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to found a new city, avert fome calamity, establish new laws, reform ancient ones, change the conftitution of the ftate, they had recourse to the oracle. Its anfwer was the fupreme authority which determined and influenced the people. If a private perfon wanted to marry, undertake a voyage, had he an important affair in hand, was attacked with a dangerous diftemper, he went and confulted the o racle. In a word, nothing more generally influenced the conduct of the ancient people of Greece. 'Tis to the oracles that we must ascribe most of the great events we read of in the first ages in the Greek history; events, for the most part, fingular, unexpected, and of which we find no example in the latter ages. We fee among thofe of which we are now fpeaking, revolutions and fudden changes, which can neither be attributed to policy nor the force of arms. From whence then did they spring? From oracles. They even directed the manner of bringing about these events. They threw that uncertainty on them which we always look on with aftonishment. We ought alfo to afcribe to oracles the new forts of worship which we know to have been introduced at different times into Greece.
All these movements sprung from a principle unknown to us at prefent. In this confifts the most effential and moft remarkable difference of the genius of former nations, and those of this time. At this day among the people of Europe, policy and the force of arms are the only means ambition can employ. We very feldom fee fuperftition feduce the minds to fuch a pitch as to occafion revolutions; but in the times I mention, it was always this feduction that occafioned revolutions, and decided the fate of empires. And what means did they ufe to effect this feduction? The oracles.
If we wanted evidences to prove the rudeness and ignorance of the Greeks in the heroic times, their credulity, and their respect for oracles, are proofs more than fufficient
* See Flat. de leg. 1, 6. p. 869. A. & 1,8. init,
to demonftrate that truth. This fpecies of fuperftition has no force or empire but proportionally to the grofs ignorance of the people: witnefs the favages, who do not undertake any thing till they have previously confulted their divines
and their oracles.
Of the ancient customs and firft laws of Greece.
We know of no pofitive laws in Greece more ancient
than thofe of the Athenians. They were indebted for them to Cecrops, who afcended the throne about 1582 years before Chrift. It is true, before this prince, Phoroneus had given fome laws to the inhabitants of the Argolide. But there are none of them preferved. Befides, it does not appear, that the other people of Greece have ever borrowed any thing from the Argives; whereas the laws of Athens have been adopted, not only in almoft all the cities. of Greece, but even in the greatest part of Europe ›.
We must then fix the epoch of the eftablishment of pofitive Taws in Greece to the year 1582 before the Chriftian æra, the time of the arrival of Cecrops in Attica. But it is 'not natural to fuppofe, that till the time of this prince, 'Greece was without any kind of law. We ought then to conclude, that, till that time, the greatest part of the Greeks knew no other laws but thofe tacit conventions, which I have affirmed to have been the bafis and foundation of all focieties, and which I have called natural laws z.
Having given a particular account of the rules eftablished by Cecrops, in the article of Athens; the reader may have obferved, that all thefe regulations are only political inftitutions; as the inftitution of marriage, the ceremonies of religion, thofe of funerals, and the eftablishment of tribunals to judge of crimes and offences. There is no mention made of any ordinance which one can range in the clafs of civil laws. We ought not to be furprised at this. The Athenians, like all the other people of Greece, had not yet applied themselves to agriculture, the practice of which was not well established in that part of Europe, till towards the reign of Erechtheus, about 170 years after Cecrops. It is at this era we ought to fix the knowFedge and establiment of civil laws among the Greeks.
y Adfunt Athenienfes, unde humanitas, doctrina, religio, fruges, jura, leges ortae, atque in omnes terras diftributae putantur. Cicero pro L. Flacco, n. 26. t. 5. p. 261.; Lucretius, 1. 6. init.; Macrob. fat. 1. 3. c. 12. p. 413. * See part 1. book I. a Marm. Oxon. ep. 12, See what I have faid on this fubject, part 1, book 1.
Here is, then, in a few words, a faithful account of the origin and progrefs of the laws of Greece. But it must be obferved, that in the detail we are going to enter upon, I fhall follow the order of the matters, rather than ftria chronology, which would too much interrupt the feries and connection of objects; yet I shall make mention of no laws whofe eftablishment does not relate to the ages we are now examining.
The state of barbarifm into which Greece was plunged before the arrival of the different colonies which came from Egypt and Phoenicia to fettle there, permitted the inhabitants to live in great liberty in their commerce with .women. The engagements and bonds of conjugal union were totally unknown to them. Cecrops was the first who drew them from this diforder; he convinced them that marriage was the foundation and fupport of fociety. He established the union of one with ones, From this prince the Greeks fubjected themselves inviolably to that law. They even conceived fo high an idea of the conjugal union, that there paffed above two centuries, before the widows durft marry again: a proof that they looked upon these fecond marriages to be contrary to good morals, is, that hiftory has tranfmitted the name of her who first entered on a fecond marriage. It was Gorgophona, daughter of Perfeus and Andromeda, who gave the example. This princefs having firft efpoufed Perieres, King of the Meffenians, and having furvived that prince, the married again to Qebalus, King of Sparta 4. Oebalus reigned about 1348 years before Chrift. They fix the epocha of Cecrops 1582 years before it. Thus, for the pace of 234 years, the Greek history does not furnish one example of a widow who was remarried; and, till Gorgophona, it was a custom which they looked upon as inviolable, that every woman who loft her husband thould pafs the reft of her days in widowhood.
eBook 1. article 1. Pauf. 1. 2. c 21.
* Pauf. 1. 2. c. 21.
In all appearance, the example of Gorgophona was not long of being followed: yet it appears, that, in the heroic times, the widows who remarried, offended against decency. This is what one may fairly conclude, from the different words which Homer puts into the mouth of Penelope. The difcourfe which Ulyffes had with that princefs, the moment of his departure for Troy, is ftill more pofitive; he fays to her, "That he does not know whe
ther he fhould efcape from the dangers of that war; "and, if he should perish there, the fhould chuse, as “ husband, the prince who appeared most worthy of her." It is true, Virgil makes Dido speak quite another language. There is a perpetual combat in the heart of that unfortunate Queen, between the liking the has taken for Æneas, and the remorfe of entering on a fecond marriage. She represents this action, as an offence against her honour. But Virgil would not have made Dido speak thus, but in compliance with the manner of thinking of the Romans, with whom fecond marriages, though permitted, were dif honourable.
Hefiad gives us reason to think, that anciently it was the custom in Greece, not to marry the young men till they were thirty, and the girls till they were fifteen. Prefages determined the moment in which the marriage ought to be folemnized. To this they paid great attention. There is great reason to believe, that in the ear. liest times, they determined nothing relating to the degrees of confanguinity: except the union of fathers and
f Odysf 1. 18. v. 258. &c.
Eneid 1. 4. v. 19. 25. -- 54.
Huic uni forfan potui fuccumbere culpae,
Vel pater omnipotens.
Ante, pudor, quam te violem, aut tuajura refolvam.
Solvitque pudorem, &c.
Val. Max. 1. 2. c. 1. n. 3.; Martial. l. 6. epig. 7.; Quintil. declam. 306. p.627.
i Opera & dies, v. 696, &c. On this custom is founded the calculation by which Herodotus, imitated in this by the greatest part of the ancient chronologers, eftimates the generations at thirty-three years, and reckons an hundred years for three generations. 1. 2. n. 142.
Hefiod loco. cit. v. 851.