In "Ideal Commonwealths” Professor Henry Morley offers a selection of the most known writings on this topic, as well as his own reflections. Included are Plutarch's Lycurgus, More's Utopia, Bacon's New Atlantis, Campanella's City of the sun and a fragment of Hall's Mundus alter et idem.
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Introductory Note. 1
Plutarch's Life Of Lycurgus. 1
Sir Thomas More's Utopia. 1
Book I. 1
Book II. 1
Bacon's New Atlantis. 1
Campanella's City Of The Sun. 1
A Fragment Of Joseph Hall's Mundus Alter Et Idem... 1
Plato in his "Republic" argues that it is the aim of Individual Man as of the State to be wise, brave and temperate. In a State, he says, there are three orders, the Guardians, the Auxiliaries, the Producers. Wisdom should be the special virtue of the Guardians; Courage of the Auxiliaries; and Temperance of all. These three virtues belong respectively to the Individual Man, Wisdom to his Rational part; Courage to his Spirited; and Temperance to his Appetitive: while in the State as in the Man it is Injustice that disturbs their harmony.
Because the character of Man appears in the State unchanged, but in a larger form, Plato represented Socrates as studying the ideal man himself through an Ideal Commonwealth.
In another of his dialogues, "Critias," of which we have only the beginning, Socrates wishes that he could see how such a commonwealth would work, if it were set moving. Critias undertakes to tell him. For he has received tradition of events that happened more than nine thousand years ago, when the Athenians themselves were such ideal citizens. Critias has received this tradition, he says, from a ninety-year-old grandfather, whose father, Dropides, was the friend of Solon. Solon, lawgiver and poet, had heard it from the priests of the goddess Neïth or Athene at Sais, and had begun to shape it into a heroic poem.
This was the tradition:—Nine thousand years before the time of Solon, the goddess Athene, who was worshipped also in Sais, had given to her Athenians a healthy climate, a fertile soil, and temperate people strong in wisdom and courage. Their Republic was like that which Socrates imagined, and it had to bear the shock of a great invasion by the people of the vast island Atlantis. This island, larger than all Libya and Asia put together, was once in the sea westward beyond the Atlantic waves,—thus America was dreamed of long before it was discovered. Atlantis had ten kings, descended from ten sons of Poseidon (Neptune), who was the god magnificently worshipped by its people. Vast power and dominion, that extended through all Libya as far as Egypt, and over a part of Europe, caused the Atlantid kings to grow ambitious and unjust. Then they entered the Mediterranean and fell upon Athens with enormous force. But in the little band of citizens, temperate, brave, and wise, there were forces of Reason able to resist and overcome brute strength. Now, however, gone are the Atlantids, gone are the old virtues of Athens. Earthquakes and deluges laid waste the world. The whole great island of Atlantis, with its people and its wealth, sank to the bottom of the ocean. The ideal warriors of Athens, in one day and night, were swallowed by an earthquake, and were to be seen no more.
Plato, a philosopher with the soul of a poet, died in the year 347 before Christ. Plutarch was writing at the close of the first century after Christ, and in his parallel Lives of Greeks and Romans, the most famous of his many writings, he took occasion to paint an Ideal Commonwealth as the conception of Lycurgus, the half mythical or all mythical Solon of Sparta. To Plutarch's Life of Lycurgus, as well as to Plato, Thomas More and others have been indebted for some part of the shaping of their philosophic dreams.
The discovery of the New World at the end of the fifteenth century followed hard upon the diffusion of the new invention of printing, and came at a time when the fall of Constantinople by scattering Greek scholars, who became teachers in Italy, France and elsewhere, spread the study of Greek, and caused Plato to live again. Little had been heard of him through the Arabs, who cared little for his poetic method. But with the revival of learning he had become a force in Europe, a strong aid to the Reformers.
Sir Thomas More's Utopia was written in the years 1515-16, when its author's age was about thirty-seven. He was a young man of twenty when Columbus first touched the continent named after the Florentine Amerigo Vespucci, who made his voyages to it in the years 1499-1503. More wrote his Utopia when imaginations of men were stirred by the sudden enlargement of their conceptions of the world, and Amerigo Vespucci's account of his voyages, first printed in 1507, was fresh in every scholar's mind. He imagined a traveller, Raphael Hythloday—whose name is from Greek words that mean "Knowing in Trifles"—who had sailed with Vespucci on his three last voyages, but had not returned from the last voyage until, after separation from his comrades, he had wandered into some farther discovery of his own. Thus he had found, somewhere in those parts, the island of Utopia. Its name is from Greek words meaning Nowhere. More had gone on an embassy to Brussels with Cuthbert Tunstal when he wrote his philosophical satire upon European, and more particularly English, statecraft, in the form of an Ideal Commonwealth described by Hythloday as he had found it in Utopia. It was printed at Louvain in the latter part of the year 1516, under the editorship of Erasmus, and that enlightened young secretary to the municipality of Antwerp, Peter Giles, or Ægidius, who is introduced into the story. "Utopia" was not printed in England in the reign of Henry VIII., and could not be, for its satire was too direct to be misunderstood, even when it mocked English policy with ironical praise for doing exactly what it failed to do. More was a wit and a philosopher, but at the same time so practical and earnest that Erasmus tells of a burgomaster at Antwerp who fastened upon the parable of Utopia with such goodwill that he learnt it by heart. And in 1517 Erasmus advised a correspondent to send for Utopia, if he had not yet read it, and if he wished to see the true source of all political evils.
Francis Bacon's "New Atlantis," first written in Latin, was published in 1629, three years after its author's death. Bacon placed his Ideal Commonwealth in those seas where a great Austral continent was even then supposed to be, but had not been discovered. As the old Atlantis implied a foreboding of the American continent, so the New Atlantis implied foreboding of the Australian. Bacon in his philosophy sought through experimental science the dominion of men over things, "for Nature is only governed by obeying her." In his Ideal World of the New Atlantis, Science is made the civilizer who binds man to man, and is his leader to the love of God.
Thomas Campanella was Bacon's contemporary, a man only seven years younger; and an Italian who suffered for his ardour in the cause of science. He was born in Calabria in 1568, and died in 1639. He entered the Dominican order when a boy, but had a free and eager appetite for knowledge. He urged, like Bacon, that Nature should be studied through her own works, not through books; he attacked, like Bacon, the dead faith in Aristotle, that instead of following his energetic spirit of research, lapsed into blind idolatry. Campanella strenuously urged that men should reform all sciences by following Nature and the books of God. He had been stirring in this way for ten years, when there arose in Calabria a conspiracy against the Spanish rule. Campanella, who was an Italian patriot was seized and sent to Naples. The Spanish inquisition joined in attack on him. He was accused of books he had not written and of opinions he did not hold; he was seven times put to the question and suffered, with firmness of mind, the most cruel tortures. The Pope interceded in vain for him with the King of Spain. He suffered imprisonment for twenty-seven years, during which time he wrote much, and one piece of his prison work was his ideal of "The City of the Sun."
Released at last from his prison, Campanella went to Rome, where he was defended by Pope Urban VIII. against continued violence of attack. But he was compelled at last to leave Rome, and made his escape as a servant in the livery of the French ambassador. In Paris, Richelieu became Campanella's friend; the King of France gave him a pension of three thousand livres; the Sorbonne vouched for the orthodoxy of his writings. He died in Paris, at the age of seventy-one, in the Convent of the Dominicans.
Of Campanella's "Civitas Solis," which has not hitherto been translated into English, the translation here given, with one or two omissions of detail which can well be spared, has been made for me by my old pupil and friend, Mr. Thomas W. Halliday.
In the works (published in 1776) of the witty Dr. William King, who played much with the subject of cookery, is a fragment found among his remaining papers, and given by his editors as an original piece in the manner of Rabelais. It seems never to have been observed that this is only a translation of that part of Joseph Hall's "Mundus Alter es Idem," which deals with the kitchen side of life. The fragment will be found at the end of this volume, preceded by a short description of the other parts of Hall's World which is other than ours, and yet the same.
Of Lycurgus the lawgiver we have nothing to relate that is certain and uncontroverted. For there are different accounts of his birth, his travels, his death, and especially of the laws and form of government which he established. But least of all are the times agreed upon in which this great man lived. For some say he flourished at the same time with Iphitus, and joined with him in settling the cessation of arms during the Olympic games. Among these is Aristotle the philosopher, who alleges for proof an Olympic quoit, on which was preserved the inscription of Lycurgus's name. But others who, with Eratosthenes and Apollodorus, compute the time by the succession of the Spartan kings, place him much earlier than the first Olympiad. Timæus, however, supposes that, as there were two Lycurguses in Sparta at different times, the actions of both are ascribed to one, on account of his particular renown; and that the more ancient of them lived not long after Homer: nay, some say he had seen him. Xenophon too confirms the opinion of his antiquity, when he makes him contemporary with the Heraclidæ. It is true, the latest of the Lacedæmonian kings were of the lineage of the Heraclidæ; but Xenophon there seems to speak of the first and more immediate descendants of Hercules. As the history of those times is thus involved, in relating the circumstances of Lycurgus's life, we shall endeavour to select such as are least controverted, and follow authors of the greatest credit.
Simonides the poet, tells us, that Prytanis, not Eunomus, was father to Lycurgus. But most writers give us the genealogy of Lycurgus and Eunomus in a different manner; for, according to them, Sous was the son of Patrocles, and grandson of Aristodemus, Eurytion the son of Sous, Prytanis of Eurytion, and Eunomus of Prytanis; to this Eunomus was born Polydectes, by a former wife, and by a second, named Dianassa, Lycurgus. Eutychidas, however, says Lycurgus was the sixth from Patrocles, and the eleventh from Hercules. The most distinguished of his ancestors was Sous, under whom the Lacedæmonians made the Helotes their slaves, and gained an extensive tract of land from the Arcadians. Of this Sous it is related, that, being besieged by the Clitorians in a difficult post where there was no water, he agreed to give up all his conquests, provided that himself and all his army should drink of the neighbouring spring. When these conditions were sworn to, he assembled his forces, and offered his kingdom to the man that would forbear drinking; not one of them, however, would deny himself, but they all drank. Then Sous went down to the spring himself, and having only sprinkled his face in sight of the enemy, he marched off, and still held the country, because all had not drank. Yet, though he was highly honoured for this, the family had not their name from him, but from his son, were called Eurytionidæ; and this, because Eurytion seems to be the first who relaxed the strictness of kingly government, inclining to the interest of the people, and ingratiating himself with them. Upon this relaxation their encroachments increased, and the succeeding kings, either becoming odious, treating them with greater rigour, or else giving way through weakness or in hopes of favour, for a long time anarchy and confusion prevailed in Sparta; by which one of its kings, the father of Lycurgus, lost his life. For while he was endeavouring to part some persons who were concerned in a fray, he received a wound by a kitchen knife, of which he died, leaving the kingdom to his eldest son Polydectes.
But he too dying soon after, the general voice gave it for Lycurgus to ascend the throne; and he actually did so, till it appeared that his brother's widow was pregnant. As soon as he perceived this, he declared that the kingdom belonged to her issue, provided it were male, and he kept the administration in his hands only as his guardian. This he did with the title of Prodicos, which the Lacedæmonians give to the guardians of infant kings. Soon after, the queen made him a private overture, that she would destroy her child, upon condition that he would marry her when king of Sparta. Though he detested her wickedness, he said nothing against the proposal, but pretending to approve it, charged her not to take any drugs to procure an abortion, lest she should endanger her own health or life; for he would take care that the child, as soon as born, should be destroyed. Thus he artfully drew on the woman to her full time, and, when he heard she was in labour, he sent persons to attend and watch her delivery, with orders, if it were a girl, to give it to the women, but if a boy, to bring it to him, in whatever business he might be engaged. It happened that he was at supper with the magistrates when she was delivered of a boy, and his servants, who were present, carried the child to him. When he received it, he is reported to have said to the company, "Spartans, see here your new-born king." He then laid him down upon the chair of state, and named him Charilaus, because of the joy and admiration of his magnanimity and justice testified by all present. Thus the reign of Lycurgus lasted only eight months. But the citizens had a great veneration for him on other accounts, and there were more that paid him their attentions, and were ready to execute his commands, out of regard to his virtues, than those that obeyed him as a guardian to the king, and director of the administration. There were not, however, wanting those that envied him, and opposed his advancement, as too high for so young a man; particularly the relations and friends of the queen-mother, who seemed to have been treated with contempt. Her brother Leonidas, one day boldly attacked him with virulent language, and scrupled not to tell him that he was well assured he would soon be king; thus preparing suspicions, and matter of accusation against Lycurgus, in case any accident should befall the king. Insinuations of the same kind were likewise spread by the queen-mother. Moved with this ill-treatment, and fearing some dark design, he determined to get clear of all suspicion, by travelling into other countries, till his nephew should be grown up, and have a son to succeed him in the kingdom.
He set sail, therefore, and landed in Crete. There having observed the forms of government, and conversed with the most illustrious personages, he was struck with admiration of some of their laws, and resolved at his return to make use of them in Sparta. Some others he rejected. Among the friends he gained in Crete was Thales, with whom he had interest enough to persuade him to go and settle at Sparta. Thales was famed for his wisdom and political abilities: he was withal a lyric poet, who under colour of exercising his art, performed as great things as the most excellent lawgivers. For his odes were so many persuasives to obedience and unanimity, as by means of melody and numbers they had great grace and power, they softened insensibly the manners of the audience, drew them off from the animosities which then prevailed, and united them in zeal for excellence and virtue. So that, in some measure, he prepared the way for Lycurgus towards the instruction of the Spartans. From Crete Lycurgus passed to Asia, desirous, as is said, to compare the Ionian expense and luxury with the Cretan frugality and hard diet, so as to judge what effect each had on their several manners and governments; just as physicians compare bodies that are weak and sickly with the healthy and robust. There also, probably, he met with Homer's poems, which were preserved by the posterity of Cleophylus. Observing that many moral sentences and much political knowledge were intermixed with his stories, which had an irresistible charm, he collected them into one body, and transcribed them with pleasure, in order to take them home with him. For his glorious poetry was not yet fully known in Greece; only some particular pieces were in a few hands, as they happened to be dispersed. Lycurgus was the first that made them generally known. The Egyptians likewise suppose that he visited them; and as of all their institutions he was most pleased with their distinguishing the military men from the rest of the people, he took the same method at Sparta, and, by separating from these the mechanics and artificers, he rendered the constitution more noble and more of a piece. This assertion of the Egyptians is confirmed by some of the Greek writers. But we know of no one, except Aristocrates, son of Hipparchus, and a Spartan, who has affirmed that he went to Libya and Spain, and in his Indian excursions conversed with the Gymnosophists.
The Lacedæmonians found the want of Lycurgus when absent, and sent many embassies to entreat him to return. For they perceived that their kings had barely the title and outward appendages of royalty, but in nothing else differed from the multitude; whereas Lycurgus had abilities from nature to guide the measures of government, and powers of persuasion, that drew the hearts of men to him. The kings, however, where consulted about his return, and they hoped that in his presence they should experience less insolence amongst the people. Returning then to a city thus disposed, he immediately applied himself to alter the whole frame of the constitution; sensible that a partial change, and the introducing of some new laws, would be of no sort of advantage; but, as in the case of a body diseased and full of bad humours, whose temperament is to be corrected and new formed by medicines, it was necessary to begin a new regimen. With these sentiments he went to Delphi, and when he had offered and consulted the god, he returned with that celebrated oracle, in which the priestess called him "Beloved of the gods, and rather a god than a man." As to his request that he might enact good laws, she told him, Apollo had heard his request, and promised that the constitution he should establish would be the most excellent in the world. Thus encouraged, he applied to the nobility, and desired them to put their hands to the work; addressing himself privately at first to his friends, and afterwards by degrees, trying the disposition of others, and preparing them to concur in the business. When matters were ripe, he ordered thirty of the principal citizens to appear armed in the market-place by break of day, to strike terror into such as might desire to oppose him. Hermippus has given us the names of twenty of the most eminent of them; but he that had the greatest share in the whole enterprise, and gave Lycurgus the best assistance in the establishing of his laws, was called Arithmiades. Upon the first alarm, king Charilaus, apprehending it to be a design against his person, took refuge in the Chalcioicos. But he was soon satisfied, and accepted of their oath. Nay, so far from being obstinate, he joined in the undertaking. Indeed, he was so remarkable for the gentleness of his disposition, that Archelaus, his partner in the throne, is reported to have said to some that were praising the young king, "Yes, Charilaus is a good man to be sure, who cannot find in his heart to punish the bad." Among the many new institutions of Lycurgus, the first and most important was that of a senate; which sharing, as Plato says, in the power of the kings, too imperious and unrestrained before, and having equal authority with them, was the means of keeping them within the bounds of moderation, and highly contributed to the preservation of the state. For before it had been veering and unsettled, sometimes inclining to arbitrary power, and sometimes towards a pure democracy; but this establishment of a senate, an intermediate body, like ballast, kept it in a just equilibrium, and put it in a safe posture: the twenty-eight senators adhering to the kings, whenever they saw the people too encroaching, and, on the other hand, supporting the people, when the kings attempted to make themselves absolute. This, according to Aristotle, was the number of senators fixed upon, because two of the thirty associates of Lycurgus deserted the business through fear. But Sphærus tells us there were only twenty-eight at first entrusted with the design. Something, perhaps, there is in its being a perfect number, formed of seven multiplied by four, and withal the first number, after six, that is equal to all its parts. But I rather think, just so many senators were created, that, together with the two kings, the whole body might consist of thirty members.
He had this institution so much at heart, that he obtained from Delphi an oracle in its behalf, called rhetra, or the decree. This was couched in very ancient and uncommon terms, which interpreted, ran thus: "When you have built a temple to the Syllanian Jupiter, and the Syllanian Minerva, divided the people into tribes and classes, and established a senate of thirty persons, including the two kings, you shall occasionally summon the people to an assembly between Babyce and Cnacion, and they shall have the determining voice." Babyce and Cnacion are now called Oenus. But Aristotle thinks, by Cnacion is meant the river, and by Babyce the bridge. Between these they held their assemblies, having neither halls, nor any kind of building for that purpose. These things he thought of no advantage to their councils, but rather a disservice; as they distracted the attention, and turned it upon trifles, on observing the statues and pictures, the splendid roofs, and every other theatrical ornament. The people thus assembled had no right to propose any subject of debate, and were only authorized to ratify or reject what might be proposed to them by the senate and the kings. But because, in process of time, the people, by additions or retrenchments, changed the terms, and perverted the sense of the decrees, the kings Polydorus and Theopompus inserted in the rhetra this clause: "If the people attempt to corrupt any law, the senate and chiefs shall retire:" that is, they shall dissolve the assembly, and annul the alterations. And they found means to persuade the Spartans that this too was ordered by Apollo; as we learn from these verses of Tyrtæus:
Ye sons of Sparta, who at Phœbus' shrine Your humble vows prefer, attentive hear The god's decision. O'er your beauteous lands Two guardian kings, a senate, and the voice Of the concurring people, lasting laws Shall with joint power establish.
Though the government was thus tempered by Lycurgus, yet soon after it degenerated into an oligarchy, whose power was exercised with such wantonness and violence, that it wanted indeed a bridle, as Plato expresses it. This curb they found in the authority of the Ephori, about a hundred and thirty years after Lycurgus. Elatus was the first invested with this dignity, in the reign of Theopompus; who, when his wife upbraided him, that he would leave the regal power to his children less than he received it, replied, "Nay but greater, because more lasting." And, in fact, the prerogative, so stripped of all extravagant pretensions, no longer occasioned either envy or danger to its possessors. By these means they escaped the miseries which befell the Messenian and Argive kings, who would not in the least relax the severity of their power in favour of the people. Indeed, from nothing more does the wisdom and foresight of Lycurgus appear, than from the disorderly governments, and the bad understanding that subsisted between the kings and people of Messena and Argos, neighbouring states, and related in blood to Sparta. For, as at first they were in all respects equal to her, and possessed of a better country, and yet preserved no lasting happiness, but, through the insolence of the kings and disobedience of the people, were harassed with perpetual troubles, they made it very evident that it was really a felicity more than human, a blessing from heaven to the Spartans, to have a legislator who knew so well how to frame and temper their government. But this was an event of a later date.
A second and bolder political enterprise of Lycurgus was a new division of the lands. For he found a prodigious inequality, the city overcharged with many indigent persons, who had no land, and the wealth centred in the hands of a few. Determined, therefore, to root out the evils of insolence, envy, avarice, and luxury, and those distempers of a state still more inveterate and fatal, I mean poverty and riches, he persuaded them to cancel all former divisions of land, and to make new ones, in such a manner that they might be perfectly equal in their possessions and way of living. Hence, if they were ambitious of distinction they might seek it in virtue, as no other difference was left between them but that which arises from the dishonour of base actions and the praise of good ones. His proposal was put in practice. He made nine thousand lots for the territory of Sparta, which he distributed among so many citizens, and thirty thousand for the inhabitants of the rest of Laconia. But some say he made only six thousand shares for the city, and that Polydorus added three thousand afterwards; others, that Polydorus doubled the number appointed by Lycurgus, which were only four thousand five hundred. Each lot was capable of producing (one year with another) seventy bushels of grain for each man, and twelve for each woman, besides a quantity of wine and oil in proportion. Such a provision they thought sufficient for health and a good habit of body, and they wanted nothing more. A story goes of our legislator, that some time after returning from a journey through the fields just reaped, and seeing the shocks standing parallel and equal, he smiled, and said to some that were by, "How like is Laconia to an estate newly divided among many brothers!"
After this, he attempted to divide also the movables, in order to take away all appearance of inequality; but he soon perceived that they could not bear to have their goods directly taken from them, and therefore took another method, counterworking their avarice by a stratagem. First he stopped the currency of the gold and silver coin, and ordered that they should make use of iron money only, then to a great quantity and weight of this he assigned but a small value; so that to lay up ten minæ, a whole room was required, and to remove it, nothing less than a yoke of oxen. When this became current, many kinds of injustice ceased in Lacedæmon. Who would steal or take a bribe, who would defraud or rob, when he could not conceal the booty; when he could neither be dignified by the possession of it, nor if cut in pieces be served by its use? For we are told that when hot, they quenched it in vinegar, to make it brittle and unmalleable, and consequently unfit for any other service. In the next place, he excluded unprofitable and superfluous arts: indeed, if he had not done this, most of them would have fallen of themselves, when the new money took place, as the manufactures could not be disposed of. Their iron coin would not pass in the rest of Greece, but was ridiculed and despised; so that the Spartans had no means of purchasing any foreign or curious wares; nor did any merchant-ship unlade in their harbours. There were not even to be found in all their country either sophists, wandering fortune-tellers, keepers of infamous houses, or dealers in gold and silver trinkets, because there was no money. Thus luxury, losing by degrees the means that cherished and supported it, died away of itself: even they who had great possessions, had no advantage from them, since they could not be displayed in public, but must lie useless, in unregarded repositories. Hence it was, that excellent workmanship was shown in their useful and necessary furniture, as beds, chairs, and tables; and the Lacedæmonian cup called cothon, as Critias informs us, was highly valued, particularly in campaigns: for the water, which must then of necessity be drank, though it would often otherwise offend the sight, had its muddiness concealed by the colour of the cup, and the thick part stopping at the shelving brim, it came clearer to the lips. Of these improvements the lawgiver was the cause; for the workmen having no more employment in matters of mere curiosity, showed the excellence of their art in necessary things.
Desirous to complete the conquest of luxury, and exterminate the love of riches, he introduced a third institution, which was wisely enough and ingeniously contrived. This was the use of public tables, where all were to eat in common of the same meat, and such kinds of it as were appointed by law. At the same time they were forbidden to eat at home, upon expensive couches and tables, to call in the assistance of butchers and cooks, or to fatten like voracious animals in private. For so not only their manners would be corrupted, but their bodies disordered; abandoned to all manner of sensuality and dissoluteness, they would require long sleep, warm baths, and the same indulgence as in perpetual sickness. To effect this was certainly very great; but it was greater still, to secure riches from rapine and from envy, as Theophrastus expresses it, or rather by their eating in common, and by the frugality of their table, to take from riches their very being. For what use or enjoyment of them, what peculiar display of magnificence could there be, where the poor man went to the same refreshment with the rich? Hence the observation, that it was only at Sparta where Plutus (according to the proverb) was kept blind, and like an image, destitute of life or motion. It must further be observed, that they had not the privilege to eat at home, and so to come without appetite to the public repast: they made a point of it to observe any one that did not eat and drink with them, and to reproach him as an intemperate and effeminate person that was sick of the common diet.
The rich, therefore (we are told), were more offended with this regulation than with any other, and, rising in a body, they loudly expressed their indignation: nay, they proceeded so far as to assault Lycurgus with stones, so that he was forced to fly from the assembly and take refuge in a temple. Unhappily, however, before he reached it, a young man named Alcander, hasty in his resentments, though not otherwise ill-tempered, came up with him, and, upon his turning round, struck out one of his eyes with a stick. Lycurgus then stopped short, and, without giving way to passion, showed the people his eye beat out, and his face streaming with blood. They were so struck with shame and sorrow at the sight, that they surrendered Alcander to him, and conducted him home with the utmost expressions of regret. Lycurgus thanked them for their care of his person, and dismissed them all except Alcander. He took him into his house, but showed no ill treatment either by word or action; only ordering him to wait upon him, instead of his usual servants and attendants. The youth, who was of an ingenuous disposition, without murmuring, did as he was commanded. Living in this manner with Lycurgus, and having an opportunity to observe the mildness and goodness of his heart, his strict temperance and indefatigable industry, he told his friends that Lycurgus was not that proud and severe man he might have been taken for, but, above all others, gentle and engaging in his behaviour. This, then, was the chastisement, and this punishment he suffered, of a wild and headstrong young man to become a very modest and prudent citizen. In memory of his misfortune, Lycurgus built a temple to Minerva Optiletis, so called by him from a term which the Dorians use for the eye. Yet Dioscorides, who wrote a treatise concerning the Lacedæmonian government, and others, relate that his eye was hurt, but not put out, and that he built the temple in gratitude to the goddess for his cure. However, the Spartans never carried staves to their assemblies afterwards.
The public repasts were called by the Cretans Andria; but the Lacedæmonians styled them Phiditia, either from their tendency to friendship and mutual benevolence, phiditia being used instead of philitia; or else from their teaching frugality and parsimony, which the word pheido signifies. But it is not all impossible that the first letter might by some means or other be added, and so phiditia take place of editia, which barely signifies eating. There were fifteen persons to a table, or a few more or less. Each of them was obliged to bring in monthly a bushel of meal, eight gallons of wine, five pounds of cheese, two pounds and a half of figs, and a little money to buy flesh and fish. If any of them happened to offer a sacrifice of first fruits, or to kill venison, he sent a part of it to the public table: for after a sacrifice or hunting, he was at liberty to sup at home: but the rest were to appear at the usual place. For a long time this eating in common was observed with great exactness: so that when king Agis returned from a successful expedition against the Athenians, and from a desire to sup with his wife, requested to have his portion at home, the Polemarchs refused to send it: nay, when, through resentment, he neglected, the day following, to offer the sacrifice usual on occasion of victory, they set a fine upon him. Children also were introduced at these public tables, as so many schools of sobriety. There they heard discourses concerning government, and were instructed in the most liberal breeding. There they were allowed to jest without scurrility, and were not to take it ill when the raillery was returned. For it was reckoned worthy of a Lacedæmonian to bear a jest: but if any one's patience failed, he had only to desire them to be quiet, and they left off immediately. When they first entered, the oldest man present pointed to the door, and said, "Not a word spoken in this company goes out there." The admitting of any man to a particular table was under the following regulation. Each member of that small society took a little ball of soft bread in his hand. This he was to drop, without saying a word, into a vessel called caddos, which the waiter carried upon his head. In case he approved of the candidate, he did it without altering the figure, if not, he first pressed it flat in his hand; for a flatted ball was considered as a negative. And if but one such was found, the person was not admitted, as they thought it proper that the whole company should be satisfied with each other. He who thus rejected, was said to have no luck in the caddos. The dish that was in the highest esteem amongst them was the black broth. The old men were so fond of it that they ranged themselves on one side and eat it, leaving the meat to the young people. It is related of a king of Pontus, that he purchased a Lacedæmonian cook, for the sake of this broth. But when he came to taste it he strongly expressed his dislike; and the cook made answer, "Sir, to make this broth relish, it is necessary first to bathe in the Eurotas." After they had drank moderately, they went home without lights. Indeed, they were forbidden to walk with a light either on this or any other occasion, that they might accustom themselves to march in the darkest night boldly and resolutely. Such was the order of their public repasts.
Lycurgus left none of his laws in writing; it was ordered in one of the Rhetræ that none should be written. For what he thought most conducive to the virtue and happiness of a city, was principles interwoven with the manners and breeding of the people. These would remain immovable, as founded in inclination, and be the strongest and most lasting tie; and the habits which education produced in the youth, would answer in each the purpose of a lawgiver. As for smaller matters, contracts about property, and whatever occasionally varied, it was better not to reduce these to a written form and unalterable method, but to suffer them to change with the times, and to admit of additions or retrenchments at the pleasure of persons so well educated. For he resolved the whole business of legislation into the bringing up of youth. And this, as we have observed, was the reason why one of his ordinances forbad them to have any written laws.
Another ordinance levelled against magnificence and expense, directed that the ceilings of houses should be wrought with no tool but the axe and the doors with nothing but the saw. For, as Epaminondas is reported to have said afterwards, of his table, "Treason lurks not under such a dinner," so Lycurgus perceived before him, that such a house admits of no luxury and needless splendour. Indeed, no man could be so absurd as to bring into a dwelling so homely and simple, bedsteads with silver feet, purple coverlets, golden cups, and a train of expense that follows these: but all would necessarily have the bed suitable to the room, the coverlet of the bed and the rest of their utensils and furniture to that. From this plain sort of dwellings, proceeded the question of Leotychidas the elder to his host, when he supped at Corinth, and saw the ceiling of the room very splendid and curiously wrought, "Whether trees grew square in his country."
A third ordinance of Lycurgus was, that they should not often make war against the same enemy, lest, by being frequently put upon defending themselves, they too should become able warriors in their turn. And this they most blamed king Agesilaus for afterwards, that by frequent and continued incursions into Boeotia, he taught the Thebans to make head against the Lacedæmonians. This made Antalcidas say, when he saw him wounded, "The Thebans pay you well for making them good soldiers who neither were willing nor able to fight you before." These ordinances he called Rhetræ, as if they had been oracles and decrees of the Deity himself.
As for the education of youth, which he looked upon as the greatest and most glorious work of a lawgiver, he began with it at the very source, taking into consideration their conception and birth, by regulating the marriages. For he did not (as Aristotle says) desist from his attempt to bring the women under sober rules. They had, indeed, assumed great liberty and power on account of the frequent expeditions of their husbands, during which they were left sole mistresses at home, and so gained an undue deference and improper titles; but notwithstanding this he took all possible care of them. He ordered the virgins to exercise themselves in running, wrestling, and throwing quoits and darts; that their bodies being strong and vigorous, the children afterwards produced from them might be the same; and that, thus fortified by exercise, they might the better support the pangs of child-birth, and be delivered with safety. In order to take away the excessive tenderness and delicacy of the sex, the consequence of a recluse life, he accustomed the virgins occasionally to be seen naked as well as the young men, and to dance and sing in their presence on certain festivals. There they sometimes indulged in a little raillery upon those that had misbehaved themselves, and sometimes they sung encomiums on such as deserved them, thus exciting in the young men a useful emulation and love of glory. For he who was praised for his bravery and celebrated among the virgins, went away perfectly happy: while their satirical glances thrown out in sport, were no less cutting than serious admonitions; especially as the kings and senate went with the other citizens to see all that passed. As for the virgins appearing naked, there was nothing disgraceful in it, because everything was conducted with modesty, and without one indecent word or action. Nay, it caused a simplicity of manners and an emulation for the best habit of body; their ideas too were naturally enlarged, while they were not excluded from their share of bravery and honour. Hence they were furnished with sentiments and language, such as Gorgo the wife of Leonidas is said to have made use of. When a woman of another country said to her, "You of Lacedæmon are the only women in the world that rule the men;" she answered, "We are the only women that bring forth men."
These public dances and other exercises of the young maidens naked, in sight of the young men, were, moreover, incentives to marriage: and, to use Plato's expression, drew them almost as necessarily by the attractions of love, as a geometrical conclusion follows from the premises. To encourage it still more, some marks of infamy were set upon those that continued bachelors. For they were not permitted to see these exercises of the naked virgins; and the magistrates commanded them to march naked round the market-place in the winter, and to sing a song composed against themselves, which expressed how justly they were punished for their disobedience to the laws. They were also deprived of that honour and respect which the younger people paid to the old; so that nobody found fault with what was said to Dercyllidas, though an eminent commander. It seems, when he came one day into company, a young man, instead of rising up and giving place, told him, "You have no child to give place to me, when I am old."
In their marriages, the bridegroom carried off the bride by violence; and she was never chosen in a tender age, but when she had arrived at full maturity. Then the woman that had the direction of the wedding, cut the bride's hair close to the skin, dressed her in man's clothes, laid her upon a mattrass, and left her in the dark. The bridegroom, neither oppressed with wine nor enervated with luxury, but perfectly sober, as having always supped at the common table, went in privately, untied her girdle, and carried her to another bed. Having stayed there a short time, he modestly retired to his usual apartment, to sleep with the other young men; and observed the same conduct afterwards, spending the day with his companions, and reposing himself with them in the night, nor even visiting his bride but with great caution and apprehensions of being discovered by the rest of the family; the bride at the same time exerted all her art to contrive convenient opportunities for their private meetings. And this they did not for a short time only, but some of them even had children before they had an interview with their wives in the daytime. This kind of commerce not only exercised their temperance and chastity, but kept their bodies fruitful, and the first ardour of their love fresh and unabated; for as they were not satiated like those that are always with their wives, there still was place for unextinguished desire. When he had thus established a proper regard to modesty and decorum with respect to marriage, he was equally studious to drive from that state the vain and womanish passion of jealousy; by making it quite as reputable to have children in common with persons of merit, as to avoid all offensive freedom in their own behaviour to their wives. He laughed at those who revenge with wars and bloodshed the communication of a married woman's favours; and allowed, that if a man in years should have a young wife, he might introduce to her some handsome and honest young man, whom he most approved of, and when she had a child of this generous race, bring it up as his own. On the other hand, he allowed, that if a man of character should entertain a passion for a married woman on account of her modesty and the beauty of her children, he might treat with her husband for admission to her company, that so planting in a beauty-bearing soil, he might produce excellent children, the congenial offspring of excellent parents. For, in the first place, Lycurgus considered children, not so much the property of their parents as of the state; and therefore he would not have them begot by ordinary persons, but by the best men in it. In the next place, he observed the vanity and absurdity of other nations, where people study to have their horses and dogs of the finest breed they can procure either by interest or money; and yet keep their wives shut up, that they may have children by none but themselves, though they may happen to be doting, decrepit, or infirm. As if children, when sprung from a bad stock, and consequently good for nothing, were no detriment to those whom they belong to, and who have the trouble of bringing them up, nor any advantage, when well descended and of a generous disposition. These regulations tending to secure a healthy offspring, and consequently beneficial to the state, were so far from encouraging that licentiousness of the women which prevailed afterwards, that adultery was not known amongst them. A saying, upon this subject of Geradas, an ancient Spartan, is thus related. A stranger had asked him, "What punishment their law appointed for adulterers?" He answered, "My friend, there are no adulterers in our country." The other replied, "But what if there should be one?" "Why then," says Geradas, "he must forfeit a bull so large that he might drink of the Eurotas from the top of Mount Taygetus." When the stranger expressed his surprise at this, and said, "How can such a bull be found?" Geradas answered with a smile, "How can an adulterer be found in Sparta?" This is the account we have of their marriages.
It was not left to the father to rear what children he pleased, but he was obliged to carry the child to a place called Lesche, to be examined by the most ancient men of the tribe, who were assembled there. If it was strong and well-proportioned, they gave orders for its education, and assigned it one of the nine thousand shares of land; but if it was weakly and deformed, they ordered it to be thrown into the place called Apothetæ, which is a deep cavern near the mountain Taygetus; concluding that its life could be no advantage either to itself or to the public, since nature had not given it at first any strength or goodness of constitution. For the same reason the women did not wash their new-born infants with water, but with wine, thus making some trial of their habit of body; imagining that sickly and epileptic children sink and die under the experiment, while healthy became more vigorous and hardy. Great care and art was also exerted by the nurses; for, as they never swathed the infants, their limbs had a freer turn, and their countenances a more liberal air; besides, they used them to any sort of meat, to have no terrors in the dark, nor to be afraid of being alone, and to leave all ill humour and unmanly crying. Hence people of other countries purchased Lacedæmonian nurses for their children; and Alcibiades the Athenian is said to have been nursed by Amicla, a Spartan. But if he was fortunate in a nurse, he was not so in a preceptor: for Zopyrus, appointed to that office by Pericles, was, as Plato tells us, no better qualified than a common slave. The Spartan children were not in that manner, under tutors purchased or hired with money, nor were the parents at liberty to educate them as they pleased: but as soon as they were seven years old, Lycurgus ordered them to be enrolled in companies, where they were all kept under the same order and discipline, and had their exercises and recreations in common. He who showed the most conduct and courage amongst them, was made captain of the company. The rest kept their eyes upon him, obeyed his orders, and bore with patience the punishment he inflicted: so that their whole education was an exercise of obedience. The old men were present at their diversions, and often suggested some occasion of dispute or quarrel, that they might observe with exactness the spirit of each, and their firmness in battle.
As for learning, they had just what was absolutely necessary. All the rest of their education was calculated to make them subject to command, to endure labour, to fight and conquer. They added, therefore, to their discipline, as they advance in age; cutting their hair very close, making them go barefoot, and play, for the most part, quite naked. At twelve years of age, their under garment was taken away, and but one upper one a year allowed them. Hence they were necessarily dirty in their persons, and not indulged the great favour of baths, and oils, except on some particular days of the year. They slept in companies, on beds made of the tops of reeds, which they gathered with their own hands, without knives, and brought from the banks of the Eurotas. In winter they were permitted to add a little thistle-down, as that seemed to have some warmth in it.
At this age, the most distinguished amongst them became the favourite companions of the elder; and the old men attended more constantly their places of exercise, observing their trials of strength and wit, not slightly and in a cursory manner, but as their fathers, guardians, and governors: so that there was neither time nor place where persons were wanting to instruct and chastise them. One of the best and ablest men of the city was, moreover, appointed inspector of the youth: and he gave the command of each company to the discreetest and most spirited of those called Irens. An Iren was one that had been two years out of the class of boys: a Melliren one of the oldest lads. This Iren, then, a youth twenty years old, gives orders to those under his command in their little battles, and has them to serve him at his house. He sends the oldest of them to fetch wood, and the younger to gather pot-herbs: these they steal where they can find them, either slily getting into gardens, or else craftily and warily creeping to the common tables. But if any one be caught, he is severely flogged for negligence or want of dexterity. They steal, too, whatever victuals they possibly can, ingeniously contriving to do it when persons are asleep, or keep but indifferent watch. If they are discovered, they are punished not only with whipping, but with hunger. Indeed, their supper is but slender at all times, that, to fence against want, they may be forced to exercise their courage and address. This is the first intention of their spare diet: a subordinate one is, to make them grow tall. For when the animal spirits are not too much oppressed by a great quantity of food, which stretches itself out in breadth and thickness, they mount upwards by their natural lightness, and the body easily and freely shoots up in height. This also contributes to make them handsome; for thin and slender habits yield more freely to nature, which then gives a fine proportion to the limbs; whilst the heavy and gross resist her by their weight. So women that take physic during their pregnancy, have slighter children indeed, but of a finer and more delicate turn, because the suppleness of the matter more readily obeys the plastic power. However, these are speculations which we shall leave to others.
The boys steal with so much caution, that one of them having conveyed a young fox under his garment, suffered the creature to tear out his bowels with his teeth and claws, choosing rather to die than to be detected. Nor does this appear incredible, if we consider what their young men can endure to this day; for we have seen many of them expire under the lash at the altar of Diana Orthia.
The Iren, reposing himself after supper, used to order one of the boys to sing a song; to another he put some question which required a judicious answer: for example, "Who was the best man in the city?" or "What he thought of such an action?" This accustomed them from their childhood to judge of the virtues, to enter into the affairs of their countrymen. For if one of them was asked, "Who is a good citizen, or who an infamous one," and hesitated in his answer, he was considered a boy of slow parts, and of a soul that would not aspire to honour. The answer was likewise to have a reason assigned for it, and proof conceived in few words. He whose account of the matter was wrong, by way of punishment had his thumb bit by the Iren. The old men and magistrates often attended these little trials, to see whether the Iren exercised his authority in a rational and proper manner. He was permitted, indeed, to inflict the penalties; but when the boys were gone, he was to be chastised himself, if he had punished them either with too much severity or remissness.
The adopters of favourites also shared both in the honour and disgrace of their boys: and one of them is said to have been mulcted by the magistrates, because the boy whom he had taken into his affections let some ungenerous word or cry escape him as he was fighting. This love was so honourable and in so much esteem, that the virgins too had their lovers amongst the most virtuous matrons. A competition of affection caused no misunderstanding, but rather a mutual friendship between those that had fixed their regards upon the same youth, and an united endeavour to make him as accomplished as possible.
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