« PreviousContinue »
'preserved in perfect purity, is better maintained by custom, fixed under the inspection of the best men, than by any writing. To me, therefore, the Doric council of elders appears to be a splendid monument of early Grecian customs and by its noble openness, simple greatness, and pure confidence, 'shows that it was safe to build upon the moral excellence and ' paternal wisdom of those who had experienced a long life, and to whom, in this instance, the people intrusted its safety and 'welfare.' The last chapter of this book illustrates the military system of the Spartans, and that celebrated quality, concerning their title to which there is no dispute, cool courage in battle, characterised by great composure and subdued strength.
We have now reached that division of the work, which will be most engaging to the general reader: the fourth book is devoted to the domestic institutions, arts, and literature of the Dorians. Whoever has made a pilgrimage to the solitary Pæstum, and has gazed on the majestic proportions of the temple of Neptune, must be deeply sensible of the wonderful power of the Doric style of architecture. Müller finds a sentiment in this department of creative art. It is the essence of this art,' he writes, 'to connect, by the varieties of form and proportion, a peculiar 'association of ideas with works intended merely for purposes of necessity. The Doric character, in short, created the Doric architecture. Thus, in this creation of art, we find expressed 'the peculiar bias of the Doric race to strict rule, simple pro'portion, and pure harmony.' With reference to his favourite theory, that the Dorians were entirely and purely Greeks, and the Ionians but Asiatic Greeks, he says of this art in a former work, Ionicum architecturæ genus cum a Dorico tant opere 'distet, ut ex eadem origine utrumque provenisse negandum 'sit, Ionibus non nisi populorum Asiæ commercio traditum 'esse potest, a quibus eos item vestitum et victum atque om'nem fere corporis cultum mutuatos esse constat.' A peculiar taste, we are told, was displayed in the mode of clothing in use among the Dorians; an ancient decorum and simplicity, equally removed from the splendour of Asiatics and the uncleanliness of barbarians. The famous syssitia, or public tables, receive duc attention; the Spartans, the Cretans, and other Dorian nations, used to dine, like the Germans, at tables d'hôte: Müller considers it an ancient Greek usage to eat together at the cost of the community. Travellers on the continent have experienced the convenience of the round tables which prevail in many countries; in our own, the military mess furnishes to persons of moderate resources a comfortable, and often a luxurious, meal; and the squalid commons in the halls of our inns of
court, present a proof of the injustice of sacrificing the decent refection of the many to the indulgence or the caprice of a few. In discoursing of the domestic life—an engaging subject; for it is this sweet reward which_tempts wise men to endure the miseries of public life—of the Dorians, the historian displays his partiality without reserve. He cites with evident satisfaction the satirical remark of the supposed' Lycurgus, to one who desired to found a democratical state, first make a democracy ' in thine own house;' and informs us, that within the door of his court the master of the house ruled as lord on his own ground. He finds in the equality and simplicity of Sparta, a singular modesty; the youths,' according to Xenophon, 'sembling statues in their silence, and in the immovability of their eyes, and more modest than virgins in the bridal chamber.' Among the Dorians alone was true love to be found: 'it was very possible at Sparta, that affection and love should take possession of the heart; but at Athens, as far as my recollection goes, we have not a single instance of a man having loved a free-born 6 woman, and marrying her from any strong affection, whilst a single narrative of Herodotus contains two love stories at Sparta.' He alludes to the matters related in chapters 61-63 of the book inscribed Erato.
The treatment of women among the Dorians, we are told, was indulgent: among the Ionic Athenians they were merely con'sidered in an inferior and sensual light; and though the Æoli' ans allowed their feelings a more exalted tone, as is proved by the amatory poetesses of Lesbos, the Dorians, as well at Sparta 'as in the south of Italy, were almost the only nation who es'teemed the higher attributes of the female mind as capable of 'cultivation.' To a scoffing world any man, who is much in earnest, will too often appear ridiculous. With every desire to view even trifles in a serious light, we must confess, that the following proof of national superiority is somewhat ludicrous: Amongst the Dorians of Sparta, the wife was honoured by her husband with the title of mistress, dozowa, a gallantry 'which was used neither ironically nor unmeaningly.' Our stage coachmen are probably a Doric race, for whenever one of the rosy brotherhood of the whip speaks of his wife, he styles her my mistress,' and this neither ironically nor unmeaningly; yet, with all deference for the good professor, we are inclined to doubt, whether he be therefore necessarily wiser or better than the less gallant passenger who happens to share the box with him. With sincere respect for that extreme partiality, in which very candid men can alone venture to indulge, we believe the truth to be, that all the Greeks, whether Doric,
Ionic, or Æolic, whether Hellenic, or Pelasgic, were most exemplary in their domestic relations. The tragic poets abound with lovely passages, which demonstrate to the entire conviction of the heart, their unequal fondness for their homes, and the genial warmth of family affections. Nothing was more dreaded by the early Greeks than the extinction of the family, and the destruction of the house, by which the dead lost their religious honour, the household gods their sacrifices, the hearth its flame, and the ancestors their name among the living. Every virtue that conduces to the wellbeing of a state, is needed for the preservation and hereditary transmission of a family-but these considerations would lead us too far from our assigned task.
In such a state as Sparta, education was more necessary than the laws; and it was conducted on a very artificial system. The exposition of this system is well worthy of attention. There is one branch of Doric institution, which is no longer considered a part of polite education, or rather, whenever the liberal youth of our populous cities would revive the ancient lessons, their attempts are noticed with very marked disapprobation ;-we allude to the venerable practice of stealing: with much ingenuity Müller essays to afford a rational explanation of the laconic larceny. Among the Greeks, as is well known, music was deemed a most important ingredient in education; in the schools of convents and cathedrals the old pagan course has been handed down by unbroken tradition, and is still retained in this respect with beneficial effects; but although this agreeable art is much cultivated with us, it is considered rather as an ornamental addition to, than an useful member of, the mental fabric. The Doric style of music was very famous in the ancient world, and bore a close affinity to the character of a nation proud of their natural loftiness of character and vigour of mind. The ancients attributed to this style something solemn, firm, and manly, calculated to inspire fortitude in supporting misfortunes and hardships, and to strengthen the mind against the attacks of passion. They discovered in it a calm sublimity, and a simple grandeur, which bordered upon severity, equally opposed to inconstancy and enthusiasm; and this is precisely the character we find so strongly impressed on the religion, arts, and manners of the Dorians.
In the study of music, as well as in every thing else, the Spartans were uniformly the friends of antiquity; the story is familiar to all, of the musician who played at a festival with a lyre that had two strings more than the allowed number, which the magistrates observing immediately cut them off. Müller doubts the truth of the tale, and the authenticity of the
Spartan decree, respecting this transaction, which exists in an excessively Doric idiom. The decree is as follows:—' Whereas, Timothy of Miletus, despising the harmony of the seven-string'ed lyre, poisoned the ears of the young men, by increasing the 'number of strings, and introducing a new and effeminate species of melody; and having been invited to perform at the festival of the Eleusinian Ceres, he exhibited an indecent representation ' of the holy rites, and most improperly instructed the young men in the mystery of the labour-pains of Semele; it is decreed that the kings and ephori should reprimand the said Timothy, and 'compel him to reduce the number of strings on his lyre to seven; in order that every person in future, being conscious of the dig'nity of the state, might beware of introducing improper customs into Sparta, and the fame of the contests be preserved unsullied.' If this document be not authentic, it is at least whimsical. It would seem strange in these days were the House of Commons to direct our eloquent and accomplished Attorney-General to prosecute a blind beggar and his dog, although the one were named, as of yore, Timothy, and the other Tim, for feloniously playing Maggy Lauder, in Smithfield, on the festival of St Bartholomew, upon a fiddle with five strings, whereby the morals of the hearers suddenly became corrupt and of no use, in contempt of the king and his laws, and of all loyal fourstringed fiddles. In the valley of the Eurotas, it is evident that their frequent improvements in the construction of the pianoforte would not have brought Messrs Broadwood and Clementi to opulence, as in the valley of the Thames, but to a disgraceful end they would have suffered death, as murderers, for administering to young maidens the sweet poison of soft pedals and additional keys. If, however, we may suppose that music was connected with religion,-that the integrity of the Doric measure, and the simplicity of the Spartan guitar, were held to be essential to orthodoxy, we shall cease to wonder at the severe animadversions upon the heretical innovations of the minstrel ; for the question, whether any musical instrument, even the most solemn, the organ, may be safely used in religious worship, has given occasion to far stronger measures than the excision of two additional strings.
The Doric literature is a large subject, but we can only treat of it very slightly. The national and original poetry of the Dorians was not the epic, but the lyric, nor did they cultivate history; but for the Ionic Athenians, therefore, we should have known very little about this ancient race: their glory would have been lost, and their panegyrist mute. Herodotus, as his style is Ionic, so Müller concedes that he can hardly
be considered a real Dorian, unless his religious turn, and ' a certain infantine simplicity, are traces of a Doric character.' Nor were the arts of rhetoric and logic cultivated: instead of pointed and logical reasoning, the Dorians expressed themselves by sententious and concise sayings, conveying as much meaning in a few words as possible. Great brevity of speech was the characteristic of the race, and formed a remarkable contrast with the copious and headlong torrent of eloquence which distinguished the Athenians. Of all the philosophical 'systems of Greece,' says Socrates in the Protagoras of Plato, that established in Crete and Lacedemon was the most ancient and copious, and there the sophists were most numerous; but they concealed their skill, and pretended to be ignorant. And hence, on conversing with the meanest Lacedemonian, at first indeed he would appear awkward in his language, but when he 'perceived the drift of the conversation, he would throw in, like a dexterous lancer, some short and nervous remark, so as to 'make the other look no better than a child. Nor in these cities ' is such a manner of speaking confined to the men, but it extends also to the women.' The art of conversing well was much cultivated in Sparta; boys were taught to give ready and pointed answers, and to impart a peculiar sharpness and brilliaucy to their sayings. Their fondness for a condensed and high-pressure style, for the concentrated essence of speech, would find satisfaction in the enigmatical compression of the ode: the productions of Pindar, the master of Dorian lyric poetry, are not poems, but riddles, and such are frequently the choral portions of the Attic tragedy; but the magicians of Greece could extract beauty from any materials, even out of a marvellous obscurity. A general history of the lyric poetry of the Greeks,' says Müller, is the subject at once the most attractive and 'most difficult which remains for the industry of the present 'age.' We shall be happy to discuss this department of Doric literature, when such a historian of the lyric muse shall arise. The original foundations of tragedy, the choral songs which anciently treated only of the passion, or sufferings and exploits of Bacchus, were always written in the Doric dialect.
The learned professor often speaks with evident satisfaction of the extreme seriousness of the Dorians; he acknowledges, however, that we now and then discover a ray of levity or mirth piercing the gravity of their nature. He refutes the notion, that life at Sparta was one unvaried scene of gloominess and melancholy, and maintains that it was diversified, cheerful, and by no means unattractive. Nor will the Doric gravity be objectionable even to the most lively, if they consider it as a solid foundation,