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even in the person of a most unworthy representative. For example, in the third book of the Iliad, as she approaches the Scaean gate, where the venerable king is sitting, surrounded by the elders of the people, no epithet of scorn, no word of reproach, escape the lips of the unhappy monarch, the imminent peril of whose crown and life are fairly traceable to the fatal charms of this lascivious woman. Her reception is marked only by kindness and respect. Again, in the third book, Hector, harrassed by the reverses of the Trojans, and full of resentment at the indifference of Paris, whom he has just reproached in angry and bitter strain. immediately after, in addressing himself to Helen, makes no exhibition of those feelings towards her which, at such a moment, we cannot but suppose him to have entertained.
During the heroic age women appear to have been subjected to less rigorous restraint than in subsequent times. Thus we find ladies perambulating the streets, evidently without exciting any surprise in the men whom they happen to encounter. The occupations of even the higher order of females were then of a very homely character, such as needle-work, weaving and the superintendence of domestics. In the sixth book of the Odyssey we find a beautiful princess, daugh;er to the monarch of a wealthy and luxurious people, going with her maids to wash the clothes of the family—a kind of training, however, which, even for a princess, seems not altogether out of place, at a period when the sudden transition from affluence to indigence, and even slavery, was by no means of very rare occurrence, and when Jupiter himself is represented as declaring that "earth nourishes no animal more miserable than man."
It was a custom of the heroic age—one scarcely in keeping with the position which woman is supposed then to have occupied—for men to be attended in the bath by females. Upon occasion of the visit of Telemachus to Nestor we find even a lady of royal blood—the "beauteous Polycaste," youngest daughter of the Pylian chief—thus strangely employed, in carrying out the hospitalities of her father's mansion.
At a later period, among the Greeks, as with ourselves, it was customary for the bride to carry a dowry along with her, and so much importance was attached to the custom, that, at Athens, the wealthy burgher occasionally exhibited his generosity by conferring a dowry on the daughter of some less affluent friend. In the heroic age, on the contrary, the bridegroom paid a sum to the parents of the bride—a guarantee, to a certain extent, of the disinterestedness of the man, however little compatible with the dignity of the woman. In the thirteenth book of the Iliad, for iustance, we are told that Othryoneus, a sonin-law of Priam, in lieu of nuptial gifts,' had made
"a sounding promise proud, To chase himself, however loath to go, The Grecian host, and to deliver Troy."
Aud, in the eighth book of the Odyssey, Vulcan, having entrapped Mars and Venus at illicit dalliance, in the cunning meshes of his invisible net, declares, in rage, before the assembled Gods,
"But these my toils and tangles will suffice
Leaving that remote era for another, as to which we are much richer in information, let us descend to those periods, the long interval between which and the heroic has been redeemed from oblivion by neither history nor poetry, nor yet by the fainter voice of old tradition.
Most of the details concerning ancient Greece, of which we are now possessed, have reference either to Athens or Sparta. In them we find the embodiment and perfection of the characteristic traits of two remarkable uncongenial and rival races. If the Athenian, true to the instincts of his richly endowed Ionic ancestry, was a model of intellect, taste, refinement and elegant luxury, the opposite traits of the Dorian are no less distinctly to be traced in the stern contracted masters of La con in—a nation glorying in ignorance, proud of poverty, unfruitful in every thing but patriots and heroes, and known to us only through the voice of the stranger.
No native poems, plays or philosophical disquisitions reveal to us Spartan habits, regulations and opinions. Upon the information and impartiality of strangers must we rely for the little we know concerning them, and that little is not calculated to interest us very deeply in their favor. Nowhere, more strikingly lhan at Sparta, do we find illustrated one universal principle of ancient liberty— the all-engrossing importance of the State—a consideration before which the interests of the individuals composing it shrank away into comparative nothingness. To the single object of strengthening the body politic nearly every thing lovely or humanizing was most unscrupulously sacrificed. Science, art, literature, were all regarded as the idle appliances of a pernicious luxury: of refined sentiment they had no conception, and that robustness of exterior so highly valued was, beyond doubt, very commonly accompanied by corresponding grossness of the inner man. The sacred ties of matrimony, even, if any dependence may be placed on the authority of Plutarch, were contracted simply with a view to procreation. In their women it appears that little beyond the physical was either activated or desired. They were married only to bring forth progeny, and subjected to a system well calculated to deprive them of almost every other attraction than such as might be found in the capacity for discharging this all-important function. The State, regarding woman only as the means of keeping up a supply of male citizens, took especial care to qualify her for furnishing such subjects as Sparta most esteemed—men, hardy, vigorous and fearless. Exercises the least feminine formed the important part of her education, and, as though entirely to eradicate the exquisite sensibility and enchanting modesty which, like the zone of Venus, render beauty irresistible, this degrading ordeal was to be gone through almost in a state of nudity, and in the presence of the other sex.* To a certain epoch in connubial historv, the husband visited his partner by stealth alone, and, from the young mother's breast the tender babe not blessed with the promise of a vigorous frame was ruthlessly hurried to destruction. The last mentioned circumstance may, to the charitably disposed, serve as an explanation of the readiness with which the women were accustomed to make one of the severest of those sacrifices of personal feeling to the public good, for which, as a nation, the Spartans were so remarkable: we
» The light tunic, open at the skirt, which they are by some supposed to have worn, (r. Grote's History of Greece, vol. ii., p. 509,) would appear to have been designed for exposing, rather than concealing the person, and, at all events. did not afford sufficient protection to save them from the charge of going through their exercises in a state of nudity.
allude to the custom of subjecting to the embraces of some sturdy citizen the wife of one less capable than himself of ensuring to her a strong and healthy progeny—some women in this manner becoming the "recognized mistresses of two houses and mothers of two distinct families."
But to dwell no longer on details revolting to every thing pure aud gentle in humanity, the virtues of the Spartan woman—and certain virtues in a high degree she assuredly possessed—were developed at the sacrifice of nearly everything feminine and lovely. With masculine qualities forced, as it were. upon her, she lost irretrievably the characteristic excellencies of one sex only to appear as the inferior of the other, and no sooner were the traces of degeneracy perceptible among the men than the tendencies of such an unnatural system began to appear in all their native hideousness, the very name of Spartan woman becoming a by-word and reproach to the rest of Greece.
Let us now take a glance at the condition of the better class of women in Athens. The state ol affairs in this republic was doubtless present to the mind of Montesquieu while penning that remarkable passage: "In a nation where every man in his way participates in the management of the State, the women should hardly live with the men. They would thus become modest, that is to say, timid, and this timidity would constitute their virtue; while the men, destitute of devotion to the sex, would indulge in a libertinism interfering with neither their freedom nor their leisure." The Athenian, however, we have no reason for supposing to have been influenced by any such consideration in fixing the social position of the sex. To man and to woman he evidently believed that nature had been most unequal in the distribution of her favors, and that "one man is of more worth than innumerable women " was not merely the humble confession of a character in Euripides, but the prevailing, the undisputed opinion of the day. The more thoroughly we become acquainted with the feeling of the times the more forcibly are we struck by the abjectness of the position then regarded as only natural to woman. Sentiments taken from the poet or the orator are liable to the charge of colouring and exaggeration, but on. this particular point we have from antiquity but a single voice, echoed and re-echoed from every quarter. Their
very philosophers appear to have been imbued with the common prejudice. The far-seeing Stagyrite, for instance, characterizes the sexes as "the better and the worse, the ruler and the ruled," and even the amiable Plato has attributed to woman an unenviable pre-eminence in furtiveness and craft. The low estimation in which the sex was held exhibited itself from the very time of birth, the barbarous habit of exposing children being much more frequently practised upon females than upon males. "A man, though poor," says Posidippus, /
"A man, though poor, will not expose his son,
That danger passed, the odious distinction between the sexes was still maintained, from the cradle to the grave. For the boy, the pride and hope of the family, no trouble or expense was spared:—the exercises of the gymnasium, the schools of the philosophers, every thing, in short, was put in requisition which seemed calculated to insure the highest development of mind and body. The daughter, on the contrary, a puny plant, in the close, secluded apartments of the women, under no supervision, no cultivation, but such as might be afforded by an ignorant nurse or perhaps even more ignorant mother, at best only languished into adolescence—never attained the perfection of a rich maturity. The blessed occasion of some rare ceremony. in which their customs required her to participate, was all that relieved her from the confinement of the house. Such advantages as are to be derived from even casual intercourse with strong and cultivated minds of the other sex formed no part of her opportunities for improvement. To her own father, even, she was comparatively a stranger. More agreeable company, more important occupations, left not much time to devote to the society of a daughter, and no male visitor could so far forget himself as, under any circumstances, to invade those sacred precincts consecrated to the transition of the sprightly girl, graced by at least a little of the freshness of youth, into a woman, unattractive both in mind and person.
But the period of childhood has passed away, and through the maiden's mind there float vague suspicions that it is no longer well to be alone. How is the fair prisoner to be suited with a mate? Of her father or guardian you must ask the question, for to dispose of her person devolves upon