Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

to found a new city, avert some calamity, establish new laws, reform ancient ones, change the constitution of the ftate, they had recourse to the oracle. Its anfwer was the fupreme authority which determined and influenced the people. If a private person wanted to marry, undertake a voyage, had he an important affair in hand, was attacked with a dangerous distemper, he went and consulted the oracle. 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 see among those of which we are now fpeaking, revolutions and sudden changes, which can nei. ther 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 astonishment. We ought also to afcribe to oracles the new sorts 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 present. In this consists the most essential and most 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 seldom see superstition feduce the minds to such a pitch as to occasion revolutions ; but in the times I mention, it was always this seduction that occasioned revolutions, and decided the fate of empires. And what means did they use to effect this seduction ? 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 sufficient

* See Flat. de leg. 1. 6. p. 869. A. & 1.8. init.

to

to demonstrate that truth. This species of fuperftition has no force or empire but proportionally to the gross ignorance of the people: witness the favages, who do not undertake any thing till they have previously consulted their divines and their oracles.

ARTICLE Viit.

[ocr errors]

Of the ancient customs and first laws of Greece.
Before
Efore we enter on the subject, it is proper to recapitu-

late summarily what I have said in the first part of this work, of the origin and distinction of laws. I have shewn that, originally, the people were governed by customs, which, by length of time and long usage, acquired the force of laws. We have called these forts of laws, na tural lavis. I have said afterwards, that to make up for the little extent and precision of these natural laws, the first kings had made different regulations, to which we have given the name of positive laws. I have distinguished these positive laws into two classes; into political laws, and civil laws. The reader cannot have forgot, that under the name of political laws, I have comprised all the rules which relate to the supporting the civil government of the society, and properly form the constitution of the state. Such are the laws on the obligations of marriage; the penal laws, those which prescribe the form and ceremonies of public worship, &c.

I have included under the name of civil laws, all those established to regulate the particular interests of the different members of the society. Such are the laws concerning sales, commerce, contracts, &c. I have said also, that the institution of political laws was prior to the institution of civil laws. We shall discover from what history acquaints us of the establishment and progress of the laws of Greece, the truth of all these propoGtions. We know of no positive laws in Greece more ancient VOL. II.

H

i than than those of the Athenians. They were indebted for them to Cecrops; who ascended the throne abont 1582 years before Christ. It is true, before this prince, Phoro'neus had given some lăws to the inhabitants of the Argolide. But there are none of them preierved. Besides, it does not appear, that the other people of Greece have ever borrowed any thing froni the Argives; whereas the laws of Athens have been adopted, not only in almost all the cities of Greece, but even in the greatest part of Europe r.

We must then fix the epoch of the establishment of positive Taws in Greece to the year 1532 before the Christian ära, the time of the arrival of Cecrops in Attica. But it is noć natural to suppose, thát 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 those tacit conventions, which I have affirmed to have been the basis and foundation of all societies, and which I have called natural Lawsz.

Having given a particular account of the rules established by Cecrops, in tlie article of Athens; the reader may have observed, that all these regulations are only political institutions; as the institution of marriage, the ceremonies of religion, those of funerals, and the establishment of tribunals to judge of crimes and offences. There is no mention made of any ordinance which one can range in the class of civil laws. We ought not to be surprised 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 a. It is at this ära we ought to fix tlie knowFedge and establilliment of civil laws among the Greeks o.

y Adfunt Athenienfes, onde humanitas, doétrina, religio, fruges, jura, leges ortae, atque in omses terras distributae putantur. Cicero pro L. Flacco, 1). 26. t. 5. p. 261. ; Lucretius, l. 6. init.; Macrob. fat. 1. 3. c. 12. p.413. 7 See part 1. book 1.

a Marm. Oxon, ep, 12. See what I have said on this subject, part 1, book I.

Here

Here is, then, in a few words, a faithful account of the origin and progress of the laws of Greece. But it must be observed, that in the detail we are going to enter upon, I hall follow the order of the matters, rather than strid chronology, which would too much interrupt the series and connection of objects; yet I shall make men. tion of no laws whose establishment does not relate to the ages we are now examining.

The state of barbarism into which Greece was plunged before the arrival of the different colonies which came from Egypt and Phænicia to settle 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 fift who drew them from this disorder; he convinced them that marriage was the foundation and support of fociety. He established the union of one with one c, From this prince the Greeks subjected themselves inviolably to that. law. They even conceived so high an idea of the conjugal union, that there paised above two centuries, before the widows durst marry again: a proof that they looked upon these second marriages to be contrary to good morals, is, that history has transmitted the name of her who first entered on a second marriage. It was Gorgophona, daughter of Perseus and Andromeda, who gave the exam. ple. This princess having first espoused Perieres, King of The Messenians, and having survived that prince, the married again to Oebalus, King of Sparta d. Ocbalus reigned about 1348 years before Christ. They fix the epocha of Cecrops 1582 years before it. Thus, for the space 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 syho lost her husband thould pass the rest of her days in widowhood.

d Paus. 1. 2. c. 21.

• Book [, article 1. e P2uf. 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 Pe. nelope. "The discourse which Ulysses had with that princess, the moment of his departure for Troy, is still more positive; he says to her, “ That he does not know whe«ther he should escape from the dangers of that war; “ and, if he should perish there, the should 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 she has taken for Æneas, and the remorse of entering on a second marriage. She represents this action, as an offence against her honour s. But Virgil would not have made Dido speak thus, but in compliance with the manner of thinking of the Romans, with whom second marriages, though permitted, were dishonourable h.

Hesiad 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 i. Presages determined the moment in which the marriage ought to be solemnized. To this they paid great attentionk. There is great reason to believe, that in the ear. liest times, they determined nothing relating to the degrees of consanguinity ; except the union of fathers and

Odysl. 1. 18. v. 258. &c.
1 Æneid 1. 4. V. 19. 25. -- 54.
Huic uni forfan potui succumbere culpae,
Vel pater omnipotens.
Ante, pudor, quam te violem, aut tuajura refolvam.

Solvitque pudoreni, &c. Val. Max. I. 2. C. 1. n. 3.; Martial. l. 6, epig. 7o; Quintil. declam. 3cé. 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 chrorologers, estimates the generations at thirty-three years, and reckons an hundred years for three generations. b 2. n. 142. k Hefiodloco cit. v: 851.

mothers

« ElőzőTovább »