, dost thou unfold!
              It was for thee the seed of Zeus,
    Stout Herakles, and Leda's twins, did choose
    Strength-draining deeds, to spread abroad thy name:
              Smit with the love of thee,
              Aias and Achileus went smilingly
    Down to Death's portal, crowned with deathless fame.
              Now, since thou art so fair,
              Leaving the lightsome air,
    Atarneus' hero hath died gloriously.
    Wherefore immortal praise shall be his guerdon:
    His goodness and his deeds are made the burden
              Of songs divine
              Sung by Memory's daughters nine,
    Hymning of hospitable Zeus the might
    And friendship firm as fate in fate's despite.

The next is a Hymn to Health, hardly less true to Greek feeling than
the Hymn to Virtue. Simonides, it will be remembered, had said that the
first and best possession to be desired by man is health. The ode is
but a rhetorical expansion of this sentence, showing that none of the
good things of human life can be enjoyed without physical well-being.

    Health! Eldest, most august of all
    The blessed gods, on thee I call!
    Oh, let me spend with thee the rest
    Of mortal life, securely blest!
    Oh, mayst thou be my house-mate still,
    To shield and shelter me from ill!
                If wealth have any grace,
                If fair our children's face;
      If kinghood, lifting men to be
      Peers with the high gods' empery;
                If young Love's flying feet
                Through secret snares be sweet;
    If aught of all heaven's gifts to mortals sent,
    If rest from care be dear, or calm content--
    These goodly things, each, all of them, with thee
                Bloom everlastingly,
      Blest Health! Yea, Beauty's year
    Breaks into spring for thee, for only thee!
    Without thee no man's life is aught but cold and drear.

As an example of the pæan or the prosodial hymn, when it assumed a
literary form, I may select an ode to Phoebus, which bears the name of
Dionysius. Apollo is here addressed in his character of Light-giver,
and leader of the lesser powers of heaven. The stars and the moon are
his attendants, rejoicing in his music, and deriving from his might
their glory.

        Let all wide heaven be still!
        Be silent vale and hill,
        Earth and whispering wind and sea,
        Voice of birds and echo shrill!
        For soon amid our choir will be
    Phoebus with floating locks, the Lord of Minstrelsy!
        O father of the snow-browed morn;
        Thou who dost drive the rosy car
        Of day's wing-footed coursers, borne
        With gleaming curls of gold unshorn
        Over heaven's boundless vault afar;
        Weaving the woof of myriad rays,
        Wealth-scattering beams that burn and blaze,
        Enwinding them round earth in endless maze!
      The rivers of thy fire undying
        Beget bright day, our heart's desire:
      The throng of stars to greet thee flying
    Through cloudless heaven, join choric dances,
      Hailing thee king with ceaseless crying
        For joy of thy Phoebean lyre.
    In front the gray-eyed Moon advances
      Drawn by her snow-white heifers o'er
      Night's silent silvery dancing-floor:
    With gladness her mild bosom burns
    As round the dædal world she turns.

From these specimens we may infer the character of that semi-ethical,
semi-religious lyric poetry which was produced so copiously in Greece,
and of which we have lost all but accidental remnants. Though not to
be compared for grandeur of style and abundance of grace with the
odes of Pindar and the fragments of Simonides, they display a careful
workmanship, a clear and harmonious development of ideas, that make us
long, alas too vainly, for the treasures of a literature now buried in
irrevocable oblivion.



    #toisin d' en messoisi païs phormingi ligeiêi
    himeroen kitharize; linon d' hypo kalon aeiden
    leptaleêi phônêi.#--_Iliad_, xviii. 569.

    A boy, amid them, from a clear-toned harp
    Drew lovely music; well his liquid voice
    The strings accompanied.--_Lord Derby's Trans._

[77] Bergk (_Poetæ Lyrici Græci_, 3 vols., Leipsic, 1866) gives an old
Greek Linus-song on p. 1297:

    O Linus, thee the gods did grace;
    For unto thee they gave, most dear,
    First among men the song to raise
    With shrill voice sounding high and clear;
    And Phoebus thee in anger slays,
    And Muses mourn around thy bier.

[78] Many poems of the Syracusan idyllists are valuable historically
as adaptations of the hexameter to subjects essentially lyrical. In
the Adoniazusæ, the Epithalamium Helenæ, the Lament for Bion, etc., we
trace a lyrical inspiration overlaid by the idyllic form. Theocritus
must have worked on the lines of old choral poetry.

[79] "Pour we libations to Memory's daughters, the Muses, and to the
Muse-leading son of Leto."

[80] Plutarch records with just indignation the honors of this sort
paid by Aratus to Antigonus: "He offered sacrifices, called Antigonea,
in honor of Antigonus, and sang pæans himself, with a garland on his
head, to the praise of _a wasted, consumptive Macedonian_" (_Life of
Cleomenes_). The words in italics strongly express a true Greek sense
of disgust for the barbarian and the weakling.

[81] See Frere, vol. ii. pp. 200, 201.

[82] See Trans. of _Acharnians_, Frere, vol. ii. p. 17.

[83] Frere's _Translation_, vol. ii. pp. 241-245.

[84] See, however, the interesting archaic hymns to Dionysus, pp. 1299,

[85] Bergk, p. 716; Pindar, _Olymp._, ix. 1.

[86] It is interesting to observe that this custom of the funeral
dirge, improvised with wild inspiration by women, has been preserved
almost to the present day in Corsica. A collection of these coronachs,
called _Voceri_ in the language of the island, was published in 1855 at
Bastia, by Cesare Fabiani.

[87] Translated by Mitchell, vol. ii. p. 282, in his _Dicast turned

[88] "To be in health is the best thing for mortal man; the next best
to be of form and nature beautiful; the third, to enjoy wealth gotten
without fraud; and the fourth, to be in youth's bloom among friends."
The Greek suspicion of wealth, abundantly illustrated in the Gnomic
elegies, might be further exemplified by this fragment ascribed to

    Would, blind Wealth, that thou hadst been
    Ne'er on land or ocean seen,
    Nowhere on this upper earth!
    Hell's black stream that gave thee birth
    Is the proper haunt for thee,
    Cause of all man's misery!

[89] Athen., _Lib._, viii. 360.

[90] This begs the question of the nationality of Tyrtæus, who,
according to antique tradition, was of Attic origin, but who writes
like a Spartan.

[91] Compare Simonides (Bergk, vol. iii. p. 1143):

        #angele klyta earos hadyodmou,
        kyanea chelidoi.#

    Blithe angel of the perfume-breathing spring,
    Dark-vested swallow.

[92] Those who are curious in the matter of metres will find the
Sapphic stanza reproduced in English, with perfect truth of cadence, in
Swinburne's "Sapphics" (_Poems and Ballads_). The imitations by Horace
are far less close to the original.

[93] Bergk, p. 935.

[94] _Carm._, i. 32, thus translated by Conington:

    Thou, strung by Lesbos' minstrel hand,
      The bard who 'mid the clash of steel,
    Or haply mooring to the strand,
      His battered keel,

    Of Bacchus and the Muses sung,
      And Cupid, still at Venus' side,
    And Lycus, beautiful and young,
      Dark-haired, dark-eyed.

[95] _De Nat. Deorum_, i. 28.

[96] See Bergk, p. 948.

[97] _Rhet._, i. 9.

[98] Bergk, p. 936.

[99] The people of Athens gave him a statue on their Acropolis. The
Teians struck his portrait on coins. Critias said that his poems
would last as long as the Cottabos in Hellas. He did in fact exactly
represent one side, and that the least heroic side, of the character
of the Greeks--their simple love of sensual pleasure. As mere Hedonism
grew, so did the songs and the style of Anacreon gain in popularity,
whereas the stormier passion of Sappho became unfashionable.

[100] It is unhistorical to confound the Dorians with the Spartans, who
were a specially trained section of the Dorian stock. Yet it will be
seen that, in relation at least to lyric poetry, Sparta fairly may be
taken as _the_ Dorian state.

[101] The dramatic art was hereditary among the Athenians. Æschylus
left a son, Euphorion, and two nephews, Philocles and Astydamas, who
produced tragedies. The last is reported to have written no fewer
than two hundred and forty plays. Iophon, the son, and Sophocles, the
grandson, of the great Sophocles, were dramatists of some repute at
Athens. Euripides had a nephew of his own name, and Aristophanes two
sons who followed the same calling. It is only from families like the
Bachs that we can draw any modern parallel to this transmission of an
art from father to son in the same race.

[102] The reputation gained by Simonides among the ancients for the
sorrow of his song is proved by the phrase of Catullus,--"Moestius
lachrymis Simonideis" (more sad than tears shed by Simonides).

[103] See Bergk, vol. iii. pp. 1128, 1129, 1132, 1227.



    His Life.--Legends connected with him.--The Qualities of
        his Poetry.--The Olympic Games.--Pindar's Professional
        Character.--His Morality.--His Religious Belief.--Doctrine
        of a Future State.--Rewards and Punishments.--The Structure
        of his Odes.--The Proemia to his Odes.--His Difficulty and
        Tumidity of Style.

Pindar, in spite of his great popularity among the Greeks, offers no
exception to the rule that we know but little of the lives of the
illustrious poets and artists of the world. His parents belonged to the
town of Cynoscephalæ; but Pindar himself resided at Thebes, and spoke
of Thebes as his native place--#Thêba mater ema#. That his father was
called Daiphantus appears tolerably certain; and we may fix the date
of his birth at about 522 B.C. He lived to the age of seventy-nine;
so that the flourishing period of his life exactly coincides with the
great Persian struggle, in which he lived to see Hellas victorious.
He had three children--a son, Daiphantus, and two daughters, Eumetis
and Protomache. His family was among the noblest and most illustrious
of Thebes, forming a branch of the ancient house of the Ægeidæ, who
settled both at Thebes and Sparta in heroic times, and offshoots from
whom were colonists of Thera and Cyrene. Thus many of the heroes
celebrated by Pindar, and many of the illustrious men to whom he
dedicates his odes, were of his own kin. Genius for the art seems to
have been hereditary in the family of Pindar, as it was in that of
Stesichorus and of Simonides; therefore, when the youth showed an
aptitude for poetry, his father readily acceded to his wishes, and sent
him to Athens to learn the art of composing for the chorus from Lasos,
the then famous but now forgotten antagonist of the bard of Ceos.
Before his twentieth year, Pindar returned to Thebes and took, it is
said, instruction from the poetesses Myrtis and Corinna. To this period
of his artistic career belongs the oft-told tale, according to which
Corinna bade her pupil interweave myths with his panegyrics, and when,
following her advice, he produced an ode in which he had exhausted
all the Theban legends, told him #têi cheiri dein speirein, alla mê
holôi tôi thylakôi#--that one ought to sow with the hand and not with
the whole sack. Against both Myrtis and Corinna, Pindar entered the
lists of poetical contest. Corinna is reported to have beaten him
five times, and never to have been vanquished by her more illustrious
rival. Pausanias hints that she owed her victories to her beauty, and
to the fact that she wrote in a broad Æolic dialect, more suited to the
ears of her judges than Pindar's Doric style. The same circumstance
which insured her this temporary triumph may have caused her ultimate
neglect. The fragment we possess of Corinna--

    #memphomê de kê ligouran Mourtid' hiônga
    hoti bana phous' eba Pindaroio pot' erin.#

"I blame the clear-voiced Myrtis for that, a woman, she contended
against Pindar," is curiously at variance with her own practice. Its
Æolisms prove how local and provincial her language must have been.

The history of Pindar's life is the record of his poetical
compositions. He was essentially a professional artist, taking no
active part in politics, and studying to perfect his poetry all through
the perilous days of Salamis and Platæa--like Michael Angelo, who went
on modelling and hewing through the sack of Rome, the fall of Florence,
the decline of Italian freedom, with scarce a word to prove the anguish
of his patriot soul. Pindar, unlike his fellow-countrymen, did not
side with the Persians, but felt enthusiasm for Athens, the #ereisma
Hellados# (buttress of Hellas), as he calls her in a dithyramb[104]
(Fr. iv.). For this he was made Proxenos of Athens, and received a
present of 10,000 drachmas. It is said that the Thebans fined him
for his implied reflections upon them, and that Athens paid the debt.
These facts, if true, testify to the post of honor which a mighty
poet occupied in Hellas, when the _vox et præterea nihil_ of a bard,
inspired indeed by Muses, but dependent on a patron for his bread, was
listened to with such jealous ears by the rulers of great cities. The
last Isthmian ode shows in what a noble spirit Pindar felt the dangers
of Hellas during her deadly strife with Persia, and how he could
scarcely breathe for anxiety until the stone of Tantalus suspended over
her had been arrested. In the Proemium he says:

    "For Cleander and his prime of beauty let some one, O ye
    youths, bear the glorious meed of toil to the splendid portals
    of his sire Telesarchus, the revel-song, which pays him for his
    Isthmian victory and for his might in Nemean games. For him I
    too, though grieved in soul, am asked to call upon the golden
    Muse. Freed as we are from mighty griefs, let us not fall into
    the bereavement of victorious crowns, nor nurse our cares;
    but ceasing from vain sorrows, spread we honeyed song abroad
    thus after our great trouble: forasmuch as of a truth some god
    hath turned aside the stone of Tantalus which hung above our
    heads--intolerable suffering for Hellas. Me verily the passing
    away of dread hath cured not of all care; yet it is ever better
    to notice what is present: for treacherous time is hung above
    the lives of men, rolling the torrent of their days. Still,
    with freedom on our side, men can cure even these evils; and it
    is our duty to attend to wholesome hope."

Pindar passed his time chiefly at Thebes, where his home was. But
he also visited the different parts of Greece, frequently staying
at Delphi, where the iron chair on which he sat and sang was long
preserved; and also journeying to the houses of his patrons--Hiero
of Syracuse, and presumably Theron of Agrigentum, and perhaps, too,
Alexander of Macedon. Olympia must have often received him as a guest,
as well as the island of Ægina, where he had many friends. Odes were
sent by him to Cyrene, to Ceos, to Rhodes--on what tablets, we may
wonder, adorned with what caligraphy from Pindar's stylus, in what
casket worthy of the man who loved magnificence? The Rhodians inscribed
his seventh Olympian--the most radiant panegyric of the sea-born isle
of Helios--in letters of gold on the walls of their temple of the
Lindian Athene. In the midst of his artistic labors, and while serving
many patrons, Pindar, as we shall see, preserved his dignity and
loftiness of moral character.

Pindar is said to have died in the theatre at Argos, in the arms of
Theoxenos, a youth whom he loved passionately, and whom he has praised
in the most sublime strains for his beauty in a scolion, the fragment
of which we possess.[105] Anacreon choked by a grape-stone; Sophocles
breathing out his life together with the pathetic lamentations of
Antigone; Æschylus killed on the sea-shore by the eagle whose flight
he had watched; Empedocles committing his fiery but turbid spirit to
the flames of Etna; Sappho drowning her sorrows in the surf of the
Leucadian sea; Ibycus, the poet-errant, murdered by land-robbers;
Euripides torn to pieces like his own Pentheus; Archilochus honored in
his death by an oracle that cursed his battle-foe; Pindar, amid the
plaudits of the theatre, sinking back into the arms of his Theoxenos
and dying in a noontide blaze of glory--these are the appropriate and
dramatic endings which the literary gossips among the Greeks, always
inventively ingenious, ascribed to some of their chief poets. _Se non
son veri, son ben trovati._

Some purely legendary details show the estimation in which

Pindar was held by his countrymen. Multitudes of bees are said to have
settled on his lips when he was an infant. Pan chose a hymn of his and
sang it on the mountains, honoring a mortal poet with his divine voice.
The Mother of the gods took up her dwelling at his door. Lastly, we
have the famous story of the premonition of his death in dreams--a
legend of peculiar significance, when we remember that Pindar, like Sir
Thomas Browne, believed that "we are more than ourselves in our sleep,"
and wrote:

        All by happy fate attain
        The end that frees them from their pain;
        And the body yields to death,
        But the shape of vital breath
        Still in life continueth;
        It alone is heaven's conferring:
        Sleeps it when the limbs are stirring.
    But when they sleep, in many dreams it shows
    The coming consummation both of joys and woes.[106]

Just before his death, then, Pindar sent to inquire of the oracle of
Ammon what was best for man; and the answer, which he had already
himself anticipated in his commemoration of Trophonius and Agamedes,
was--Death. Meanwhile Persephone appeared to him in his sleep, and
told him that he should praise her in her own realm, although on earth
he had left her, alone of the blest gods, unsung. Ten days afterwards
he died. The hymn which Pindar composed for Persephone in Hades was
dictated to a Theban woman by his ghost--so runs the tale--and written
down. After his death, Pindar received more than heroic honors. They
kept his iron chair at Delphi; and the priest of Phoebus, before he
shut the temple gates, cried, "Let Pindar the poet go into the banquet
of the god." At Athens his statue was erected at the public cost. At
Thebes his house was spared in the ruin of two sieges:

    Lift not thy spear against the Muse's bower;
    The great Emathian conqueror bid spare
    The house of Pindarus, when temple and tower
    Went to the ground.

At Rhodes, as we have seen, an ode of his was sculptured on the temple
walls of Pallas. Throughout the future, as long as Greek poetry
endured, he was known emphatically by the title of #ho lyrikos#.

Pindar was famous, as these semi-mythical stories about his infancy and
old age indicate, for piety. Unlike Horace, who calls himself _Parcus
deorum cultor et infrequens_, Pindar was a devout and steadfast servant
of his country's gods. He dedicated a shrine or #matrôon# near his
own house to the Mother of the gods, a statue to Zeus Ammon in Libya,
and one to Hermes in the Theban agora. The whole of his poetry is
impregnated with a lively sense of the divine in the world. Accepting
the religious traditions of his ancestors with simple faith, he adds
more of spiritual severity and of mystical morality than we find in
Homer. Yet he is not superstitious or credulous. He can afford to
criticise the myths like Xenophanes and Plato, refusing to believe
that a blessed god could be a glutton. In Pindar, indeed, we see the
fine flower of Hellenic religion, free from slavish subservience to
creeds and ceremonies, capable of extracting sublime morality from
mythical legends, and adding to the old glad joyousness of the Homeric
faith a deeper and more awful perception of superhuman mysteries. The
philosophical scepticism which in Greece, after the age of Pericles,
corroded both the fabric of mythology and the indistinct doctrines of
theological monotheism, had scarcely yet begun to act.

Passing to the poetry of Pindar, we have a hard task before us. What
can be said adequate to such a theme? What can be left unsaid of the
many thoughts that ought to be expressed? At the time of Pindar's
youth, lyrical poetry in Greece was sinking into mannerism. He, by
the force of his originality, gave it a wholly new direction, and,
coming last of the great Dorian lyrists, taught posterity what sort of
thing an ode should be. The grand pre-eminence of Pindar as an artist
was due in a great measure to his personality. Frigid, austere, and
splendid; not genial like that of Simonides, not passionate like that
of Sappho, not acrid like that of Archilochus; hard as adamant, rigid
in moral firmness, glittering with the strong keen light of snow;
haughty, aristocratic, magnificent--the unique personality of the man
Pindar, so irresistible in its influence, so hard to characterize,
is felt in every strophe of his odes. In his isolation and elevation
Pindar stands like some fabled heaven-aspiring peak, conspicuous from
afar, girdled at the base with ice and snow, beaten by winds, wreathed
round with steam and vapor, jutting a sharp and dazzling outline into
cold blue ether. Few things that have life dare to visit him at his
grand altitude. Glorious with sunlight and with stars, touched by rise
and set of day with splendor, he shines when other lesser heights
are dulled. Pindar among his peers is solitary. He had no communion
with the poets of his day. He is the eagle; Simonides and Bacchylides
are jackdaws. He soars to the empyrean; they haunt the valley mists.
Noticing this rocky, barren, severe, glittering solitude of Pindar's
soul, critics have not unfrequently complained that his poems are
devoid of individual interest. Possibly they have failed to comprehend
and appreciate the nature of this sublime and distant genius, whose
character, in truth, is just as marked as that of Dante or of Michael

Since I have indulged in one metaphor in the vain attempt to enter
into some _rapport_ with Pindar, let me proceed to illustrate the
Pindaric influence--the impression produced by a sympathetic study of
his odes upon the imagination saturated with all that is peculiar in
his gorgeous style--by the deliberate expansion of some similes, which
are by no means mere ornaments of rhetoric, but illustrations carefully
selected from the multitude of images forced upon the mind during a
detailed perusal of his poetry. One of the common names for Pindar is
the Theban Eagle. This supplies us with the first image, which may be
conveyed in the very words of Dante:[107]

    "In dreams I seemed to see an eagle hovering in air on
    wings of gold, with pinions spread and ready to swoop. I
    thought I was on the spot where Ganymede was taken from his
    comrades and borne aloft to the celestial consistory. I
    pondered--peradventure the great bird only strikes this hill,
    and peradventure scorns to snatch elsewhere his prey. Then it
    seemed to me that, after wheeling a while, it swooped, terrible
    like lightning, and caught me up into the sphere of flame; and
    there I thought that it and I both burned; and so fiercely did
    the fire in my imagination blaze, that sleep no longer could
    endure, but broke."

This simile describes the rapidity and fierceness of Pindar's spirit,
the atmosphere of empyreal splendor into which he bears us with
strong wings and clinging talons. Another image may be borrowed from
Horace,[108] who says,

    Fervet immensusque ruit profundo Pindarus +ore+;

likening the poet to a torrent, unrestrained, roaring to the woods
and precipices with a thunderous voice. This image does not, like the
other, fix our attention upon the quality peculiar to Pindar among all
the poets of the world--splendor, fire, the blaze of pure effulgence.
But it does suggest another characteristic, which is the stormy
violence of his song, that chafes within its limits and seems unable
to advance quickly enough in spite of its speed. This violence of
Pindar's style, as of some snow-swollen Alpine stream, the hungry Arve
or death-cold Lutschine, leaping and raging among granite boulders, has
misled Horace into the notion that Pindar's odes are without metrical

          numerisque fertur
    Lege solutis:

whereas we know that, while pursuing his eagle-flight to the sun, or
thundering along his torrent-path, Pindar steadily observed the laws of
strophe, antistrophe, and epode with consummate art. A third figure may
be chosen from Pindar[109] himself.

    "As when a man takes from his wealthy hand a goblet foaming
    with the dew of the grape, and gives it with healths and
    pledges to his youthful son-in-law to bear from one home to the
    other home, golden, the crown of his possessions, gracing the
    feast and glorifying his kinsman, and makes him in the eyes of
    the assembled friends to be admired for his harmonious wedlock:
    so I, sending outpoured nectar, the Muse's gift, to conquering
    heroes, the sweet fruit of the soul, greet them like gods,
    victors at Olympia and Pytho."

Then, too, he adds: "With the lyre and with the various voices of
flutes[110] I have come with Diagoras across the sea, chanting the
wave-born daughter of the Cyprian goddess and the bride of Helios,
island Rhodes." In this passage we get a lively impression of some of
the marked qualities of Pindar. Reading his poetry is like quaffing
wine that bubbles in a bowl of gold. Then, too, there is the picture
of the poet, gorgeously attired, with his singing-robes about him,
erect upon the prow of a gilded galley, floating through dazzling
summer-waves towards the island of his love, Rhodes or Sicily or
Ægina. The lyre and the flute send their clear sounds across the sea.
We pass temple and citadel on shore and promontory. The banks of oars
sweep the flashing brine. Meanwhile the mighty poet stretches forth
his golden cup of song to greet the princes and illustrious athletes
who await him on the marble quays. Reading Pindar is a progress of
this pompous kind. Pindar, as one of his critics remarks, was born
and reared in splendor; splendor became his vital atmosphere. The
epithet #philaglaos#, which he gives to Girgenti, suits himself. The
splendor-loving Pindar is his name and title for all time. If we search
the vocabulary of Pindar to find what phrases are most frequently
upon his lips, we shall be struck with the great preponderance of all
words that indicate radiance, magnificence, lustre. To Pindar's soul
splendor was as elemental as harmony to Milton's. Of the graces, Aglaia
must have been his favorite. Nor, love as he did the gorgeousness of
wealth, was it mere transitory pomp, the gauds and trappings of the
world, which he admired. There must be something to stir the depths of
his soul--beauty of person, or perfection of art, or moral radiance,
or ideal grandeur. The blaze of real magnificence draws him as the sun
attracts the eagle; he does not flit moth-like about the glimmer of
mere ephemeral lights.

After these three figures, which illustrate the fiery flight, the
torrent-fulness, the intoxicating charm of Pindar, one remains by
which the magnetic force and tumult of his poetry may be faintly
adumbrated. He who has watched a sunset attended by the passing of a
thunderstorm in the outskirts of the Alps; who has seen the distant
ranges of the mountains alternately obscured by cloud and blazing
with the concentrated brightness of the sinking sun, while drifting
scuds of hail and rain, tawny with sunlight, glistening with broken
rainbows, clothe peak and precipice and forest in the golden veil
of flame-irradiated vapor; who has heard the thunder bellow in the
thwarting folds of hills, and watched the lightning, like a snake's
tongue, flicker at intervals amid gloom and glory--knows in Nature's
language what Pindar teaches with the voice of Art. It is only by a
strained metaphor like this that any attempt to realize the _Sturm und
Drang_ of Pindar's style can be communicated. In plainer language,
Pindar, as an artist, combines the strong flight of the eagle, the
irresistible force of the torrent, the richness of Greek wine, the
majestic pageantry of Nature in one of her sublimer moods.

Like all the great lyrists of the Dorian school, Pindar composed odes
of various species--hymns, prosodia, parthenia, threnoi, scolia,
dithyrambs, as well as epinikia. Of all but the epinikian odes we
have only inconsiderable fragments left; yet these are sublime and
beautiful enough to justify us in believing that Pindar surpassed his
rivals in the threnos and the scolion as far as in the epinikian ode.
Forty-four of his poems we possess entire--fourteen Olympians, twelve
Pythians, eleven Nemeans, seven Isthmians. Of the occasions which led
to the composition of these odes something must be said. The Olympian
games were held in Elis once in five years, during the summer: their
prize was a wreath of wild olive. The Pythian games were held in
spring, on the Crissæan plain, once in five years: their prizes were a
wreath of laurel and a palm. The Nemean games were held in the groves
of Nemea, near Cleonæ, in Argolis, once in three years: their prize
was a wreath of parsley. The Isthmian games were held at Corinth,
once in three years: their prize was a wreath of pine, native to the
spot. The Olympian festival honored Zeus; that of Pytho, Phoebus;
that of Nemea, Zeus; that of the Isthmus, Poseidon. Originally they
were all of the nature of a #panêgyris# or national assembly at the
shrine of some deity local to the spot, or honored there with more
than ordinary reverence. The Isthmian games in particular retained a
special character. Instituted for an Ionian deity, whose rites the men
of Elis refused to acknowledge, they failed to unite the whole Greek
race. The Greek games, like the Schwing-feste and shooting-matches of
Switzerland, served as recurring occasions of reunion and fellowship.
Their influence in preserving a Panhellenic feeling was very marked.
During the time of the feast, and before and after, for a sufficient
number of days, to allow of travellers journeying to and from Olympia
and Delphi, hostilities were suspended throughout Hellas; safe-conduct
was given through all states to pilgrims. One common feeling animated
all the Greeks at these seasons: they met in rivalry, not of arms on
the battle-field, but of personal prowess in the lists. And though
the various families of the Hellenic stock were never united, yet
their games gave them a common object, and tended to the diffusion of
national ideas.

Let us pause to imagine the scene which the neighborhood of Olympia
must have presented as the great recurring festival of the Greek race
approached--a festival in the fullest sense of the word popular, but
at the same time consecrated by religion, dignified by patriotic
pride, adorned with art. The full blaze of summer is overhead; plain
and hill-side yield no shade but what the spare branches of the olive
and a few spreading pines afford. Along the road throng pilgrims and
deputies, private persons journeying modestly, and public ambassadors
gorgeously equipped at the expense of their state. Strangers from
Sicily or Cyrene or Magna Græcia land from galleys on the coast of
Elis. Then there are the athletes with their trainers--men who have
been in rude exercise for the prescribed ten months, and whose limbs
are in the bloom of manly or of boyish strength. Sages, like Gorgias
or Prodicus or Protagoras, are on their way, escorted by bands of
disciples, eager to engage each other in debate beneath the porticos of
the Olympian Zeus. Thales or Anaxagoras arrives, big with a new theory
of the universe. Historians like Herodotus are carrying their scrolls
to read before assembled Hellas. Epic poets and rhapsodes are furnished
with tales of heroes, freshly coined from their own brains or conned
with care from Homer. Rich men bring chariots for racing or display;
the more a man spends at Olympia, the more he honors his native city.
Women, we need not doubt, are also on the road--Hetairæ from Corinth
and Cyprus and Ionia. Sculptors show models of their skill. Potters
exhibit new shapes of vases, with scrolls of honeysuckle wreathing
round the pictured image of some handsome boy, to attract the eyes of
buyers. Painters have their tablets and colors ready. Apart from these
more gay and giddy servants of the public taste, are statesmen and
diplomatists, plenipotentiaries despatched to feel the pulse of Hellas,
negotiators seeking opportunities for safe discussion of the affairs
of rival cities. Every active brain, or curious eye, or wanton heart,
or well-trained limb, or skilful hand, or knavish wit may find its fit
employment here. A mediæval pilgrimage to St. James of Compostella or
St. Thomas of Canterbury was nothing to this exodus of wit in Greece.

As they approached Olympia, a splendid scene burst upon the travellers'
eyes--the plain of Elis, rich, deep-meadowed, hoary with olive-trees.
One cried to the other, There is the hill of Cronion! There is the
grove of Altis! Thither flows Alpheus to the sea! Those white and
glittering statues are the portraits of the victors! That temple is
the house of everlasting Zeus; beneath its roof sits the Thunderer
of Pheidias! Every step made the journey more exciting. By the bed
of the Alpheus, tawny in midsummer with dusty oleander-blossoms, the
pilgrims passed. At last they enter the precincts of Olympian Zeus: the
sacred enclosure is alive with men; the statues among the trees are
scarcely more wonder-worthy in their glittering marble than are the
bodies of the athletes moving beneath them. The first preoccupation
of every Greek who visited Olympia was to see the statue of Zeus. Not
to have gazed upon this masterpiece of Pheidias was, according to a
Greek proverb, the unhappiness of life. In this, his greatest work,
the Athenian sculptor touched the highest point of art, and incarnated
the most sublime conception of Greek religious thought. The god was
seated on his throne; but, even so, the image rose to the height of
forty feet, wrought of pure ivory and gold. At his feet stood figures
symbolical of victory in the Olympian games: among them the portrait
of Pantarkes, himself a victor, the youth whom Pheidias loved. In
designing his great statue the sculptor had in mind those lines of
Homer which describe Zeus nodding his ambrosial locks, and shaking
Olympus. That he had succeeded in presenting to the eye all that the
Greek race could imagine of godlike power and holiness and peace was
attested not only by the universal voice of Hellas, but also by the
Romans who gazed as conquerors upon the god. Lucius Paulus Æmilius,
we are told, after the battle of Pydna, swept Greece, and coming to
Olympia, saw the Pheidian Zeus. He shuddered, and exclaimed that he
had set mortal eyes upon the deity incarnate. Yet Paulus was a Roman
trampling with his legionaries the subject states of fallen Hellas.
Cicero proclaimed that Pheidias had copied nothing human, but had
carved the ideal image existing in an inspired mind.

Zeus, it must be remembered, was the supreme god of the Aryan race,
the purest divinity of the Greek cultus. He was called Father, Sire
of gods and men. Therefore his presence in the Panhellenic temple was
peculiarly appropriate and awe-inspiring. We may imagine the feelings
of an athlete coming to struggle for the fame of his own city, when
he first approached this statue in the august Olympian shrine. The
games were held at the time of a full moon; through the hypæthral
opening of the temple roof fell the silver rays aslant upon those
solemn lineaments, making the glow of ivory and gold more solemn in the
dimness of a wondrous gloom.

Presidents chosen from the people of Elis, and named Hellanodikai,
awarded the prizes and controlled the conduct of the games. From
their decision, in cases of doubt, there was a final appeal to
the assembly of Elis. In the morning the heralds opened the lists
with this proclamation:[111] "Now begins the contest that dispenses
noblest prizes; time tells you to delay no longer." When the runners
were ready, the heralds started them with these words, "Put your
feet to the line and run." At the end of the day they cried, "Now
ceases the contest that dispenses noblest prizes; time tells you to
delay no longer." The victor was crowned with wild olive, and led by
his friends to the Temple of Zeus. On the way they shouted the old
Archilochian chorus, #tênella kallinike#, to which Pindar alludes in
the beginning of his 9th Olympian: "The song of Archilochus uttered
at Olympia, the triple cry of Hail Victorious! was enough to conduct
Epharmostus, leading the revel to the Cronian hill with his comrades.
But now, from the far-darting bows of the Muses, approach Zeus of the
blazing thunder and the holy jutting land of Elis with these mightier
shafts." Sacrifice and banquet took place in the evening; and happy was
the athlete who, in this supreme moment, was greeted by Pindar with
attendant chorus and musicians of the flute and lyre. Three Olympians,
which seem to have been composed and chanted on the spot, survive--the
4th, the 8th, the 10th. The proemia to these odes, two of which are
remarkably short, indicating the haste in which they had been prepared,
sufficiently establish this fact. "Supreme hurler of the thunderbolt
that never tires, Zeus! Thy festival recurring with the season brings
me with sound of lyre and song to witness august games." "Parent of
golden-crowned contests, Olympia, mistress of truth," etc. But it
could not be expected that the more elaborate of Pindar's compositions
should be ready on such occasions. It usually happened that the victor
either found Pindar at Olympia, or sent a message to him at Thebes,
and bespoke an ode, adding gifts in accordance with the poet's rank
and fame. Then Pindar composed his epinikian, which was sung when
the conqueror returned to his own city. The ode would be repeated
on successive anniversaries at banquets, sacrificial festivals, and
processions in honor of the victory. The ninth Olympian, which has
been already quoted, was, for example, sung at a banquet in honor of
Epharmostus of Opus, after the altar of Ajax, son of Oïleus, had been
crowned. Pindar, as we find from frequent allusions in the odes, had
such a press of work that he often delayed sending his poems at the
proper time, and had to excuse himself for neglect. In the second
Isthmian he records a delay of two years. We may add that he did not
disdain to accept money for his toil. In the eleventh Pythian he says:
"Muse, it is thy part, since thou hast contracted to give thy voice for
gold, to set it going in various ways." In the proemium to the second
Isthmian he somewhat bitterly laments the necessity that made him sell
his songs:

    "The men of old, Thrasybulus, who climbed the chariot of the
    gold-crowned Muses, and received a famous lyre, lightly shot
    their arrows of honey-voiced hymns in praise of boys, of him
    whose beauty kept the summer bloom of youth, that sweetest
    souvenir of Aphrodite throned in joy. For the Muse as yet loved
    not gain, nor worked for hire, nor were sweet and tender songs
    with silvered faces sold by Terpsichore. But now she bids
    us keep the Argive's speech in mind; and verily it hits the
    truth--that money, money, money makes the man. He spoke it when
    deserted of his riches and his friends."

Yet we must not suppose that Pindar sang slavishly the praise of every
bidder. He was never fulsome in his panegyric. He knew how to mingle
eulogy with admonition. If his theme be the wealth of a tyrant like
Hiero, he reminds him of the dangers of ambition and the crime of
avarice. Arcesilaus of Cyrene is warned[112] to remit his sentence
of banishment in favor of a powerful exile. Victors, puffed up with
the pride of their achievements, hear from him how variable is the
life of man, how all men are mere creatures of a day. Handsome youths
are admonished to beware of lawlessness and shun incontinence. Thus
Pindar, while suiting his praises to the persons celebrated, always
interweaves an appropriate precept of morality. There was nothing that
he hated more than flattery and avarice, and grasping after higher
honors than became his station. In him more than in any other poet were
apparent the Greek virtues of #eukosmia#, #sôphrosynê#, and all the
moral and artistic qualities which were summed up in the motto #mêden
agan#.[113] Those who are curious to learn Pindar's opinions on these
points may consult the following passages:[114] Nem. viii. 32; id.
vii. 65; Pyth. xi. 50; Isthm. vii. 40; id. v. 14; and, lastly, Pyth.
x. 22, which contains this truly beautiful description of a thoroughly
successful life, as imagined by a Greek:

    "That man is happy and song-worthy by the skilled, who,
    victorious by might of hand or vigor of foot, achieves the
    greatest prizes with daring and with strength; and who in his
    lifetime sees his son, while yet a boy, crowned happily with
    Pythian wreaths. The brazen heaven, it is true, is inaccessible
    to him; but whatsoever joys we race of mortals touch, he
    reaches to the farthest voyage."

With this we may compare the story of happy lives told by Croesus to
Solon, and the celebrated four lines of Simonides: "Health is best for
a mortal man; next, beauty; thirdly, well-gotten wealth; fourthly, the
pleasure of youth among friends."

Closely connected with Pindar's ethical beliefs were his religious
notions, which were both peculiar and profound. Two things with
regard to his theology deserve especial notice--its conscious
criticism of existing legends, and its strong Pythagorean bias, both
combined with true Hellenic orthodoxy in all essentials. One of the
greatest difficulties in forming an exact estimate of the creed of a
philosophical Greek intellect is to know how to value the admixture
of scientific scepticism on the one hand, and of purer theism on the
other. About Pindar's time the body of Hellenic mythology was being
invaded by a double process of destructive and constructive criticism.
Xenophanes, for example, very plainly denounced as absurd the
anthropomorphic Pantheon made in the image of man, while he endeavored
to substitute a cult of the One God, indivisible and incognizable.
Plato still further developed the elements suggested by Xenophanes.
But there was some inherent incapacity in the Greek intellect for
arriving at monotheism by a process of rarefaction and purification.
The destructive criticism which in Xenophanes, Pindar, and Plato had
assailed the grosser myths, dwindled into unfruitful scepticism. The
attempts at constructing a rational theosophy ended in metaphysics.
Morality was studied as a separate branch of investigation, independent
of destructive criticism and religious construction. Meanwhile the
popular polytheism continued to flourish, though enfeebled, degenerate,
and disconnected from the nobler impulses of poetry and art. In Pindar
the process of decadence had not begun. He stood at the very highest
point which it was possible for a religious Greek to reach--combining
the æsthetically ennobling enthusiasm for the old Greek deities with so
much critical activity as enabled him to reject the grosser myths, and
with that moderate amount of theological mysticism which the unassisted
intellect of the Greeks seemed capable of receiving without degeneracy
into puerile superstition. The first Olympian ode contains the most
decided passages in illustration of his critical independence of

    "Impossible is it for me to call one of the blessed ones
    a glutton: I stand aloof: loss hath often overtaken evil


    "Truly many things are wonderful; and it may be that in some
    cases fables dressed up with cunning fictions beyond the true
    account falsify the traditions of men. But beauty, which is the
    author of all delicious things for mortals, by giving to these
    myths acceptance, ofttimes makes even what is incredible to be
    credible: but succeeding time gives the most certain evidence
    of truth; and for a man to speak nobly of the gods is seemly;
    for so the blame is less."

These two passages suffice to prove how freely Pindar handled the
myths, not indeed exposing them to the corrosive action of mere
scepticism, but testing them[115] by the higher standard of the healthy
human conscience. When he refuses to believe that the immortals were
cannibals and ate the limbs of Pelops, he is like a rationalist avowing
his disbelief in the savage doctrine of eternal damnation. His doubt
does not proceed from irreligion, but from faith in the immutable
holiness of the gods, who set the ideal standard of human morality.
What seems to him false in the myths he attributes to the accretions of
ignorant opinion and vain fancy round the truth.

The mystical element of Pindar's creed, whether we call it Orphic or
Pythagorean, is remarkable for a definite belief in the future life,
including a system of rewards and punishments; for the assertion of
the supreme tribunal of conscience,[116] and, finally, for a reliance
on rites of purification. The most splendid passage in which these
opinions are expressed by Pindar is that portion of the second Olympian
in which he describes the torments of the wicked and the blessings of
the just beyond the grave:

    "Among the dead, sinful souls at once pay penalty, and the
    crimes done in this realm of Zeus are judged beneath the earth
    by one who gives sentence under dire necessity.

    "But the good, enjoying perpetual sunlight equally by night and
    day, receive a life more free from woes than this of ours;
    they trouble not the earth with strength of hand, nor the water
    of the sea for scanty sustenance; but with the honored of the
    gods, all they who delighted in the keeping of their oath pass
    a tearless age: the others suffer woe on which no eye can bear
    to look. Those who have thrice endured on either side the grave
    to keep their spirits wholly free from crime, journey on the
    road of Zeus to the tower of Kronos: where round the islands
    blow breezes ocean-borne; and flowers of gold burn some on
    the land from radiant trees, and others the wave feeds; with
    necklaces whereof they twine their hands and brows, in the just
    decrees of Rhadamanthus, whom father Kronos has for a perpetual
    colleague, he who is spouse of Rhea throned above all gods.

    "Peleus and Cadmus are numbered among these: and thither was
    Achilles brought by his mother when she swayed the heart of
    Zeus with prayer: he who slew Hector, the invincible firm
    pillar of Troy, and gave Cycnus to death and Eo's Æthiopian

The following fragments from threnoi[117] translated by Professor
Conington further illustrate Pindar's belief in a future state of weal
or woe:

    They from whom Persephone
      Due atonement shall receive
      For the things that made to grieve,
    To the upper sunlight she
    Sendeth back their souls once more,
    Soon as winters eight are o'er.
    From those blessed spirits spring
    Many a great and goodly king,
    Many a man of glowing might,
    Many a wise and learned wight:
    And while after-days endure,
    Men esteem them heroes pure.

And again:

    Shines for them the sun's warm glow
    When 'tis darkness here below:
    And the ground before their towers,
    Meadow-land with purple flowers,
    Teems with incense-bearing treen,
    Teems with fruit of golden sheen.
    Some in steed and wrestling feat,
    Some in dice take pleasure sweet,
    Some in harping: at their side
    Blooms the spring in all her pride.
    Fragrance all about is blown
      O'er that country of desire.
    Ever as rich gifts are thrown
      Freely on the far-seen fire,
    Blazing from the altar-stone.

           *       *       *       *       *

      But the souls of the profane,
        Far from heaven removed below,
      Flit on earth in murderous pain
        'Neath the unyielding yoke of woe;
      While pious spirits tenanting the sky
      Chant praises to the mighty one on high.

For Pindar's conception of the destinies of frail humanity, take this
sublime but melancholy ending to an ode[118] which has been full of
triumphant exultation: "Brief is the growing-time of joy for mortals,
and briefly, too, doth its flower fall to earth shaken by fell fate.
Things of a day! what are we--and what are we not! A shadow's dream is
man. But when the splendor that God gives descends, then there remains
a radiant light and gladsome life for mortals." Compare with this the
opening of the sixth Nemean:

    "One is the race of men, and one the race of gods; from one
    mother we both draw breath. But a total difference of force
    divides us, since man's might is naught, while brazen heaven
    abideth a sure seat for aye. Nevertheless, we are not all
    unlike immortals either in our mighty soul or strength of limb,
    though we know not to what goal of night or day fate hath
    written down for us to run." #/

Passing to the consideration of Pindar purely as an artist, we may
first examine the structure of his odes, and then illustrate the
qualities of his poetry by reference to some of the more splendid
proemia and descriptions. The task which lay before him when he
undertook to celebrate a victory at one of the Greek games was this:
Some rich man had won a race with his chariot and horses, or some
strong man had conquered his competitors by activity or force of limb.
Pindar had to praise the rich man for his wealth and liberality,
the strong man for his endurance of training and personal courage
or dexterity. In both cases the victor might be felicitated on his
good-fortune--on the piece of luck which had befallen him; and if he
were of comely person or illustrious blood, these also offered topics
for congratulation. The three chief commonplaces of Pindar, therefore,
are #olbos, aretê, eutychia#, wealth or prosperity, manliness or
spirit, and blessings independent of both, god-given, not acquired.
But it could not be that a great poet should ring the changes only on
these three subjects, or content himself with describing the actual
contest, which, probably, he had not witnessed. Consequently Pindar
illustrates his odes with myths or stories bearing more or less closely
on the circumstances of his hero. Sometimes he celebrates the victor's
ancestry, as in the famous sixth Olympian, in which the history of the
Iamidæ is given; sometimes his city, as in the seventh Olympian, where
he describes the birthplace of Diagoras, the island Rhodes; sometimes
he dwells upon an incident in the hero's life, as when in the third
Pythian the illness of Hiero suggests the legend of Asclepius and
Cheiron; sometimes a recent event, like the eruption of Etna, alluded
to in the first Pythian, gives color to his ode; sometimes, as in the
case of the last Pythian, where the story of Medusa is narrated, the
legendary matter is introduced to specialize the nature of the contest.
The victory itself is hardly touched upon: the allusions to #olbos,
aretê, eutychia#, though frequent and interwoven with the texture
of the ode, are brief: the whole poetic fabric is so designed as to
be appropriate to the occasion and yet independent of it. Therefore
Pindar's odes have not perished with the memory of the events to which
they owed their composition.

Pindar's peculiar treatment of the epinikian ode may best be
illustrated by analyzing the structure of one or two of his poems. But
first take this translation of one of the shorter and simpler of the
series--the twelfth Pythian:

    To thee, fairest of earthly towns, I pray--
      Thou splendor-lover, throne of Proserpine,
    Piled o'er Girgenti's slopes, that feed alway
      Fat sheep!--with grace of gods and men incline,
    Great queen, to take this Pythian crown and own
      Midas; for he of all the Greeks, thy son,
      Hath triumphed in the art which Pallas won,
    Weaving of fierce Gorgonian throats the dolorous moan.

    She from the snake-encircled hideous head
      Of maidens heard the wailful dirges flow,
    What time the third of those fell Sisters bled
      By Perseus' hand, who brought the destined woe
    To vexed Seriphos. He on Phorkys' brood
      Wrought ruin, and on Polydectes laid
    Stern penance for his mother's servitude,
      And for her forceful wedlock, when he slew the maid

    Medusa. He by living gold, they say,
      Was got on Danaë: but Pallas bore
    Her hero through those toils, and wrought the lay
      Of full-voiced flutes to mock the ghastly roar
    Of those strong jaws of grim Euryale:
      A goddess made and gave to men the flute,
    The fountain-head of many a strain to be,
      That ne'er at game or nation's feast it might be mute,

    Sounding through subtle brass and voiceful reeds,
      Which near the city of the Graces spring
    By fair Cephisus, faithful to the needs
      Of dancers. Lo! there cometh no good thing
    Apart from toils to mortals, though to-day
      Heaven crown their deeds: yet shun we not the laws
      Of Fate; for times impend when chance withdraws
    What most we hoped, and what we hoped not gives for aye.

Here it will be seen that Pindar introduces his subject with a
panegyric of Girgenti, his hero's birthplace. Then he names Midas,
and tells the kind of triumph he has gained. This leads him to the
legend of Medusa. The whole is concluded with moral reflections on the
influence of fate over human destinies. The structure of the sixth
Pythian is also very simple. "I build an indestructible treasure-house
of praise for Xenocrates (lines 1-18), which Thrasybulus, his son,
gained for him; as Antilochus died for Nestor (19-43), so Thrasybulus
has done what a son could do for his father (44-46); wise and fair is
he in his youth; his company is sweeter than the honeycomb" (47-54).
One of the longest odes, the fourth Pythian, is constructed thus:
"Muse! celebrate Arcesilaus (1-5). Cyrene, Arcesilaus's home; its
foundation and the oracle given to Battus (5-69). The tale of the
Argonauts, ancestors of the founders of Thera and of Cyrene (69-262).
Advice to Arcesilaus in the interest of Demophilus" (263-299). Here
the victory at Pytho is but once briefly alluded to (l. 64). The whole
ode consists of pedigree and political admonition, either directly
administered at the end, or covertly conveyed through the example of
Pelias. The sixth Olympian, which contains the pedigree of the Iamidæ,
is framed on similar principles. The third Pythian introduces its
mythology by a different method: "I wish I could restore Cheiron, the
healer and the tutor of Asclepius, to life (1-7). The story of Coronis,
her son Asclepius, and Hippolytus (7-58). Moral, to be content and
submit to mortality (58-62). Yet would that Cheiron might return and
heal Hiero (62-76)! I will pray; and do you, Hiero, remember that
Heaven gives one blessing and two curses, and that not even Cadmus
and Peleus were always fortunate (77-106). May I suit myself always
to my fortune!" (107-115). The whole of this ode relates to Hiero's
illness, and warns him of vicissitudes: even the episode of Coronis
and Asclepius contains a covert warning against arrogance, while it
gracefully alludes to Hiero's health.

The originality and splendor of Pindar are most noticeable in the
openings of his odes--the proemia, as they are technically called. It
would appear that he possessed an inexhaustible storehouse of radiant
imagery, from which to draw new thoughts for the commencement of his
poems. In this region, which most poets find but barren, he displayed
the fullest vigor and fertility of fancy. Sometimes, but rarely,
the opening is simple, as in the second Olympian: "Hymns that rule
the lyre! what god, what hero, what man shall we make famous?" Or
the ninth Pythian: "I wish to proclaim, by help of the deep-girdled
Graces, brazen-shielded Telesicrates, Pythian victor," etc. Rather
more complex are the following: Nem. iv., "The joy of the feast is the
best physician after toil; but songs, the wise daughters of the Muses,
soothe the victor with their touch: warm water does not so refresh and
supple weary limbs as praise attended by the lyre;" or again: Ol. xi.,
"There is a time when men have greatest need of winds; there is when
heaven's showers of rain, children of the cloud, are sorest sought
for. But if a man achieves a victory with toil, then sweet-voiced
hymns arise as the beginning of future fame," etc., etc. But soon we
pass into a more gorgeous region. "As when with golden columns reared
beneath the well-walled palace-porch we build a splendid hall, so will
I build my song. At the beginning of the work we must make the portal
radiant."[119] Or again: "No carver of statues am I, to fashion figures
stationary on their pedestal; but come, sweet song! on every argosy
and skiff set forth from Ægina to proclaim that Pytheas, Lampon's son,
by strength of might is victor in Nemean games, upon whose chin and
cheek you see not yet the tender mother of the vine-flower, summer's
bloom."[120] Or again: "Hallowed bloom of youth, herald of Aphrodite's
ambrosial pleasures, who, resting on the eyelids of maidens and of
boys, bearest one aloft with gentle hands of violence, but another
rudely!"[121] Or once again, in a still grander style:

    "Listen! for verily it is of beauty's queen, or of the
    Graces, that we turn the glebe, approaching the rocky centre
    of the deep-voiced earth: where for the blest Emmenidæ and
    stream-washed Acragas, yea, and for Zenocrates, is built a
    treasure-house of Pythian hymns in the golden Apollonian vale.
    This, no rain of winter, driving on the wings of wind the
    pitiless army of the rushing cloud, no hurricane shall toss,
    storm-lashed with pebbles of the uptorn beach, into the briny
    ocean caves; but in pure light its glorious face shall speak
    the victory that brings a common fame on thy sire, Thrasybulus,
    and thy race, remaining in the windings of Crissean

We have already seen how Pindar compares his odes to arrows, to
sun-soaring eagles, to flowers of the Muses, to wine in golden
goblets, to water, to a shrine which no years will fret away. Another
strange figure[123] may be quoted from the third Nemean (line 76):
"I send to thee this honey mingled with white milk; the dew of their
mingling hangs around the bowl, a draught of song, flowing through the
Æolian breath of flutes." It will be perceived that to what is called
confusion of metaphors Pindar shows a lordly indifference. Swift and
sudden lustre, the luminousness of a meteor, marks this monarch of
lyric song. He grasps an image, gives it a form of bronze, irradiates
it with the fire of flame or down-poured sunlight.

To do justice to Pindar's power of narrative by extracts and
translations is impossible. No author suffers more by mutilation and by
the attempt to express in another language and another rhythm what he
has elaborately fashioned. Yet it may be allowed me to direct attention
to the rapidity with which the burning of Coronis (Pyth. iii. 38) and
the birth of Rhodes from the sea (Ol. vii. 54) are told in words the
grandest, simplest, and most energetic that could be found. This is the
birth of Iamos (Ol. vi. 39):

    Nor could she hide from Æpytus the seed
      Divine: but he to Pytho, chewing care,
    Journeyed to gain for this great woe some rede;
      She loosening her crimson girdle fair,
    And setting on the ground her silver jar,
      Beneath the darksome thicket bare a son,
    Within whose soul flamed godhead like a star;
      And to her aid the golden-haired sent down
    Mild Eleithuia and the awful Fates,
    Who stood beside, while from the yearning gates

    Of childbirth, with a brief and joyous pain,
      Came Iamos into the light, whom she therewith
    Sore-grieving left upon the grass: amain
      By gods' decree two bright-eyed serpents lithe
    Tended, and with the harmless venom fed
      Of bees, the boy; nor ceased they to provide
    Due nurture. But the king, what time he sped
      Homeward from rocky Pytho, to his side
    Called all his household, asking of the son
    Born of Evadne, for he said that none

    But Phoebus was the sire, and he should be
      Chief for his prophecy 'mid mortal men,
    Nor should his children's seed have end. Thus he
      Uttered the words oracular: and then
    They swore they had not heard or seen the child,
      Now five days old; but he within the reed
    And thick-entangled woodland boskage wild,
      His limbs 'mid golden beams and purple brede
    Of gillyflowers deep-sunken, lay; wherefore
    He by his mother's wish for all time bore

    That deathless name. But when he plucked the flower
      Of golden-wreathéd youth, he went and stood
    Midmost Alpheus, at the midnight hour,
      And called upon the ruler of the flood,
    His ancestor Poseidon, and the lord
      Of god-built Delos, praying that he might
    Rear up some race to greatness. Then the word
      Responsive of his sire upon the night
    Sounded:--'Arise, my son, go forth and fare
    Unto the land whereof all men shall share!'

    So came they to the high untrodden mound
      Of Cronion; and there a double meed
    Of prophecy on Iamos was bound,
      Both from the voice that knows no lie to heed
    Immortal words, and next, when Herakles,
      Bold in his counsels, unto Pisa came,
    Founding the festivals of sacred peace
      And mighty combats for his father's fame,
    Then on the topmost altar of Jove's hill,
    The seat of sooth oracular to fill.

After so much praise of Pindar's style, it must be confessed that
he has faults. One of these is notoriously tumidity--an overblown
exaggeration of phrase. For example, when he wants to express that
he cannot enlarge on the fame of Ægina, but will relate as quickly
as he can the achievements of Aristomenes which he has undertaken,
he says: "But I am not at leisure to consecrate the whole long tale
to the lyre and delicate voice, lest satiety should come and cause
annoy; but that which is before my feet shall go at running speed--thy
affair, my boy--the latest of the noble deeds made winged by means
of my art."[124] The imaginative force which enabled him to create
epithets like #Philaglaos#, #pamporphyros#, and to put them exactly in
their proper places, like blocks of gleaming alabaster or of glowing
porphyry--for the architectural power over language is eminent in
Pindar; the Titanic faculty of language which produced such phrases as
#ex adamantos ê sidarou kechalkeutai melainan kardian psychrâi phlogi#,
did also betray him into expressions as pompous and frigid as these:
#poikilophormingos aoidas ... schoinoteneia t' aoida dithyrambôn#.
These, poured forth by Pindar in the insolence of prodigality, when
imitated by inferior poets, produced that inflated manner of lyrical
diction which Aristophanes ridicules in Kinesias. The same may be said
about his mixed metaphors, whereof the following are fair examples:

    #doxan echô tin' epi glôssâi akonas ligyras
    ha m' ethelonta proselkei kallirooisi pnoais.#--Ol. vi. 82.

    #Kôpan schason tachy d' ankyran ereison chthoni
    prôirathe choirados alkar petras
    enkômiôn gar aôtos hymnôn
    ep' allot' allon hôte melissa thynei logon.#--Pyth. x. 51.

Nor are these the worst, perhaps, of the sort which might be chosen:
for Pindar uses images like precious stones, setting them together in a
mass, without caring to sort them, so long as they produce a gorgeous
show. Apparent incoherences, involving difficulty to the reader, and
producing a superficial effect of obscurity, constitute another class
of his alleged faults--due partly to his allusive and elliptical style,
partly to his sudden transitions, partly to the mixture of his images.
Incapable of what is commonplace, too fiery to trudge, like Simonides,
along the path of rhetorical development, infinitely more anxious to
realize by audacity the thought that seizes him than to make it easy to
his hearer, Pindar is obscure to all who are unwilling to assimilate
their fancy to his own. La Harpe called the Divine Comedy _une
amplification stupidement barbare_: what, if he had found occasion to
speak the truth of his French mind, would he have said about the Odes
of Pindar? Another difficulty, apart from these of verbal style and
imagination, is derived from the fact that the mechanism of Pindar's
poetry, carefully as it is planned, is no less carefully concealed. He
seems to take delight in trying to solve the problem of how slight a
suggestion can be made to introduce a lengthy narrative. The student is
obliged to maintain his attention at the straining-point if an ode of
Pindar's, even after patient analysis, is to present more than a mass
of confused thoughts and images to his mind. But when he has caught the
poet's drift, how delicate is the machinery, how beautiful is the art,
which governs this most sensitive fabric of linked melodies! What the
hearers made of these odes--the athletes for whom they were written,
the handsome youths praised in them, the rich men at whose tables they
were chanted--remains an impenetrable mystery. Had the Greek race
perceptions infinitely finer than ours? Or did the classic harmonies
of Pindar sweep over their souls, ruffling the surface merely, but
leaving the deeps untouched, as the soliloquies of _Hamlet_ or the
profound philosophy of _Troilus and Cressida_ must have been lost upon
the groundlings of Elizabeth's days, who caught with eagerness at the
queen's poisoned goblet or the by-play of Sir Pandarus? That is a
problem we cannot solve. All we know for certain is, that even allowing
for the currency of Pindar's language and for the familiarity of his
audience with the circumstances under which his odes were composed,
as well as with their mythological allusions, these poems must at all
times have been more difficult to follow than Bach's fugue in G minor
to a man who cannot play the organ.


[104] This and all references are made to Bergk's text of Pindar.

[105] See above, p. 303.

[106] Translated by Conington, from Fragment ii. of _Dirges_.

[107] _Purg._, ix. 19.

[108] _Carm._, iv. 2. Translated thus by Conington:

    Pindar, like torrent from the steep
    Which, swollen with rain, its banks o'erflows,
    With mouth unfathomably deep,
    Foams, thunders, glows.

[109] 7th Ol.

[110] Compare this with the passage in Pythian, iii. 68, where Pindar
describes himself #Ionian temnôn thalassan#.

[111] Bergk, _Poetæ Lyrici_, p. 1301.

[112] Pyth. iv. 263.

[113] These pregnant words imply self-government and self-restraint
in obedience to a high ideal of order and symmetry, as opposed to the
perils and the uncomeliness of extravagance.

[114] "Hateful of a truth, even in days of old, was treacherous
blandishment, attendant of wily words designing guile, mischief-making
slander, which loves to wrest the splendor of fame and to maintain the
unreal honors of ignoble men. Never may such be my temper, Zeus, my
father! but may I follow the plain paths of life, that, dying, I may
leave no foul fame to my children. Some pray for gold, and some for
vast lands; but I to please my countrymen, and so to hide my limbs
beneath the earth, praising where praise is due, and sowing blame for
sinful men. Virtue grows and blooms, like a tree that shoots up under
fostering dews, when skilled men and just raise it towards the liquid
air." ... "Among my fellow-citizens I look with brightness in my eye,
not having overstepped due bounds, and having removed from before my
feet all violence. May future time come kindly to me." ... "May I
obtain from Heaven the desire of what is right, aiming at things within
my powers in my prime of life. For finding, as I do, that the middle
status in a city flourishes with more lasting prosperity, I deprecate
the lot of kings." ... "Passing the pleasure of the days, I gently
glide towards old age and man's destined end; for all alike we die: yet
is our fortune unequal; and if a man seek far, short is his strength to
reach the brazen seat of the gods: verily winged Pegasus cast his lord
Bellerophon, who sought to come into the dwellings of the heaven, unto
the company of Zeus." ... "Seek not to be Zeus, ... mortal fortunes are
for mortal men."

[115] Compare for a similar freedom of judgment Antigone's famous
speech on the unwritten Laws.

[116] The conscience forms a strong point in the ethical systems
of many of the ancients, especially of Plato, of Lucretius, of
Persius--authors otherwise dissimilar enough as representing three
distinct species of thought. In mythology it receives an imperfect
embodiment in the Erinnyes, who, however, are spiritual forces acting
from without, rather than from within, upon the criminal. Purifying
rites belonged to the Mysteries, or #teletai#; they formed a prominent
feature in the ethics of Empedocles and Pythagoras, and an integral
part of the cult of Apollo and the nether deities. Philosophers like
Plato rejected them as pertaining to ceremonial superstition.

[117] Bunsen's _God in History_, vol. ii. pp. 144 and 136.

[118] Pyth. viii.

[119] Ol. vi.

[120] Nem. v.

[121] Nem. viii.

[122] Pyth. vi.

[123] Compare, too, Nem. vii. 11, 62, 77.

[124] Pyth. viii. 30.



    Life of Æschylus.--Nature of his Inspiration.--The
        Theory of Art in the _Ion_ of Plato.--Æschylus and
        Sophocles.--What Æschylus accomplished for the Attic
        Drama.--His Demiurgic Genius.--Colossal Scale of his
        Work.--Marlowe.--Oriental Imagery.--Absence of Love
        as a Motive in his Plays.--The Organic Vitality of
        his Art.--Opening Scenes.--Messenger.--Chorus.--His
        Theology.--Destiny in Æschylus.--The Domestic Curse.--His
        Character-drawing.--Clytemnestra.--Difficulty of Dealing
        with the _Prometheus_.--What was his Fault?--How was
        Zeus justified?--Shelley's Opinion.--The Last Trilogy
        of _Prometheus_.--Middle Plays in Trilogies.--Attempt
        to Reconstruct a _Prometheis_.--The Part of
        Herakles.--Obscurity of the Promethean Legend.--The
        Free Handling of Myths permitted to the Dramatist.--The
        _Oresteia_.--Its Subject.--The Structure of the Three
        Plays.--The _Agamemnon_.--Its Imagery.--Cassandra.--The
        Cry of the King.--The Chorus.--Iphigeneia at the
        Altar.--Menelaus abandoned by Helen.--The Dead Soldiers
        on the Plains of Troy.--The _Persæ_.--The Crime of
        Xerxes.--Irony of the Situation.--Description of the Battle
        of Salamis.--The Style of Æschylus.--His Religious Feeling.

Æschylus, son of Euphorion, was born at Eleusis in 525 B.C. When he
was thirty-five years of age, just ten years after the production of
his first tragedy, he fought at Marathon. This fact is significant
in its bearing on his art and on his life. Æschylus belonged to a
family distinguished during the decisive actions of the Persian war by
their personal bravery. Ameinias, his brother, gained the _aristeia_,
or reward for valor, at the battle of Salamis; and there was an old
picture in the theatre of Dionysus at Athens which represented the
great deeds of the poet and his brother Cynægeirus at Marathon. Of his
military achievements he was more proud than of his poetical success;
for he mentions the former and is silent about the latter in the
epitaph he wrote for his own tomb. Of his actual life at Athens, we
only know this much, that he sided with the old aristocratic party.
His retirement to Sicily after his defeat by Sophocles in 468 B.C.
arose probably from the fact that Cimon, who adjudged the prize, was
leader of the democratic opposition, and was felt to have allowed his
political leanings to influence his decision. His second retirement to
Sicily in 453 B.C., after the production of the _Oresteia_, in which
he unsuccessfully supported the Areiopagus against Pericles, was due,
perhaps, in like manner to his disagreement with the rising powers in
the State. That at some period of his career he was publicly accused of
impiety, because he had either divulged the mysteries of Demeter, or
had offended popular taste by his presentation of the _Furies_ on the
stage, rests upon sufficient antique testimony. Such charges were not
uncommon at Athens, as might be proved by the biographies of Anaxagoras
and Socrates. But the exact nature of the prosecution directed against
Æschylus is not known; we cannot connect it with any of his extant
works for certain, or determine how far it affected his action. He died
at Gela, in 456 B.C., aged sixty-nine, having spent his life partly at
Athens and partly at the court of Hiero, pursuing in both places his
profession of tragic poet and chorus-master.

Pausanias tells a story of his early vocation to dramatic art: "When
he was a boy he was set to watch grapes in the country, and there
fell asleep. In his slumber Dionysus appeared to him, and ordered him
to apply himself to tragedy. At daybreak he made the attempt, and
succeeded very easily." There is no reason that this legend should not
have been based on truth. It was the general opinion of antiquity that
Æschylus was a poet possessed by the deity, working less by artistic
method than by immediate inspiration. Athenæus asserts crudely that he
composed his tragedies while drunk with wine: #methyôn goun egraphe tas
tragôidias#; and Sophocles is reported to have told him that "He did
what he ought to do, but did it without knowing." Longinus, in like
manner, after praising Æschylus for the audacity of his imagination
and the heroic grandeur of his conceptions, adds that his plays were
frequently unpolished, unrefined, ill-digested, and rough in style.
Similar expressions of opinion might be quoted from Quintilian, who
describes his style "as sublime and weighty, and grandiloquent often to
a fault, but in most of his compositions rude and wanting in order."
He adds that "the Athenians allowed later poets to correct his dramas
and to bring them into competition under new forms, when many of them
gained prizes." Æschylus seems, therefore, to have impressed critics of
antiquity with the god-intoxicated passion of his genius rather than
with the perfection of his style or the consummate beauty of his art.
It is possible that he received less justice from his fellow-countrymen
than we, who have been educated by the Shakespearian drama, can now pay

Æschylus might be selected to illustrate the artistic psychology of
Plato. In the _Phædrus_ Plato lays down the doctrine that poetic
inspiration is akin to madness--an efflation from the Muses, a divine
mania analogous to love. In the _Ion_ he further develops this
position, and asserts that "all good poets compose their beautiful
poems not as works of art, but because they are inspired and
possessed." The analogy which he selects is drawn from the behavior of
Bacchantes under the influence of Dionysus. He wishes to distinguish
between the mental operations of the poet and the philosopher, to show
that the regions of poetry and science are separate, and to prove that
rule and method are less sure guides than instinct when the work to be
produced is a poem. "The poet is a light and winged and holy thing, and
there is no invention in him until he has been inspired and is out of
his senses, and the mind is no longer in him; when he has not attained
to this state, he is powerless and is unable to utter his oracles."
The final dictum of the _Ion_ is, "inspiration, not art"--#theion
kai mê technikon#. It is curious to find a Greek of the best age,
himself in early days a poet, and throughout distinguished by genius
allied to the poetic, thus boldly and roundly stating a theory which
corresponds to the vulgar notion that poetry comes by nature, untutored
and untaught, and which seems to contradict the practice and opinion
of supreme authorities like Sophocles and Goethe. The truth is, that
among artists we find two broadly differentiated types. The one kind
produce their best work when all their faculties are simultaneously
excited, and when the generative impulse takes possession of them.
They seem to obey the dictates of a power superior to their ordinary
faculties. The other kind are always conscious of their methods and
their aims; they do nothing, as it were, by accident; they avoid
improvisation, and subordinate their creative faculty to reason. The
laws of art may be just as fully appreciated by the more instinctive
artists, and may have equally determined their choice of form and their
calculation of effects; but at the moment of production these rules are
thrust into the background, whereas they are continually present to the
minds of the deliberate workers. It may be said in passing that this
distinction enables us to understand some phrases which the Italians,
acutely sensitive to artistic conditions, have reserved for passionate
and highly inspired workers; they speak, for instance, of painting a
picture or blocking out a statue _con furia_, when the artist is a
Tintoretto or a Michael Angelo. If there is any truth at all in this
analysis, we are justified in believing that Æschylus belonged to the
former and Sophocles to the latter class of poets, and that this is the
secret of the criticism passed by Sophocles upon his predecessor. The
account which Æschylus himself gave of his tragedies throws no light
upon his method; he is reported to have said that they were "fragments
picked up from the mighty feasts of Homer." The value he attached to
them is proved by his saying that he dedicated what he wrote to Time.

Though the ancients may have been right in regarding Æschylus as
an enthusiastic writer, obeying the impulse of the god within him
rather than the rules of reason, no dramatic poet ever had a higher
sense of the æsthetic unity which tragedy demands. Each of his
masterpieces presents to the imagination a coherent and completely
organized whole; every part is penetrated with the dominant thought
and passion that inspired it. He had, moreover, the strongest sense
of the formal requirements of his art. Tragedy had scarcely passed
beyond the dithyrambic stage when he received it from the hands of
Phrynichus. Æschylus gave it the form which, with comparatively
unimportant alterations, it maintained throughout the brilliant period
of Attic culture. It was he who curtailed the function of the chorus
and developed dialogue, thus expanding the old Thespian elements of
tragedy in accordance with the true spirit of the drama. By adding a
second actor, by attending diligently to the choric songs and dances,
by inventing the cothurnus and the tragic mask, and by devising
machinery and scenes adapted to the large scale of the Athenian stage,
he gave its permanent form to the dramatic art of the Greeks. However
god-possessed he may have been during the art of composition, he was
therefore a wise critic and a potent founder in all matters pertaining
to the theatre. Yet though Æschylus in this way made the drama, the
style in which he worked went out of date in his own lifetime. So
rapid was the evolution of intelligence at Athens that during a single
generation his tragedies became, we will not say old-fashioned, but
archaic. They were duly put upon the stage; a chorus at the public
expense was provided for their representation, and the MS. which
authorized their canon and their text was regarded as a public
treasure. Yet the Athenians already had come to love and respect them
in the same way as the English race love and respect the oratorios of
Handel. They praised them for their unapproachable magnificence; they
knew that no man of the latter days could match them in their own kind;
but they criticised their antique form and obsolete embellishments.
The poet who in his youth had played the part of innovator, and who
had shocked the public by his realistic presentation of the Furies,
depended in the heyday of the fame of Aristophanes upon conservative
support and favor.

Æschylus was essentially the demiurge of ancient art. The purely
creative faculty has never been exhibited upon a greater scale, or
applied to material more utterly beyond the range of feebler poets.
He possessed in the highest degree the power of giving life and form
to the vast, the incorporeal, and the ideal. In his dramas, mountains
were made to speak; Oceanus received shape, conversing face to face
with the Titan Prometheus, while his daughters, nurslings of the waves
and winds, were gathered on the Scythian crags in groups to listen to
their argument. The old intangible, half-mystical, half-superstitious
fears of the Greek conscience became substantial realities in his mind.
Justice and Insolence and Até no longer floated, dream-like, in the
background of religious thought: he gave them a pedigree, connected
them in a terrible series, and established them as ministers of supreme
Zeus. The Eumenides, whom the Greeks before him had not dared to figure
to their fancy, assumed a form more hideous than that of Gorgons or
Harpies. Their symbolic torches, their snake-entwined tresses, their
dreadful eyes, and nostrils snorting fiery breath, were shown for the
first time visibly in the trilogy of _Orestes_. It was a revelation
which Greek art accepted as decisive. Thus the imagination of Æschylus
added new deities to the Athenian Pantheon. The same creative faculty
enabled him to inform elemental substances, fire, water, air, with
personal vitality. The heaven, in his verse, yearns to wound the earth
with love-embraces; the falling rain impregnates the rich soil. The
throes of Ætna are a Titan's groaning. The fire that leaps from Ida to
the Hermæan crags of Lemnos, from Ægiplanctus to the Arachnæan height,
has life within it. There is nothing dead, devoid of soul, in the world
of this arch-mythopoet. Even the ghosts and phantoms, dreams and omens,
on which he loves to dwell, are substantial. Their reality exists
outside the soul they dominate.

As befits a demiurgic nature, Æschylus conceived and executed upon a
stupendous scale. His outlines are huge; his figures are colossal; his
style is broad and sweeping--like a river in its fulness and its might.
Each of his plays might be compared to a gigantic statue, whereof the
several parts, taken separately, are beautiful, while the whole is put
together with majestic harmony. But as the sculptor, in modelling a
colossus, cannot afford to introduce the details which would grace a
chimney ornament, so Æschylus was forced to sacrifice the working-out
of minor motives. His imagination, penetrated through and through with
the spirit of his subject as a whole, was more employed in presenting
a series of great situations, wrought together and combined into a
single action, than in elaborating the minutiæ of characters and plots.
The result has been that those students who delight in detail have
complained of a certain disproportion between his huge design and his
insufficient execution. It has too frequently been implied that he
could rough-hew like a Cyclops, but that he could not finish like a
Praxiteles; that he was more capable of sketching in an outline than of
filling up its parts. Fortunately we possess the means of laying bare
the misconception upon which these complaints are founded. There still
remains one, but only one, of his colossal works entire. The _Oresteia_
is sufficient to prove that we gain no insight into his method as
an artist if we consider only single plays. He thought and wrote in
trilogies. Sophocles, with whom it is usual to compare Æschylus,
somewhat to the disadvantage of the latter, abandoned the large scale,
the uncial letters, of the trilogy. Each separate Sophoclean drama is
a studied whole. In order to do Æschylus the very barest justice, we
ought therefore to contrast, not the _Agamemnon_ alone, but the entire
_Oresteia_ with the _Oedipus_ or the _Antigone_. It will then be seen
that the one poet, designing colossi, gave them the style and finish
and the unity which suit a statue larger than life-size; the other,
restricting himself within more narrow limits, was free to lavish labor
on the slightest details of his model. Such elaboration, on the scale
adopted by Æschylus, would have produced a bewildering and painful
effect of complexity. The vast design, which it was the artist's
object to throw into the utmost possible relief, would inevitably have
suffered from excess of finish.

Few dramatists have ventured, like Æschylus, to wield the chisel of
a Titan, or to knead whole mountains into statues corresponding to
the superhuman grandeur of their thought. Few, indeed, can have felt
that this was their true province, that to this they had the thews and
sinews adequate. He stands alone in his triumphant use of the large
manner, and this solitude is prejudicial to his fame with students
whose taste has been formed in the school of Sophocles. Surveying the
long roll of illustrious tragedians, there is but one, until we come
to Victor Hugo, in whom the Æschylean spirit found fresh incarnation;
and he had fallen upon days disadvantageous to his full development:
his life was cut short in its earliest bloom, and the conditions under
which he had to work, obscure and outcast from society, were adverse
to the highest production. This poet is our own Christopher Marlowe.
Like Æschylus, Marlowe's imagination was at home in the illimitable;
like Æschylus, he apprehended immaterial and elemental forces--lusts,
ambitions, and audacities of soul--as though they were substantial
entities, and gave them shape and form; like Æschylus, he was the
master of a "mighty line," the maker of a new celestial music for
his race, the founder and creator of an art which ruled his century,
the mystagogue of pomps and pageants and things terrible and things
superb in shrines unvisited by earlier poets of his age and clime; like
Æschylus, he stands arraigned of emptiness, extravagance, and "sound
and fury," because the scale on which he wrought was vast, because he
set no verbal limit to the presentation of the passion or the thought
in view. Comparing Æschylus to Marlowe is comparing the monarch of
the pine forest to the sapling fir, the full-grown lion to the lion's
whelp, the achievement of the hero to the promise of the stripling.
Yet Herakles in his cradle, when he strangled Hera's serpents, already
revealed the firm hand and unflinching nerve of him who plucked the
golden fruit of the Hesperides. Even so Marlowe's work betrays the
style and spirit of a youthful Titan; it is the labor of a beardless
Æschylus, the first-fruit of Apollo's laurel-bough untimely burned,
the libation of a consecrated priest who, while a boy, already stood
"chin-deep in the Pierian flood." If we contrast the _Supplices_, which
Æschylus can hardly have written before the age at which Marlowe died,
with _Tamburlaine_, which was certainly produced before Marlowe was
twenty-six, the most immature work of the Greek with the most immature
work of the English dramatist, we obtain a standard for estimating the
height to which the author of _Faustus_ might have grown if he had
lived to write his _Oresteia_ in the fulness of a vigorous maturity.

Much that has been described as Asiatic in the genius of Æschylus may
be referred to what I have called his demiurgic force. No mere citation
of Oriental similes will account for the impression of hugeness left
upon our memory, for the images enormous as those of farthest Ind, yet
shaped with true Hellenic symmetry, for the visions vast as those of
Ezekiel, yet conveyed withal in rich and radiant Greek. The so-called
Asiatic element in Æschylus was something which he held in common with
the poets and prophets of the East--a sense of life more mystic and
more deep, a power to seize it and discover it more real and plastic
than is often given to the nations of the West. This determination
towards the hitherto invisible, unshaped, and unbelieved, to which
he must give form, and for which he would fain win credence, may
possibly help to explain the absence of human love as a main motive
in his tragedies. There is plenty of Ares--too much, indeed, unless
we recollect that the poet was a man of Marathon--but of Aphrodite
nothing in his inspiration. It would seem that this passion, which
formed the theme of Euripides' best work, and which Sophocles in the
_Antigone_ used to enhance the tragic situation brought about through
the self-will of the heroine, had no attraction for Æschylus. Among
the fragments of his plays there is, indeed, one passage in which
he speaks of love as a cosmical force, controlling the elemental
powers of heaven and earth, and producing the flocks and fruits which
sustain mortal life. The lines in question are put into the mouth of
Aphrodite. The lost _Myrmidones_, again, described the love of Achilles
for Patroclus, which Æschylus seems to have portrayed with a strength
of passion that riveted the attention of antiquity. The plot of the
_Supplices_, in like manner, implies the lawless desire of the sons of
Ægyptus for the daughters of Danaus; and the adultery of Clytemnestra
with Ægisthus lies in the background of the _Agamemnon_. But of
love in the more romantic modern sense of the word we find no trace
either in the complete plays or in the fragments of Æschylus. It lay,
perhaps, too close at hand for him to care to choose it as the theme
of tragic poetry; and, had he so selected it, he could hardly have
avoided dwelling on its aberrations. The general feeling of the Greeks
about love, as well as his own temper, would have made this necessary.
It did not occur to the Greeks to separate love in its healthy and
simple manifestations by any sharp line of demarcation from the other
emotions of humanity. The brotherly, filial, and wifely feelings--those
which owe their ascendency to use and to the sanctities of domestic
life--appeared in their eyes more important than the affection of
youth for maid unwedded. When love ceased to be the expression on
the one side of a physical need, and on the other the binding tie
that kept the family together, the Greeks regarded it as a disease, a
madness. Plato, who treated it with seriousness, classed it among the
#maniai#. Euripides portrayed it as a god-sent curse on Phædra. Viewed
in this light, it may be urged that the love of Zeus for Io, in the
_Prometheus_, is an example of a passion which became an unbearable
burden and source of misery to its victim; but of what we understand
by love there is here in reality no question. The tale of Io rather
resembles the survival of some mystic Oriental myth of incarnation.

The organic vitality which Æschylus, by the exercise of his creative
power, communicated to the structure of his tragedies, is further
noticeable in his power of conducting a drama without prologue and
without narration. In Æschylus, the information that is necessary in
order to place the spectators at the proper point of view is conveyed
as part of the action. He does not, like Euripides, compose a formal
and preliminary speech, or, like Shakespeare, introduce two or three
superfluous characters in conversation. In this respect the openings of
the _Prometheus_, the _Agamemnon_, and the _Eumenides_ are masterpieces
of the most consummate art. Not only are we plunged _in medias res_,
without the slightest sacrifice of clearness, but the spectacle
presented to our imagination is stirring in the highest degree. The
fire has leaped from mountain peak to peak until at last it blazes on
the watchman's eyes; Hephæstus and his satellites are actually engaged
in nailing down the Titan to his bed of pain; the Furies are slumbering
within the sacred Delphian shrine, and the ghost of Clytemnestra moves
among them, rousing each in turn from her deep trance. Euripides,
proceeding less by immediate vision than by patient thought, prefixed
a monologue, which contained a programme of preceding events, and
prepared the spectator for what would follow in the play. These
narratives are often frigid, and not unfrequently are placed, without
propriety, in the mouth of one of the actors. We feel that a wholly
detached prologue would have been more artistic.

The same is true about the speeches of the Messenger. The art of
Æschylus was far too highly organized to be obliged to have recourse to
such rude methods. It is true that, when he pleased, as in the _Persæ_,
he gave the principal part to the Messenger. The actors in that play
are little better than spectators; and the same may be said about the
_Seven against Thebes_. But the Messenger, though employed as here for
special purposes, was no integral part of his dramatic machinery; nor
did he ever commit the decisive event of the drama to narration. His
master-stroke as a dramatic poet--the cry of Agamemnon, following close
upon the prophecies of Cassandra, and breaking the silence like a clap
of doom, in that awful moment when the scene is left empty and the
chorus tremble with the apprehension of a coming woe--would probably
have yielded in the hands of Euripides to the speech of a servant. It
was not that the later poet would not willingly have employed every
means in his power for stirring the emotions of his audience; but he
had not the creative imagination of his predecessor; he could not grasp
his subject as a whole so perfectly as to dispense with artificial and
mechanical devices. He fell back, therefore, upon narrative, in which
he was a supreme master.

Equally remarkable from this point of view is the Æschylean treatment
of the Chorus. It is never really separated from the action of the
play. In the _Prometheus_, for example, the Oceanidæ actually share the
doom of the protagonist. In the _Supplices_ the daughters of Danaus may
be termed the protagonist; for upon them converges the whole interest
of the drama. In the _Seven against Thebes_ the participation of the
Chorus in the fate of the chief actors is proved by half of them siding
with Ismene and the other half with Antigone at the conclusion. In the
_Persæ_ they represent the nation which has suffered through the folly
of Xerxes. In the _Agamemnon_ the elders of Mycenæ assume an attitude
directly hostile to Ægisthus and Clytemnestra. In the _Choëphoroe_ the
women who sympathize with Electra further the scheme of Orestes by
putting Ægisthus off the track of danger and sending him unarmed to
meet his murderers. In the _Eumenides_ the Furies play a part at least
equal in importance to that of Orestes. They, like the protagonist,
stand before the judgment-seat of Pallas and accept the verdict of the
Areiopagus. Thus, in each of the extant plays of Æschylus, even the
Chorus, which was subsequently so far separated from the action as to
become a mere commentator and spectator, is vitally important in the
conduct of the drama. Euripides, by formalizing the several elements of
the tragic art, by detaching the Chorus, introducing a prologue, and
expanding the functions of the Messenger, sacrificed that higher kind
of unity which we admire in the harmonious working of complex parts.
What he gained was the opportunity of concentrating attention upon
the conflict of motives, occasions for the psychological analysis of
character, and scope for ethical reflection and rhetorical description.

I have hitherto been occupied by what appear to me the essential
features of the genius of Æschylus--its demiurgic faculty of
creativeness, and its capacity of dealing with heroic rather than
merely human forms. To pass to the consideration of his theology would
at this point be natural and easy. I do not, however, wish to dwell
on what is called the prophetic aspect of his tragedy at present. It
is enough to say that, here, as in the sphere of pure art, he was in
the truest sense creative. Without exactly removing the old landmarks,
he elevated the current conception of Zeus regarded as the supreme
deity, and introduced a novel life and depth of meaning into the moral
fabric of the Greek religion. Much as he rejoiced in the delineation
of Titanic and primeval powers, he paid but slight attention to the
minor gods of the Pantheon; his creed was monotheism detached upon a
pantheistic background, to which the forms of polytheism gave variety
and color. Zeus was all in all for Æschylus far more than for his
predecessors, Homer and Hesiod. The most remarkable point about the
Æschylean theology is that, in spite of its originality, it seems
to have but little affected the substance of serious Greek thought.
Plato, for example, talks of Prometheus in the _Protagoras_ as if no
new conception of his character had been revealed to him by Æschylus.
We are not, therefore, justified in regarding the dramatic poet as in
any strict sense a prophet, and the oracles he uttered are chiefly
valuable as indications of his own peculiar ways of thinking; nor ought
we, even so, perhaps, to demand from Æschylus too much consistency. The
_Supplices_, for instance, cannot without due reservation be used to
illustrate the _Prometheus_; since the dramatic situation in the two
tragedies is so different as to account for any apparent divergence of

There is, however, one point in the morality of Æschylus concerning
fate and freewill which calls for special comment, since we run a
danger here of doing real violence to his art by overstating some
one theory about his supposed philosophical intention. I allude, of
course, to his conception of destiny. If we adopt the fatalistic
explanation of Greek tragedy propounded by Schlegel, we can hardly
avoid coarsening and demoralizing fables which owe their interest not
to the asphyxiating force of destiny, but to the action and passion
of human beings. If, on the other hand, we overstrain the theological
doctrine of Nemesis, we run a risk of trying to find sermons in works
of art, and of exaggerating the importance of details which support our
favorite hypothesis. It should never be forgotten that whatever view
we take of the moral and religious purpose of Greek tragedy has been
gained by subsequent analysis. It was not in any case present to the
consciousness of the poet as a necessary condition of his art as art.
His first business was to provide for the dramatic presentation of his
subject: his philosophy, whether ethical or theological, transpired
in the heat and stress of production, not because he sought to give
it deliberate expression, but because it formed an integral part of
the fabric of his mind. Æschylus, in common with the Greeks of his
age, firmly believed in the indissoluble connection between acts and
consequences, and in the continuation of these consequences through
successive generations. "Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also
reap," "the fathers have eaten a sour grape and the children's teeth
are set on edge," formed the groundwork of his view of human life. This
sort of fatalism he colored with religious theories adopted from the
antique theology of his race, but strongly moralized and developed in
the light of his own reason. The importance attributed by the Greeks
to hereditary curses, even in the common affairs of life, is proved
by the familiar example of the proclamation by the Spartans against
Pericles in the first year of the Peloponnesian War. Much of elder
superstition, therefore, clings about his ethics, and an awful sense of
guilt and doom attaches to acts in themselves apparently indifferent;
nor can we fail to recognize a belief in fate as fate, #to peprômenon#,
superior to all besides. The realm of tragic terror lies precisely in
this border-land between inexorable reason and unreasoned fear. It
has nothing to do with pure science or pure religion: they speak each
for themselves with their own voice; but it is not the voice of the
dramatist. On the one hand, logical fatalism offers no freedom for the
play of character, no turning-points of choice, no revolutions which
may rouse our sympathy and stir us with the sense of self-determined
ruin. On the other hand, theology, in its methodic form, supplies,
indeed, the text of sermons, admonitions, and commandments, but not the
subject-matter for a work of art. Where the necessity of circumstance
or the will of the Deity is paramount, human action sinks into
insignificance; the canons of inevitable sequence and of obedience
under pain of penalty supersede the casuistry of balanced motives,
and the poet is swallowed up in the divine or the logician. Somewhere
between the two, in the intermediate darkness, or #metaichmios skotos#,
where all the ways of life are perilous, and where no clear light
reveals the pitfalls of fate and the gins of religious duty, lies
the track of the tragedian. His men and women are free; yet their
action is overruled by destiny. They err against the law of heaven
and flourish for a season; but the law pursues them and enacts its
penalty. While terror and pity are stirred by the pervading sense of
human helplessness, scope is still left for the exercise of the moral
judgment; nor is the poet precluded from teaching his audience by
precept and example. These remarks apply to the domestic curse which
played so prominent a part in all Greek tragedy, and especially in
the dramas of Æschylus. It was no mere avalanche of doom falling from
above and crushing the innocent and the criminal alike; nor, again,
can it justly be paralleled by what it most resembles, the taint of
hereditary disease. It partook of the blind force of fate; it was
propagated from generation to generation by laws analogous to those
which govern madness; yet it contained another element, inasmuch as the
transgression of each successive victim was a necessary condition of
its prolongation. Sin alone, however, was not sufficient to establish
its mysterious power; for all men are liable to offend against the
divine law, and yet all families are not afflicted with a curse.
In order to appreciate its nature, all these factors must be taken
into account; their sum total, notwithstanding the exactitude of our
calculation, remains within the realm of mystery. The undiscovered
residuum, or rather the resolution of all these elements in a power
which is all of them and more than all, is fate. Students who are
curious to appreciate the value attached by the Greeks themselves to
the several elements implicit in the notion of domestic Até, should
attentively peruse the longer of the two arguments to the _Seven
against Thebes_, while the play itself sets forth more energetically
than any other the terrible lesson of the Æschylean Nemesis. The
protagonist Eteocles is a curse-intoxicated man, driven by the doom
of his race and by the imprecations of his father on a dreadful shoal
of fate. He walks open-eyed to meet his destiny--to slay his brother
and be slain. Still, helpless as he seems, he is not innocent. His
own rebellious and selfish nature, by rousing the fury of Oedipus,
kindles afresh the smouldering flame of the ancestral Até. Thus the
fate which overwhelms him is compounded of hereditary guilt, personal
transgression, and the courage-quelling terror of a father's curse. But
it is more than all this: it is an irresistible compelling force. He
cannot avoid it, since action has been thrust upon him by the strength
of circumstance. The tragic horror of his situation arises from the
necessity under which he labors of going forward, though he knows that
the next step leads to a bottomless abyss.

In estimating the characters of Æschylus, what has already been said
about his art in general must be taken into account. He was occupied
with the task of exhibiting a great action, a #drama# in the strictest
sense of the Greek phrase; and this action was frequently so colossal
in its relations as to preclude the niceties of merely personal
character. Persons had to become types in order to play their part
efficiently. The underlying moral and religious idea was blended with
the æsthetic purpose of the poet, and penetrated with the interest
pertaining to the clash of conflicting principles: the total effect
produced sometimes seems to defy analysis of character in detail. The
psychology of his chief characters is, therefore, inherent in their
action, and is only calculable in connection with their momentary
environments. We have to infer their specific quality less from what
they say than from their bearing and their conduct in the crises of
the drama. Only after profound study of the situation of each tragedy,
after steeping our imagination in the elementary conditions selected by
the poet, can we realize the fulness of their individuality. In this
respect Æschylus resembles Homer. Like Homer, he repeats the work of
nature, and creates men and women entire. He does not strive to lay
bare the conscious workings of the mind piecemeal. He has none of the
long speeches on which Euripides relied for setting forth the flux and
reflux of contending motives, or for making clear the attitude adopted
by his _dramatis personæ_. There is no revelation of the anatomical
method in his art; nor, again, can we detect the _ars celandi artem_
to which poets of a more reflective age are forced to have recourse.
Everything with Æschylus is organic; each part is subordinated to the
whole which pre-existed in his mind, and which has been evolved in
its essential unity from his imagination. Even the weighty sentences
and gnomic judgments upon human affairs, uttered by his actors, are
necessitated by the straits in which they find themselves. Severed
from their context, they lose half their value; whereas the similar
reflections in Euripides may be detached without injury, and read like
extracts from a commonplace-book. Perhaps sufficient stress has not
been laid by critics upon this quality of absolute creativeness, which
distinguishes the Homeric, Æschylean, and Shakespearian poets from
those who proceed from mental analysis to artistic presentation. It is
easy to render an account of characters that have first been thought
out as ethical specimens and then provided with a suitable exterior.
It is very difficult to dissect those which started into being by an
act of intuitive invention, and which, dissociated from the texture
of circumstance woven round them, appear at first sight to elude our
intellectual grasp. Yet the latter are found in the long run to be cast
in the more vital mould. Once apprehended, they haunt the memory like
real persons, and we may fancy, if we choose, innumerable series of
events through which they would maintain their individuality intact.
They are, in fact, living creatures, and not puppets of the poet's

Of the characters of Æschylus, those which have been wrought with
the greatest care, and which leave the most profound impression on
the memory, are Clytemnestra and Prometheus. Considering how slight
were the outlines of the Homeric picture of Clytemnestra, it may be
said that Æschylus created her. What is still more remarkable than
his creation of Clytemnestra is that he should have realized her
far more vividly than any of the men whom he has drawn. This proves
that Æschylus, at least among the Attic Greeks, gave a full share
to women in the affairs of the great world of public action. As a
woman, she stands outside the decencies and duties of womanhood,
supporting herself by the sole strength of her powerful nature and
indomitable will. The self-sufficingness of Clytemnestra is the
main point in her portrait. Her force of character is revealed by
the sustained repression of her real feelings and the concealment
of her murderous purpose, which enable her to compass Agamemnon's
death. During the critical moments when she receives her husband
in state, and leads him to the bath within the palace, she remains
calm and collected. The deed that she has plotted must, if ever, be
done at once. A single word from the Chorus, who are aware of her
relations to Ægisthus, would spoil all her preparations. Yet she
shows no fear, and can command the fairest flowers of rhetoric to
greet the king with feigned congratulations. The same strength is
displayed in her treatment of Cassandra, on whom she wastes no words,
expends no irritable energy, although she hates and has the mind to
murder her. Studied craft and cold disdain mark her bearing at the
supreme crisis. When the death-blow has been given to Agamemnon, she
breathes freely; her language reveals the exhilaration of one who
expands his lungs and opens wide his nostrils to snuff the elastic
air of liberty. The blood upon her raiment is as pleasant to her as
a shower of rain on thirsty cornfields; she shouts like soldiers
when the foemen turn to fly. Æschylus has sustained the impression
of her force of character by the radiant speech with which he gifts
her. This splendor of rhetoric belongs by nature to the magnificent
and lawless woman who rejoices in her shame. It is like the superb
colors of a venomous lily. The contrast between the serpent-coils of
her sophistic speech to Agamemnon at the palace-gate and the short
sentences in which she describes his murder--true tiger-leaps of
utterance--is a triumph of dramatic art. As regards her motive for
killing the king, I see no reason to suppose that Æschylus intended
to diverge from the Homeric tradition. Clytemnestra has lived in
adultery with Ægisthus; she dares not face a public discovery of her
fault, nor is she willing to forego her paramour. The passage in the
_Choëphoroe_, where she argues with Orestes before her own murder,
proves that she has no other valid reason to set forth. Her son tells
her she shall be slain and laid by the side of Ægisthus, seeing that
in life she preferred him to her lord. All her answer is: "Child, in
your father's absence I was sorely tried." The same is clear from
the allusions in the _Agamemnon_ to the nerveless lion, who tumbles
in the royal couch, and is a sorry housekeeper for the departed
king. Æschylus, however, with the instinct of a great poet, has not
suffered our minds to dwell wholly upon this adulterous motive. He
makes Clytemnestra put forth other pleas, and intends us to believe
in their validity, as lending her self-confidence in the commission
of her crime, and as suggesting reasons for our sympathy. Revenge for
Iphigeneia's sacrifice, the superstitious sense of the Erinnys of the
house of Atreus, jealousy of Chryseis and Cassandra, mingle with the
master impulse in her mind, and furnish her with specious arguments.
The solidity of Clytemnestra's character is impressed upon us with a
force and a reality of presentation that have never been surpassed. She
maintains the same _aplomb_, the same cold glittering energy of speech,
the same presence of mind and unswerving firmness of nerve, whether
she bandies words of bitter irony with the Chorus, or ceremoniously
receives the king, or curls the lip of scorn at Cassandra, or defies
the Argives after Agamemnon's death. She loves power, and despises
show. When the deed is done, and fair words are no longer needed, her
hypocrisy is cast aside. At the same time she defends herself with a
moral impudence which is only equalled by her intellectual skill, and
rises at last to the sublimity of arrogance when she asserts her right
to be regarded as the incarnate demon of the house. Clytemnestra has
been frequently compared to Lady Macbeth; nor is it easy to think of
the one without being reminded of the other. Clytemnestra, however, is
a less elastic character than Lady Macbeth: she is cast in metal of a
tougher temper, and the springs which move her are more simple. Lady
Macbeth has not in reality so much force and fibre: she does not design
Duncan's death many months beforehand; she acts from overmastering
impulse under the temptation of opportunity, and when her husband
and herself are sunk chin-deep in blood she cannot bear the load of
guilt upon her conscience. Shakespeare has conceived and analyzed a
woman more sensitive, and therefore more liable to nervous failure,
than Clytemnestra. Clytemnestra never breaks down. Her sin feeds and
nourishes her nature, instead of starving and palsying it; her soul
grows fat and prospers, nor does she know what conscience means. She
is never more imposing in her pride of intellectual strength than
when she receives the feigned news of Orestes' death. Just as the
superior nature of Lady Macbeth is enhanced by contrast with her weaker
husband, so Clytemnestra appears to the greatest advantage by the side
of Ægisthus. Ægisthus in the last scene of the _Agamemnon_ brags and
blusters; Clytemnestra utters no superfluous syllable. Ægisthus insults
the corpse of the king; Clytemnestra is satisfied with having slain
him. Nothing shakes her courage or weakens her determination. When
Orestes turns his sword against her in the _Choëphoroe_, her first
impulse is to call aloud: "Reach me with all speed an axe of weight
to tire a man, that we may know at once the issue of this combat."
She will measure weapons with her son. And when his blade is already
at her breasts, she has the nerve to bare them and exclaim: "My son,
behold where thou didst lie; these nipples gave thee milk." There
is no groaning in her last life-struggle. She dies, as she lived,
self-sustained and equal to all emergencies. This terrible personality
endures even in the grave. When she rises in the _Eumenides_, a ghost
from Hades, it is with bitter taunts and a most biting tongue that
she stirs up the Furies to revenge. If we are to seek a parallel for
Clytemnestra in our own dramatic literature, I should be inclined
to look for it in the _Vittoria Corrombona_ of Webster. The modern
poet has not developed his "white devil of Italy" with the care that
Æschylus bestowed on Clytemnestra. Her portrait remains a sketch rather
than a finished picture; and the circumstances of her tragedy are
infinitely less impressive than those which place the Queen of Mycenæ
on so eminent a pinnacle of crime. But Vittoria is cast in the same
mould. Like Clytemnestra, she has the fascination and the force of
sin, self-satisfied and self-contained to face the world with brazen
arrogance, and browbeat truth before the judgment-seat of gods or men.

Of all the masterpieces of Greek tragedy which have been preserved
to us, the _Prometheus_ of Æschylus presents by far the greatest
difficulty, and involves at the same time by far the most enticing
problems. Its paramount interest lies in the fact that the dramatic
action is removed beyond and above the sphere of humanity, and that
the poet, who was also the chief prophet of Hellas in the very prime
of Athenian culture, is dealing with the mystery of God's relation to
the world and man. In the trilogy of the _Oresteia_ he is concerned
with heroes; in the _Prometheus_, with gods, Titans, and demigods. The
_dramatis personæ_ are Prometheus, Hephæstus and his comrade Force,
Hermes, the herald of Zeus, Io, the victim of the love of Zeus, and
Oceanus, the ruler of the streams and seas. The Chorus is composed
of Oceanides, the maiden daughters of the deep, cloud-bearing dews
and mists, who gather round the Scythian crags, where Prometheus lies
chained and exposed to fiery heat by day and freezing cold by night.
The only mortal who visits him is Io; and she bears within her the
child of Zeus. Thus everything in the tragedy is conceived upon a vast
and visionary scale. It is no episode of real or legendary history
which forms the subject-matter of the play. The powers of heaven and
earth are in action. The destinies of Olympian Zeus and of the whole
human race are at stake. In this lofty region of the imagination the
genius of Æschylus moves freely. The scenery of his drama is in harmony
with its stupendous subject. Barren mountain-summits, the sea outspread
beneath, the sky with all its stars above, silently falling snow-flakes
and tempestuous winds, thunder and earthquake and riven precipices are
the images which crowd upon the mind. In like manner the duration of
time is indefinitely extended. Not years, but centuries, measure the
continuance of the struggle between the sovereign will of Zeus and the
stubborn resistance of the Titan.

At the opening of the play Prometheus appears in the midst of the
desert which is destined for his prison-home. Hephæstus and his
satellites chain him down with adamantine rivets, so that he may
neither bend the knee nor rest in slumber, but must cling, crucified
in wakeful torment, to the unyielding rock. While they are at their
work, Prometheus utters not a word or groan. He is gifted with unerring
foresight, and knows surely that his doom must be borne, and also
that his doom must have an end. He defies the power of Zeus in frigid
silence; not sullenly--because, when sympathy has loosed his lips,
he proves that a warm heart beats within his breast--but proudly and
indignantly. Hephæstus and Titanic Force leave him alone in his misery
when their task is finished. Then at last he speaks. It is to the
kindred powers of elemental nature, to the Sun and Sea and nourishing
Earth, his brethren and his mother, that he addresses his complaint:
"See you how I, a god, suffer at the hands of God; and for what
crime?--_for having given fire to mortal man_."

This, then, is the sin of Prometheus. He found humanity abject and
forsaken by the gods. Zeus, who had recently seized upon the empire
of the universe, designed to extirpate men from the world, and to
create a new race after his own heart. Prometheus took pity upon them,
saved them from destruction, gifted them with fire, the mother of all
arts, taught them carpentry and husbandry, revealed to them the stars,
whereby they knew the order of the seasons and recurrences of crops,
instructed them in letters, showed them how to tame the horse and ox,
and how to plough the sea with ships, then taught them medicine and
the cure of wounds, then divination and the sacrifice of victims to
propitiate the gods, and lastly how to smelt the ore contained within
the bowels of the earth. All these good things Prometheus gave to
men. And here, in passing, we may notice how accurately Æschylus has
sketched the primitive conditions of mankind in its emergence from the
state of savagery. The picture is, indeed, poetical; but subsequent
knowledge has only strengthened the outlines and filled them in with
details, not altered or erased them.

Now, however, we ask, In what true sense was Prometheus criminal? What
right had Zeus, who is invariably represented by Æschylus in all his
other dramas as a just and wise ruler, to impose these trials on the
benefactor of the human race? Æschylus, in this play, clearly desires
to rouse our sympathy for Prometheus. He makes all the principal actors
speak of Zeus as a forceful tyrant, newly come to power, which he
abuses for his selfish ends, subverting the old order of the world,
oppressing the old powers, who are his kindred, yet substituting
nothing but his own ill-regulated and capricious will. On the other
hand, Æschylus has indicated that Prometheus is in the wrong; that he
regards his disobedience to Zeus as the cause of merited punishment.
The Chorus points this moral by asserting, in spite of their tender
feeling for the Titan, that they only are sane and righteous who bow
to necessity and accept the law of their superior. Oceanus, in like
manner, advises his kinsman to submit; and reminds him that, though the
rule of Zeus is a novelty, it is not intolerable, and that acquiescence
is always prudent.

The chief difficulty of the play consists, therefore, in understanding
the error of the protagonist, and in reconciling the character of
Zeus, as here depicted, with the theology elsewhere expressed by
Æschylus. The most probable solution of the problem is suggested by
the ideal to which Greek tragedy aspired. It was the object of the
Athenian dramatists not to represent a simple study of character, or
to set forth a merely stirring action, but to depict a hero worthy
of all respect and admirable, exposed to suffering or ruin by some
fault of temperament. We are probably meant to look upon Prometheus
as having erred, though nobly, through self-will, because he would
not obey the ruler of the world for the time being, nor abide the
working-out of the law of fate in patience, but tried to take that
law into his own hands, and to anticipate the evolution of events.
At the same time the play seems to convict supreme Zeus himself of a
tyrannical exercise of a forcefully acquired power: he also, through a
like self-will, appears to be kicking against the pricks of immutable
destiny; and it is prophesied that in his turn he will be superseded
by a more righteous ruler. The secret of the revolution in Olympus,
whereby Zeus will be deposed, is possessed by Prometheus, and withheld
by him from his tormentor. Thus the knowledge of the future enables
the hero of the drama to endure, while Zeus upon his throne suffers
through the consciousness that fate cannot be resisted. Therefore the
_Prometheus_, as we possess it, presents the spectacle of two stubborn
wills in conflict. The action is suspended. The conclusion cannot be
foreseen. Owing to its very excellence as a work of art, it contains
no indication of the ultimate solution; we are only told by Prometheus
that, after he has been liberated, and not till then, he may reveal
the means by which the ruin of Zeus shall be averted. We are left to
conjecture that Æschylus intended to harmonize the wills of the Titan
and his oppressor through the final submission of both alike to the
laws of destiny, which are supreme. Prometheus, when once his pride
has given way, will reveal the secret which he holds, and Zeus, made
acquiescent by the lapse of time, will accept it.

The chief obstacle to the satisfactory interpretation of the
_Prometheus_ springs, as I have hinted, from the difficulty of
understanding how Prometheus was guilty and Zeus justified. The
transgression of the hero, if it deserves the name at all, was
eminently noble. His punishment appears extravagant in its severity.
At first sight we can hardly avoid the conclusion that the final
alliance between the two conflicting actors in this drama was a kind
of political compromise, unworthy of the protagonist. To this judgment
Shelley was led by his hatred of despotism, and by his inability to
imagine a dignified termination to the dispute that enlisted his
sympathies so strongly on the side of the disinterested hero. "I was
averse," he says in the Preface to _Prometheus Unbound_, "from a
catastrophe so feeble as that of reconciling the Champion with the
Oppressor of mankind. The moral interest of the fable, which is so
powerfully sustained by the sufferings and endurance of Prometheus,
would be annihilated if we could conceive of him as unsaying his high
language and quailing before his successful and perfidious adversary."
Those, however, who have learned to respect the lofty theosophy of
Æschylus, no less than to admire his imperial artistic faculty, will
be slow to accept the conclusion of Shelley, or to believe that the
catastrophe prepared by the Greek poet was feeble. They will rather
mistrust their powers of judgment, or suspect that the key to the
riddle has been lost. The truth is, that we have no means of settling
what the catastrophe really was; and at this point it is necessary to
give some account of the relation of this drama to the entire scheme of

The _Prometheus Bound_ (#desmôtês#) was probably the second of a
trilogy, or series of three tragedies, of which the first was called
_Prometheus the Fire-bearer_ (#pyrphoros#), and the third _Prometheus
Unbound_ (#lyomenos#). _Prometheus the Fire-bearer_ and _Prometheus
Unbound_ have disappeared; it seems that they were not even known to
the Greek scholiast, for he does not mention them in his argument to
the _Prometheus Bound_. At the same time the argument prefixed to the
_Persæ_ informs us that that play was the second in a series, of which
the _Phineus_ was first, the _Glaucus Potnieus_ third, and a so-called
_Prometheus_ fourth. It has been conjectured that the _Prometheus_
which formed the fourth or satyric drama in this tetralogy was
distinguished by the title _Fire-kindler_ (#pyrkaeus#,), a name which
is mentioned in an obscure passage of Pollux; and that consequently
four plays altogether by Æschylus bore the title of _Prometheus_. It
cannot, however, be proved beyond doubt that the _Fire-kindler_ existed
independent of the _Fire-bearer_; or, if so, that the former was the
last play in the tetralogy of the _Persæ_, the latter the first in
the trilogy of the _Prometheus Bound_. Both arguments to the only
_Prometheus_ we possess entire are unfortunately silent about the plays
which accompanied it; and it is only from allusions to a lost tragedy
called _Prometheus Unbound_ that we are at all justified in assuming
the disappearance of the first drama of the series, and in calling it
the _Fire-bearer_. It should be added that the learned editor of the
Greek Scenic Poets is inclined to identify the _Fire-bearer_ and the
_Fire-kindler_, and to regard this play as the satyric drama attached
to the tetralogy of the _Persæ_. By so doing he leaves the _Prometheus
Bound_ and _Unbound_ without a proper dramatic introduction.

In spite of the uncertainty which surrounds the criticism of this play,
no students familiar with the style of Æschylus will fail to recognize
in the _Prometheus Unbound_ the second drama of a trilogy. It has the
stationary character which belongs to the _Choëphoroe_, the _Persæ_,
and the _Supplices_. The dramatic action is not helped forward in
these second pieces; they develop the situation to which affairs have
been brought by the events of a previous drama, and which in its turn
must lead to the conclusive action of the third piece. It was only in
this way that a series of three dramas on the same subject could be
connected into true artistic unity. The catastrophe of the first play
produced a combination of events which required such expansion in a
second that a new action, involving a final catastrophe, should be
unfolded in the third, and the whole series should in the end be seen
to have coherence. Now the _Prometheus Unbound_ is unintelligible,
except as the result of a preceding action, while its conclusion leaves
the fate of the hero still undetermined: the events which brought the
hero to his dreadful doom, and the events which will deliver him, are
alluded to as things of the past and of the future; in the present
there is no drama, no doing, but only a development of the intermediate
and transitional situation. We have, therefore, the right to assume the
antecedence of a play which must, according to the data given in our
extant tragedy, have turned upon the hero's theft of fire.[125]

We may now attempt to reconstruct the whole trilogy, and see if,
having done so, any new conditions are supplied for the solution
of the difficulty as originally stated. In the _Fire-bearer_, for
the subject-matter of which we have to rely on the allusions of the
_Bound_, Zeus has recently acquired the empire of the universe by
imprisoning his father, Kronos, and by defeating the giants who rose
up in arms against him. Prometheus, knowing, through the inspiration
of his mother, Earth, or Themis, that Zeus will prevail, has taken
his side, and has materially helped him in the conflict. But the
sympathies of Prometheus are less with Zeus than with the race of men,
who, at that primitive period of the world's history, existed in the
lowest state of wretchedness. Zeus, intent on getting his new kingdom
into order, entertains the notion of destroying mankind, and planting
a better stock of mortal beings on the earth. Prometheus opposes
this design, and enables men to raise themselves above their savage
condition into comparative power and comfort. It is just at this point
that the lost drama would probably have revealed the true nature of
his offence, or #hamartia#. In the Hesiodic legend he is punished for
having taught men to deceive the powers of heaven; and though it is
clear that Æschylus did not closely follow that version of the myth,
we may conjecture that he represented the benefactor of humanity as
a rebel against the ruler of Olympus. Against the express command of
Zeus, Prometheus gave men fire; and though this act seems innocent
enough, we must remember that, according to Genesis, Adam lost Eden by
merely plucking an apple. Satisfied with his own sense of justice, and
hardened in his pride by the foreknowledge of the future, Prometheus
resisted a power that he regarded as tyrannical, and had to be treated
by Zeus with the same severity as Atlas or Typhoeus.

In the _Prometheus Bound_ we see the beginning of his punishment. The
Titan, in whose person, as it were, the whole race of mortals suffer,
is crucified on a barren cliff of Scythia. Meanwhile he makes two
prophecies--first, that a descendant of Io is destined to deliver him;
and, secondly, that Zeus will marry and beget a son who shall sway
the universe in his place. At the same time he declares that he knows
how Zeus may avoid this danger. Zeus, anxious to possess this secret,
sends down Hermes, and endeavors to wrest it from his prisoner with
threats; but Prometheus abides, scornful and unyielding; his pain may
be increased, yet it cannot last forever; he is immortal, and Zeus will
in the end be humiliated. To requite his contumacy, Zeus rends the
mountains, hell is opened, and Prometheus descends to the lowest pit of

It is clear that, whatever may have been the fault of Prometheus
in the _Fire-bearer_, the poet has done all in his power to excite
our sympathy for him in the second drama of the trilogy. He draws
the character of Oceanus as a trimmer and time-server, who inspires
contempt. He introduces Io suffering as a wretched victim of the
selfish love of her almighty master. He makes the Oceanides willing in
the end to share the doom of the Titan; while all the human sympathies
of the audience are powerfully affected by the spectacle of a martyrdom
incurred for their sake. This play is, therefore, the triumph of the
protagonist; his offence is hidden; his heroic resistance is idealized;
we are made to feel sure that, when at last he is reconciled with Zeus,
it will be through no unworthy weakness on his part.

In the third drama of the trilogy, parts of which, translated into
Latin by Cicero, have been preserved to us, Prometheus has been raised
from Tartarus, and is again crucified on Caucasus. A vulture sent by
Zeus daily gnaws his liver, which, daily growing, supplies continually
fresh food for the tormentor. The tension of the situation is still
protracted. Prometheus has not given way. Zeus has not relented.
Meanwhile the seasons have revolved through thirteen generations of the
race of men, and the deliverer appears. It is Herakles who cuts the
Gordian knot. He destroys the vulture, and persuades his father Zeus to
suffer Cheiron, the Centaur, whom he had smitten with a poisoned arrow,
and who is weary of continued life, to take the place of the Titan in
Hades. Then Prometheus is liberated. He declares that Zeus, if he would
avoid the coming doom, must refrain from marriage with Thetis. He binds
the willow of repentance round his forehead, and places the iron ring
of necessity upon his finger. His will is made at last concordant with
that of his enemy. Thetis is given in wedlock to the mortal Peleus, and
Achilles is born.[126]

From this last drama of the trilogy it would appear that the honors
of the whole series were reserved for Herakles. Herakles is the
offspring of Zeus by a mortal woman. He occupies, therefore, a middle
place between the two contending parties, and is able to effect their
reconciliation. We may fairly conclude that herein lay the solution
designed by Æschylus. In order to mediate between Zeus and Prometheus,
a third agency was imperatively demanded. The heroic demi-god, who is
the son of the Olympian, and at the same time a scion of oppressed
humanity, prompted by no decree of his father, but following the
instincts of his generous humanity, will not allow the torments of
Prometheus to continue. By killing the vulture, he resolves the justice
of Zeus in an act of mercy; at the same time, he touches the heart
of the Titan, and draws his secret from him, working a revolution in
the stubborn nature of Prometheus similar to that which Neoptolemus
effected in Philoctetes by his humane uprightness. It is thoroughly
in accordance with the spirit of Greek tragedy that the scales should
thus have fallen from the eyes of Prometheus. He saw at last that Zeus,
though severe, was really justified; and, as a makepeace-offering,
he rendered up the secret which brought the ruler into harmony with
the immutable laws of fate. According to this solution of the plot,
the final concession of Prometheus would have been as noble as his
intermediate resistance; the #peripeteia#, or revolution, which was
imperatively required before the drama could have been conducted to
an issue, would have taken place within the protagonist's soul, while
Herakles, by introducing a new element into the action, furnished the
efficient cause of its conclusion. It may be argued on the other hand
that Prometheus foreknew the advent of Herakles, and prophesied of him
to Io in the second drama of the trilogy. To this I should answer that
he could not then have calculated on the change which would be wrought
in his own character by the deliverer.

How Æschylus handled the subject-matter of the _Prometheus Unbound_
we cannot say. It seems, however, certain that, unless he falsified
his otherwise consistent conception of Zeus, as the just and wise,
though stern, lord of the universe, and unless he satisfied himself
with a catastrophe which Shelley would have been justified in calling
"feeble," he must, through Herakles, have introduced a factor capable
of solving the problem, by revealing to Prometheus the nature of his
original #hamartia#, and thus rendering it dignified for him to bow to

If this reading of the _Prometheus_ be accepted, it will be seen
that the whole trilogy involved the deepest interests, the mightiest
collision of wills, the most pathetic situations, and the most sublime
of reconciliations. Zeus, in the second drama of the series, is
purposely exposed to misrepresentation in order that his true character
in the climax, as

    #ton phronein brotous hodôsanta, ton pathê mathos
            thenta kyriôs echein#,[127]

may be established. The divine justice personified in Zeus is displayed
irreconcilably opposed to the natural will personified in Prometheus,
until the hero who partakes of both, the active and unselfish Herakles,
atones them. We are even justified in conjecturing that, as Prometheus
occupied the foreground of the second drama, so Zeus must have been
paramount in the first, and that the two antithetical propositions
having thus been stated, the chief part of the third play was assigned
to Herakles. What strengthens the interpretation now advanced is the
peculiar nature of the punishment of Prometheus. The liver, according
to antique psychology, was the seat of the passions; consequently
Prometheus suffered through the organ of his sin.

That Æschylus intended to describe the protagonist of his trilogy as a
transgressor, though offending in a noble cause, while Zeus was acting
in accordance with real justice, however hard to comprehend, is further
indicated by the series of events which are supposed to have taken
place between the termination of the _Fire-bearer_ and the climax of
the _Unbound_. All this while Prometheus in his obstinacy is suffering
on Caucasus and in the depth of Tartarus; but the way of salvation is
meantime being wrought out on earth. By the commerce of the Olympian
deities with the daughters of men the heroic race is generated; and not
only is the deliverer and reconciler, Herakles, sent forth to purge the
world of monstrous wrong, but the better age of equity and justice,
foreseen by the Titan and ordained by the Fates, is being prepared. The
marriage of Thetis to Peleus is the proper inauguration of the heroic
age; it not only confirms Zeus in his sovereignty, but it also provides
for humanity the greatest actor in the drama of the Trojan war--the
first historical event of Hellas.

If the character ascribed to Zeus in the _Prometheus Bound_ still seems
to offer difficulties; if, in other words, we are not satisfied with
assuming that his conduct must have been justified by the evolution
of events in the _Prometheus Unbound_, the following considerations
may be adduced by way of further explanation. In the first place, at
the supposed time of the _Prometheus Bound_, Zeus was but just seated
on his throne, and had to deal with unruly and insurgent powers. The
punishment of Prometheus was an episode in the Titanomachy. It was the
business, therefore, of Æschylus to exhibit the firmness and force
of government of the new ruler, not to draw the picture of a kind
paternal monarch. In the second place, the speakers who describe Zeus
as despotic belonged by kinship to the old order of the Titans, or were
closely related through friendship to Prometheus. Dramatic propriety
required that they should calumniate the new king, or at least
misunderstand his motives. In the third place, Io, whose fate appeared
so hard, became the mother of a mighty nation, and received tenfold
for all her sufferings at the hand of Zeus.[128] Here, therefore, his
inscrutable ways were in the end proved righteous; nor is it probable
that if Æschylus justified Zeus in his dealings with the unoffending
Io, he would leave his treatment of Prometheus unexplained. In the
fourth place, the theology of the Greeks was not absolute, like that
to which we are accustomed through Christianity. The power ascribed
to their deities was political and economical. Fate and necessity
determined the action of even Zeus, who was himself an outgrowth from
an earlier and ruder order. They also imagined a gradual development in
the moral order of the universe. The intellectual powers of Olympus had
superseded the old nature-forces of the Titanic cosmogony. There was,
therefore, nothing ridiculous to the Greek mind in the notion that Zeus
might be conceived as growing in wisdom and in righteousness. In the
fifth place, we must remember that the Athenian audience, familiar with
the Hesiodic legend of Prometheus, were better prepared than we are,
after listening to the invectives against Zeus in the second drama of
the trilogy, to accept his triumphant justification in the third.

Not only is the trilogy of Æschylus--if, indeed, he composed a
Promethean trilogy at all--now irrecoverable except by hazardous
conjecture, but, what is more unfortunate, the whole mythus on which
it was based has descended to us in hopelessly mutilated fragments.
We can clearly perceive that it enshrined the deepest speculations of
the Greeks concerning the origin of humanity, the relation of deified
intelligence to material nature and to abstract necessity, the kinship
between the human soul and the divine spirit, and the consciousness
of sin, which implies a division between the will and the reason.
Furthermore, there are hints implied in it of purification through
punishment, of ultimate reconciliation, and of vicarious suffering.
But the fabric of the legend is so ruined that to reconstruct these
elements of a theological morality is now impossible. Moreover, the
very conditions under which the mythus flourished tended to divert
the minds of the Greeks themselves away from the underlying meaning
to the romantic presentation. The story could not fail to usurp upon
the doctrine. Like the Glaucus of Greek mythology, whom Plato used as
a parable in the _Republic_, the idea which takes shape in a legend
during the first ages of human speculation gathers an accretion of the
sea-weeds and the shells of fancy round it, lying at the bottom of the
ocean of the human mind through centuries, so that, when it emerges
into the light of critical inquiry, the original lineaments of the
conception are deformed and overgrown, and to strip it bare and see it
clearly is no easy matter. Far more difficult is the task when only the
maimed fragments, the _disjecta membra_, of the myth remain to us.

However freely Æschylus may have dealt with the tale of Prometheus,
however he may have employed it as a vehicle for rational theology,
he cannot have wholly eliminated those qualities which belonged to
it as a Saga rather than a chapter of religious tradition. Indeed,
by dramatizing, he was probably impelled to accentuate the legendary
outline at the expense of philosophical coherence. This consideration
may explain some of the apparent incongruities in his fable, to which
attention has not been yet directed in this essay. One of these
concerns the position of the human race between Zeus, their apparent
oppressor, and Prometheus, their avowed champion. It was for the sake
of mankind that Prometheus disobeyed Zeus; it was through severity
towards mankind that Zeus placed himself at variance with justice. Yet
we find Zeus seeking a mortal bride among the daughters of the men
he had sought to destroy; nor is there any reason why, when he could
crucify their champion, he should not have annihilated the whole race
outright. Perhaps, however, we ought to conjecture that, at this point,
the episode of Deucalion and his restoration of mankind after the
deluge was understood to have intervened.

Other discrepancies may be stated briefly. In the elder version of
the fable presented by Hesiod, Prometheus is almost identified with
humanity, while some later fragments of the legend make him the father
of Deucalion. In Æschylus he is an immortal god, whose sympathy with
men proceeds from generosity and pity. Hesiod describes him as the
son of the Titan Iapetos by Asia. Æschylus places him in the first
rank of Titanic agencies, by making him the son of Earth or Themis;
he is married to Hesione, daughter of Oceanus. Hesiod names his
brother Epimetheus; and herein we trace the remnants of an antique
psychological analysis, whereof Æschylus has made no use. It is clear,
therefore, that the Attic poet dealt freely with the mythus, selecting
for artistic purposes only such points in the Hellenic fable as would
fit the framework of his drama.

The only sure ground, amid so much that is both shifting and uncertain,
is that the race of men had sinned against God, and that Prometheus
was a responsible co-agent in their crime. This in itself is a strong
argument in favor of the view which has been urged throughout this
essay. This view may be resumed in the following positions. First,
it is probable that the _Prometheus Bound_ is only the second drama
of a trilogy. Secondly, the vilification of Zeus as a despot must be
understood in a dramatic sense; it was appropriate to the situation of
the actors, and intended to enhance the pathos of the protagonist's
suffering. Thirdly, if we possessed the trilogy entire, we should see
that Prometheus had been really and gravely in the wrong, and that
his obstinacy was in the highest sense tragic according to the Greek
conception, inasmuch as it displayed the aberration of a sublime
character. Fourthly, the occasion of a worthy reconciliation between
Zeus and Prometheus, wherein the former should forego his anger and
the latter bend the proud neck of his will, was furnished by Herakles,
who held an intermediate position between God and man, and who was
recognized as the redresser of wrongs and savior by the Greeks at large.

The trilogy of the _Oresteia_ is at the same time the masterpiece
of Æschylus as a dramatic poet, and also the surest source that we
possess for forming a theory of his theological opinions. I do not
propose to consider it from the second of these points of view, but
rather to concentrate attention upon its greatness as a connected
poem in three stupendous parts--as "the majestic image of a high and
stately tragedy shutting up and intermingling her solemn scenes and
acts with a sevenfold chorus of hallelujahs and harping symphonies."
In the _Oresteia_ Æschylus has plucked the last fruit upon the
Upas-tree of crime which flourished in the palace of Mycenæ. The
murder of Agamemnon, after his return in pomp and power from Troy,
forms the subject of the first play. By selecting this point for the
overture to the series, the poet was able to allude in choric songs to
the ancestral curse of the house, and also to the special crimes of
Agamemnon, in his sacrifice of Iphigeneia, in the protracted sufferings
of the Argives before Troy, and in his fatal pride. The vaticinations
of Cassandra opened a terrific vista of the horrors accumulated
upon the family of Thyestes. Thus the past was connected with the
present, and the intolerable account of guilt which Orestes, the chief
actor, was destined in the end, by the help of Heaven, to discharge,
was vividly presented to the minds of the audience. Agamemnon is
murdered, and the tragedy closes with Clytemnestra's pæan of triumph
and defiance. She glories in her act, pretending that she has duly
revenged the death of Iphigeneia, and suppressing her own adultery with
Ægisthus--a criminal motive more than enough to vitiate its character
of retributive justice.

The Chorus, who are hostile to her and her paramour, call upon her, if
she really slew her husband for Iphigeneia's sake, to leave the palace
and seek purification. This was her duty according to Greek etiquette.
But she refuses; and no Furies haunt her for her crime, seeing that the
Furies take account of none but kindred blood, and Clytemnestra killed
a man who was no relative by birth, but only by marriage. Such is the
strange doctrine which the Eumenides themselves, in the third play of
the series, propound before the judgment-seat of Pallas. In a deeper
sense it was artistically fitting that Clytemnestra should remain
unvisited by the dread goddesses. They were the deities of remorse,
and she had steeled her soul against the stings of conscience. Neither
from the blood of a slain husband could they rise; nor was there in
her own heart harborage for their grim choir. But though Clytemnestra
escaped the spiritual visitings of the Erinnyes, she knew what fear
was. Orestes, as the Chorus told her, was still living.

The _Choëphoroe_ continues the tale of blood and vengeance. Orestes
returns to Mycenæ. He recognizes his sister Electra by their father's
tomb, deludes Clytemnestra with a false tale of his own death, and then
succeeds in killing her together with Ægisthus on the spot where they
had murdered Agamemnon. Once more the palace is thrown open; instead of
Agamemnon and Cassandra, Clytemnestra and Ægisthus lie prostrate before
the desecrated altars, and Orestes exhibits to the Argives the robe in
which his father had been caught and tangled ere the axe descended on
his head. Then, when the song of joy is rising from Electra and the
Chorus, while they are crying that the ancient Fury of the house has
been appeased, at that very moment the eyes of Orestes dilate with
horror, his hair bristles, and he trembles with madness. He sees what
none around him may discern. The Erinnyes of his mother are upon him,
and he flies. Like all the middle plays of a trilogy, the _Choëphoroe_
is somewhat stationary in its action. But this closing scene is
tremendous. It powerfully affected the imagination of the Greeks, and
continued, through the period of Græco-Roman art, to form a favorite
subject for sepulchral bass-reliefs. Some of these have been preserved
to us, the finest being one in the Capitoline Museum.

By the termination of the _Choëphoroe_ we are prepared for yet
another tragedy, the last of the series. The _Eumenides_ opens with
a scene which represents the Temple of Phoebus at Delphi. Orestes
has taken refuge with the god who bade him slay his mother, and who
must now purify him. He lies breathless at the altar-steps with the
branch of suppliant woollen-woven olive in his hand. Not far away are
stretched the Furies, hideous, and snorting in their slumber. Phoebus,
while they yet sleep, bids his client rise and speed to Athens, to
await the verdict of Pallas in his case. So much we learn, partly
from the speech of the Pythia, and partly from the lips of the god
himself. Then, when Orestes has started on his way, the phantom of
Clytemnestra appears and bids the sleeping Furies rise. One by one
they start, and groan like hounds disturbed in the midst of dreamings
of the chase. When they see their prey has escaped, they break into
full cry--a brazen-throated chorus, accompanied by brazen-footed
tramplings. Phoebus, however, drives them forth with scorn from his
sun-bright shrine. Why linger they in those hypæthral temple-chambers,
resonant with song and gladdened by the feet of youths and maidens
bearing bays? Their haunts should rather be the charnel-house, the
shambles, the gallows, the torture-chamber of barbarians. The scene
is now changed to Athens, where Pallas presides over the court of
the Areiopagus assembled to decide between the Furies who prosecute
Orestes and Phoebus who defends his suppliant. There is no doubt
about the deed: Clytemnestra was slain by her own son. The question
to settle is, whether circumstance could justify so unnatural an act.
The Furies represent the blind instinct of repulsion for the shedding
of maternal blood, which no _prima facie_ argument can excuse, and
which cannot be covered. Phoebus is the holy and pure power, who will
not suffer moral abominations, like the unpunished insolence of the
murderess Clytemnestra, to abide. Pallas stands for reason, capable
of weighing motives, of disengaging a necessary act of retributive
justice from brute murder. In the breasts of the human judges, these
three faculties--the instinct which condemns matricide, the instinct
which sanctions under any circumstance the punishment of crime, and
the reason which holds the balance of impulses--are active. After much
angry pleading by the advocates on both sides, the votes are taken.
Half decide against Orestes; half acquit him. Pallas, by her casting
vote, determines the verdict in his favor. The Eumenides, disappointed
of their prey, threaten vengeance against Athens; but Pallas appeases
them, and assigns them a place of honor in her city forever.

It is clear that the three plays of this trilogy are closely bound
together, and that their connection is that of thesis, antithesis, and
synthesis. The _Agamemnon_ sets forth the crime of Clytemnestra; the
_Choëphoroe_ exhibits the exceptional conduct of Orestes with regard to
that crime; the _Eumenides_ contains his exculpation. The third play
offers a reconciliation of the agencies at warfare in the first and
second; the curse of the house of Atreus is worked out and set at rest
by the hero whose awful duty it was to revenge a father's murder on a
mother. His justification lay in his submission to the divine will. Had
he taken the matricidal office on himself in haste or anger, he must
have added another link to the chain of crime that hitherto had bound
his family through generations. What he did, however, was done with a
clear conscience; and, though he suffered the maddening anguish of so
terrible an act, he found rest and peace for his soul at last. Thus
a new power, unrealized in the _Agamemnon_ and the _Choëphoroe_, was
needed for the solution presented in the _Eumenides_.

Passing from the internal structure of these dramas to their form, we
may notice how Æschylus provided theatrical variety consistent with
the varying subject. It was requisite that the action of the two first
should take place at Mycenæ; so the scene was not altered, but the
Chorus was changed, in order that the pathos of Electra's situation
might be made more clear in the _Choëphoroe_. The _Eumenides_ admitted
not only of a new Chorus, but also of a total change of scene; it may
be added that this third drama violates the unities alike of place and

Of the three plays of the trilogy, the _Agamemnon_ is unquestionably
the noblest. It is the masterpiece of Æschylus, and to one who has
conquered its difficulties and imbibed its spirit it offers a spectacle
of tragic grandeur not to be surpassed, hardly to be equalled, by
anything which even Shakespeare produced. What some modern critics
might regard as defects--the lengthy choric passages, abstract in their
thought, though splendid in their imagery--the concentration of the
poet's powers on one terrific climax, for every word that Agamemnon,
Clytemnestra, and Cassandra utter leads up to the death-cry of the
king--contribute to the excellence of a drama of this style. If we
lack the variety and subtlety that charm us in a work like _Hamlet_;
if, after reading the play over and over again, and testing it in
many crucibles of critical analysis, we do not, as in the case of
Shakespeare's tragedies, discover new and delicate beauties in the
minor parts, but learn each time, and by each process, to admire the
vigor of the poet's main conception, the godlike energy with which
he has developed it; that may be taken as the strongest proof of its
perfection as a monument of classic art.

There is, in the _Agamemnon_, an oppressive sense of multitudinous
crimes, of sins gathering and swelling to produce a tempest. The air
we breathe is loaded with them. No escape is possible. The marshalled
thunder-clouds roll ever onward, nearer and more near, and far more
swiftly than the foot can flee. At last the accumulated storm bursts
in the murder of Agamemnon, the majestic and unconscious victim felled
like a steer at the stall; in the murder of Cassandra, who foresees her
fate, and goes to meet it with the shrinking of some dumb creature, and
with the helplessness of one who knows that doom may not be shunned; in
the lightning-flash of Clytemnestra's arrogance, who hitherto has been
a glittering hypocrite, but now proclaims herself a fiend incarnate. As
the Chorus cries, the rain of blood, that hitherto has fallen drop by
drop, descends in torrents on the house of Atreus: but the end is not
yet. The whole tragedy becomes yet more sinister when we regard it as
the prelude to ensuing tragedies, as the overture to fresh symphonies
and similar catastrophes. Wave after wave of passion gathers and breaks
in these stupendous scenes; the ninth wave mightier than all, with a
crest whereof the spray is blood, falls foaming; over the outspread
surf of gore and ruin the curtain drops, to rise upon the self-same
theatre of new woes.

The imagery of the _Agamemnon_ most powerfully contributes to heighten
the tragic impression of the plot. At one time the ancestral fury of
the doomed house is likened to a demon leaping on it from above, by
a metaphor which vividly suggests Blake's design of Satan pouring
flame upon the dwelling of Job's sons. At another it is compared to a
cormorant brooding upon its battlements; and yet again, by a stroke of
irony peculiarly impressive to the Greeks, it is likened to a band of
revellers. The repetition of the same class of metaphors, the frequent
references to the net in which Agamemnon was to be caught, to the axe
with which he and Cassandra were to be slaughtered, to the smoke and
scent of blood which was to bathe the altar of the household Zeus with
sacrifice unhallowed, assail the imagination with portentous monotony.

Of all the terrors in this tragedy none is so awful in itself, or so
artistically heightened, as Cassandra's prophecy. Accompanying her
lord and master, she has approached the palace of Mycenæ. Clytemnestra
has greeted the king with a set oration, admirable for its rhetoric,
covering by dark innuendoes her foul thought. Spreading upon the
threshold purple raiment and mantles suited to the service of the
gods--such embroidered garments, we may fancy, as Athenian ladies
wrought for Pallas--she exclaims: "Descend from this thy chariot; nor
set on earth, dread monarch, thy foot that trampled upon Troy." It is
as though a mediæval wife should bid her lord, returning from the East,
to tread on altar-cloths and sacerdotal vestments. Agamemnon shrinks
from the sacrilege, but she overrules his scruples, and he complies.
All this while Cassandra is seated, patient, in her car. Like a statue
sculptured in monumental alabaster, with hands upon her knees, and head
bowed on her breast, she waits unmoved. Then the conqueror is led in to
his doom--a doom which the Chorus, in one of their wild eddying hymns
of woe, seem almost to anticipate. Still Cassandra tarries; and now
Clytemnestra comes again, with taunts and dreadful irony: "Happy are
you, princess though you be, to have such rich and prosperous masters;
enter the palace; the sacrifice is ready at the altar, and to this, as
a slave of the house, you, too, are bidden." But Cassandra will not
move. In her soul, where, though a slave, she still retains the gift of
oracular vision, she foresees her doom. She knows what the riches of
the house of Atreus mean, what the prosperity of Agamemnon really is,
what the sacrifice to which she, too, is bidden will be. Clytemnestra
leaves her, half in scorn and half in anger. Then, at length,
Cassandra lifts her head, and stirs herself, and groans. The first
word she utters is "Apollo! oh! Apollo!" This rouses the Chorus, and
they ask: "What cry of wailing hast thou shrieked about Apollo? He is
not a god to be greeted with dirges." Phoebus was, in truth, the deity
of brightness and music, not of the funeral groan or death lament.
Still Cassandra, with the same ill-omened utterance, reverberates the
name: "Apollo! ah, Apollo! lo, a second time hast thou undone me!" To
Phoebus she had promised her virginity; the promise was not kept, and
he requited her with prophecy that none might heed or understand. No
tragic portion is more piteous than this of her who was the clear-eyed
seer of coming woes, the unwilling mouthpiece of dread oracles, doomed
alike to knowledge worse than ignorance, and to the scorn that falls
on idle babblers. Now, once again, descending on her with the might of
prophecy, the god compels her to predict her own swift-coming fate.
Little by little, at the intercession of the Chorus, Cassandra becomes
more articulate. She calls the house before her "the shambles of a man,
a pavement blood-bedabbled." There stands the stately palace-front; its
marble steps are covered with tapestry, the statues of its protective
gods are crowned with flowers; while the lonely prophetess is
shuddering at so fair a frontispiece to a tragedy within so frightful,
now to be accomplished on her master and herself. Meantime the Chorus
also wait, involved in their own anxiety; the mysterious anguish of
the weird woman, whom they know to have the hand of God laid heavily
upon her, makes them tremble. "What mean you," they exclaim, "by
scenting like a dog for blood upon this royal threshold?" Cassandra
only answers: "Are not these children wailing for their death enough?
Is not their flesh, tasted by their father at their uncle's board,
my witness?" She points to phantoms which the Chorus cannot see, the
ghosts of the children of Thyestes. They reply sullenly, for they know
the story of the house: "We want no soothsayers." Then Cassandra breaks
forth afresh, this time vaticinating imminent calamity: "What is she
plotting, what doom unbearable? and there is none to aid!" The Chorus
take up their strain: "Here, indeed, you are a riddler; what you meant
before was common talk." But Cassandra heeds them not. Her second-sight
pierces the palace-walls, and she shrieks: "Mad woman, are you decking
your husband for the bath? The end draws near. Hand stretches forth
to hand. Is it a net of hell? Keep the ox from the heifer! she hath
caught him in her robe and slays him. I tell you he is falling, falling
in the trough of death." The Chorus are puzzled by these hurried and
ecstatic exclamations; but their very fear seems to keep them from
the apprehension of the truth. Then Cassandra changes her tone, and
bewails her own misfortunes, her coming death, and the crime of Paris
which brought her to this doom, employing throughout these prophecies
a lyric metre suited to their pregnant brevity. At last, when she has
wellnigh worn out the patience of the Chorus, she assumes the regular
iambic of common speech: "Now, then, at length shall the oracle gaze
upon you free from veils like a bride. The Furies are in this house;
blood-surfeited, but not assuaged, they hold perpetual revel here. It
is the crime of Atreus and of Thyestes which they hunt, and woe will
fall on woe." The Chorus can only wonder that she, a foreign princess,
should know the secrets of the fated race; but she tells them the story
of Apollo's love, and how she deceived him, and what he wrought to
punish her. Then, even as she speaks, the pang of inspiration thrills
her. Perhaps the speech that follows, through its ghastly blending of
visions evoked from the past with insight piercing into the immediate
future, affects the imagination more intensely than any other piece of
tragic declamation. Even the sleep-mutterings of Lady Macbeth, though
they form a curious modern counterpart to the broken exclamations of
Cassandra, are less appalling; for hers reveal a guilty conscience
maddened by one crime, while Cassandra's outcry sums up the history of
a whole accursed race, and expresses at the same time the agony of an
innocent victim:

    Woe, woe! Ah, ah! what pain!
    Again the dreadful pangs oracular
    Shoot through me, tempesting my soul with preludes.
    See you those children seated on the house-roof?
    Babes are they, like unto the shapes of dreams;
    Yea, children seem they, slaughtered by their kin,
    Whose hands are filled with meat of their own flesh;
    Their very hearts and entrails, piteous load,
    I see them bear, whereof their father tasted!
    Wherefore I say, vengeance for this is plotting.
    A lion, thewless, amid pillows lapped,
    House-guard, alas! for my returning master--
    Mine: for I needs must bear the yoke, a slave.
    But he, the admiral, Ilion's overthrower,
    Knows not what things the tongue of that lewd bitch
    With speeches and with long-drawn fawning fairness, like
    A lurking Até, by ill-luck will do.
    Thus, then, she dares: she, woman, slays a man;
    Yea, slays. What loathsome reptile can I name her,
    Nor miss my mark?--foul amphisbæna, Scylla
    That dwells in rocks, the ship-borne seaman's bane,
    Raging mother of hell, a truceless strife
    Belching on friend and kindred! How she shouted
    With daring swollen, as when the foemen scatter!
    Now of these things I care not if I gain
    No credence. What? What will be, comes; and thou
    Wilt stand and pity and call me too true prophet.

No translation can do justice to the appalling fury of the original,
since it is only in Greek--a language usually sedate and harmonized
by sense of beauty--that such phrases as #thyousan Aïdou mêter'# have
their full value. The Chorus are shaken from their incredulity, as much
by the intensity of Cassandra's conviction as by the desperate calm of
her last words. Is Agamemnon really to be slain? Yes, she answers, and,
pray or not as you may choose, they there inside the house are slaying.
Then once more the rage of divination seizes her, and the scene of her
own death, like that of Agamemnon's, flames upon her soul. The second
speech has more of pathos than the first, less of fury; but it is
scarcely less awful:

    Ah, ah! the fire! lo, how it comes upon me!
    Phoebus Lycæan, ho! Ah, woe is me!
    She, too, this two-foot lioness that couches
    With the wolf, what time the lion is away,
    Will slay me, slay me! Like a poison-brewer
    She'll mix my death-wage with her broth of hell;
    Yea, and she swears, sharpening the knife to slay him,
    Her lord shall pay with blood for bringing me.
    Why wear I, then, these gauds to laugh me down--
    This rod, these necklace-wreaths oracular?
    You, ere my death, at least I will destroy:--
    Go; fall; away, and perish: I shall follow.
    Make rich some other curse of men than me.
    Lo, you! Apollo's self is stripping me
    Of this prophetic raiment--he who saw me
    Even in these robes jeered at mid friends by foemen,
    Who scorned in chorus with one voice of vain scorn.
    Yea, when I was called beggar, vagabond,
    Poor, wretched, starveling, speechless, I endured:
    Now he who made me prophetess, the prophet,
    Himself hath brought me to these straits of death.
    No altar of my fathers waits for me,
    But that red block where I must reeking wallow.
    Nay, but not unavenged of heaven we perish!
    For yet another in our cause shall come,
    Avenger, matricide, his father's champion:
    Though exiled, wandering from this land a stranger,
    He shall return to crown the curse of kindred:
    For gods in heaven have sworn a mighty oath
    That the sire's prostrate corse shall bring him home.
    Why wait I, then, lamenting thus, an alien?--
    I, who beheld of old proud Ilion
    Fare as she fared, and they who dwelt therein
    Receive such measure from the gods of judgment,
    I, too, will rise and dare, myself, to perish.
    Therefore I greet these gates as gates of Hades,
    Praying a full fair stroke may be my due,
    That thus with blood that gently flows to waste,
    Torn by no death-pangs, I these eyes may close.

The draught of prophecy is now drained to the very dregs. Nothing
remains but for Cassandra to enter the palace-doors of Hades. She
approaches them step by step, bewailing, after the fashion of Greek
tragedy, her own woes, and those of Priam's family. Suddenly she
starts. The scent of blood assails her nostrils, and, like a steer
that shivers at the gory shambles, she draws back. The Chorus say, "It
is only the smell of sacrifice upon the hearth." But the weird woman
discovers a very different odor of coming slaughter: "To me the reek
is like the breath of charnels." Still forward, though shrinking from
the unseen, unavoidable doom, she must advance, invoking the avenger
of herself and Agamemnon, and calling on the all-seeing sun. Her last
words are uttered in the same spirit as Macbeth's soliloquy upon the
point of battle; they intensify and elevate the tragic moment by
drawing the whole destiny of mortals into harmony with her own doom:

    Ah, lives of men! When prosperous, they glitter
    Like a fair picture; when misfortune comes,
    A wet sponge at one blow hath blurred the painting.

Thus, at the last, tranquil and stately, she touches the door,
enters, and it shuts behind her. For a while the Chorus stand alone,
and sing a low, brief chant of terror. The scene is empty, and the
palace-front towers up into calm light. Then, when our nerves have
been strained to the cracking-point of expectation by Cassandra's
prophecy and by the silence that succeeds it, from within the house
is heard the deep-chested cry of Agamemnon: "O me, I am stricken with
a stroke of death!" This shriek is the most terrible incident in all
tragedy, owing to its absolute and awful timeliness, its adequacy to
the situation. The whole dramatic apparatus of the play has been, as
it were, constructed with a view to it; yet, though we expect it, our
heart stops when at last it comes. The stillness, apparently of home
repose, but really of death, which broods upon the house during those
last moments, while every second brings the hero nearer to his fate,
has in it a concentrated awfulness that surpasses even the knocking at
the gate in _Macbeth_. Then comes the cry of Agamemnon, and the whole
structure of terror descends upon us. It is as though an avalanche had
been gathering above our heads and gradually loosening--loosening with
fearfully accelerated ratio of movement as the minutes fly--until a
single word will be enough to make it crumble. That word, uttered from
behind the stately palace-walls, startling the guilty and oppressive
silence, intimating that the workers have done working, that the victim
has been taken in their toils, is nothing less than the shriek of
the smitten king. It sounds once for the death-blow given; and once
again it sounds to mark a second stroke. Then shriek and silence are
alike forgotten in the downfall of the mass of dread. The Chorus are
torn asunder by hurried and conflicting counsels, eddying like dead
leaves caught and tossed in the clutches of a tempest. Horror huddles
upon horror, as the spectacle of slaughter is itself revealed--the
king's corpse smoking in the silver bath, Cassandra motionless in
death beside him. Above them stands Clytemnestra, shouldering her
murderous axe, with open nostrils and dilated eyes, glorying in her
deed, cherishing the blood-drops on her arms and dress and sprinkled
bosom; while, invisible to mortal eyes, the blood-swilled demon of
the house sits eying her as its next victim. Ægisthus--craven, but
spiteful--slinks forth, hyena-like, after the accomplished act, to
trample on the hero and insult his grave.

Some such spectacle as this was revealed to the Athenians by the
rolling back of the eccyclema at the end of the _Agamemnon_. The
triumph of adulterous Clytemnestra and cowardly Ægisthus would,
however, have been far from tragic in its utter moral baseness, did we
not know that this drama was to be succeeded by another which should
right the balance. Perhaps this is the reason why the _Oresteia_ is the
only extant trilogy. Its three parts are so closely interlinked that to
separate them was impossible. The preservers of the _Agamemnon_ were
forced to preserve the _Choëphoroe_; the preservers of the _Choëphoroe_
could not dispense with the _Eumenides_.

The Chorus of the _Agamemnon_ demands separate criticism. The Chorus
in all Greek tragedy performs, it has been often said, the part of an
ideal spectator. It comments on the plot, not daring so much actively
to interfere, as uttering reflections on the conduct of the _dramatis
personæ_, and referring all obscure events to the arbitrament of
heaven. Thus the Chorus is a mirror of the poet's mind, an index to the
moral which he inculcates, an inspired critic of each movement in the
play. The choric odes, introduced at turning-points in the main action,
are lyrical inter-breathings that connect the past and future with
the present. In the plays of Æschylus the Chorus, as I have already
shown, is, moreover, personally interested in the drama. In the case
of the _Agamemnon_ the fortunes of the burghers of Mycenæ are engaged
in the success or failure of Clytemnestra's scheme. At the same time,
knowing the whole dark history of the house of Atreus, they foresee
the perils which their master, as a member of that family, must run.
It follows that their songs embody the moral teaching of the tragedy
itself without lapsing into mere sententiousness. Their sympathies,
antipathies, and interests add a vital importance to their utterance.
The burden of all these odes is that punishment for crime, however long
delayed or tortuous in its operation, is inevitable. The grandeur of
the whole work depends in a great measure on the force with which this
idea is wrought out lyrically, sometimes by bold images, sometimes
by dark innuendoes, repeated like a mystic rede, or tossed upon the
eddies of a wizard chant. From beginning to ending these ancient men
are adverse to the sons of Atreus, gloomily conscious that they cannot
prosper. While recognizing the justice of their cause against Paris,
who had transgressed the laws of hospitable Zeus, they yet remember
Agamemnon's swiftness to shed his daughter's blood, the old Erinnys
which pursues the race, the wholesale slaughter of Achaian citizens
before Troy's walls. These recollections inspire them with uneasiness
before the Messenger appears. Their doubts are confirmed by his news
that the altars of the Trojans had been dishonored, while their
mistrust of Clytemnestra adds yet a deeper hue to their alarm. Then
comes the scene with Cassandra. No more doubt remains; and the only
question is how to act. Even at the last moment the Chorus do not lose
their faith. They defy Clytemnestra, telling her to her face that her
crime must be avenged, that the curse must be worked out to the full,
and that justice cannot fail to triumph. At the very end they rise to
prophecy: you, yourself, unfriended in the end, shall fall; the doer,
when Zeus wills, shall suffer for his deed; remember, therefore, that
Orestes lives.

The choric interludes of the _Agamemnon_, though burdened with the
mystery of sin and fate, and tuned to music stern and lofty, abound in
strains of pathetic and of tender poetry, deep-reaching to the very
fount of tears, unmatched by aught else in the Greek language. The
demiurge who gave a shape to Titans and to Furies mingled tears with
the clay of the men he wrought, and star-fire with the beauty of his
women, and even for the birds of the air and the wild creatures of the
woods he felt a sympathy half human, half divine. In the first Chorus,
Æschylus compares the Atreidæ to eagles robbed of their young, whose
cries are answered by Zeus, Phoebus, or Pan. "Hearing the shrill clamor
of these airy citizens, he sendeth after-vengeance on the robbers."
And, again, Artemis exacts penalty for the hare whom the eagles bore
off to their nests, a prey. "So kindly disposed is the fair goddess
to the tender young of fierce lions, and to the suckling brood of all
beasts that range the field and forest." Thus the large philosophy
of the poet includes justice for all living things, and even dumb
creatures have their rights, which men may not infringe.

The depth of his human pathos no mere plummet-line of scholarship or
criticism can fathom. Before the vision of Iphigeneia at the altar
we must needs be silent: "Letting fall her saffron-colored skirts
to earth, she smote each slayer with a piteous arrow from her eyes,
eloquent as in a picture, desiring speech, since oftentimes beside the
well-spread board within her father's hall she sang, and maidenly,
with chaste voice, honored the pæan raised in happy times at festal
sacrifice of her dear sire." We do not need the sententious moral
of Lucretius uttered four centuries later, _tantum relligio potuit
suadere malorum_, to point the pathos which Æschylus, with a profounder
instinct, draws by one touch from the contrast between then and now. In
the same strain is the description of Menelaus abandoned in his home by
Helen: "She, leaving to her fellow-citizens the din of shielded hosts,
and armings of the fleet with spears, bringing to Ilion destruction
for a dower, went lightly through the doors, dishonorably brave; and
many a sigh was uttered by the bards of the palace, while they sang--O
house! O house, and rulers! O marriage-bed, and pressure on the pillows
of her head who loved her lord! He stands by in silence, dishonored,
but without reproaches, noting with anguish of soul that she is fled.
Yea, in his longing after her who is beyond the sea, a phantom will
seem to rule his house. The grace of goodly statues hath grown irksome
to his gaze, and in his widowhood of weary eyes all beauty fades away.
But dreams that glide in sleep with sorrow visit him, conveying a vain
joy; for vain it is, when one hath seemed to see good things, and lo,
escaping through his hands, the vision flies apace on wings that follow
on the paths of sleep."

To read the Greek aright in this wonderful lyric, so concentrated
in its imagery, and so direct in its conveyance of the very soul of
passion, is no light task; but far more difficult it is to render
it into another language. Yet, even thus, we feel that this poem of
defrauded desire and everlasting farewell, of vain outgoings of the
spirit after vanished joy, is written not merely for Menelaus and the
Greeks, but for all who stretch forth empty hands to clasp the dreams
of dear ones, and then turn away, face-downward on the pillow, from the
dawn, to weep or strain hot eyes that shed no tears. Touched by the
same truth of feeling, which includes all human nature in its sympathy,
is the lament, shortly after uttered by the Chorus, for the numberless
fair men who died before Troy town. Ares, the grim gold-exchanger, who
barters the bodies of men, sends home a little dust shut up within a
narrow urn, and wife and father water this with tears, and cry--Behold,
he perished nobly in a far land, fighting for a woman, for another's
wife. And others there are who come not even thus again to their old
home; but barrows on Troy plain enclose their fair young flesh, and
an alien soil is their sepulchre. This picture of beautiful dead men,
warriors and horsemen, in the prime of manhood, lying stark and cold,
with the dishonor of the grave upon their comely hair, and with the
bruises of the battle on limbs made for love, is not meant merely for
Achaians, but for all--for us, perchance, whose dearest moulder on
Crimean shores or Indian plains, for whom the glorious faces shine no
more; but at best some tokens, locks of hair, or books, or letters,
come to stay our hunger unassuaged. How truly and how faithfully the
Greek poet sang for all ages, and for all manner of men, may be seen by
comparing the strophes of this Chorus with the last rhapsody but one
of the chants outpoured in America by Walt Whitman, to commemorate the
events of the great war. The pathos which unites these poets, otherwise
so different in aim and sentiment, is deep as nature, real as life; but
from this common root of feeling springs in the one verse a spotless
lily of pure Hellenic form, in the other a mystical thick growth of
fancy, where thoughts brood and nestle amid tufted branches; for the
powers of classic and of modern singers upon the same substance of
humanity are diverse.

The _Persæ_ is certainly one of the earliest among the extant tragedies
of Æschylus, since it was produced upon the stage in 473 B.C., seven
years after the battle of Salamis. This drama can scarcely be called a
tragedy in the common sense of the word. It is rather a tragic show,
designed to grace a national festival and to preserve the memory of
a great victory. That purpose it fulfilled effectively; the events
it celebrates were still recent; the author of the play had fought
himself at Salamis, and the whole Athenian people were glowing with
the patriotic impulse that had placed them first among the states of
Hellas. Æschylus was, however, too deeply conscious of the spirit of
his art to let the _Persæ_ sink into the rank of pageantry or triumph.
The defeat of Xerxes and his host supplied him with a splendid tragic
instance of pride humbled, and greatness brought to nothing, through
one man's impiety and pride. The moral that the poet wished to draw
is put into the mouth of Darius, whose ghost, evoked by Atossa and
the Chorus, completes the tale of Persian disasters by predicting the
battle of Platæa. "Swiftly are the oracles accomplished. I looked for
length of days; but when a man hastes, God helps to urge him on. It
was my son's insolence, in chaining the holy Hellespont, and thinking
he could stay the Bosporus, the stream divine, from flowing, which
brought these woes. He thought to make a path for his army, to hold
Poseidon and the powers of Heaven in bondage--he a mortal, and they
gods! Few of his great host shall come again to Susa. In Hellas they
must pay the penalty of arrogance and godless hearts. Coming to that
land, they thought it no shame to rob the statues of the gods and
burn the shrines; the altars were cast down, the temples overthrown.
Therefore, as they did evil, evil shall they suffer. Heaps of dead
upon Platæa's plain shall tell to the third generation, by speechless
signs appealing to the eyes of men, that no man mortal may dare raise
his heart too high. For insolence blooms forth and bears the crop of
disaster, whence one reaps a harvest of tears. Seeing which payment for
these crimes, remember Hellas and Athens. Nor let a man, in scorn of
his own lot, desire another's good, and spill much wealth; for Zeus, in
sooth, stands high above, a grievous schoolmaster, to tame excessive
lifting-up of hearts." Nowhere else, it may be said, has Æschylus
thought fit so decidedly to moralize his dramatic motive, or so clearly
to state in simple words his philosophy of Nemesis. The ghost of
Darius, as may be conjectured from this address, does not belong to the
same race as the Banquos and Hamlets of our stage. He is a political
phantom, a monarch evoked from his mausoleum to give sage counsel, and
well-informed about the affairs of his empire.

By laying the scene of this drama at Susa, the ancient capital of the
Persian kings, Æschylus was enabled to adopt a style of treatment
peculiarly flattering to his Greek audience. The Persians are made
to bewail their own misfortunes, to betray the rottenness of their
vast empire, and to lament the wretchedness of nations subject to
the caprice of irresponsible and selfish princes. Inured to slavery,
they hug their chains; and, though in rags, Xerxes is still to them a
demi-god. The servility of Oriental courtiers, the pomp and pride of
Oriental princes, the obsequious ceremonies and the inflated flatteries
of barbarians, are translated for Greek ears and eyes into gorgeous
forms by the poet, whose own genius had something Asiatic in its tone
and temper. Many occasions for grim irony are afforded by this mode of
handling, whereof the famous speech of Atossa on the clothes of Xerxes,
if that, indeed, be genuine, and the inability of the Chorus, through
servile shyness, to address the ghost of Darius, furnish the most
obvious examples. A finer and subtler note is struck in the dialogue
between Atossa and the Chorus just before the news of the defeat at
Salamis arrives. She asks where Athens may be found:

                      #keina d' ekmathein thelô,
    ô philoi, pou tas Athênas phasin hidrysthai chthonos?#

This offers the poet an opportunity for putting into the mouth of the
Persian coryphæus a flattering account of his own nation: No monarch
have they, few are they, but all men of might, and strong enough to
rout the myriad bowmen of the Persian host with spear and shield. The
_naïveté_ of the description--in itself highly complimentary to the
Athenians--must have made it effective on the stage. We may fancy
how the cheering of the men of Marathon re-echoed from the Dionysian
theatre, and filled Athene's hill "song-wise" with sound, as each
triumphant trochaic leaped forth from the Persian lips. At the same
time the tragic irony is terrible, for the queen is on the point of
hearing from the Messenger that this mere handful of spearmen crushed
her son's host, countless as the stars, in one day upon sea and shore.
The real point of that fierce duel of two nations, which decided the
future of the human race--the contrast between barbarians and men in
whom the spirit was alive, between slaves driven to the fight like
sheep and freemen acting consciously as their own will determined,
between the brute force of multitudes and the inspired courage of a
few heroes--has never been expressed more radiantly than in this play.
No language of criticism can do justice to the incomparable brilliancy
and vigor with which the tale of Salamis is told. We must remember,
in reading the speeches of the Messenger, that this is absolutely
the first page of Greek history. It came before Herodotus, and the
soldier-poet, who had seen what he narrated, was no less conscious
than we are, after all our study, of the real issues, of the momentous
interests at stake. Never elsewhere has contemporary history been
written thus. In these triumphant rheseis Æschylus did not choose to
maintain a bare dramatic propriety. The herald is relating disaster
after disaster; yet the elation of the poet pulses through his speech,
and he cannot be sad. We feel that, while he is dinning into the ears
of the barbarian empress and her courtiers this panegyric of Hellenic
heroism, he is really speaking to an Attic audience. The situation is,
however, sufficiently sustained for theatrical purposes by the dignity
wherewith Atossa meets her ruin. She shows herself a queen in spite
of all, and the front she presents to "the sea of troubles" (#kakôn
pelagos#) breaking over the whole Asian empire is fully adequate to the
magnitude of the calamity. It is difficult to believe that the speech
written for her by Æschylus, when she returns with the libations for
Darius, was not intended, by its grandly decorative style, to convey
the impression of calmness in the midst of sorrow. Atossa is great
enough to be self-possessed, and to dwell with tender thoughtfulness
upon the gifts of nature beloved by the powers of darkness. The lines
are these:

    #boos t' aph' hagnês leukon eupoton gala,
    tês t' anthemourgou stagma, pamphaes meli,
    libasin hydrêlais parthenou pêgês meta;
    akêraton te mêtros agrias apo
    poton palaias ampelou ganos tode;
    tês d' aien en phylloisi thallousês ison
    xanthês elaias karpos euôdês para,
    anthê te plekta pamphorou gaias tekna.#

This passage is a fair example of the "mighty line" of Æschylus,
employed for purposes of pure adornment. The pomp and circumstance of
tragic style, which he so well knew how to use, gave unrivalled dignity
to his narration. Yet this style, even in the days of Aristophanes,
had come to sound extravagant, while its occasional bombast, as in the
famous periphrasis for dust,

    pêlou xynouros dipsia konis#,

reminds a modern reader too much of the padding of the actors' chests,
the cothurnus, brazen mouthpiece, and heightened mask required by
the huge size of the Athenian theatre. The phrases invented in the
_Frogs_ to express the peculiarities of the Æschylean exaggeration,
#kompophakelorrhêmona#, or #hippolophôn logôn korythaiola neikê#, or,

    #phrixas d' autokomou lophias lasiauchena chaitan
    deinon episkynion xynagôn brychômenos hêsei
    rhêmata gomphopagê pinakêdon apospôn
    gêgenei physêmati#,

very cleverly parody the effect of the more tumid passages. Yet when
Æschylus chose to be simple he combined majesty with grace, strength
with beauty, and speed with volume, in a style which soars higher
and reaches farther than the polished perfection of Sophocles or the
artistic elegance of Euripides. The descriptions of Ionia and Doria
drawing Xerxes' chariot in Atossa's dream, and of the education of
mankind in the _Prometheus_, belong to his more pure and chastened
manner. The famous speech in which Clytemnestra tells of the leaping up
of watchfire after watchfire from Troy to Mycenæ, of Ida flashing the
flame to the Hermæan cliff of Lemnos, of Athos taking it up and sending
it with joy across the gulf to far Makistus, of the Messapian warders
lighting their dry heath and speeding the herald-blaze in brightness
like the moon to Cithæron, and thence, by peak and promontory, over
fen and plain and flickering armlet of the sea, onward to Agamemnon's
palace-tower--this brilliant picture, glittering with the rarest
jewels of imaginative insight, can only be coupled with the Salaminian
speeches of the _Persæ_. They stand in a place apart. Purity, lucidity,
rapidity, energy, elevation, and fiery intensity of style are here
divinely mingled. There is no language and no metre equal to the Greek
and the iambic for such resonant, elastic, leaping periods as these.
The firm grasp upon reality preserved by Æschylus, even in his most
passionate and most imaginative moments, adds force unrivalled to these
descriptive passages.

At the same time he surpassed all the poets of his nation in a certain
Shakespearian concentration of phrase. The invectives uttered by
Cassandra against Clytemnestra, and her broken exclamations, abound in
examples of energetic, almost grotesque, imagery, not to be paralleled
in Greek literature. The whole of the _Seven against Thebes_, and
in particular that choric ode which describes the capture and sack
of a town, might be cited with a similar intention. But perhaps the
strongest instance of this more than Greek vehemence of expression
is the denunciation hurled by Phoebus at the Furies in his Delphian

    Away, I bid you! Leave my palace halls:
    Quit these pure shrines oracular with speed!
    Lest haply some winged glistening serpent sent
    From the gold-twisted bow-wire bite your flesh,
    And ye, pain-stricken, vomit gory froth,
    The clotted spilth of man's blood ye have supped.
    Nay, these gates are not yours! _There_ is your dwelling,
    Where heads are chopped, eyes gouged in savage justice,
    Throats cut, and bloom of boys unnamably
    Is mangled; there where nose and ears are slithered,
    With stonings, and the piteous smothered moan
    Of slaves impaled. Hence! Hear ye not whereby,
    Loving like ghouls these banquets, ye're become
    To gods abominable? Lo, your shape
    Bewrays your spirit. Blood-swilled lions' dens
    Are fit for you to live in, not the seat
    Of sooth oracular, which you pollute.
    Go, heifers grazing without herdsman, go!
    To herd like yours no face of god is kindly.

Another Shakespearian quality in the Æschylean use of language and of
imagery might be illustrated from his metaphors. He calls the ocean
a forest--#pontion alsos# or #halirrhyton alsos#--as though he would
remind us of the great sea-beasts that roam like wolves or lions down
beneath the waves. The vultures are #oxystomoi Zênos akrageis kynes#.
The eagle is #Dios ptênos kyôn daphoinos#. The Furies of Clytemnestra
are #mêtros enkotoi kynes#. The Argives who poured forth from the
Wooden Horse to plunder Troy are called #Argeion dakos, hippou neossos,
aspidêphoros leôs#. The flame of the thunderbolt becomes #pyros
amphêkês bostrychos#. The beacon-flame on Ægiplanctus is a huge beard,
#phlogos megan pôgôna#. In all these metaphors we trace an imaginative
energy which the Greek poets usually sought to curb. When we speak of
the mighty line of Æschylus, we naturally remember verses like these:

    #all' hou karanistêres ophthalmôrychoi#,


    #phaiochitônes kai peplektanêmenai
    pyknois drakousin#,

which carry with them a massive weight, not only of sound and words,
but also of meaning and of imagery. No wonder that Aristophanes
jestingly compared the gravity of the style of Æschylus with that of
Euripides in balances. A single phrase of the former's causes a score
of the latter's to kick the beam; and as the sonorous nouns, flanked
by their polysyllabic epithets, advance, the earth is seen to shake as
though battalions were hurrying to the charge, and squadrons of cavalry
with thundering horses' hoofs and waving plumes were prancing on the

The difficulty of Æschylus, when it is not due, as in the _Suppliants_
and in the choric odes of the _Agamemnon_, to a ruined text, may be
ascribed to the rapidity of his transition from one thought to another,
to the piling-up of images and metaphors, and to the remote and mystic
nature of the ideas he is seeking for the first time to express in
language. Where even simple prose could scarcely convey his meaning,
he presents a cloud of highly poetic figures to our mind. This kind of
difficulty, however, like that which the student has to meet in Pindar,
is straightforward. You know when you are at fault, and why, and how
alone you can arrive at a solution of the problem. The difficulty of
Sophocles is more insidious. It is possible to think you understand
him, when you really do not; to feel his drift, and yet to find it hard
to construe his language. In this case the difficulty arises from the
poet's desire to convey his meaning in a subtle, many-sided, pregnant,
and yet smooth style. The more you think over it, the more you get from
it. Euripides belonged to an age of facile speech, fixed phraseology,
and critical analysis: it therefore follows that he presents fewer
obvious difficulties to the reader; and this, perhaps, was one reason
for his popularity among the early scholars of the modern age. At any
rate, he does not share with Æschylus the difficulty that arose when a
poet of intense feeling and sublime imagination strove to grapple with
deep and intricate thoughts before language had become a scientific

In conclusion I would once again return to that doctrine of
#pathêmata mathêmata#, connected with a definite conception of the
divine government and based upon a well-considered theory of human
responsibility, which may be traced throughout the plays of Æschylus.
To this morality his drama owes its unity and vigor, inasmuch as all
the plots constructed by the poet both presuppose and illustrate it.
The conviction that what a man sows he will reap, and that the world
is not ruled by blind chance, is, in one sense or another, the most
solid ethical acquisition of humanity. Amid so much else that seems to
shift in morals and in religion, it affords firm ground for action.
This vital moral faith the Greeks held as securely, at least, as we do;
and the theology with which their highest teachers--men like Æschylus,
Pindar, Plato--sought to connect it, tended to weaken its effect far
less than any other systems of divinity have done. We are too apt to
forget this, while we fix our attention upon the unrivalled beauty
of Greek art. In reality there are few nations whose fine literature
combines so much æsthetic splendor with direct, sound, moral doctrine;
and this, not because the poets strove to preach, but because their
minds were healthily imbued with human wisdom. Except in the works of
Milton, we English, for example, can show no poetical exposition of a
moral theory at all equal to that of Æschylus. But while Milton sets
forth his doctrine as a portion of divine revelation, and vitiates it
with the dross of dogmatism, Æschylus shows the law implicit in the
history of men and heroes: it is inferred by him intuitively from the
facts of spiritual life, as apprehended by the consciousness of the
Greeks in their best age.


[125] See line 107.

[126] It should be said that the subject-matter of the _Prometheus
Unbound_ has to be gathered partly from fragments of the play, partly
from prophecies in the _Prometheus Bound_, and partly from later
versions of the legend.

[127] "Him who leads men in the ways of wisdom, who has ordained that
suffering should teach."

[128] See _Supplices_, 524-599.



    The Personal Beauty of Sophocles: his Life; Stories about
        Him.--Athens in the Age of Pericles.--Antique Criticism
        on his Style: its Perfect Harmony.--Aristotle's Respect
        for Sophocles.--Character in Greek Tragedy.--Sophocles
        and Æschylus.--The Religious Feeling of Sophocles.--His
        Ethics.--Exquisite Proportion observed in his
        Treatment of the _Dramatis Personæ_.--Power of Using
        Motives.--The _Philoctetes_.--Comparison of the
        _Choëphoroe_ and the _Electra_.--Climax of the _Oedipus
        Coloneüs_.--How Sophocles led onward to Euripides.--The
        _Trachiniæ_.--Goethe's Remarks on the _Antigone_.--The
        Tale of Thebes.--_Oedipus Tyrannus_, _Oedipus Coloneüs_,
        and _Antigone_ do not make up a Trilogy.--Story of
        Laius.--The Philosophy of Fate contained in it.--The
        Oracle.--Analysis of _Oedipus Tyrannus_.--Masterly
        Treatment of the Character of Oedipus.--Change of
        Situation in the _Coloneüs_.--Emergence of Antigone into
        Prominence.--Analysis of the _Antigone_.--The Character of
        Antigone: its Beauty.--Contrast afforded by Ismene and by
        Creon.--Fault in the Climax of the _Antigone_.--The Final
        Solution of the Laian Curse.--Antigone is not subject to

Sophocles, the son of Sophilus, was born at Colonus, a village about
one mile to the north-west of Athens, in the year 495 B.C. This date
makes him thirty years younger than Æschylus, and fifteen older than
Euripides. His father was a man of substance, capable of giving
the best education, intellectual and physical, to his son; and the
education in vogue at Athens when Sophocles was a boy was that which
Aristophanes praised so glowingly in the speeches of the Dikaios
Logos. Therefore, in the case of this most perfect poet, the best
conditions of training (#trophê#) were added to the advantages of
nature (#physis#), and these two essential elements of a noble manhood,
upon which the theorists of Greece loved to speculate, were realized
by him conjointly in felicitous completeness. Early in life Sophocles
showed that nature had endowed him with personal qualities peculiarly
capable of conferring lustre on a Greek artist of the highest type. He
was exceedingly beautiful and well-formed, and so accomplished in music
and gymnastics that he gained public prizes in both these branches
of a Greek boy's education. His physical grace and skill in dancing
caused him to be chosen, in his sixteenth year, to lead the choir in
celebration of the victory of Salamis. According to Athenian custom,
he appeared on this occasion naked, crowned, and holding in his hand a

    #eithe lyra kalê genoimên elephantinê,
    kai me kaloi paides pheroien Dionysion es choron.#[129]

These facts are not unimportant, for no Greek poet was more thoroughly,
consistently, and practically #euphyês#, according to the comprehensive
meaning of that term, which denotes physical, as well as moral and
intellectual, distinction. The art of Sophocles is distinguished
above all things by its faultless symmetry, its grace and rhythm, and
harmonious equipoise of strength and beauty. In his own person the
poet realized the ideal combination of varied excellences which his
tragedies exhibit. The artist and the man were one in Sophocles. In his
healthful youth and sober manhood, no less than in his serene poetry,
he exhibited the pure and tempered virtues of #euphuia#. We cannot
but think of him as specially created to represent Greek art in its
most refined and exquisitely balanced perfection. It is impossible to
imagine a more plastic nature, a genius more adapted to its special
function, more fittingly provided with all things needful to its full
development, born at a happier moment in the history of the world, and
more nobly endowed with physical qualities suited to its intellectual

In 468 B.C. Sophocles first appeared as a tragic poet in contest with
Æschylus. The advent of the consummate artist was both auspicious and
dramatic. His fame, as a gloriously endowed youth, had been spread
far and wide. The supremacy of his mighty predecessor remained as yet
unchallenged. Therefore the day on which they met in rivalry was a
great national occasion. Party feeling ran so high that Apsephion, the
Archon Eponymus, who had to name the judges, chose no meaner umpires
than the general Cimon and his colleagues, just returned from Scyros,
bringing with them the bones of the Attic hero Theseus. Their dignity
and their recent absence from the city were supposed to render them
fair critics in a matter of such moment. Cimon awarded the victory
to Sophocles. It is greatly to be regretted that we have lost the
tragedies which were exhibited on this occasion; we do not know,
indeed, with any certainty, their titles. As Welcker has remarked,
the judges were called to decide, not so much between two poets as
between two styles of tragedy; and if Plutarch's assertion, that
Æschylus retired to Sicily in consequence of the verdict given against
him, be well founded, we may also believe that two rival policies in
the city were opposed, two types of national character in collision.
Æschylus belonged to the old order. Sophocles was essentially a man
of the new age, of the age of Pericles and Pheidias and Thucydides.
The incomparable intellectual qualities of the Athenians of that
brief blossom-time have so far dazzled modern critics that we have
come to identify their spirit with the spirit itself of the Greek
race. Undoubtedly the glories of Hellas, her special _geist_ in art
and thought and state-craft, attained at that moment to maturity
through the felicitous combination of external circumstances, and
through the prodigious mental greatness of the men who made Athens so
splendid and so powerful. Yet we must not forget that Themistocles
preceded Pericles, while Cleon followed after; that Herodotus came
before Thucydides, and that Aristotle, at a later date, philosophized
on history; that Æschylus and Euripides have each a shrine in the
same temple with Sophocles. And all these men, whose names are notes
of differences deep and wide, were Greeks, almost contemporaneous.
The later and the earlier groups in this triple series are, perhaps,
even more illustrative of Greece at large; while the Periclean trio
represent Athenian society, in a special and narrow sense, at its most
luminous and brilliant, most isolated and artificial, most self-centred
and consummate point of #autarkeia#, or internal adequacy. Sophocles
was the poet of this transient phase of Attic culture, unexampled
in the history of the world for its clear and flawless character,
its purity of intellectual type, its absolute clairvoyance, and its
plenitude of powers matured, but unimpaired, by use.

From the date 468 to the year of his death, at the age of ninety,
Sophocles composed one hundred and thirteen plays. In twenty contests
he gained the first prize; he never fell below the second place. After
Æschylus he only met one formidable rival, Euripides. What we know
about his life is closely connected with the history of his works. In
440 B.C., after the production of the _Antigone_, he was chosen, on
account of his political wisdom, as one of the generals associated
with Pericles in the expedition to Samos. But Sophocles was not, like
Æschylus, a soldier; nor was he in any sense a man of action. The
stories told about his military service turn wholly upon his genial
temperament, serene spirits, unaffected modesty, and pleasure-loving
personality. So great, however, was the esteem in which his character
for wisdom and moderation was held by his fellow-citizens that they
elected him in 413 B.C. one of the ten commissioners of public safety,
or #probouloi#, after the failure of the Syracusan expedition. In
this capacity he gave his assent to the formation of the governing
council of the Four Hundred two years later, thus voting away the
constitutional liberties of Athens. It is recorded that he said this
measure was not a good one, but the best under bad circumstances. It
should, however, be said that doubt has been thrown over this part of
the poet's career; it is not certain that the Sophocles in question was
in truth the author of _Antigone_.

One of the best-authenticated and best-known episodes in the life of
Sophocles is connected with the _Oedipus Coloneüs_. As an old man, he
had to meet a lawsuit brought against him by his legitimate son Iophon,
who accused him of wishing to alienate his property to the child of his
natural son Ariston. This boy, called Sophocles, was the darling of his
later years. The poet was arraigned before a jury of his tribe, and the
plea set up by Iophon consisted of an accusation of senile incapacity.
The poet, preserving his habitual calmness, recited the famous chorus
which contains the praises of Colonus. Whereupon the judges rose
and conducted him with honor to his house, refusing for a moment to
consider so frivolous and unwarranted a charge.

Personally Sophocles was renowned for his geniality and equability of
temper; #eukolos men enthad' eukolos d' ekei# is the terse and emphatic
description of his character by Aristophanes. That he was not averse to
pleasures of the sense is proved by evidence as good as that on which
such biographical details of the ancients generally rest. To slur these
stories over because they offend modern notions of propriety is feeble,
though, of course, it is always open to the critic to call in question
the authorities; and in this particular instance the witnesses are far
from clear. The point, however, to be remembered is that, supposing
them true to fact, Sophocles would himself have smiled at such
unphilosophical partisanship as seeks to overthrow them in the interest
of his reputation. That a poet, distinguished for his physical beauty,
should refrain from sensual enjoyments in the flower of his age is not
a Greek, but a Christian notion. Such abstinence would have indicated
in Sophocles mere want of inclination. The words of Pindar are here
much to the purpose:

    #chrên men kata kairon erôtôn drepesthai, thyme, syn halikiâi.#[130]

All turned upon the #kata kairon#, and no one had surely a better
sense of the #kairos#, the proper time and season for all things,
than Sophocles. He showed his moderation--which quality, not total
abstinence, was virtue in such matters for the Greeks--by knowing how
to use his passions, and when to refrain from their indulgence. The
whole matter is summed up in this passage from the _Republic_ of Plato:
"How well I remember the aged poet Sophocles, when, in answer to the
question, 'How does love suit with age, Sophocles--are you still the
man you were?' 'Peace,' he replied; 'most gladly have I escaped from
that, and I feel as if I had escaped from a mad and furious master.'"

A more serious defect in the character of Sophocles is implied in the
hint given by Aristophanes, that he was too fond of money. The same
charge was brought against many Greek poets. We may account for it
by remembering that the increased splendor of Athenian life, and the
luxuriously refined tastes of the tragedian, must have tempted him to
do what the Greeks very much disliked--make profit by the offspring
of his brain. To modern notions nothing can sound stranger than the
invectives of the philosophers against sophists who sold their wisdom;
it can only be paralleled by their deeply rooted misconceptions about
interest on capital, which even Aristotle regarded as unnatural and
criminal. That Sophocles was in any deeper sense avaricious or miserly
we cannot believe: it would contradict the whole tenor of the tales
about his geniality and kindness.

Unlike Æschylus and Euripides, Sophocles never quitted Athens, except
on military service. He lived and wrote there through his long career
of laborious devotion to the highest art. We have, therefore, every
right, on this count also, to accept his tragedies as the purest mirror
of the Athenian mind at its most brilliant period. Athens, in the age
of Pericles, was adequate to the social and intellectual requirements
of her greatest sons; and a poet whose earliest memories were connected
with Salamis may well have felt that even the hardships of the
Peloponnesian war were easier to bear within the sacred walls of the
city than exile under the most favorable conditions. No other centre
of so much social and political activity existed. Athens was the Paris
of Greece, and Sophocles and Socrates were the Parisians of Athens. At
the same time the stirring events of his own lifetime do not appear to
have disturbed the tranquillity of Sophocles. True to his destiny, he
remained an artist; and to this immersion in his special work he owed
the happiness which Phrynichus recorded in these famous lines:

    #makar Sophokleês, hos polyn chronon bious
    apethanen eudaimôn anêr kai dexios;
    pollas poiêsas kai kalas tragôidias
    kalôs eteleutês' ouden hypomeinas kakon.#

    Thrice-happy Sophocles! in good old age,
    Blessed as a man, and as a craftsman blessed,
    He died: his many tragedies were fair,
    And fair his end, nor knew he any sorrow.

The change effected by Sophocles in tragedy tended to mature the drama
as a work of pure art, and to free it further from the Dionysiac
traditions. He broke up the trilogy into separate plays, exhibiting
three tragedies and a satyric drama, like Æschylus before him, but
undoing the link by which they were connected, so that he was able to
make each an independent poem. He added a third actor, and enlarged
the number of the chorus, while he limited its function as a motive
force in the drama. These innovations had the effect of reducing the
scale upon which Æschylus had planned his tragedies, and afforded
opportunities for the elaboration of detail. It was more easy for
Sophocles than it had been for Æschylus to exhibit play of character
through the interaction of the _dramatis personæ_. Tragedy left the
remote and mystic sphere of Æschylean theosophy, and confined herself
to purely human arguments. Attention was concentrated on the dialogue,
in which the passions of men in action were displayed. The dithyrambic
element was lost; the choric odes providing a relief from violent
excitement, instead of embodying the very soul and spirit of the poet's
teaching. While limiting the activity of the chorus, Sophocles did not,
like Euripides, proceed to disconnect it from the tragic interest, or
pay less attention than his predecessors to its songs. On the contrary,
his choric interludes are models of perfection in this style of lyric
poetry, while their subject-matter is invariably connected with the
chief concerns and moral lessons of the drama.

The extant plays of Sophocles are all later than the year 440 B.C.
They may safely be said to belong to the period of his finished style;
or, in the language of art criticism, to his third manner. What this
means will appear from a valuable passage in Plutarch: "Sophocles used
to say that, when he had put aside the tragic pomp of Æschylus, and
then the harsh and artificial manner of his own elaborate style, he
arrived in the third place at a form of speech which is best suited
to portray the characters of men, and is the most excellent." Thus it
would appear that Sophocles had begun his career as a dramatist by
the study of the language of Æschylus; finding that too turgid and
emphatic, he had fallen into affectation and refinement, and finally
had struck the just medium between the rugged majesty of his master
and the mannered elegance which was in vogue among the sophists.
The result was that peculiar mixture of grace, dignity, and natural
eloquence which scholars know as Sophoclean. It is interesting to
notice that the first among the extant tragedies of Sophocles, the
_Antigone_, is more remarkable for studied phrase and verbal subtleties
than his later plays. The _Oedipus Coloneüs_, which is the last of the
whole series, exhibits the style of the poet in its perfect purity
and freedom. A curious critical passage in Plutarch seems to indicate
that the ancients themselves observed the occasional euphuism of the
Sophoclean style as a blemish. It runs thus: #mempsaito d' an tis
Archilochou men tên hypothesin ... Euripidou de tên lalian, Sophokleous
de tên anômalian.#[131] "One might censure the garrulity of Euripides
and the inequality of Sophocles." I am not, however, certain whether
this or "linguistic irregularity" is the right meaning of the word
#anômalia#. Another censure, passed by Longinus upon Sophocles, points
out a defect which is the very last to be observed in any of the extant
tragedies: "Pindar and Sophocles at one time burn everything before
them in their fiery flight, but often strangely lack the flame of
inspiration, and fall most grievously to earth."[132] Then he adds:
"Certainly no wise critic would value all the plays of Ion put together
at the same rate as the single tragedy of _Oedipus_." The importance
of these critiques is to prove that the ancients regarded Sophocles
as an unequal, and in some respects a censurable poet, whence we may
infer that only masterpieces belonging to his later style have been
preserved to us, since nothing, to a modern student, is more obvious
than the uniform sustained perfection of our seven inestimably precious
tragedies. A certain tameness in the _Trachiniæ_, and a relaxation of
dramatic interest in the last act of the _Ajax_, are all the faults it
is possible to find with Sophocles.

What Sophocles is reported to have said about his style will
apply to his whole art. The great achievement of Sophocles was to
introduce regularity of proportion, moderation of tone, and proper
balance into tragedy. The Greek phrases #symmetria#, #sôphrosynê#,
#metriotês#--proportion of parts, self-restraint, and moderation--sum
up the qualities of his drama when compared with that of Æschylus.
Æschylus rough-hewed like a Cyclops, but he could not at the same
time finish like Praxiteles. What the truth of this saying is, I have
already tried to show.[133] Sophocles attempted neither Cyclopean nor
Praxitelean work. He attained to the perfection of Pheidias. Thus
we miss in his tragedies the colossal scale and terrible effects of
Æschylean art. His plays are not so striking at first sight, because
it was his aim to put all the parts of his composition in their
proper places, and to produce a harmony which should not agitate or
startle, but which upon due meditation should be found complete. The
#sôphrosynê#, or moderation, exhibited in all his work, implies by its
very nature the sacrifice of something--the sacrifice of passion and
impetuosity to higher laws of equability and temper. So perfect is the
beauty of Sophocles, that, as in the case of Raphael or Mozart, it
seems to conceal the strength and fire which animate his art.

Aristotle, in the _Poetics_, observes that "Poetry is the proper affair
of either enthusiastic or artistic natures," #euphyous ê manikou#.
Now Æschylus exactly answers to the notion of the #manikos#, while
Sophocles corresponds to that of the #euphyês#. To this distinction
between the two types of genius we may refer the partiality of
Aristotle for the younger dramatist. The work of the artistic poet is
more instructive and offers more matter for profitable analysis, for
precept and example, than that of the divinely inspired enthusiast.
Where creative intelligence has been used consciously and effectively
to a certain end, critical intelligence can follow. It is clear that
in the _Poetics_, which we may regard as a practical text-book for
students, the philosopher is using the tragedy of Sophocles, and in
particular the _Oedipus Tyrannus_, as the standard of perfection.
Whatever he has to say about the handling of character, the treatment
of the fable, the ethics of the drama, the catastrophes and
recognitions (#peripeteiai# and #anagnôriseis#), that absorbed so large
a part of his dramatic analysis, he points by references to _Oedipus_.
In Sophocles Aristotle found the #mesotês#, or intermediate quality,
between two extremes, which, in æsthetics as in morals, seemed to his
Greek mind most excellent. Consequently he notes all deflections from
the Sophoclean norm as faulty; and, since in his day Euripides led the
taste of the Athenians, he frequently shows how tragic art had suffered
by a deviation from the principles Sophocles illustrated. The chief
point on which he insists is the morality of the drama. "The tragedies
of the younger poets for the most part are unethical." With his use of
the word #êthos# we must be careful not to confound the modern notion
of morality: #êthos# means, indeed, with Aristotle as with us, the
determination of the character to goodness or badness; but it also
includes considerations of what is appropriate to sex and quality and
circumstance in the persons of a work of fiction. The best modern
equivalent for #êthos#, therefore, is character. Since tragedy is an
imitation of men acting according to their character, #êthos#, in this
wide sense, is the whole stuff of the dramatist, and a proper command
of #êthos# implies real knowledge of mankind. Therefore, when Aristotle
accuses the tragedies of Euripides and his school of being "unethical,"
he does not merely mean that they were prejudicial to good manners, but
also that they were false to human nature, unscientific, and therefore
inartistic; exceptional or morbid, wavering in their conception and
unequal in their execution. The truly great poet, Sophocles, shows
his artistic tact and taste by only selecting such characters as are
suitable to tragedy. He depicts men, but men of heroic mould, men as
they ought to be.[134] When Sophocles said that he portrayed men as
tragedy required them to be, whereas Euripides drew them just as they
are, he indicated the real solution of the tragic problem.[135] The
point here raised by Aristotle has an intimate connection with its
whole theory of tragedy. Tragic poetry must purify the passions of
fear and pity; in other words, it must teach men not to fear when fear
is vile, or to pity where pity would be thrown away. By exhibiting a
spectacle that may excite the fear of really dreadful calamity, and
compassion for truly terrible misfortune, tragedy exalts the soul above
the ordinary miseries of life, and nerves it to face the darker evils
to which humanity in its blindness, sin, and self-pride is exposed. Now
this lesson cannot be taught by drawing men as they exist around us.
That method drags the mind back to the trivialities of every day.

What Aristotle says about the #êthê# of tragedy may be applied to
point the differences between Sophocles and Æschylus. He has not
himself drawn the comparison; but it is clear that, as Euripides
deflects on the one hand from the purely ethical standard, so also
does Æschylus upon the other. Æschylus keeps us in the high and mystic
region of religious fatalism. Sophocles transports us into the more
human region of morality. His problem is to exhibit the complexities
of life--"whatsoever has passion or admiration in all the changes of
that which is called fortune from without, or the wily subtleties and
reflexes of man's thoughts from within"--and to set forth men of noble
mental stature acting in subjection to the laws appointed for the
order of the world. His men and women are like ourselves, only larger
and better in so far as they are simpler and more beautiful. Like the
characters of Æschylus, they suffer for their sins; but we feel that
the justice that condemns them is less mystic in its operation, more
capable of philosophical analysis and scientific demonstration.

It must not be thought, therefore, that Sophocles is less religious
than Æschylus. On the contrary, he shows how the will and passion of
men are inevitably and invariably related to divine justice. Human
affairs can only be understood by reference to the deity; for the
decrees of Zeus, or of that power which is above Zeus, and which
he also obeys, give their moral complexion to the motives and the
acts of men. Yet, while Æschylus brings his theosophy in detail
prominently forward, Sophocles prefers to maintain a sense of the
divine background. He spiritualizes religion, while he makes it more
indefinite. By the same process it is rendered more impregnable within
its stronghold of the human heart and reason, less exposed to the
attacks of logic or the changes of opinion. The keynote to his tragic
morality is found in these two passages:[136]

    "Oh! that my lot may lead me in the path of holy innocence of
    word and deed, the path which august laws ordain, laws that in
    the highest empyrean had their birth, of which heaven is the
    father alone, neither did the race of mortal man beget them,
    nor shall oblivion ever put them to sleep. The power of God is
    mighty in them, and groweth not old."

The second is like unto the first in spirit:

    It was no Zeus who thus commanded me,
    Nor Justice, dread mate of the nether powers,--
    For they, too, gave these rules to govern men.
    Nor did I fondly deem thy proclamations
    Were so infallible that any mortal
    Might overleap the sure unwritten laws
    Of gods. These neither now nor yesterday,
    Nay, but from everlasting without end,
    Live on, and no man knows when they were issued.

The religious instinct in Sophocles has made a long step towards
independence since the days of Æschylus. No more upon Olympus or at
Delphi alone will the Greek poet worship. He has learned that "God is
a spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in
truth." The voice that speaks within him is the deity he recognizes.
At the same time the Chorus of the _Oedipus_, part of which has just
been quoted, and that of the _Antigone_, which bewails the old doom
of the house of Labdacus, might, but for their greater calmness, have
been written by Æschylus. The moral doctrine of Greek tragedy has not
been changed, but humanized. We have got rid in a great measure of
ancient demons, and brass-footed Furies, and the greed of earth for
blood in recompense for blood. We have passed, as it were, from the
shadow cast by the sun into the sunlight itself. And, in consequence
of this transfiguration, the morality of Sophocles is imperishable.
"Not of to-day nor of yesterday, but fixed from everlasting," are his
laws. We may all learn of him now, as when Antigone first stood before
the throne of Creon on the Attic stage. The deep insight into human
life, that most precious gift of the Greek genius, which produced their
greatest contributions to the education of the world, is in Sophocles
obscured no longer by mystical mythology and local superstition. His
wisdom is the common heritage of human nature.

The moral judgments of Æschylus were severe. Those of Sophocles,
implicit in his tragic situations rather than expressed, are not less
firm; but he seems to feel a more tender pity for humanity in its
weakness and its blindness. The philosophy of life, profoundly sad
upon the one side, but cheerful on the other, which draws lessons of
sobriety and tempered joy from the consideration of human impotence and
ignorance, is truly Greek. We find it nowhere more strongly set forth
than by Sophocles and Aristophanes--by the comic poet in the Parabasis
of the _Birds_, and in the songs of the Mystæ in the _Frogs_, by the
tragic poet in his choruses, and also in what is called his irony.

All that has been said about the art of Sophocles up to this point
has tended to establish one position. His innate and unerring tact,
his sense of harmony and measure, produced at Athens a new style of
drama, distinguished for finish of language, for careful elaboration
of motives, for sharp and delicate character-drawing, and for balance
of parts. If we do not find in Sophocles anything to match the passion
of Cassandra, the cry of Agamemnon, or the opening of the _Eumenides_,
there is yet in his plays a combination of quite sufficient boldness
and inventiveness with more exquisite workmanship than Æschylus could
give. The breadth of the whole is not lost through the minuteness
of the details. Unlike Æschylus, Sophocles opens very quietly, with
conversations, for the most part, which reveal the characters of the
chief persons or explain the situation. The passion grows with the
development of the plot, and it is only when the play is finished that
justice can be done to any separate part. Each of the seven tragedies
presents one person, who dominates the drama, and in whom its interest
is principally concentrated. Oedipus in his two plays, Antigone in
hers, Philoctetes in his, Deianeira in the _Trachiniæ_, Electra in her
play, and Ajax in his, stand forth in powerful and prominent relief.
Then come figures on the second plane, no less accurately conceived
and conscientiously delineated, but used with a view to supporting the
chief personages, and educing their decisive action.[137] A _rôle_ of
this kind is given to Orestes in the _Electra_, to Neoptolemus in the
_Philoctetes_, to Teucer in the _Ajax_, to Creon in the _Antigone_,
to Teiresias in the _Oedipus_. Clytemnestra and Tecmessa, Odysseus
and Theseus, play similar parts. Again, there is a third plane for
characters still more subordinate, but no less artistically important,
such as Jocasta, Ismene, Chrysothemis, Ægisthus, Hyllus. Then follow
the numerous accessory persons--_instrumenta dramatis_--the guardian of
the corpse of Polyneices, the shepherd of Laius, the tutor of Orestes,
messengers and servants, all of whom receive their special physiognomy
from the great master. In this way Sophocles made true æsthetic use of
the three agonistæ. The principle on which these parts were distributed
in his tragedies will be found to have deep and subtle analogies with
the laws of bass-relief in sculpture. Poetry, however, being a far more
independent art than sculpture, may employ a greater multiplicity of
parts, and produce a far more complex effect than can be realized in

The _Philoctetes_ might be selected as an example of the power in
handling motives possessed by Sophocles. The amount of interest he has
concentrated by a careful manipulation of one point--the contest for
the bow of Herakles--upon so slight and stationary a plot, is truly
wonderful. Not less admirable is the contrast between the youthful
generosity of Neoptolemus and the worldly wisdom of Odysseus--the
young man pliant at first to the crafty persuasions of the elder, but
restored to his sense of honor by the compassion which Philoctetes
stirs, and by the trust he places in him. Nothing more beautiful can be
conceived than this moral revolution in the character of Neoptolemus.
It suited the fine taste and exquisite skill of Sophocles not only to
exhibit changes in circumstance and character, but also to compel a
change of sympathy and of opinion in his audience. Thus, in the _Ajax_,
he contrives to reverse the whole situation, by showing in the end
Ajax sublime and Odysseus generous, though at first the one seemed
sunk below humanity, and the other hateful in his vulgar scorn of a
fallen rival. The art which works out psychological problems of this
subtle kind, and which invests a plot like that of the _Philoctetes_
with intense interest, is very far removed from the method of Æschylus.
The difference between the two styles may, however, be appreciated
best by a comparison of the _Electra_ with the _Choëphoroe_. In these
two tragedies very nearly the same motives are employed; but what was
simple and straightforward in Æschylus becomes complex and involved
in Sophocles. Instead of Orestes telling the tale of his own death,
we have the narrative of his tutor, confirmed and ratified by himself
in person. Instead of Electra at once recognizing her brother, she
is brought at first to the verge of despair by hearing of his death.
Then Chrysothemis informs her of the lock of hair. This, however,
cannot reassure Electra in the face of the tutor's message. So the
situation is admirably protracted. Æschylus misses all that is gained
for the development of character by the resolve of Electra, stung to
desperation by her brother's death, to murder Ægisthus, and by the
contrast between her single-hearted daring and the feebler acquiescent
temper of Chrysothemis. Also the peripeteia whereby Electra is made
to bewail the urn of Orestes, and then to discover him alive before
her, is a stroke of supreme art which was missed in the _Choëphoroe_.
The pathos of the situation is almost too heart-rending; at one moment
its intensity verges upon discord; but the resolution of the discord
comes in that long cadence of triumphant harmony when the anagnorisis
at length arrives. Nor is the ingenuity of Sophocles, in continuing
and sustaining the interest of this one set of motives, yet exhausted.
While the brother and sister are rejoicing together, the action waits,
and every moment becomes more critical, until at last the tutor
reappears and warns them of their perilous imprudence. To take another
point: the dream of Clytemnestra is more mysterious and doubtful in
the _Electra_ than in the _Choëphoroe_; while her appearance on the
stage at the beginning of the play, her arguments with Electra, her
guarded prayers to Phoebus, and her reception of the tutor's message,
enable Sophocles fully to develop his conception of her character. On
the other hand, Sophocles has sacrificed the most brilliant features
of the _Choëphoroe_--the dreadful scene of Clytemnestra's death, than
which there is nothing more passionately piteous and spirit-quelling in
all tragedy, and the descent of his mother's furies on the murderer.
It was the object of Sophocles not so much to dwell upon the action
of Orestes as to exhibit the character of Electra; therefore, at the
supreme moment, when the cry of the queen is heard within the palace,
he shows his heroine tremendous in her righteous hatred and implacable
desire for vengeance. Such complete and exhaustive elaboration of
motives, characters, and situations, as forms the chief artistic
merit of the _Electra_, would, perhaps, have been out of place in the
_Choëphoroe_, which was only the second play in a trilogy, and had,
therefore, to be simple and stationary, according to the principles
of Æschylean art. The character of Clytemnestra, for example, needed
no development, seeing that she had taken the first part in the
_Agamemnon_. Again, it was necessary for Æschylus to insist upon the
action of Orestes more than Sophocles was forced to do, in order
that the climax of the _Choëphoroe_ might produce the subject of the
_Eumenides_. In comparing Sophocles with his predecessor, we must never
forget that we are comparing single plays with trilogies. This does
not, however, make the Sophoclean mastery of motives and of plots the
less admirable; it only fixes our attention on the real nature of the
innovations adopted by the younger dramatist.

Another instance of the art wherewith Sophocles prepared a tragic
situation, and graduated all the motives which should conduct the
action to a final point, may be selected from the _Oedipus Coloneüs_.
It was necessary to describe the death of Oedipus, since the fable
selected for treatment precluded anything approaching to a presentation
on the stage of this supreme event. Oedipus is bound to die alone
mysteriously, delivering his secret first in solitude to Theseus. A
Messenger's speech was, therefore, imperatively demanded, and to render
that the climax of the drama taxed all the resources of the poet. First
comes thunder, the acknowledged signal of the end. Then the speech of
Oedipus, who says that now, though blind, he will direct his steps
unhelped. Theseus is to follow and to learn. Oedipus rises from his
seat; his daughters and the king attend him. They quit the stage, and
the Chorus is left alone to sing. Then comes the Messenger, and gives
the sublime narration of his disappearance. We hear the voice that

    #ô houtos houtos Oidipous ti mellomen
    chôrein? palai dê tapo sou bradynetai.#

We see the old man descending the mysterious stairs, Antigone and
Ismene grouped above, and last, the kneeling king, who shrouds his eyes
before a sight intolerable. All this, as in a picture, passes before
our imagination. To convey the desired effect otherwise than by a
narrative would have been impossible, and the narrative, owing to the
expectation previously raised, is adequate.

To compare Sophocles with Euripides, after having said so much about
the points of contrast between him and Æschylus, and to determine
how much he may have owed in his later plays to the influence of
the younger poet, would be an interesting exercise of criticism.
That, however, belongs rather to an essay dealing directly with the
third Greek dramatist in detail. It is sufficient here to notice a
few points in which Sophocles seems to have prepared the way for
Euripides. In the first place he developed the part of the Messenger,
and made far more of picturesque description than Æschylus had done.
Then, again, his openings suggested the device of the prologue by
their abandonment of the eminently scenic effects with which Æschylus
preferred to introduce a drama. The separation of the Chorus from the
action was another point in which Sophocles led onward to Euripides.
So also was the device of the _deus ex machinâ_ in the _Philoctetes_,
unless, indeed, we are to regard this as an invention adopted from
Euripides.[138] Nor, in this connection, is it insignificant that
Aristotle credits Sophocles with the invention of #skênographia#,
or scene-painting. The abuse of scenical resources to the detriment
of real dramatic unity and solidity was one of the chief defects of
Euripidean art.

It may here be noticed that Sophocles in the _Trachiniæ_ took up the
theme of love as a main motive for a drama. By doing so he broke ground
in a region that had been avoided, as far as we can judge from extant
plays, by Æschylus, and in which Euripides was destined to achieve his
greatest triumphs. It is, indeed, difficult to decide the question of
precedence between Sophocles and Euripides in this matter. Except on
this account the _Trachiniæ_ is the least interesting of his tragedies.
The whole play seems like a somewhat dull, though conscientious,
handling of a fable in which the poet took but a slight interest.
Compared with Medea or with Phædra, Deianeira is tame and lifeless.
She makes one fatal and foolish mistake through jealousy, and all is
over. Hyllus, too, is a mere _silhouette_, while the contention between
him and Herakles about the marriage with Iole, at the end, is frigid.
Here, if anywhere, we detect the force of the critique quoted above
from Longinus. At the same time the _Trachiniæ_ offers many points
of interest to the student of Greek sentiment. The phrase #tautês ho
deinos himeros# is significant, as expressing the pain and forceful
energy which the Greeks attributed to passion; nor is the contrast
drawn by Deianeira between #posis# and #anêr# without value. The
motive used by Sophocles in this tragedy was developed by Euripides
with a comprehension so far deeper, and with a fulness so far more
satisfactory, that the _Hippolytus_ and the _Medea_ must always take
rank above it.

The deepest and most decisive quality in which the tragic art of
Sophocles resembled that of Euripides is rhetoric. Sophocles was the
first to give its full value to dramatic casuistry, to introduce
sophistic altercations, and to set forth all that could be well said
in support of a poor argument. A passage on this subject may be quoted
from "Eckermann's Conversations with Goethe:"[139]

    "That is the very thing," said Goethe, "in which Sophocles is
    a master; and in which consists the very life of the dramatic
    in general. His characters all possess this gift of eloquence,
    and know how to explain the motives for their action so
    convincingly that the hearer is almost always on the side of
    the last speaker. One can see that in his youth he enjoyed an
    excellent rhetorical education, by which he became trained to
    look for all the reasons and seeming reasons of things. Still
    his great talent in this respect betrayed him into faults, as
    he sometimes went too far."

The special point selected by Goethe for criticism is the celebrated
last speech of Antigone:

    "At last, when she is led to death, she brings forward a motive
    which is quite unworthy, and almost borders on the comic. She
    says that if she had been a mother she would not have done
    either for her dead children or for her dead husband what she
    has done for her brother. 'For,' says she, 'if my husband died
    I could have had another, and if my children died I could
    have had others by my new husband. But with my brother the
    case is different. I cannot have another brother; for since
    my mother and father are dead, there is none to beget one.'
    This is, at least, the bare sense of the passage, which, in
    my opinion, when placed in the mouth of a heroine going to
    her death, disturbs the tragic tone, and appears to me very
    far-fetched--to savor too much of dialectical calculation. As I
    said, I should like a philologist to show us that the passage
    is spurious."

In truth this last speech of Antigone is exactly what the severer
critics of Euripides would have selected in a play of his for
condemnation. It exhibits, after all allowance for peculiar Greek
sentiments, the rhetorical development of a sophistic thesis. In the
simple thought there is pathos. But its elaboration makes it frigid.

Sophocles, though he made the subsequent method of Euripides not only
possible but natural by the law of progressive evolution, was very
far indeed from disintegrating the tragic structure as Euripides
was destined to do. The _deus ex machinâ_ of the _Philoctetes_, for
example, was only employed because there was absolutely no other way
to solve the situation. Rhetoric and wrangling matches were never
introduced for their own sake. The choric odes did not degenerate
into mere musical interludes. Description and narration in no case
took the place of action, by substituting pictures to the ear under
conditions where true art required dramatic presentation. It remains
the everlasting glory of Sophocles that he realized the mean between
Æschylus and Euripides, sacrificing for the sake of his ideal the
passionate and enthusiastic extremes of the older dramatist, without
imperilling the fabric of Greek tragedy by the suicidal innovations of
Euripides. He and he alone knew how to use all forms of art, to express
all motives, and to hazard all varieties, with the single purpose of
maintaining artistic unity.

What remains to be said about Sophocles, and in particular about
his delineation of character, may be introduced in the course of an
analysis of his tragedies upon the tale of Thebes.

These three plays do not, like the three plays of Æschylus upon the
tale of the Atridæ, form a trilogy. That is to say, they are not so
connected in subject as to form one continued series. A drama, for
example, similar to the _Seven against Thebes_ might be interpolated
between the _Oedipus Coloneüs_ and _Antigone_; while the _Oedipus
Tyrannus_ might have been followed by a tragedy upon the subject of
the king's expulsion from Thebes. Nor, again, are they artistically
designed as a trilogy. There is no change of form, suggesting the
beginning, middle, and ending of a calculated work of art, like that
which we notice in the _Oresteia_. Moreover, the protagonist is absent
from the _Antigone_, and, therefore, to call the three plays an
_Oedipodeia_ is impossible. Finally, they were composed at different
periods: the _Antigone_ is the first extant tragedy of Sophocles; the
_Oedipus Coloneüs_ is the last.

So much it was necessary to premise in order to avoid the imputation
of having treated the three masterpieces of Sophocles as in any true
sense a trilogy. The temptation to do so is at first sight almost
irresistible; for they are written on the same legend, and the same
characters are throughout sustained with firmness, proving that, though
Sophocles composed the last play of the series first and the second
last of all, he had conceived them in his brain before he undertook to
work them out in detail. Or, if this assumption seem unwarranted, we
may at least affirm with certainty that at some point of time anterior
to the production of the _Antigone_ he had subjected the whole legend
of the house of Laius to his plastic imagination, and had given it
coherence in his mind. In other words, it was impossible for him to
change his point of view about this mythus in the same way as Euripides
when he handled that of Helen according to two different versions.
It so happens, moreover, that the climax of the _Oedipus Tyrannus_
prepares us, by the revolution in the character of the protagonist, for
the _Oedipus Coloneüs_; while the last act of the second tragedy, by
the prominence given to Antigone, serves as a prelude to the third and
final play.

The house of Laius was scarcely less famous among the Greeks than the
house of Atreus for its overwhelming disasters, the consequences of an
awful curse which rested on the family. Laius, the son of Labdacus, was
supposed to have introduced an unnatural vice into Hellas; and from
this first crime sprang all the subsequent disasters of his progeny.
He took in marriage Jocasta, the sister of Prince Creon, and swayed
the State of Thebes. To him an oracle was given that a son of his by
Jocasta should kill him. Yet he did not therefore, in obedience to
the divine warning, put away his wife or live in chastity. A boy was
born to the royal pair, who gave him to one of their shepherds, after
piercing his feet and tying them together, and bound the hind to expose
him on Cithæron. Thus they hoped to defeat the will of heaven. The
shepherd, moved by pity, saved the baby's life and handed him over to
a friend of his, who used to feed his master's sheep upon the same
hill-pastures. This man carried the infant, named Oedipus because
of his wounded and swollen feet, to Polybus of Corinth, a childless
king, who brought him up as his own son. Oedipus when he had grown to
manhood, was taunted with his obscure birth by his comrades in Corinth.
Thereupon he journeyed alone to Delphi to make inquiry concerning his
parentage from Phoebus. Phoebus told him naught thereof, but bade him
take heed lest he slay his father and wed his mother. Oedipus, deeming
that Polybus was his father and Merope his mother, determined to
return to Corinth no more. At that time Thebes was troubled with the
visitation of the Sphinx, and no man might rede her riddle. Oedipus,
passing through the Theban land, was met in a narrow path, where
three roads joined, by an old man on a chariot attended by servants.
The old man spoke rudely to him, commanding him to make way for his
horses, and one of the servants struck him. Whereupon Oedipus slew the
master, knowing not that he was his own father, Laius, and the men too,
all but one, who fled. Thereafter he passed on to Thebes, and solved
that riddle of the Sphinx, and the Thebans made him their king, and
gave him the lady Jocasta to be his wife. Thus were both the oracles
accomplished, and yet Oedipus and Jocasta remained ignorant of their
doom. For many years Oedipus ruled Thebes like a great and warlike
prince; and to him and Jocasta in wedlock were born two daughters and
two sons--Antigone and Ismene, Polyneices and Eteocles. These grew to
youth, and a seeming calm of fair weather and prosperity abode upon
their house. Yet the gods were mindful of the abomination, and in
course of time a plague was sent, which ravaged the people of Thebes.
Sorely pressed by calamity, Oedipus sent his brother-in-law Creon to
inquire at Delphi of the causes of the plague and of the means of
staying it. This brings us to the opening of _Oedipus the King_. At
this point something should be said about the mythus itself and about
the position of the several persons at the commencement of the tragedy.

The fable is obviously one of those which Max Müller and his school
describe as solar. Oedipus, who slays his father and weds his mother,
may stand for the Sun, who slays the Night and is married to the Dawn.
We know how all legends can fall into this mould, and how easy it is to
clap the Dawn on to the end of every Greek tale, like the #lêkythion
apôlesen# of the _Frogs_. This, however, is nothing to our purpose; for
Sophocles had never heard of solar myths. The tale of Thebes supplied
him with the subject of three dramas; he used it as a story well suited
for displaying passions in their strongest and most tragic workings.
As usual, he was not contented with merely following the traditional
version of the legend, nor did he insist upon its superstitious
elements. That the gods had a grudge against the Labdacidæ, that
the oracles given to Laius and Oedipus were not warnings so much as
sinister predictions of a doom inevitable, that the very powers who
uttered them were bent on blinding the victims of fate to their true
import, were thoroughly Greek notions, consistent with the divine
#phthonos#, or envy, of Herodotus, and not wholly inconsistent with
the gloomy theology of Æschylus. But it was no part of the method
of Sophocles to emphasize this horrible doctrine of destiny. On the
contrary, he moralized it. While preserving all the essential features
of the myth, he made it clear that the characters of men constitute
their fatality.

As our own Fletcher has nobly written:

    Man is his own star, and the soul, that can
    Render an honest and a perfect man,
    Commands all light, all influence, all fate;
    Nothing to him falls early or too late;
    Our acts our angels are, or good or ill,
    Our fatal shadows that walk by us still.

What to the vulgar apprehension appears like doom, and to the
theologian like the direct interposition of the Deity, is to the tragic
poet but the natural consequence of moral, physical, and intellectual
qualities. These it is his function to set forth in high and stately
scenes, commingling with his psychological analysis and forcible
dramatic presentation somewhat of the old religious awe.

It may be urged that this is only shifting the burden of necessity,
not removing it. It is, perhaps, impossible scientifically to avoid a
fatalistic theory of some sort, since in one sense it is true that

    A fish-wife hath a fate, and so have I--
    But far above your finding.

Yet practically we do not act upon such theories, and, from the point
of view of ethics, there is all the difference in the world between
showing how the faults and sins of men must lead them to fearful ends,
and painting them in the grip of a remorseless and malignant deity.

Laius was warned that his son by Jocasta would kill him. Yet he begat a
son; and in his presumptuous disregard of heaven, thinking, forsooth,
that by mere barbarity a man may cheat the Omnipotent, and that the
All-seeing cannot save a child of prophecy and doom, he exposed this
son upon Cithæron. The boy lived. Thus the crime of Laius is want of
self-restraint in the first instance, contempt of God in the second,
and cruelty in the third. After this, Oedipus appears upon the theatre
of events. He, too, receives oracular warning--that he will slay his
sire and wed his mother. Yet, though well aware of the doubt which
rests upon his own birth--for it was just on this account that he
went to Delphi--he is satisfied with avoiding his supposed parents.
The first man whom he meets, while the words of the oracle are still
ringing in his ears, he slays; the first woman who is offered to him
in marriage, though old enough to be his mother, he weds. His crime
is haste of temper, heat of blood, blind carelessness of the divine
decrees. Jocasta shows her guilty infatuation in another form. Not
only does she participate in the first sin of Laius, but she forgets
the oracle which announced that Laius should be slain by his own
son. She makes no inquiry into the causes of his death. She does not
investigate the previous history of Oedipus, or observe the marks upon
his feet, but weds him heedlessly. Here, indeed, the legend itself
involves monstrous improbabilities--as, for instance, that Jocasta,
while a widow of a few days, should have been thus wedded to a stranger
young enough to be her son, that the Thebans should have made no
strict search for the murderer of their king, that Oedipus himself
should have heard nothing about the death and funeral of Laius, but
should have stepped incuriously into his place and sat upon his throne
without asking further questions either of his wife or of his subjects.
Previous to the opening of _Oedipus the King_, there is, therefore,
a whole tissue of absurdities; and to these Aristotle is probably
referring when he says: #alogon de mêden einai en tois pragmasin, ei de
mê, exô tês tragôidias, hoion ta en tôi Oidipodi tôi Sophokleous#.

Granting this, the vigorous logic wherewith the conclusions are wrought
out by Sophocles leaves nothing to be desired on the score of truth to
nature. There is, indeed, no work of tragic art which can be compared
with the _Oedipus_ for the closeness and consistency of the plot. To
use the critical terms of the _Poetics_, it would rank first among
tragedies for its #mythos# and for the #systasis pragmatôn#, even were
its #êthê# far less firmly traced. The triumph of Sophocles has been,
however, so to connect the #êthê# of his persons with the #pragmata#,
characters with plot, as to make the latter depend upon the former; and
in this kind of ethical causality lies the chief force of his tragic

If questioned concerning the situation of events previous to the play
of _Oedipus_, it is possible that Sophocles would have pointed out that
the #hamartia#, or error common to all the _dramatis personæ_, was an
unwarrantable self-confidence. One and all they consult the oracle,
and then are satisfied with taking the affairs they had referred to
Phoebus into their own hands. Unlike the Orestes of Æschylus, they
do not endeavor to act up to the divine commands, and, having done
so, place themselves once more beneath the guidance of the god. The
oracle is all-important in the three plays on the tale of Thebes, and
Sophocles seems to have intended to inculcate a special lesson with
regard to the submission of the human will. Those who inquire of a god,
and who attempt to thwart his decrees by human skill and foresight,
will not prosper. The apparent success of their shifty schemes may
cause them to exclaim: "The oracle was false; how weak are those who
look for its accomplishment!" Thus they are lured by their self-conceit
into impiety. In the end, too, the oracle is found to be fearfully
exact. Those, therefore, who take the step of consulting Phoebus must
hold themselves responsible to him, must expect the fulfilment of his
prophecy; or if they seek to avert the promised evils, they must, at
all events, not do so by criminal contrivances and petty lawlessness,
such as man thinks that he may practise upon man. It was thus that
Sophocles conceived of the relation of human beings to the deity. He
delights in exhibiting the blindness of arrogance and self-confidence,
and in showing that characters determined by these qualities rush
recklessly to their own doom. At the same time he draws a clear
distinction between the man who is hardened in godless folly and one
who errs through simple haste. The impiety of Jocasta ends in suicide.
Oedipus, who has been impetuous and self-willed, finds a place for
repentance, and survives his worst calamities, to die a god-protected
and god-honored hero.

The opening scene of the _Oedipus_ serves a double purpose. While
it places the spectators at the exact point in the legend selected
by the poet for treatment, it impresses them with the greatness and
the majesty of the king. Thebes is worn out with plague. The hand of
Heaven lies heavily upon the citizens. Therefore the priest of Zeus
approaches the hero who once before had saved them from the Sphinx,
and who may now--fit representative of God on earth--find out a
remedy for this intolerable evil. Oedipus appears upon the stage, a
confident and careful ruler, sublime in the strength of manhood and
the consciousness of vast capacity, tender for the afflictions of his
people, yet undismayed by their calamity. He is just the man to sustain
a commonwealth by his firm character and favoring fortune. Flawless
in force of will and singleness of purpose, he seems incapable of
failure. To connect the notions of disgrace or guilt or shame with such
a king is utterly impossible. Yet, even so, Sophocles has hinted in the
speech of Oedipus a something overmuch of confidence and courage:

                                  Well I know
    That ye all suffer, yet, thus suffering, I
    More than you all in overmeasure suffer:
    For that which wounds you strikes at each man singly,
    At each and not another; while my soul
    For Thebes, for me, for you, feels one huge sorrow.

Even here the irony, for which the play is famous, begins to transpire.
Oedipus believes that his grief is sympathy for a vexed people
committed to his charge. Little does he know that, while he is pluming
himself upon his watchful care for others, he himself is the head and
front of all offending. In the word #kame#, almost negligently uttered,
lies the kernel of the future revelation. While he is informing the
suppliants that Creon has gone to Delphi for advice, the prince
arrives. A garland of good augury is on his brow; and in this sign
of an auspicious embassy we discern another stroke of tragic irony.
Phoebus has declared that the presence in Thebes of the hitherto
unpunished, unregarded murderer of Laius is the cause of the plague.
Oedipus, when he fully understands the matter, swears to discover
the offender. The curse which he pronounces on this guilty man is
terrible--terrible in its energy of interdiction and excommunication
from all rites of hospitality, from human sympathy, from earth and air
and water and the fruits of the field--but still more terrible through
the fact that all these maledictions are uttered on his own head. The
irony of the situation--if we are justified in giving this word to the
contrast between what seems and what really is--between Oedipus as he
appears to the burghers and Oedipus as he is known to us--rises in
the emphatic eloquence of his denunciation to a truly awful height.
At the same time his obvious sincerity enlists our sympathy upon his
side. We feel beforehand that the man who speaks thus will, when his
eyes are opened, submit to his self-imprecated doom. It now remains
to detect the murderer. Thinking that his faculty of divination may
be useful, Oedipus has already sent for the blind seer Teiresias.
Teiresias is one of the great creations of Sophocles. Twice he appears,
once in this play, once in the _Antigone_, each time in conflict with
infatuated kings. He is so aged, and the soul within him is so fixed on
things invisible, that he seems scarcely human. We think of him as of
one who dwells apart, not communing in ordinary social ways with men,
but listening to the unspoken words of God, and uttering his wisdom
in dark parable to those who heed him not. The Greek poets frequently
exhibited the indifference of prosperous persons to divine monitions.
Cassandra's prophecies were not attended to; the Delphic oracle spoke
in vain; and Teiresias is only honored when it is too late. Sophocles,
while maintaining the mysterious fascination of the soothsayer, has
marked his character by some strong touches of humanity. He is proud
and irritable to excess. His power of sarcasm is appalling, and his
indignation is inexorable. Between two stubborn and unyielding natures
like the seer and king sparks of anger could not fail to be struck; the
explosion that follows on their meeting serves to display the choleric
temper of Oedipus, which formed the main trait of his character, the
pith of his #hamartia#.

Oedipus greets Teiresias courteously, telling him that he, the king, is
doing all he can to find the murderer of Laius, and that the soothsayer
must spare no pains. To this generous patronage and protective welcome
Teiresias, upon whose sightless soul the truth has suddenly flashed,
answers with deep sighs, and requests to be led home again. This
naturally nettles Oedipus. The hastiness that drew him into his first
fault renders him now ungovernable. Teiresias keeps saying it will be
better for the king to remain ignorant, and the king retorts that he
is only a blind dotard; were he not blind, he, and no other, might be
suspected of the murder. This provokes an oracular response:

    Ay! Is it so? I bid thee, then, abide
    By thy first ordinance, and from this day
    Join not in converse with these men or me,
    Being thyself this land's impure defiler.

Thus the real state of affairs is suddenly disclosed; and were Oedipus
of a submissive temper, he would immediately have proceeded to the
discovery of the truth. This would, however, have destroyed the drama,
and have prevented the unfolding of the character of the king. Instead,
therefore, of heeding the seer's words, Oedipus rushes at once to the
conclusion that Creon and Teiresias are plotting to overthrow him in
his tyranny. The quarrel waxes hot. Each word uttered by Teiresias
is pregnant with terrific revelation. The whole context of events,
past, present, and future, is painted with intense lucidity in speech
that has the trenchant force of oracular conviction; yet Oedipus
remains so firmly rooted in his own integrity and in the belief which
he has suddenly assumed of Creon's treason, that he turns deaf ears
and a blind soul to the truth. At last the seer leaves him with this

    "I tell thee this: the man whom thou so long
    Seekest with threats and mandates for the murder
    Of Laius, that very man is here,
    By name an alien, but in season due
    He shall be shown true Theban, and small joy
    Shall have therein; for, blind, instead of seeing,
    And poor, who once was rich, he shall go forth,
    Staff-guided, groping, o'er a foreign land.
    He shall be shown to be with his own children
    Brother and sire in one, of her who bore him
    Husband at once and offspring, of his father
    Bedmate and murderer. Go; take now these words
    Within, and weigh them; if thou find me false,
    Say then that divination taught me nothing."

The next scene is one of altercation between Oedipus and Creon.
Oedipus, full of rage, still haunted by the suspicion of treason,
yet stung to the quick by some of the dark speeches of the prophet,
vehemently assails the prince, and condemns him to exile. Creon--who,
of course, is innocent, but who is not meant to have a generous or
lofty soul--defends himself in a dry and argumentative manner, until
Jocasta comes forth from the palace and seeks to quell their conflict.
Oedipus tells her haughtily that he is accused of being the murderer
of Laius. She begins her answer with a frivolous and impious assertion
that all oracles are nonsense. The oracle uttered against Laius came
to nothing, for his son died on Mount Cithæron, and robbers slew him
near Thebes long afterwards, where three ways meet. These words, #en
triplais hamaxitois#, stir suspicion in the mind of Oedipus. He asks
at once: "Where was the spot?" "In Phokis, where one goes to Delphi
and to Daulia." "What was Laius like?" "Not unlike you in shape," says
Jocasta, "but white-haired." "Who were with him?" "Five men, and he
rode a chariot." "Who told you all this?" "One who escaped, and who
begged me afterwards to send him from the palace, and who now keeps
a farm of ours in the country." Each answer adds to the certainty in
the mind of Oedipus that it was Laius whom he slew. The only hope left
is to send for the servant, and to find out whether he adheres to his
story of there having been more robbers than one. If he remains firm
upon this point, and does not confess that it was one solitary man who
slew his master and his comrades, then there is a chance that he, the
king, may not be guilty. Jocasta, with her usual levity, comforts him
by insisting that he spoke of robbers, in the plural, and that he must
not be suffered to retract his words.

While they are waiting for the servant, a messenger arrives from
Corinth with good news. Polybus, the king, is dead, and Oedipus is
proclaimed his successor. "Where now," shouts impious Jocasta, "are
your oracles--that you should slay your father? See you not how foolish
it is to trust to Phoebus and to auguries of birds? Chance is the lord
of all. Let us, therefore, live our lives as best we can." Awful is the
irony of these short-sighted jubilations; and awful, as Aristotle has
pointed out,[140] is the irony which makes this messenger of apparently
good tidings add the last link to the chain of evidence that will
overwhelm Oedipus with ruin. Oedipus exclaims: "Though my father is
dead, I may not return to Corinth: Merope still lives." "What," says
the messenger, "do you fear her because she is your mother? Set your
mind at ease. She is no mother of yours, nor was Polybus your father.
I gave you to them as a gift, when you were yet an infant." "Where did
you find me?" cries the king. "Upon Cithæron, a shepherd of the house
of Laius gave you to me; your feet were pierced, and I believe that you
were born in the royal household." Terrible word, Cithæron! It echoes
through this tragedy with horror--its scaurs and pastures, the scene
of the first crime. And now those two hinds, who had met there once,
apparently by chance, with the child of doom between them, are being
again, as though by chance, brought face to face, with the man of doom
between them, in order to make good the words of Teiresias:

    #boês de tês sês poios ouk estai limên,
    poios Kithairôn ouchi symphônos tacha?#

Jocasta is struck dumb by the answers of the messenger. She, and she
alone, knows now at last the whole truth; but she does not speak, while
Oedipus continues asking who the shepherd of the house of Laius was.
Then she utters words of fearful import, praying the king to go no
farther, nor to seek what, found, will plunge his soul into despair
like hers. After this, finding her suit ineffectual, she retires into
the palace. The chorus are struck by the wildness of her gestures,
and hint their dread that she is going to her doom of suicide. But
Oedipus, not yet fully enlightened, and preoccupied with the problem
which interests himself so deeply, only imagines that she shrinks from
the possible proof of his base birth. As yet, he does not suspect that
he is the own son of Laius; and here, it may be said in passing, the
sole weakness of the plot transpires. Neither the oracle first given
to him at Delphi, nor the plain speech of Teiresias, nor the news of
the Corinthian messenger, nor the pleadings of Jocasta, are sufficient
to suggest the real truth to his mind. Such profundity of blindness
is dramatically improbable. He is, however, soon destined to receive
illumination. The servant of Laius, who gave Jocasta intelligence of
the manner of her husband's death, is now brought upon the stage; and
in him the Corinthian messenger recognizes the same shepherd who had
given him the infant on Cithæron. Though reluctant to confess the
truth so long concealed, the shepherd is at last forced to reveal
all he knows; and in this supreme moment Oedipus discovers that he
is not only the murderer of his own father, but also that Jocasta
is his mother. In the madness of this revelation he rushes to the
palace. The chorus are left alone to moralize upon these terrible
events. Then another messenger arrives. Jocasta has hanged herself
within her bedchamber. Oedipus, breaking bars and bolts in the fire
of his despair, has followed her. Around him were the servants, drawn
together by the tumult. None, however, dared approach him. Led by an
inner impulse, he found the place where his wife and mother hung,
released the corpse, and tearing from her dress the golden buckles,
cut out both his eyes, crying aloud that no longer should they look
upon the light or be witness to his woe, seeing that when they might
have aided him they were as good as blind. Thus one day turned the
prosperity of Oedipus to "wailing, woe, death, disgrace, all evils that
have name--not one is absent." The speech of the messenger narrating
these events is a splendid instance of the energy of Sophocles, when he
chooses to describe a terrible event appallingly. It does not convey
the Æschylean mystery of brooding horror; but the scene is realized in
all its incidents, briefly, vividly, with ghastly clearness. Meanwhile,
the voice of Oedipus himself is heard. He bids the palace-doors be
opened, in order that all Thebes may see the parricide, the monster
of unhallowed, indescribable abominations. So the gates are rolled
asunder: and there lies dead Jocasta; and sightless Oedipus, with
bloody cheeks and beard, stands over her, and the halls are filled with
wailing women and woe-stricken men.

Here, if this had been a modern tragedy, the play of _Oedipus Tyrannus_
might have ended; but so abrupt and scenical a conclusion did not suit
the art of Sophocles. He had still further to develop the character
of Oedipus, and to offer the prospect of that future reconciliation
between the fate and the passions of his hero which he had in store.
For this purpose the last two hundred lines of the drama, though they
do not continue the plot, but rather suggest a new and secondary
subject of interest, are invaluable. Hitherto we have seen Oedipus
in the pride of monarchy and manhood, hasty, arrogant, yet withal a
just and able ruler. He is now, through a #peripeteia#, or revolution
of circumstances, more complete than any other in Greek tragedy,
revealed in the very depth of his calamity, still dignified. There is
no resistance left in the once so strong and stubborn man. The hand
of God, weighing heavily upon him, has bowed his head, and he is
humble as a little child. Yet the vehemence that marked his former
phase persists. It finds vent in the passionate lucidity wherewith he
examines all the details of the pollution he has unwittingly incurred,
and in the rage with which he demands to have his own curse carried out
against him. Let him be cast from the city, sent forth to wander on
the fells of Cithæron--#houmos Kithairôn houtos#. It was the highest
achievement of tragic art to exhibit so suddenly, and by so sharp a
transition, this new development of the king's nature. Saul of Tarsus,
when blinded by the vision, was not more immediately converted from
one mood into another, more contrite in profound sincerity of sorrow.
Still in the altered Oedipus we see the same man, the same temperament;
though all internal and external circumstances have been changed, so
that henceforward he will never tread the paths of life as once he
did. The completeness of his self-abandonment appears most vividly in
the dialogue with Creon, upon whose will his immediate fate depends.
When Creon, whom he had lately misjudged and treated with violent
harshness, comes and greets him kindly, the wretched king tastes the
very bitterness of degradation, yet he is not abject. He only prays
once more, with intensest urgency of pleading, to have the uttermost
of the excommunication he had vowed, executed upon his head. Thinking
less of himself than of the miserable beings associated with him in
disaster, he beseeches Creon to inter the queen, and, for his boys, to
give them only a fair chance in life--they will be men, and may carve
out their own fortunes in the world; but for his two poor girls, left
desolate, a scorn and mockery to all men, he can only pray that they
may come to him, be near him, bear the burden of their misery by their
father's side. The tenderness of Oedipus for Ismene and Antigone, his
yearning to clasp them, is terribly--almost painfully--touching, when
we remember who they were, how born, the children of what curses. The
words with which the king addresses them are even hazardous in their
directness. Yet it was needful that humanity should by some such strain
of passion be made to emerge from this tempest of soul-shattering woes;
and thus, too, a glimpse of that future is provided which remained for
Oedipus, if sorrowful, assuaged at least by filial love. In reply to
all his eloquent supplications Creon answers that he will not take upon
himself the responsibility of dealing with his case. Nothing can be
done without consulting the oracle at Delphi. Oedipus has, therefore,
to be patient and endure. The strong hero, who saved Thebes from the
Sphinx and swayed the city, is now in the hands of tutors and governors
awaiting his doom. He submits quietly, and the tragedy is ended.

The effect of such a tragedy as _Oedipus the King_ is to make men feel
that the earth is shaken underneath them, and that the heavens above
are big with thunder. Compassion and fear are agitated in the highest
degree; old landmarks seem to vanish; the mightiest have fallen, and
the most impious, convinced of God, have been goaded to self-murder.
Great, indeed, is the tragic poet's genius who can make the one sure
point amid this confusion the firmness of its principal fore-destined
victim. That is the triumph of Sophocles. Out of the chaos of the
_Oedipus Tyrannus_ springs the new order of the _Oedipus Coloneüs_; and
here it may be said that perhaps the most valid argument in favor of
the Æschylean trilogy as a supreme work of dramatic art is this--that
such a tragedy as the first Oedipus demanded such another as the
second. The new motives suggested in the last act were not sufficiently
worked out to their conclusion; much that happened in the climax of the
_Tyrannus_ seemed to necessitate the _Coloneüs_.

The interest of the _Oedipus Tyrannus_ centres in its plot, and that
is my only excuse for having dwelt so long on the structure of a
play familiar to every student. That of the _Oedipus Coloneüs_ is
different. It has, roughly speaking, no plot. It owes its perfect,
almost superhuman, beauty to the atmosphere which bathes it, as with
peace after tempest, with the lucid splendors of sunset succeeding
to a storm-vexed and tumultuous day. The scene is laid, as the name
indicates, in the village birthplace of the poet. Years are supposed
to have elapsed since the conclusion of the former tragedy; Oedipus,
after being detained in Thebes against his will at first, has now
been driven forth by Creon, and has wandered many miles in blindness,
led by his daughter's hand. The ethical interest of the play, so
far as it is not absorbed by Oedipus himself, centres principally
in Antigone, whereby we are prepared for her emergence into fullest
prominence in the tragedy which bears her name. Always keeping in mind
that these three plays are not a trilogy, I cannot but insist again
that much is lost, especially in all that concerns the unfolding of
Antigone's character, by not reading them in the order suggested by the
fable. At the same time, though Antigone engrosses our sympathy and
attention, Sophocles has varied the drama by a more than usual number
of persons. The generous energy of Theseus forms a fine contrast to
the inactivity forced upon Oedipus by the conditions of the subject,
and also to the meanness of Creon; while the episodes of Ismene's
arrival, of Antigone's abduction, and of the visit of Polyneices, add
movement to what might else have been too stationary. It should also
be said that all these subsidiary sources of interest are used with
subtle art by Sophocles for enhancing the dignity of Oedipus, for
arousing our sympathy with him, and for bringing into prominence the
chief features of his character. None can, therefore, be regarded as
superfluous, though, strictly speaking, they might have been detached
without absolute destruction of the drama, which is more than can be
said about the slightest incidents of _Oedipus Tyrannus_. As regards
Oedipus himself, that modification of his fiery temperament which
Sophocles revealed at the end of the first tragedy has now become
permanent. He is schooled into submission; yet he has not lost the old
impetuosity that formed the groundwork of his nature. He is still quick
to anger and vehement in speech, but both his anger and his vehemence
are justified by the occasion. Something, moreover, of fateful and
mysterious, severing him from the common race of men and shrouding him
within the seclusion of his dread calamity, has been added. The terror
of his dreadful past, and the prospect of his august future, environ
him with more than kingly dignity. The skill of Sophocles as a dramatic
poet is displayed in all its splendor by the new light thrown upon the
central figure of Oedipus. The effect of unity is not destroyed: those
painful shocks to our sense of probability so frequent when inferior
dramatists--poets of the rank of Fletcher or of Jonson--attempt
to depict a nature altered by internal reformation or by force of
circumstance do not occur. The Oedipus of both the tragedies remains
one man; we understand the change that has been wrought in him; and
while we feel that it is adequate and natural, we marvel at the wisdom
of the poet who could vary his design with so much firmness.

The oracle, which continues to play an important part in this tale
of Thebes, has warned Oedipus that he will end his days within the
precincts of the Semnai Theai, or august goddesses of retribution.
In his new phase the man of haste and wrath is no longer heedless of
oracles; nor does he let their words lie idle in his mind. It is,
therefore, with a strong presentiment of approaching death that he
discovers early in this play that his feet, led by Antigone, have
rested in the grove of the Furies at Colonus. The place itself is
fair. There are here no harpy-gorgons with bloodshot eyes, and vipers
twining in their matted hair. The meadows are dewy, with crocus-flowers
and narcissus; in the thickets of olive and laurel nightingales keep
singing; and rivulets spread coolness in the midst of summer's heat.
The whole wood is hushed, and very fresh and wild. A solemn stillness
broods there; for the feet of the profane keep far away, and none may
tread the valley-lawns but those who have been purified. The ransomed
of the Lord walk there. This solemnity of peace pervades the whole
play, forming, to borrow a phrase from painting, the silver-gray
harmony of the picture. In thus bringing Oedipus to die among the
unshowered meadows of those Dread Ladies, whom in his troubled life he
found so terrible, but whom in his sublime passage from the world he
is about to greet resignedly, we may trace peculiar depth of meaning.
The thought of death, calm but austere, tempers every scene in the
drama. We are in the presence of one whose life is ended, who is about
to merge the fever of existence in the tranquillity beyond. This
impression of solemnity is heightened when we remember that the poet
wrote the _Coloneüs_ in extreme old age. Over him, too, the genius
of everlasting repose already spread wings in the twilight, and the
mysteries of the grave were nearer to him and more daily present than
to other men.

A country fellow, who perceives Oedipus seated by his daughter on a
marble bench within the sacred precinct, bids them quit the spot,
for it is hallowed. Oedipus, however, knowing that his doom shall be
fulfilled, asks that he may be confronted with the elders of the place.
They come and gaze with mingled feelings of distrust and awe on the
blind hero, august in desolation. Before they can converse with him,
Oedipus has to quit the recesses of the grove, and gain a spot where
speech and traffic are permitted. Then, in answer to their questions,
he informs them who he is--Oedipus. At that name they start back in
horror, demanding that he shall carry the abomination of his presence
from their land. This affords the occasion for a splendid speech
from the old man, one of the most telling passages of eloquence in
Sophocles, in which he appeals to the time-long hospitality and fame
for generosity of Athens. Athens was never known to spurn the suppliant
or expel the stranger, and the deeds of Oedipus they so much dread are
sufferings rather:

          #epei ta g' erga mou
    peponthot' esti mallon ê dedrakota.#

The Chorus, moved by the mingled impetuosity and sound reasoning of
their suitor, perceive that the case is too grave for them to decide.
Accordingly, they send a messenger for Theseus; but, before he can be
summoned, Ismene arrives on horseback with the news that her brothers
are quarrelling about the throne of Thebes. Eteocles, the younger, has
usurped the sovereignty, while Polyneices has fled to Argos to engage
the chiefs of the Achaians in his cause. Both parties, meantime, are
eager to secure the person of Oedipus, since an oracle has proclaimed
that with him will victory abide. Oedipus, hearing these tidings,
bursts into a strain of passionate denunciation, which proves that
the old fire of his temper is smouldering still unquenched. When he
was forlorn and in misery, his unnatural sons took no thought of him.
They sent him forth to roam a pariah upon the earth, leaving to his
daughters the care and burden of supporting him. Now, basely anxious
for their selfish profit, they come to claim possession of his old,
world-wearied flesh. Instead of blessings, they shall meet with curses.
Instead of the fair land of Thebes to lord it over, they shall barely
get enough ground to die and be buried in. He, meanwhile, will abide at
Athens, and bequeath a heritage of help and honor to her soil.

The Chorus now call upon Oedipus to perform the rites of purification
required by the Eumenides--rites which Sophocles has described with
the loving minuteness of one to whom the customs of Colonus were from
boyhood sacred. Ismene goes to carry out their instructions, and in her
absence Theseus arrives upon the scene. Theseus, throughout the drama,
plays towards Oedipus the part of a good-hearted hospitable friend. His
generosity is ethically contrasted with the meanness of Creon and the
selfishness of Polyneices, while, artistically, the practical energy
of his character serves for a foil to the stationary dignity of the
chief actor. Sophocles has thus contrived to give weight and importance
to a personage who might, in weaker hands, have been degraded into a
mere instrument. Oedipus assures the Attic king that he will prove no
useless and unserviceable denizen. The children of Erechtheus, whose
interests rank first in the mind of Theseus, will find him in the
future a powerful and god-protected sojourner within their borders.
His natural sympathy for the persecuted and oppressed having been thus
strengthened by the prospect of reciprocal advantage, Theseus formally
accepts Oedipus as a suppliant, and promises him full protection. At
this point, forming, as it were, a halting-place in the action of the
play, Sophocles introduced that famous song about Colonus, which no
one has yet succeeded in translating, but which, for modern ears, has
received new value from the music of Mendelssohn.

What follows, before the final climax of the drama, consists of the
efforts made by Creon, on the part of Eteocles, and by Polyneices, to
enlist Oedipus respectively upon their sides in the war of succession
to the Theban throne. Creon displays his heartless, cunning, impudent,
sophistical, and forceful character, while Oedipus opposes indignation
and contempt, unmasking his hypocrisy, and stripping his specious
arguments of all that hides their naked selfishness. In this scene we
feel that Sophocles is verging upon the Euripidean manner. A little
more would make the altercation between Creon and Oedipus pass over
into a forensic wrangling-match. As it is, the chief dramatic value
of the episode is to exhibit the grandeur of the wrath of Oedipus in
its righteous heat when contrasted with the wretched shifts of a mere
rhetorical sophist.

After Creon, by the help of Theseus, has been thwarted in his
attempt to carry off Antigone, Polyneices approaches with crocodile
tears, fawning intercessions, and fictitious sorrow for his father's
desolation. Oedipus flashes upon his covert egotism the same light of
clear unclouded insight which had unmasked Creon. "What," he asks,
"is the value of tears now, of prayers now? Dry were your eyes, hard
as stone your heart, dumb your lips, when I went forth from Thebes
unfriended. Here is your guerdon: Before Thebes's walls you shall
die, pierced by your brother's hand, and your brother by yours." The
imprecation of the father upon the son would be unnatural, were it
not for the son's falseness, who behaved like a Regan to Oedipus in
his calamity, and who now, when the old man has become a mysteriously
important personage, seeks to make the most of him for his own uses.

The protracted dialogues with Creon and Polyneices serve to enhance
the sublimity of Oedipus. He, all the while, is seated, a blind,
travel-stained, neglected mendicant, upon the marble bench of the
Eumenides. There is horror in his very aspect. Hellas rings with the
abominations connected with his name. Yet, to this poor pariah, to this
apparent object of pity and loathing, come princes and warriors capable
of stirring all the States of Greece in conflict. He rejects them,
firm in his consciousness of heaven-appointed destiny. Sophocles seems
bent on showing how the wrath of God may be turned aside from its most
signal and notorious victims by real purity of heart and nobleness of
soul; how, from the depths of degradation and affliction, the spirit
of man may rise; and how the lot of demigods may be reserved for those
whom the world ignorantly judges worthy of its scorn. Oedipus of
late stood like the lightning-blasted tree that travellers dread--the
_evitandum bidental_ of Roman superstition. His withered limbs have now
more health and healing in them than the leaf-embowered forest oak.

The treatment of Polyneices in the _Oedipus Coloneüs_ supplies a good
example of the Sophoclean tendency to humanize the ancient myths of
Hellas. The curse pronounced by Oedipus formed an integral element
of that portion of the legend which suggested to Æschylus the _Seven
against Thebes_. By its force, the whole weight of the doom that
overhangs the house of Laius is brought to bear upon the suicidal
brethren, both of whom rush helplessly, with eyes open, to meet
inevitable fate.

    #ô Zeu te kai Gê kai polissouchoi theoi,
    Ara t' Erinys patros hê megasthenês#

are the opening words of the prayer of Eteocles in that tragedy; while
phrases like these, #ô ponoi domôn neoi palaioisi symmigeis kakois# and
#ô melaina kai teleia geneos Oidipou t' ara#, form the burden of the
choric songs. Sophocles does not seek to make the wrath of Oedipus less
terrible; he adheres to the old outline of the story, and heightens the
tragic horror of the curse by framing for it words intense by reason of
their very calculated calmness (1383-1396). At the same time he shows
how the obstinate temper of Polyneices, and his sense of honor, are
necessary to its operation. After the dreadful sentence, dooming him
to self-murder by his brother's spear, has been pronounced, Polyneices
stands before his father and his sister like one stunned. Antigone,
with a woman's instinct, entreats him to choose the only way still
left of safety. He may disband the army, and retire from the adventure
against Thebes. To this her brother answers:

    #all' ouch hoion te. pôs gar authis an palin
    strateum' agoimi tauton eisapax tresas?#

when she persists, he repeats #mê peith' ha mê dei#. Thus, instead of
bringing into strong relief the operation of blind fate, Sophocles
places in the foreground the human agencies which contribute to the
undoing of Polyneices. His crime of unfilial egotism, his dread of
being thought a coward, and his honor rooted in dishonor, drive him
through the tempest of his father's curse upon the rock of doom. The
part played by Antigone in this awful scene of altercation between her
father and her brother, first interceding for mercy, and then striving
to break the stubborn will of the rebellious youth,[141] prepares our
minds for the tragedy in which she will appear as protagonist. Hitherto
she has been remarkable for filial love. She now shows herself a gentle
and tender sister to one who had deeply wronged her. The absolute
unselfishness which gives to her the beauty as of some clear, flawless
jewel shines forth by anticipation in the _Coloneüs_, enlisting our
warmest sympathies upon her side, and tempering the impression of
hardness that might be produced by a simple study of the _Antigone_.

When Polyneices, with the curse still ringing in his ears, has fled
forth, Cain-like, from the presence of his father, thunder is heard,
and the end approaches. The chief actors, led by the blind hero, move
from the stage in order suited to the processional gravity of the Greek
theatre, while the speech of the Messenger, conveying to the Chorus
the news of the last minutes in the life of Oedipus, prepares the
spectators for the reappearance of his daughters on the scene. As in
the _Oedipus Tyrannus_, so now a new motive of interest is introduced
in the last act of the drama. The _Antigone_ is imperatively demanded
as a sequel. Our attention is riveted upon Antigone, who in losing
her father has lost all. Her first thought is that he died nobly,
peacefully, at one with God. Her next thought is that she shall never
see him again, never more bear the sweet burden of anxiety and pain
for him, never even have access to his hidden tomb. Her third thought
is a longing to be dead with him, enfolded in oblivion of the fate
which persecutes her kith and kin. Life stretches before her boundless,
homeless, comfortless, nor has she now a single memory for him whose
love might have consoled a woman of less stubborn soul--for Hæmon. It
is characteristic of his whole conception of Antigone that Sophocles
introduced no allusion to that underplot of love at this point. When
Theseus reproves her for despair, she awakes to fresh unselfishness:
"Send me to Thebes," she cries, "that I may stay, if possible, my
brothers' strife." Throughout this final scene the single-hearted heat
and firm will of Antigone, her desire for action, and her readiness to
accept responsibility are contrasted with Ismene's yielding temper and
passivity. We are thus prepared for the opening of the third drama,
which, though written first by Sophocles, is the artistic close and
climax of the tale of Thebes.

The most perfect female character in Greek poetry is Antigone. She is
purely Greek, unlike any woman of modern fiction, except perhaps the
Fedalma of George Eliot. In her filial piety, in her intercession for
Polyneices at the knees of Oedipus, in her grief when her father is
taken from her, she does, indeed, resemble the women whom most men
among us have learned to honor in their sisters or their daughters or
their mother. Of such women the Greek maiden, with her pure calm face
and virginal straight lines of classic drapery, is still the saint and
patroness. But what shall we say of the Antigone of this last drama, of
the sister who is willing, lest her brother lie unburied on the Theban
plain, to lay her own life down, disobeying the law of her sovereign,
defying Creon to the face, appealing against unjust tribunals to the
judgment-seat of powers more ancient than the throne of Zeus himself,
and marching to her living tomb with dauntless strength in order that
the curse-attainted ghost of Polyneices shall have rest in Hades? To
the modern mind she appears a being from another sphere. A strain of
unearthly music seems to announce her entrance and her exit on the
stage. That the sacrifice of the sister's very life, the breaking
of her plighted troth to Hæmon, should follow upon the sprinkling
of those few handfuls of dust--that she should give that life up
smilingly, nor ever in her last hours breathe her lover's name--is a
tragic circumstance for which our sympathies are not prepared: we can
neither divest our minds of the fixed modern prejudice that the first
duty of a woman is to her husband, nor can we fully enter into the
antique superstition of defrauded sepulture. Yet it is necessary to do
both of these things, to sequester Antigone from the sphere of modern
obligations, and to enter hand in hand with her the inner sanctuary of
antique piety, in order to do justice to the conception of Sophocles.
This effort of the imagination may be facilitated by remembering,
first, that Antigone inherited her father's proud self-will--

    #dêloi to gennêm' ômon ex ômou patros
    tês paidos; eikein d' ouk epistatai kakois#--

and, secondly, that disaster after disaster, the loss of Oedipus,
the death of her two brothers, has come huddling upon her in a storm
of fate, so that life is, in a manner, over for her, and she feels
isolated in a cold and cruel world. This combination of her character
and her circumstances renders her action in the _Antigone_ conceivable.
Without the hardness she inherited from Oedipus, she could not have
gone through her tragic part. Without the vow she registered above her
father's grave, to bring help to her brethren, seeing that they alone
were left, the sentiment of her last speech would sound rhetorical.
Moreover, the poet who breathed into her form a breath of life so
fiery has himself justified us in regarding her act as one removed
from the plain path of virtue. Antigone was no Hindoo widow to die
upon a husband's pyre. Her heroism, her resistance offered to the will
of Creon, had in it a splendid criminality. It was just the casuistry
of the conflict between public and private obligations, between the
dictates of her conscience and the commands of her sovereign, that
enabled Sophocles to render the peculiar stoicism of her character
pathetic. In spite of all these considerations, it is probable that she
will strike a modern reader at the first as frigid. Especially, if he
have failed to observe the _nuances_ of her portrait in the _Oedipus
Coloneüs_, he will be inclined to wish that Sophocles had softened
here and there the outlines of her adamantine statue. Yet, after long
contemplation of those perfect lineaments, we come to recognize in
her a purity of passion, a fixity of purpose, a loyalty of kinship, a
sublime enthusiasm for duty, simply conceived and self-justified in
spite of all conventions to the contrary, which soar above the strain
of modern tragic sentiment. Even Alfieri, in the noble drawing he has
sketched from the Sophoclean picture, could not abstain from violating
its perfection by this sentimental touch of common feeling:

                  Emone, ah! tutto io sento,
    Tutto l' amor, che a te portava: io sento
    Il dolor tutto, a cui ti lascio.

No such words are to be found in Sophocles upon the lips of the dying
Antigone. She is all for her father and her brothers. The tragedy of
Hæmon belongs to Creon, not to her. Her furthest concessions to the
sympathies which might have swayed a weaker woman are found in this

    #ô philtath' Haimon, hôs s' atimazei patêr#,

and in the passage of the Kommos where she bewails her luckless lot of
maidenhood. For the rest, Sophocles has sustained her character as that
of one "whom, like sparkling steel, the strokes of chance made hard and
firm." This steely durability, this crystalline sparkle, divide her not
only from the ideal raised by romance for womanhood, but distinguish
her, as the daughter of Oedipus, from the general sisterhood even of
Greek heroines.

The peculiar qualities of Antigone are brought into sharp relief by the
milder virtues of Ismene, who thinks it right to obey Creon, and who
has no spirit for the deed of daring, but who is afterwards eager to
share the punishment of her sister. Antigone repels her very sternly,
herein displaying the force of her nature under its less amiable
aspect: "Have courage! Thou livest, but my soul long since hath died."
The glory of the act is hers alone. Ismene has no right to share it
when the risks are past, the penalty is paid. Antigone's repulsion of
her sister seems to supply the key to her own heroism. "Oedipus," she
says, "is dead; my brethren are dead: for them I lived, and in their
death I died to life; but you--your heart is not shut up within your
father's and your brother's grave; it is still warm, still eager for
love and the joys of this world. Live, then. For me it would be no more
possible to live such life as yours than for the clay-cold corpse upon
the bier."

The character of Creon, darkened in its tone and shadow to the utmost
with a view to affording a foil of another species for Antigone, was
thought worthy of minute and careful treatment by Sophocles. In the
_Oedipus Tyrannus_ he is wronged rather than wronging. While suffering
from the unjust suspicion and hasty language of the king, he pleads
his cause with decent gravity and shows no sign of either arrogance
or cowardice. At the end, when Oedipus has fallen, his own behavior
is such as would not disgrace a generous as well as prudent prince.
The neutrality for good or evil which distinguishes Creon in this
play, marking him out in contrast with the fiery heat of Oedipus,
the impious irony of Jocasta, is, to say the least, respectable. In
the _Oedipus Coloneüs_ he plays a consistently mean and odious part;
his pragmatical display of rhetoric before the burghers of Colonus,
when tested by his violent and cruel conduct towards Antigone, proves
him to be a hollow-hearted and specious hypocrite. The light here
reflected back upon his respectability in the _Tyrannus_ is decidedly
unfavorable. In the _Antigone_ Creon becomes, if possible, still
more odious; only our animosity against him is tempered by contempt.
To the faults of egotism, hardness, and hypocritical prating, are
now added the infatuation of self-will and the godless hatred of a
dead foe. There is, indeed, a show of right in the decree published
concerning the two brothers, one of whom had brought a foreign army
against Thebes; but it would be sophistry to maintain that Creon was
actuated by patriotic motives. The defeat and death of Polyneices were
punishment enough. By pursuing his personal spite beyond the grave
Creon insults the common instincts of humanity, the sympathies of the
people, and the supposed feelings of the gods, who cannot bear to gaze
upon abominations. The pathetic self-devotion of Antigone, the voice
of the city, the remonstrances of Hæmon, and the warnings of Teiresias
are all thrown away upon his stubborn and conceited obstinacy. He shows
himself, in short, to be a tyrant of the orthodox sort. Like a tyrant,
he is, moreover, absurdly suspicious: the guardian has, he thinks, been
bought; Ismene must be hatching treason; Hæmon prefers a woman to his
duty; Teiresias is plotting for the sake of gain against him. When it
is just too late, he gives way helplessly and feebly, moved to terror
by the dark words of the seer. Creon is, therefore, a mixed character,
great neither for good nor for evil, weak through wilfulness, plausible
in words and wavering in his determinations, a man who might have
passed for excellent if he had never had to wield a kingdom's power.
His own description of himself--#mataion andra#--suits him not only in
the utter collapse of his character and rain of his fortunes, but also
in the height of his prosperity and fulness of his seeming strength.

Sophocles might fairly be censured for having made the misery of Creon
the climax of a drama which ought to have had its whole interest
centred in Antigone. Our sympathies have not been sufficiently enlisted
on the side of Hæmon to make us care much about his death. For
Eurydice it is impossible to rouse more than a languid pity. Creon,
we feel, gets no more than he deserves; instead of being sorry for
him, we are only angry that he was not swept away into the dustheap
of oblivion sooner. It was surely a mistake to divert the attention
of the audience, at the very end of the tragedy, from its heroine to
a character which, like that of Creon, rouses impatient scorn as well
as antipathy. That Sophocles had artistic reasons for not concluding
this play with the death of Antigone may be readily granted by those
who have made the crises of the _Ajax_, the _Oedipus Tyrannus_, and
the _Oedipus Coloneüs_ the subject of special study. He preferred,
it seems, to relax the strained sympathies of his audience by a
prolongation of the drama on an altered theme. Yet this scarcely
justifies the shifting of the centre of interest attempted in the
_Antigone_. We have to imagine that the inculcation of a moral lesson
upon the crime of #asebeia# was the poet's paramount object.[142] If
so, he sacrificed dramatic effect to ethics.

It should be noticed that Antigone, in whom the fate of the family of
Laius is finally accomplished, falls an innocent victim. Her tragedy is
no immediate consequence of the Oedipodean curse. While her brethren
were wilfully involved in the doom of their house, she perished in the
cause of divine charity. Finding that the immutable ordinances of
Heaven clashed with the arbitrary volition of a ruler, she preferred to
obey the law of conscience and to die at the behest of a pride-maddened
tyrant. She is technically disobedient, morally most duteous. Thus the
_Antigone_ carries us beyond the region of hereditary disaster into the
more universal sphere of ethical casuistry. Its tragic interest depends
less upon the evolution of the law of ancestral guilt than on the
conflict of two duties. By suggesting the casuistical question to his
audience, while he freed his heroine from all doubt upon the subject,
Sophocles maintained the sublime simplicity which distinguishes
Antigone above all women of romance. The retribution that falls on
Creon furnishes a powerful example of the Greek doctrine of Nemesis;
but over Antigone herself Nemesis exerts no sway. In her action there
was nothing unconsidered; in her doom there was nothing unforeseen.


[129] "Fain would I be a fair lyre of ivory, and fair boys carrying me
to Dionysus's choir."

[130] "Soul of mine, in due season it is meet to gather love, when life
is young."

[131] _De Aud. Poet._, p. 16 C.

[132] _De Subl._, xxxiii. 5.

[133] See above, p. 378.

[134] Notice the phrases #beltiones# in _Poet._, cap. ii., as
compared with #kath' hêmas#, and again #homoious poiountes, kallious
graphousin#, in cap. xv., together with the whole analogy of painting
in both of these places.

[135] Cap. xxvi.

[136] _Oed. Tyr._, 863; _Ant._, 450. The first translation is borrowed
from Mr. M. Arnold.

[137] See what Goethe says about the importance of Creon and Ismene in
the _Antigone_. (Eckermann, vol. i.)

[138] Our imperfect knowledge of the Attic drama prevents our forming
any opinion as to the employment of the _deus ex machinâ_ by the
earlier tragedians.

[139] English Translation, vol. i. p. 371.

[140] _Poetics_, xi.

[141] See especially 1181-1203, 1414-1443.

[142] The last six lines spoken by the Chorus seem to justify this
view. A couplet from the _Pheræi_ of Moschion might be inscribed as a
motto upon the _Antigone_:

    #kenon thanontos andros aikizein skian;
    zôntas kolazein ou thanontas eusebes.#


    Transcriber's Notes:

    Simple spelling, grammar, and typographical errors were

    Punctuation normalized.

    Anachronistic and non-standard spellings retained as printed.

    Italics markup is enclosed in _underscores_.

    Gesperrt markup is enclosed in +plus signs+.

    Fancy or unusual font markup is enclosed in ~tilde symbols~.

    Greek text is transliterated and enclosed in #number signs#.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Studies of the Greek Poets (Vol I of 2)" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.