Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

men to check the advances, and revenge the aggressions, of Philip of Macedon, who was both a crafty and powerful enemy, his orations equally proved their degenerate manners, and his own sublime genius. And what must have been the commanding power of his delivery, to which even Æscbynes, his great and able rival, according to his own candid acknowledgment/could not do justice1. The energy of his manner, the modulation of his voice, and the dignity of his action, corresponded with the force and the compass of his reasoning, and combined to form the orator, to whom is defervedly assigned the foremost place in the records of eloquence.

. . .■ . -i

To the Greeks we owe the improvement, if not the invention of grammar, logic, criticism, metaphysics, music, geometry, medicine, and astronomy; and many of the terms peculiar to each of these arts and sciences, which are adopted in modem languages, clearly point out the country from which they are derived. The resined invention of architedts embellished their cities with those regular, well-proportioned, and elegant buildings, which displayed * the various forms of the Doric, the Ionic, and the Corinthian orders. Athens was rilled with temples; theatres, porticos, and vestibules, of matchless symmetry and grandeur; and the pencils of Zeuxis, Parrhasius, and Polygnotus; and the chisels of Alcamenes, Phideas, and Polycletus, decorated them with the most beautiful pictures, busts, and statues. These artists ani-T :- mated mated the Parian marble, and gave spirit and passion to the glowing canvass. The pagan religion was peculiarly favourable to their exertions, and the sacrisices, assemblies, and processions, were, equally well adapted to painting and sculpture. The continual view of the human sigure in ths baths, and at the public games, familiarised them to the contemplation of forms the most elegant, and attitudes the most graceful. They copied the fairest appearances of nature, and by combining the scattered beauties of various persons in one subject, gave no very inadequate representation of that ideal excellence, which silled their resined imaginations. Theirs likewise was that exquisite judgment, the companion of genius, which instantly selecting from art or nature whatever was excellent, gave to their works an irresistible charm. Such iudeed was the general prevalence of taste, that even the common people of Athens, by constantly surveying the sinest specimens of painting and sculpture, and hearing the most sinished compositions recited in the theatres, and public assemblies, became qualisied to appreciate, with correctness, the various productions of their countrymen.

CHAPTER CHAPTER VII.

The SubjeEt continued.

iHE preceding digression can require no apology, as the Philosophy, the Literature, and the Arts of the Greeks in their meridian glory are the subjects of it . We return to the account of their history by noticing the particulars of the Peloponnesian war. Its immediate cause was the part which the Athenians took in the quarrel between the people of Corcyra and the Corinthians, who had founded the colony there. The Corinthians complained of this interference, not only as a breach of the treaty then subsisting between Athens and Sparta, but as the infringement of a general rule, that no foreign power ought to interfere between a colony and its mother country. The Spartans were apprehensive that the Athenians, who had made encroachments not only upon the Corinthians but the Megareans, would extend their sovereignty over all Peloponnesus. Deputies from Athens to the public assembly at Sparta, endeavoured to palliate, but could not justify, the conduct of their countrymenPericles, who at that time ruled Athens with supreme sway, imputed insidious designs to Sparta, and exhorted the Athenians to maintain their preeminence over the states of Greece, a preeminence

which which they merited for having stood foremost hi the ranks of danger, when Greece was threatened with the yoke of Persia. He drew a flattering picture of their superior resources, contrasted the riches of Athens with the poverty of Sparta, described their great maritime power, and flattered them with complete success in the event of a war. The Spartans lost no time in commencing hostilities, and making an irruption into Attica; and the Athenian fleets retaliated by ravaging the shores of Peloponnesus. In the second year of the war, Athens was afflicted by a pestilential fever, which desied the skill of physicians, and the application of remedies'. So depressed was the public mind by the numbers that fell victims to this calamity, that overtures of peace were made; but as the Athenians became humble, their enemies rose in their demands, and the negotiation failed. Alcibiades, then conspicuous upon the theatre of public life, persuaded the Athenians to assist the states of Sicily against the tyrannical power of Syracuse. To accomplish this object, the most splendid and powerful fleet that ever left the harbour of Athens sailed to the coast of Syracuse. Becoming unpopular for want of success, Alcibiades was condemned to death, and not venturing to confront his accusers, he deserted to the Spartans. By his advice they sent a reinforcement to the Syracusans, and the storm of their united vengeance fell heavy upon the Athenians; not a single ship returned home, and very few of their soldiers or sailors escaped slavery or death. For a detail of these events, we are indebted to Thucydides, who holding the rank of a General at the beginning of the war, was himself an eye-witness of many of the transactions he has related. To his nervous descriptions he has added specimens of the abilities of the distinguished orators, and particularly of Pericles. The oration he pronounced in praise of those soldiers, who had fallen in the battles of their country, and were on that account honoured with a public funeral, is a model of eloquence, and for noble and appropriate sentiments conveyed with energy peculiar to the Greek language, it is scarcely, if at all, to be equalled.

* The Poets have (hewn their approbation of the affecting description of the plague of Athens, by adopting many of its circumstances into similar descriptions. Lucretius, Book vi. ver. 1136, &c. Virgil Georg. iii. ver. 478, and Æneidiii. ver. 137.

Pericles appears to have been a person of pre-eminent abilities as a General, a Statesman, and an Orator. He was never defeated in battle, and yet he never obtained a brilliant victory. It was his anxious endeavour to avoid the unnecessary sacrisice of the lives of his soldiers, and scarcely any general ever obtained so many trophies with so little bloodshed. The irreliltible force of-thunder, and the vivid flashes of lightning, were the sigurative allusions used by his contemporaries to convey ideas expressive of his eloquence. His talents raised him to the administration of public affairs, and he ruled a capricioas people for sifteen years. The engine of his popularity was corruption; with the public money,

V#l. I, B b originally

[ocr errors]
« ElőzőTovább »