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COLLEGE 
OF THE PACIFIC 




HISTORICAL ESSAYS, 



HISTOKICAL ESSAYS 



EDWARD A. FREEMAN, M.A., HON. D.C.L., 
*\ 

LATE FELLOW OF TRINITY COLLEGE, OXFOKD. 



SECOND SERIES, 



/ will at least hope that these volumes may encourage a spirit of research into 
history, and may in some measure assist in directing it ; that they may con 
tribute to the conviction that history is to be studied as a whole, and according 
to its philosophical divisions, not such as merely geographical and chronological ; 
that the history of Greece and Rome is not an idle inquiry about remote ages and 
forgotten institutions, but a living picture of things present, fitted not so much 
for the curiosity of the scholar, as the instruction of the statesman and the 
citizen. ARNOLD, Preface to Thucydides, vol. iii. 



MACMILLAN AND CO. 

1873. 



OXFORD: 

By T. Combe, M.A., E. B. Gardner. E. Pickard Hall, and J. H. Stacy, 
PEINTERS TO THE UNIVEBSITY. 

/j Of 



SEP 1 1917 



75 3- 

PREFACE. 



THE present collection is that which was spoken of in the 
Preface to the second edition of ray former series of Essays. 
The Essays now reprinted chiefly relate to earlier periods of 
history than those which were dealt with in the former volume 
to the times commonly known as ancient or e classical. 
I need hardly say that to me those names simply mark con 
venient halting-places in the one continuous history of 
European civilization. They mark the time when political 
life was confined to the two great Mediterranean peninsulas, 
and when the Teutonic and Slavonic races had as yet hardly 
shown themselves on the field of history. I should be well 
pleased some day to connect the two series by a third, which 
might deal with the intermediate times, with those times which 
I look on as the true Middle Ages, the times when the 
Roman and Teutonic elements of modern Europe stood side 
by side, and had not yet been worked together into a third 
thing distinct from either. 

In reprinting these Essays, I have followed nearly the same 
course which I followed in the former series. As most of 
them were written before those which appeared in my former 
series, they have, on the whole, needed a greater amount of 
revision, and a greater number of notes to point out the times 
and circumstances under which they w r ere written. In the 
process of revision I have found myself able to do very much 
in the way of improving and simplifying the style. In 
almost every page I have found it easy to put some plain 
English word, about whose meaning there can be no doubt, 
instead of those needless French or Latin words which are 
thought to add dignity to style, but which in truth only add 
vagueness. I am in no way ashamed to find that I can write 
purer and clearer English now than I did fourteen or fifteen 
years back ; and I think it well to mention the fact for the 
encouragement of younger writers. The common temptation 



vi PREFACE. 



of beginners is to write in what they think a more elevated 
fashion. It needs some years of practice before a man fully 
takes in the truth that, for real strength and above all for real 
clearness, there is nothing like the old English speech of our 
fathers. 

All the Essays in this volume, except the first, were written 
as reviews. When the critical part of the article took the 
shape of discussion, whether leading to agreement or to dif 
ference, of the works of real scholars like Bishop Thirlwall, 
Mr. Grote, and Dr. Merivale, I have let it stand pretty much 
as it was first written. But the parts which were given to 
pointing out the mistakes of inferior writers I have for the 
most part struck out. On this principle I had to sacrifice 
nearly the whole of the article headed Herodotus and his 
Commentators, in the National Review for October 1862. 
I have kept only a small part of it as a note to one of 
the other Essays. I have done this, not because there is a 
word in that or in any other article of the kind which I now 
differ from or regret, but because, while the unflinching 
exposure of errors in the passing literature of the day is the 
highest duty of the periodical critic, it is out of place in 
writings which lay any claim to lasting value. I do not think 
I have sinned against my own rule in reprinting my articles 
in the Saturday Review on the German works of Mommsen 
and Curtius. Both are scholars of the highest order, and, as 
such, I trust that I have dealt with them with the respect that 
they deserve. But if, as there seems to be some danger, Curtius 
should displace Grote in the hands of English students, and 
if Mommsen should be looked up to as an infallible oracle, 
as Niebuhr was in my own Oxford days, I believe that the 
result would be full of evil, not only for historical truth, but, 
in the case of Mommsen, for political morality also. 

I have to renew my thanks to the publishers of the Edin 
burgh Review and to the editors and publishers of the other 
periodicals in which the Essays appeared, for the leave kindly 
given to me to reprint them in their present form. 

SOMERLEAZE, WELLS. 

January >jth, 1873. 



CONTENTS. 

PAGE 

ANCIENT GREECE AND MEDIEVAL ITALY (Oxford Essays, 

1857) 1 

Note from i Herodotus and his Commentators 

(National Review, October 1862) .. .. 47 

MR. GLADSTONE S HOMER AND THE HOMERIC AGE 

(National Review, July 1858) . . . . . . 52 

THE HISTORIANS OF ATHENS (National Review, January 

1858) 94 

THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY (North British Review, May 

1856) 107 

Appendix on Curtius History of Greece (Saturday 
Review, July 31, September 19, October 3, 
1868 ; July 10, 1869 ; May 27, July 10, 1871) 148 

ALEXANDER THE GREAT (Edinburgh Review, April 1857) 161 

GREECE DURING THE MACEDONIAN PERIOD (North British 

Review, August 1854) 207 

MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME (National Review, April 

1859) 234 

Appendix from Saturday Review, March 28, 1868 . . 266 
Lucius CORNELIUS SULLA (National Review, January 1862.) 271 
THE FLAVIAN C^SARS (National Review, January 1863) 307 



HISTORICAL ESSAYS. 
I. 

ANCIENT GREECE AND MEDIAEVAL ITALY. 

THE history of the Italian peninsula forms, in many respects, 
the most important and the most fascinating chapter in the 
history of the middle ages. Every part indeed of the his 
tory of those wonderful times has its own special charm ; 
each has its special attraction for minds of a particular 
class. Upon the English statesman or jurist the early annals 
of our own country have a claim above all others. But 
a knowledge of those annals is very imperfect without some 
knowledge both of the kindred nations of Northern Europe 
and of the once kindred and then antagonistic powers of 
Gaul. To minds of another class, who view history with 
philological or antiquarian rather than with political eyes, 
the laws, the languages, the monuments of Scandinavia 
and Northern Germany will be of primary, instead of sub 
sidiary, value. The long struggle between the Christian 
and the Saracen, the early liberties of Aragon and Castile, 
clothe the Iberian peninsula with an interest at once poli 
tical and romantic. Even the obscure annals of the Sla 
vonic nations are not without a charm of their own, and they 
have a most important bearing upon recent events. But to 
the scholar, whose love for historical research has been first 
kindled among the remains of Greek and Roman antiquity, 
no delight will be so great as that of tracing out every relic 
of their influence, every event or institution which can be 
connected with them either by analogy or by direct deriva 
tion. The mere student of words, the mere dreamer over 

B 



2 ANCIENT GREECE [ESSAY 

classic lore, is indeed tempted, to cast aside -the mediaeval and 
modern history both of Greece and Italy as a mere profana 
tion of the ancient. But a more enlarged and practical love 
of antiquity will not so dwell upon the distant past as to 
neglect more recent scenes which are its natural complement 
and commentary. And the scenes which thus attract the 
scholar may challenge also the attention of the political and 
ecclesiastical inquirer. Our knowledge of the political life of 
Rome, of the intellectual life of Greece, of the religious life 
of early Christendom, is imperfect indeed without some 
knowledge of the long annals of the Eastern Empire. 
There we may behold the political immortality of one race, 
the literary immortality of another; there we may learn 
how a language and a religion can reconstruct a nation ; we 
may trace the force and the weakness of a centralized des 
potism, and may marvel at the destiny which chose out such 
a power to be the abiding bulwark of Christianity and civili 
zation. But over the other classic peninsula a higher interest 
lingers. If both Greece and Rome still lived on in the 
mingled being of the Byzantine Empire, they rose again 
to a more brilliant life among the Popes, the Caesars, and the 
Republics of mediaeval Italy. The political power of Rome 
still survived in theory in the hands of German Emperors, 
while in very truth the lordly spirit of the Imperial city 
sprang into new being, and founded a wider empire, under 
the guidance of Italian Pontiffs. And besides this twofold 
life of Rome, the life of Hellas lives once more in the rise 
and fall, the wars and revolutions, of countless independent 
commonwealths. The theatre was less favourable ; the results 
were less splendid ; but the reproduction was as close as such 
a reproduction can ever be, and the text and the commentary 
should never be studied apart. 

To the general English reader the history of medieval 
Italy is commonly very little known. It forms no part of 
the stereotyped educational course for either sex. Few remain 
wholly ignorant of Greece and Rome in the old world, of 



I.] AND MEDIEVAL ITALY. 3 

France and England in the new ; few are altogether with 
out some idea of those later wars and treaties which have 
changed the general face of Europe. But this forms the 
usual boundary of the historical course ; further inquiry is left 
to those who pass their lives in deciphering illegible records 
or in harmonizing discordant chronicles. Most people carry 
in their memories the succession of all the Kings of England 
and of most of the Kings of France, but nobody remembers 
the Doges of Venice any more than the Emperors of Constan 
tinople. And yet a certain aspect of the historic life of Italy 
is familiar to every one. No land has produced more names 
which are familiar to the lips of every man, woman, and child. 
Every one can talk of Dante and Petrarch and Ariosto ; every 
one knows the age of Leo the Tenth/ and most people know 
that his character of Maecenas was one which he inherited 
from his forefathers. It were well for Italian history, as for 
Italy itself, if its reputation of this kind had been somewhat 
less splendid. As the Medici destroyed Italian freedom, so 
their fame has overshadowed the purer fame of Italy. The 
like fate indeed has befallen ancient Greece likewise. Athens 
is, in popular conception, the parent of art and philosophy, far 
more than the parent of civil justice and political freedom. 
Athenian poetry and speculation have overshadowed the glory 
of Athenian democracy; Sophokles and Plato have dimmed the 
brighter fame of Kleisthenes and Perikles. In like manner 
Italy is looked upon so wholly as the land of poetry and art, 
as to obscure its higher character as the land which affords 
greater treasures of political science than any other land save 
Greece itself. And this more popular aspect has tended to 
throw a very false colouring over those parts of political his 
tory which are inseparably connected with the history of art 
and literature. If the earlier times are thought of at all, it is 
because the wars of Guelf and Ghibelin are needed as a key to 
Dante, instead of Dante being needed as a commentary on the 
wars of Guelf and Ghibelin. And in later times, the blaze of 
poetic and artistic splendour makes men forget that the age of 
Italy s apparent glory was in truth that of her real degrada- 

B 2, 



4 ANCIENT GREECE [ESSAY 

tion. Everything is judged by a false standard. It is enough 
for a Pope or a prince to have gathered together the works of 
ancient genius, and to have encouraged those of contemporary 
skill. It is enough if he filled his palace with pictures and 
statues, and surrounded himself with flatterers who could sing 
his praises alike in Latin and in Italian verse. These merits 
will wipe out the overthrow of a dozen free constitutions ; they 
will fully atone for stirring up unjust wars, for public per 
fidy and private licentiousness. Of this mode of treatment 
the writings of Mr. E/oscoe are the foremost example. He 
tells us in his preface that the mere historical events of the 
fifteenth century, so far as they regarded Italy, could not 
deeply interest his countrymen in the eighteenth, but that 
the progress of letters and arts would be attended to with 
pleasure in every country where they were cultivated and 
protected. No rational person will ever undervalue either 
the practice or the history of letters and arts ; but surely 
the progress and decay of political freedom is a subject the 
most interesting of all to every country which professes to 
enjoy and to value the greatest of merely human blessings. 

That few people go deeper into the matter than this, though 
it is to be regretted, is hardly to be wondered at. Italian 
history is highly important ; but it is, of all histories, the 
most difficult to carry in one s head. The details are hope 
less. The brain grows dizzy among the endless wars and 
revolutions of petty tyrants and petty commonwealths ; three 
or four schemes of policy and warfare twine round one another; 
and no such factitious aid is supplied to the memory as is 
afforded by the succession of reigns and dynasties in France 
and England. Can any man living repeat we do not say 
all the Tyrants of Rimini or Faenza, but all the Popes, all 
the Doges, all the Lords, Dukes, and Marquesses of Milan 
and Ferrara? It would need a faculty savouring as much 
of Jedediah Buxton as of Niebuhr, to say without book how 
many times Genoa became subject to Milan and how many 
times to France ; how often the Adorni drove out the Fregosi, 
and how many times the Fregosi did the like by the Adorni. 



I] AND MEDIEVAL ITALY. 5 

As long as the Western Emperors still kept any real sovereignty 
in Italy, the chronology of their reigns afford something like 
a clue ; but, alas, it guides us only a very little way, and it fails 
us just when a clue becomes most needful. We are driven to 
aid our recollection by arbitrary synchronisms. The death of 
Manfred, the birth of Dante, and the death of Simon of 
Montfort ; the establishment of Mahomet at Constantinople 
and the establishment of Francesco Sforza at Milan; the 
Castilian conquest of Granada and the invasion of Italy by 
Charles the Eighth; all these are sets of events which 
respectively come within two or three years of each other. 
But one date beams across our path like a solitary guiding 
star; the year 1378 claims the everlasting gratitude of the 
baffled chronologer; it must have been some gracious decree 
of destiny for his especial benefit, which procured that a single 
revolution of the seasons should witness the beginning of the 
War of Chioggia, of the Sedition of the Ciompi, and of the 
Great Schism of the West. 

It is then nothing very astonishing if a history which the 
professed student cannot undertake always to keep in his 
memory, should seem to the ordinary reader to be one which 
he may pass by altogether. It is a fact that there are those 
whom an identity of name and numeral has misled into the 
belief that the prince who stood barefoot at the gates of 
Canosa was one and the same with the prince whose white 
plume served as oriflamme upon the field of Ivry. Pity not 
to have carried out the process to its full extent, and to have 
landed the triple- bodied Geryon by the headland of Raven- 
spur and guided him in safety through the fight of Shrewsbury. 
We once saw, in a popular description of Milan Cathedral, an 
expression of wonder that so vast a work should have been 
undertaken by the petty lord of that and a few other neigh 
bouring towns. If these are fair samples of the average 
Englishman s belief as to Italian chronology and Italian 
politics, it is really high time for that belief to be very largely 
set right. To confound Henry of Franconia and Henry of 
Navarre is sheer ignorance, possibly of the invincible class. 



6 ANCIENT GREECE [ESSAY 

To have heard of Gian-Galeazzo Visconti, and to mistake him 
for a petty lord/ is really the greater sin of the two. Such 
an error could only arise either from a profound reverence for 
a mere title, or else from an incapacity to look beyond the 
extent which a country occupies on the map. The Lord of 
Milan was not a King- ; till he received the ducal coronet he 
did not belong to any class of acknowledged sovereigns ; his 
territory was far smaller than that of France or England or 
Castile. But in wealth, in population, in every element of 
material prosperity, this petty territory surpassed every 
land beyond the Alps, and its rulers directed its resources 
with a far more absolute command than princes of higher 
dignity held over their wider domains. Gibbon remarks that, 
when John Palaiologos came to Ferrara, the Roman Emperor 
of the East found in the Marquess of that city a sovereign 
more powerful than himself. In like manner the petty lord 
of Milan was in very truth a prince of greater weight in 
European politics than the Bohemian Caesar of whom, for an 
empty title, he stooped to profess himself the vassal. 

The fact is that many of the particular facts of Italian 
history, as they are extremely hard to remember, are really 
by no means worth remembering. The particular event, 
looked at by itself, touched perhaps the interests only of an 
inconsiderable district, and it had no great direct influence 
over the particular events which followed it. The same 
stages repeat themselves over again in the history of a 
hundred cities ; every town gradually wins and as gradually 
loses its liberties; in each the demagogue stealthily grows 
into the chief of the commonwealth; in each the chief 
of the commonwealth stealthily or forcibly grows into the 
Tyrant; in many the Tyrant or his successor wins an 
outward legitimacy for the wrong by some ceremony which 
admits him into the favoured order of acknowledged sove 
reigns. The general outline of events in a few of the greater 
states should of course be carefully remembered ; but, beyond 
this, little can be attempted, except the general picture which 
the details serve to produce, and the deep political lessons 



L] AND MEDIEVAL ITALY. 7 

which ought to be drawn from its contemplation. We read 
the details, and we are content to forget them ; but we keep 
in our memories the great characteristics of one of the most 
stirring times of man s being. We learn that the powers of 
the human heart and intellect are not dwarfed or cramped by 
confinement to a seemingly narrow field of action. We learn 
that the citizen of the pettiest commonwealth is a being of a 
higher nature than the slave of the mightiest despotism. We 
learn that man, under the same ^circumstances, is essentially 
the same in the most distant times and countries. The small 
commonwealths of Italy could not help playing over again a 
part essentially the same as that which the small common 
wealths of Greece had played so many ages earlier. 

Rightly to treat a history of this kind is indeed a hard, if a 
noble, task, and it calls for an historical genius of the highest 
order. It is no small matter to group and harmonize together 
the contemporary stories of endless states all full of life and 
energy ; at once to avoid wearying the reader with needless 
detail, and to avoid confounding him between five or six 
parallel streams of narrative. The task has been accomplished 
in a manner perhaps as nearly approaching perfection as 
human nature allows in the immortal work of Sismondi. If 
even in his pages weariness sometimes creeps over us as we 
follow the endless series of wars and revolutions, it is soon 
forgotten in the eloquence with which he adorns the more 
striking portions of the narrative, and in the depth and clear 
ness with which he draws forth the general teaching of the 
whole. If he fails in anything, it is in his arrangement of the 
parallel narratives. Italy often witnessed at the same moment 
a war of aggrandizement in Lombardy and a domestic revo 
lution at Genoa or Florence. Rival Popes were troubling the 
Christian world with bulls and counter-bulls, with Councils 
and counter-Councils. Rival Kings meanwhile were wasting 
the fields of Campania and Apulia in quarrels wholly per 
sonal and dynastic. In reading the history of such times, 
we sometimes find that Sismondi hurries us rather too 
suddenly from place to place, and joins on one unfinished 



8 ANCIENT GREECE [ESSAY 

narrative to another. He had not quite mastered that wonder 
ful power by which Gibbon contrived to avoid confusion in 
describing- the various contemporary events of a wider, though 
hardly a busier scene. As for graver charges against him, 
that Sismondi is a party writer may be freely confessed. But 
what historian who understands the time of which he writes 
can fail to be so ? Sismondi draws republics in their best 
colours; Roscoe does the same by Popes and princes. The 
reader must make his option, and decide as he best may be 
tween the two contending advocates.* 

The point of view which gives to mediaeval Italy its 
highest importance in the general history of mankind is one 
on which Sismondi himself has only partially entered. This 
is the point of view which takes in in a single glance the 
history of medieval Italy, and of ancient Greece. The really 
profitable task is to compare together the two periods in which 
the highest civilization of the age was confined to a cluster of 
commonwealths, small in point of territory, but rising, in all 
political and social enlightenment, far above the greatest con 
temporary empires. The two periods can never be understood 
unless they are studied in this way, side by side. Thucydides 
and Villani, Sismondi and Grote, should always lie open at 
the same moment. And close as is the analogy between the 
two periods, yet a subject of study perhaps still more profitable 
is afforded by the points of contrast which they suggest. 

It may be well to pause at starting, in order to deal with 
an objection which may be brought against this whole treat 
ment of the subject. Many students of history have a 
general dislike to any system of historical analogies. Nor can 

* [I have struck out a paragraph of criticism on some modern English books 
of no great importance, but I have left what I said of Sismondi, as it records 
my impression of his work in itself, before I had read much of the original 
authorities of any part of his history. Since then I have, as I hope I have 
shown in my former volume of Essays, given some attention to the original 
sources of at least some parts of Italian history. But I have not since then 
read Sismondi through ; I am therefore hardly able to say how far the com 
parison of his work with his authorities would either confirm or modify what 
I have said of him.] 



I.] AND MEDIEVAL ITALY. 9 

the dislike be called wholly unreasonable, when we think of 
the extravagant and unphilosophical way in which such ana 
logies have sometimes been applied. It is certain that no age 
can exactly reproduce any age which has gone before it, if 
only because that age has gone before it. The one is the first 
of its class, the other the second ; the one is an original, the 
other is at least a repetition, if not a direct copy. And besides 
this, no two nations ever found themselves in exactly the same 
circumstances. Distance of space will modify the likeness be 
tween two societies,, otherwise analogous, which are in being 
at the same time. Distance of time will bring in points of 
unlikeness between parallels which repeat themselves even on 
the same ground. In fact, in following out an analogy, it is 
often the points of unlikeness on which we are most tempted 
to dwell. But this is in very truth the most powerful of 
witnesses to their general likeness. We do not stop to think 
of differences in detail, unless the general picture presents 
a likeness which is broad and unmistakeable. We may reckon 
up the points of contrast between ancient Greece and medi 
aeval Italy; but we never stop to count in how many ways 
a citizen of Athens differed from a subject of the Great King, 
or what are the points of unlikeness between the constitution 
of the United States from that of the Empire of all the 
B/ussias. 

On the other hand, analogies which really exist are often 
passed by, merely because they lie beneath the surface. The 
essential likeness between two states of things is often dis 
guised by some purely external difference. Thus, at first 
sight no difference can seem greater than that which we see 
between our present artificial state of society and politics and 
the primitive institutions of our forefathers before the Norman 
Conquest. Yet our position and sentiments are, in many 
important respects, less widely removed from that ruder time 
than from intermediate ages whose outward garb hardly differs 
from our own. In many cases, the old Teutonic institutions 
have come up again, silently and doubtlessly unwittingly, under 
new names, and under forms modified by altered circumstances. 



10 ANCIENT GREECE [ESSAY 

Thus the Folcland of early times, the common estate of the 
nation, was, as the royal power increased, gradually turned 
into the Terra Regis, the personal estate of the sovereign. 
Now that the Crown lands are applied to the public service 
under the control of the House of Commons, what is it but a 
return to the old institution of Folcland in a shape fitted to 
the ideas of modern times ?* Again, the remark has been 
made that there can be no real likeness between ancient 
Athens and modern England, because the press, confessedly 
so important an engine among ourselves, had no being in 
the commonwealth of Perikles. The difference here is ob 
vious at first sight ; it is moreover the sign of a more real 
and more important difference ; but neither of them is enough 
to destroy the essential analogy. The real difference is, not 
that the Athenians had no printing, but the far more im 
portant difference that they had very little writing. Now 
this is simply the difference which cannot fail to exist be 
tween the citizen of a southern state confined to a single city, 
and the citizen of an extensive kingdom in a northern 
climate. The one passed his life in the open air ; the 
other is driven by physical necessity to the fireside either of 
his home or his club. The one could be personally present 
and personally active in the deliberations of the common 
wealth ; the other needs some artificial means to make up for 
his unavoidable absence from the actual scene of debate. 
The one, in short, belonged to a seeing and hearing, the other 
belongs to a reading public ; the one heard Perikles, Nikias, 
or Kleon with his own ears, the other listens to his Cobden, 
his Disraeli, or his Palmerston only through the agency 
of paper and printer s ink. The difference between read 
ing in print and reading in manuscript is a wide one ; 
the difference between reading in manuscript and not read 
ing at all is wider still : but the widest difference of all 
lies between free discussion in any shape and the absence 

* [This subject, with one or two kindred ones, has been worked out more 
fully in the third chapter of my Growth of the English Constitution. See 
pp. 132-134-] 



L] AND MEDIEVAL ITALY. 11 

of free discussion. The narrow strait between Athens and 
England sinks into nothing beside the impassable gulf 
which fences off both from Sparta or Venice or * imperial 
France. Where there is free discussion of every subject 
of public interest, where no man is afraid to speak his 
mind on the most important affairs of the common wealth, 
it matters comparatively little whether the intercourse be 
tween citizen and citizen is carried on with their own tongues 
or through the medium of type and paper. Thoughts pent 
up under the bondage of a despotism or an oligarchy 
would gladly catch at either means of expression, without 
being over-nice as to the comparative merits of the two 
methods. 

In the case both of ancient Greece and of mediaeval Italy, 
the nation which, at that particular period, stood far above 
all others in every material and intellectual advantage is 
found incapable or careless of a combined national govern 
ment : each is split up into endless states, many of them of 
the smallest possible size. This system of separate town- 
autonomy* is indeed by no means peculiar to old Greece or 
to medieval Italy. These two lands are merely those which 
supplied its most perfect examples, those which showed it 
forth on the greatest scale, and adorned it with the richest 
accompaniments of art, literature, and general cultivation. The 
separate city-community, as Mr. Grote has shown, was the 
earliest form of organized freedom. It is the simplest and the 
most obvious form. To unite a large territory into a federal 
commonwealth or a constitutional monarchy implies a much 
higher and later stage of political progress. Or it might be 
more accurate to say that it needs such a higher and later 
stage to show that those forms of government are really 
capable of combining freedom and order. For, in old Greece 
and the neighbouring states, it was precisely the most ad 
vanced states which clung most fondly to their separate 
town-autonomy. It is only among the less advanced and 
half-barbaric portions of the race that we find the rude germs 



12 ANCIENT GREECE [ESSAY 

of the other two forms of freedom. Aitolia, Phokis,* and 
other backward portions of the Hellenic race, had something 
like federal commonwealths. The half-barbarian states of 
Macedonia and Molossis had something like constitutional 
monarchies. Yet no one would think of setting their 
governments on a level with the democracy of Athens, or 
even with such moderate oligarchies as Corinth, Chios, or 
Khodes. In the same way, in primeval Italy, the principle of 
town-autonomy was greatly modified in the Latin, Etruscan, 
and Samnite federations. The one Italian city which always 
clave to its distinct autonomy was the one which rose to the 
empire of Italy and the world. In mediaeval Switzerland 
again there arose a freedom purer, if less brilliant, than that 
of mediaeval Italy ; but there town-autonomy was still more 
largely modified. It was modified by the relation, lax as it was, 
of the federal tie, and by the existence of rural democracies 
alongside of the urban commonwealths. And, during the best 
days of the League, it was further modified by an acknow 
ledgement of the power of the Emperors far more full than 
they ever could win in Italy. In other parts of Germany, 
free cities flourished indeed ; but they were mere exceptions 
to princely rule ; they were closely connected with the chief 
of the Empire ; they rejoiced in the title of free Imperial 
city/ which, in the ears of a Greek, would have sounded like 
a contradiction in terms. In France the cities maintained, 
for a while, their internal republican constitutions ; in Spain 
they were even invested with supremacy over considerable 
surrounding dictricts ; but, in both cases, they fell before a 
kingly power stronger and more encroaching than that of 
the German Emperors. England had mere municipalities; 
the greater strength of the central power, the more general 
diffusion of political rights, neither allowed nor needed the 
formation of even tributary republics. But, had the monarchy 
founded by the Conqueror possessed no greater inherent 



* I do not mention Boeotia, because the hardly disguised sovereignty of 
Thebes hinders it from being regarded as a truly federal state. 



L] AND MEDIAEVAL ITALY. 13 

vigour than the monarchy founded by Charles the Great, it is 
easy to conceive that London, York, and Bristol might have 
imitated, though they would hardly have rivalled, the career of 
Florence, Bern, and Nurnberg.*" 

It may perhaps be worth noting that freedom, and freedom 
too in this particular form of town-autonomy, has never been 
left without a witness upon earth. Hellenic freedom was far 
from utterly wiped out, either at the fight of Chaironeia or 
at the sack of Corinth. The commonwealths of Rhodes and 
Byzantion, the wise confederacy of Lykia, kept at least an 
internal independence till Rome was becoming an acknow 
ledged monarchy. And even then, one shoot of the old tree con 
tinued to nourish on a distant soil. Far away, on the northern 
shores of the Inhospitable Sea, for a thousand years after 
Sparta and Athens had sunk in bondage, did the Hellenic 
city of Cherson remain, the only state in the world where 
freedom and civilization were not divorced. In close con 
nexion with the lords of Rome and Constantinople, the old 
Megarian colony still retained a freedom far more than 
municipal ; its relation might be that of a dependent ally, 
but it was still alliance and not subjection. How many of 
the warriors and the tourists, how many of the ephemeral 
writers of the day, who have compassed the fortress of Sebas- 
topol, so much as knew that they were treading on the ruins 
of the last of the Greek republics. Such was Cherson up to 
the ninth century ; still free, still Greek, ruled by Hellenic 
Presidents, who slew Barbarian Kings in single combat. In 
the ninth century, under the Byzantine Theophilos, she ceased 
to be free; in the tenth, under the Russian Vladimir, she 
well nigh ceased to be Hellenic. But, by that time, freedom 
had begun to show itself once more in the western world. 
Free commercial commonwealths again arose on the Hadriatic 
and on the Tyrrhenian Sea. Venice, Naples, Gaeta, and Amalfi 
might, as vassals or slaves-^ of the Byzantine Ca3sar, withstand 

* [See History of the Norman Conquest, iv. 208.] 

+ Tifteis 8ov\ot QeXopev elvai rov Poafjaiojv @aai\cajs See Gibbon, cap. Ix. 

note 37. 



14 ANCIENT GREECE [ESSAY 

the claims of his Teutonic rival : but, in truth, they flourished 
in possession of a freedom with which neither Empire inter 
fered. Venice, in later years, may be deemed to have more in 
common with despotic than with republican states ; but the 
Campanian republics handed on the torch of freedom to those 
of Lombardy ; Milan and Alessandria handed it on to Florence 
and Sienna, to Zurich, Bern,, and Geneva. Uri, Schwyz, and 
Unterwalden, the most thrilling names of all, needed neither 
precept nor example to guide them to a democracy more 
perfect than the world had seen since Antipatros entered 
Athens. But the freedom of the mountains is distinct from 
the freedom of the cities ; the old uncontaminated Switzer was 
not an Athenian or a Florentine, but an Aitolian who had 
unlearned, or had never fallen into, the turbulence and bri 
gandage of his race. 

The results of this system of town-autonomy seem strange 
to us in these days of wide-spread empires. We are tempted 
to mock at political history on so small a scale ; we are tempted 
to despise the revolutions of independent commonwealths less 
populous than many an English borough. Both in Greece 
and in Italy, towns which, in most lands, would have merely 
swelled the private estate of some neighbouring lord took 
to themselves every attribute of sovereignty, and, in their 
external relations and their internal revolutions, they exhibited 
greater political activity than the mightiest contemporary 
kingdoms. Each city has its own national being, around 
which every feeling of patriotism gathers ; each calls its 
citizens under its banner, to harry the fields and homestead^ 
of its neighbour, or to defend its own from the like harm. 
Each has its own internal political life ; each is rent by its 
own factions ; each witnesses the alternate sway of democracy 
and oligarchy, or beholds both fall beneath the rod of some 
foreign or domestic tyrant. Greece and Italy alike set before 
us a scene of endless war of war of a kind at once more 
terrible and more ennobling than the political contests of 
later times. In the wars of a great monarchy the subject 
has no voice on the question of war and peace ; he has often 



I.] AND MEDIEVAL ITALY. 15 

but a faint knowledge indeed of the reasons why a war is 
either begun or ended. Except in the case of invasion, war, 
to all but a professional class, means simply increase of 
taxation and the occasional loss of a friend or kinsman. 
Even when a country is invaded, it can only be a very small 
part of a great kingdom on which the scourge directly 
lights. Very different was the warfare of the old Greek and 
Italian commonwealths. Every citizen had a voice in the 
debate and a hand in the struggle. Each was ready personally 
to inflict, and personally to suffer, all the hardships of war. 
Each man might fairly look forward, some time in his life, 
to witness the pillage of his crops and the burning of his 
house, even if he and his escaped the harder doom of 
massacre, violation, or slavery. In Greece and Italy alike 
war went through two stages. In the first, it was carried 
on by a citizen militia, of whom every man had a personal 
interest in the strife. In the second, the duty of doing or 
warding off injury was entrusted to hireling banditti, heed 
less in what cause their lances were levelled. In Greece 
and Italy alike, the internal history of each city shows us a 
picture of every stage of political progress; each grows 
and decays with a swiftness to which larger states hardly 
ever afford a parallel. In each case we see that these 
little communities could cherish a warmth of patriotism, an 
intensity of political life, beyond example in the records of 
extensive kingdoms. A large well-governed state secures the 
blessings of order and tranquillity to a greater number ; but 
it does so at the expense of condemning a large proportion 
even of its citizens to practical nonentity. Citizenship is less 
valued, and it is therefore more freely conferred. But in the 
single city, each full citizen has his intellectual and political 
faculties nourished and sharpened to the highest pitch. 
Athens and Florence could reckon a soldier, a statesman, or 
a diplomatist, in every head of a free household. Citizenship 
then was a personal right and a personal privilege ; it was 
a possession far too dearly valued to be granted at random to 
the mob of slaves or foreigners. In such a state of things, 



16 ANCIENT GREECE [ESSAY 

patriotism was not a sober conviction or a grave matter of 
duty ; it was the blind and fervent devotion of a child to his 
parent, or rather of a lover to his mistress. To the Athenian 
or the Florentine his country was not a mere machine for 
defending life and property; it was a living thing, whose 
thoughts worked in his own brain, whose passions beat in 
his heart, whose deeds were done by his hands. Such 
a patriotism might be narrow, ill-regulated,* inconsistent 
with still better and loftier feelings; but it worked up the 
individual citizen to the highest pitch. Strange to say, it 
spread itself even among classes wholly cut off from political 
rights. Viva San Marco, was as stirring a cry to the Venetian 
citizen, and even to the Lombard peasant, as to the foremost 
of the Zenos and the Morosini. When republican France 
stained herself with the greatest of recorded crimes, the 
German subject of Bern fought well nigh as zealously for 
his patrician master f as the freeman of Unterwalden fought 
for a democracy more full and true than that preached by the 
apostles of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. 

But both Greece and Italy teach us that the political life 
of these small states, more intense, more vigorous, more 
glorious, while it lasts, either runs its course in a shorter 
time, or else sinks into more utter decay than that of states 
of greater extent. Three centuries, at the utmost, measure 
the political life of Athens and of Florence. At the end 
of that term Florence fell gloriously before irresistible 
enemies ; Athens lingered on in far deeper degradation under 
Macedonian and Roman lordship. But a great nation, still 
more a great empire which is not a nation, may survive 



* ( Es war in unsern Vatern, zur Zeit als die ersten biirgerlichen Gesetze 
sie zahmten, kein Begriff noch Gefiihl von allgemeinen Eechten der Mensch- 
heit ; bei ihnen war Summe der Moral, dass die Burger gut und herzhaft 
seven fur ihre Stadte, die Ritter fur ihren Stand und Fiirsten. J. von 
Miiller, Gesch. der Schweiz, b. i. c. 16, 7. 

t For an instance of similar feelings extending themselves to soldiers, at 
least, belonging to subject races much worse off than the Italian and German 
subjects of Venice and Bern, see the famous speech of Brasidas in Thucydides, 
iv. 126, and Mr. Grote a comment, vol. vi. p. 610. 



L] AND MEDIEVAL ITALY. 17 

and flourish, age after age, by its mere power of silently 
recruiting the national life by new blood. This process can 
hardly take place, hardly at least without open revolution, in 
any community which, whether it be oligarchic or democratic, 
is grounded on the exclusive hereditary freedom of a single 
city. It may be the blood of conquerors, of subjects, or of 
refugees ; the foreign element may either be silently assimi 
lated or it may become openly dominant : in either case the 
nation is born anew. Rome was, in her origin, a single 
city ; but she grew from a city into a nation, from a nation 
into an Empire, by granting her citizenship more freely than 
any other city on record. She grew up by the side of 
Greece, she conquered her, and, to all appearance, she out 
lived her. And yet, by the working of the same law, 
Greece outlived Rome. The blood, and- even the language, 
of Rome died out; but her political being went on without 
a break in a Grecian city. The combined work of Greece 
and Rome, strengthened by a hundred rills of energetic 
barbarian blood from various quarters, survived every con 
temporary state in political duration, and still survives, as 
a vigorous and progressive nation, to our own times. So too 
with our own nation, one which, like the Greek, draws at once 
its name and its true being from one dominant stock, but 
which has been strengthened by the influx of successive waves 
of subjects, conquerors, and exiles. The germ of English 
freedom had begun to blossom centuries before the forma 
tion of the Lombard League ; it did not put forth its full 
fruit till long after Italy was given up to the domination of 
French and Austrian and Spanish masters. Both Greece and 
Italy teach us the same lesson, that a nation divided into small 
states can, under ordinary circumstances, keep its independ 
ence only so long as its political world is confined to its own 
limits. When greater powers come vigorously and perma 
nently on the scene, it must either fall altogether, or at most 
it may be allowed to drag on a degraded and precarious ex 
istence, if such a boon chance to fall in with schemes dictated 
Jby the mutual jealousies of the rival powers around it. 

c 



18 ANCIENT GREECE [ESSAY 

Besides this more general analogy, the history of Greece 
and Italy presents a fair parallel in the different periods into 
which it may, in each case, most naturally be divided. The 
most brilliant period in each is a time of strife indeed, of war 
and bloodshed and revolution ; but it is still a time of lofty 
principles and feelings, in which even strife and confusion 
seem to go on according to a certain fixed law. Next comes 
a time when the national strength and virtue are fearfully 
impaired, and when no fixed principles can be traced out in 
the dealings of one state with another. But still the national 
independence lives on ; it is still a strife of Greek against 
Greek, of Italian against Italian. At last we reach the lowest 
stage of overthrow and of degradation. Greece and Italy 
become the battlefields of contending strangers, the theatre of 
conflicts in which no patriotic native has any interest save 
simply to deliver his country from the presence of all the 
combatants alike. The analogy between these several periods 
in each country must not be pressed too far ; it cannot be 
pressed nearly so far as the general analogy between the two 
political systems. A striking likeness however there really 
is, which it will be worth our while to trace out a little more 
in detail. 

To the old struggle between Athens and Sparta there 
attaches that special kind of interest which belongs to a strife 
in which our sympathies cannot be exclusively claimed by 
either party. Among all the horrors of a wasting warfare 
and the still more fearful horrors of internal discord, notwith 
standing Melian and Plataian massacres, Korkyraian seditions 
and Argeian skytalisms, there is still an ennobling spirit which 
reigns over the whole, to redeem the scene of perfidy and 
slaughter. We see that the conflict was inevitable, and that it 
was not wholly selfish on either side ; it was not a struggle for 
private aggrandizement, but for political superiority ; it was a 
war of contending races and contending principles ; either side 
could afford scope, not only for military and political skill, 
but for the purest virtue and the most heroic self-devotion. 
The war is not waged by foreign hirelings careless as to 



I.] AND MEDIEVAL ITALY. 19 

the cause in which they fought ; it is not even entrusted to a 
professional class in the contending cities. The man whose 
head devises the political scheme is the man who carries out in 
his own person the military operations which are needed for it. 
The orator who proposes an enterprise is himself the general 
who executes it ; the citizens who applaud his proposal are the 
soldiers who march under his command. No feeling of deadly 
hatred is to be seen between the two great opposing powers. 
Athens was stirred to far less bitterness by the political rivalry 
of Sparta than by her pettier contests with her neighbours 
of Megaris and Bceotia. Sparta too, in the full swing of her 
power, with all Greece crouching before her harmosts and her 
dekarchies, with the might of the Great King himself ready 
at her call, could yet cast aside with scorn the suggestion to 
carry vengeance beyond the bounds of political necessity. It 
might suit the border hatred of Thebes to make a sheep-walk 
of a dangerous neighbour-city ; but Sparta knew her own 
greatness too well to deprive herself of her yokefellow and to 
put out one of the eyes of Greece. 

The parallel to this period is to be found in those heroic 
days of mediseval Italy when the names of Guelf and Ghibelin 
were no unmeaning badges of hereditary feud, but were the 
true and speaking watchwords of the highest principles that 
can stir the breast of man.* It was indeed a strife of giants, 

* It may perhaps be thought that a truer parallel to the struggle of the 
Lombard cities against the Swabian Emperors is to be found in the struggle 
of the Hellenic cities against the Persian Kings. It is easy to answer that 
the war of Guelf and Ghibelin was not mere resistance to foreign invasion ; 
that it was an internal conflict in Italy itself; that, though the Imperial claims 
were backed by German armies, yet many Italian cities enrolled themselves with 
no less zeal under the Imperial banners. The rejoinder is no less easy, namely, 
that the Persian War may also be called an internal struggle in Greece itself, 
because many Greek cities enrolled themselves under the banners of Xerxes. 
But it is impossible to look on an acknowledged Emperor of the Romans, 
even of Teutonic blood, as so wholly external to Italy as the King of the 
Medes and Persians was to Hellas. It is impossible to look on the Ghibelins 
of Italy as such mere traitors as the medizing Greeks. The fact is that, as 
none of these parallels can be perfectly exact, the first struggle against 
Frederick Barbarossa has many points in common with the Persian War ; 
while the second conflict with his grandson forms the best analogy to the 

C 2 



20 ANCIENT GREECE [ESSAY 

when the crozier of the Pontiff and the sceptre of the Csesar 
met in deadly conflict. The vigorous youth of the Teutonic 
race had decked itself in the Imperial garb of elder days, and 
appealed to the proudest associations, both of the old and of 
the new state of things. And a yet truer heir of that ancient 
sway sat as the homeborn guardian of Rome and Italy, the 
successor of the Fisherman, the maker and the deposer of 
Kings and Emperors. One disputant called on the political 
loyalty of either race alike. The Roman Csesar demanded the 
humble duty of the subject, laid down for ever in Rome s 
imperishable Law. The King of Italy appealed to a truer 
and loftier fidelity, to those sacred engagements which riveted 
the personal bond of suzerain and vassal. His rival called 
on the mysterious powers of an unseen world ; his empire 
acknowledged no earthly boundaries, as his authority rested 
on no human grant. He stood forth as the vicegerent of his 
Creator, to bind and to loose, to build up and to pluck down ; 
his ban could sweep either crown from the brow of his rival, 
and could release alike from the obligations of Roman slavery 
and of Teutonic freedom. All things to all men, the Pontiffs 
of those days knew when to bless the swords of conquerors 
and when to hallow the aspirations of insurgents. And now 
beneath the shadow of their lofty claims grew up that germ 
of freedom which the deep policy of Rome knew alike when 
to cherish and when to stifle in the bud. Hildebrand pitted 
against Henry, Alexander against Barbarossa, Innocent 
against the second Frederick, was indeed a strife which no 
man could stand by and not draw his sword either for the 
throne of Csesar or the chair of Peter. Each cause had in it 



Peloponnesian War. Frederick the Second could hardly be deemed a foreigner 
in Italy ; the enmity which he awakened was political and religious, hardly at 
all strictly national. But the Guelf and Ghibelin contest, so long as those 
names retained any real meaning, can hardly be looked on as other than a 
single whole, and that whole certainly bears more analogy to the Pelopon 
nesian War than to anything else in Grecian history. 

[I have since spoken more fully of the characteristics of this period of 
Italian history, in the Essay headed Frederick the First, King of Italy in 
my former series of Essays.] 



I] AND MEDIEVAL ITALY. 21 

an element of truth, and righteousness. One side might boast 
that it maintained the lawful rights of civil government at 
once against priestly despotism and against political licentious 
ness. Twofold might be the answer of his rival. The priestly 
despot did but -assert the claims of man s spiritual element 
against the brute force which had usurped the name of 
government. The political rebel did but maintain the cause 
of municipal and national freedom against the arbitrary exac 
tions of feudal lords and alien Emperors. A warfare like this 
could not fail to call forth on either side man s highest and 
noblest feelings ; each cause was supported from the purest 
enthusiasm and the most unselfish principles of duty. Who 
can doubt but that the loyalty of Pisa and Pavia to the 
Imperial cause was as true and ennobling a feeling as any 
that roused their foes for the Holy Church and the liberties 
of Milan ? And the chiefs on either side alike displayed the 
surest proof of true nobility ; they were greatest in the hour 
of adversity. Never was the spirit of Hildebrand or of Alex 
ander more unbroken than when they marched forth to exile ; 
never were their claims more lofty than when all the powers 
of earth seemed arrayed against them. Henry indeed was 
unworthy of his cause ; but the spirit of Innocent himself was 
not more truly lordly than that of the Csesars of Hohenstaufen. 
Frederick the Second, deposed and excommunicated, branded 
as a tyrant and a heretic, brought forth the diadems of all 
his realms, and dared the world to touch the heirlooms of 
Augustus and of Charles the Great. But he had his vices 
and his weaknesses. The meteoric splendours of his course 
must pale before the steady and enduring glory of his illus 
trious grandfather. Few characters in history can awaken a 
warmer feeling of sympathy than the indomitable Barbarossa. 
He might be hard, while opposition lasted, to an extent which 
our age justly brands as cruelty ; yet his untiring devotion 
to claims which he deemed founded on eternal right, his re 
solution while the struggle lasted, his faithfulness"* to his 

* A single breach of faith is all that has ever been alleged against Frederick 
during the whole of this long struggle. (See Sismondi, ii. 211, 272.) In the 



22 ANCIENT GREECE [ESSAY 

engagements even in the hour of triumph, are qualities only 
less honourable than the prudence and generosity with which, 
when the day had finally turned against him, he accepted a 
destiny which he could no longer withstand, with which he 
threw himself honestly into altered circumstances, and dwelled 
as an ally where he was no longer accepted as a master. Yet 
who can fail to do equal honour to the no less noble spirits 
who won the victory against him? Cold indeed must be 
the heart which could refuse to beat in concert with that burst 
of zeal for Church and freedom which scattered the chivalry of 
Swabia before the charge of the Company of Death,* and 
drove the Emperor of the Romans, the King of Germany and 
Italy, to seek safety in ignominious flight before the armed 
burghers of a rebellious city. 

In one part of the field indeed the scene puts on another 
character. Sicilian history hardly forms part of the history of 
Italy, though it is closely connected with it. This is true even 
of the continental, and much more so of the insular kingdom. 
Neither presents the ordinary phenomena of Italian history. 
Neither formed part of the Western Empire or of the Kingdom 
of Italy. While Henry the Third held a nearly absolute sway 
over his German and Italian realms, the greater part of the 
modern Neapolitan kingdom still obeyed the throne of Con 
stantinople, and the island of Sicily was still numbered among 
the possessions of the Arabian Prophet. The earliest Italian 
commonwealths, Naples, Gaeta, and Amalfi, arose indeed in 
what afterwards became Sicilian territory ; there was even, 
after the death of Frederick the Second, a short republican 
period in Sicily itself; but neither country developed any 
lasting system of commonwealths, like those of Lombardy 
and Tuscany. Their position is rather analogous to that of 
those great fiefs at the other end of Italy which have grown 

age of Henry the Second and Philip Augustus, this is really no slight praise 
for a prince whose good faith was so often and so severely tried. 

[My reference here was to Frederick s breach of faith at the siege of 
Alessandria, of which I have said something in my former series, p. 276.] 

* At the battle of Legnano, A.D. 1176. (See Sismondi, ii. 219, 221.) 



I.] AND MEDIEVAL ITALY. 23 

up into the modern kingdom of Sardinia.* Both have much 
more in common with the feudal states in other parts of 
Europe than with other Italian governments, whether repub 
lican or tyrannical. During the whole period with which we 
are concerned, both the Sicilies possessed hereditary monarchs 
and a feudal nobility. They were indeed torn by civil wars 
and revolutions, but the object of the struggle was always to 
put one King in the room of another, not to put freedom in 
the room of both. 

Still it could hardly fail that the divisions and revolutions 
of Sicily should, as it were, group themselves under the 
two great parties which divided the rest of Italy. Their 
history shows us a peculiar and instructive modification of the 
controversy between Guelf and Ghibelin. It took the form 
which was naturally impressed upon it by the monarchic tra 
ditions of the country. What was in northern Italy a strife 
of principles became in the south a mere struggle between 
nations and dynasties between the house of Hohenstaufen 
and the house of Anjou in the end between the power of Spain 
and the power of France. The strife which began between 
Manfred of Swabia and Charles of Anjou is carried on at 
intervals down to the days of Francis of Valois and Charles of 
Austria. The claims of the old Imperial family pass away 
into the line of Aragon, till the remote descendant of that line 
is again enabled to back them with the majesty of the Roman 
Empire and with the more real might of Burgundy and Cas 
tile. In the earlier stages of the conflict it differs from the 
form which it took in Northern Italy,, inasmuch as one side 
alone can enlist our sympathies. We may be balanced in our 
regard between Hildebrand and Henry, between Alexander 
and Frederick, but every heart must beat for Manfred and 
Conradin and Frederick of Aragon against the foreign tyrants 
and hireling Pontiffs with whom they struggled. Yet small 
indeed was the lasting good which arose even from the 
righteous and heroic conflict which delivered insular Sicily 

* [This was written, it must be remembered, before Piedmont had grown 
into Italy, even before it had recovered Milan.] 



24 ANCIENT GREECE [ESSAY 

from her foreign masters. Sicily cast off the yoke, but it 
was only by the fatal help of the stranger. The vesper-bell 
of Palermo rang the knell of French domination, but it 
summoned the more lasting oppressor of Aragon to take pos 
session of the spoil. One wise and valiant ruler did Sicily gain 
from the foreign stock: the noble Frederick threw himself 
honestly into her interests, and ruled her as her native sove 
reign. But his line died out in a succession of faineants, and 
their foreign kinsman presently grasped the opportunity of 
joining the island to his ancestral kingdom. Naples and 
Sicily alike failed of the highest glory and happiness; but 
the contrast of their destiny was strange. Sicily, which cast 
off the yoke of the Angevin, sank first into utter insignifi 
cance, and then into the deadening position of a subject 
province. Naples, which patiently bore his tyranny, though 
torn by civil wars and disputed successions, still kept for 
two centuries and a half an independent place among the 
powers of Europe, an important, sometimes a dominant, place 
among those of Italy. 

Coming back to our more general subject, we may mark 
that, during the whole of the first pair of parallel periods, 
both in Greece and Italy, there is little difficulty in remem 
bering the political and military relations of the several 
states. It is throughout a strife of principles ; each city acts 
according to an attachment of long standing to the Athenian 
or the Lacedaemonian alliance, to the cause of the Church or 
of the Empire. Corinth leagued with Athens or Plataia with 
Sparta, Florence false to the cause of freedom or Pisa for 
saking the Imperial eagles, would be something little less 
than a contradiction in terms. How thoroughly Greece was 
divided between the two great political ideas which were em 
bodied in Athens and Sparta is best shown in the fruitless 
attempt made by the Spartan allies, in a moment of pique, to 
put together confederacies upon other principles. All the 
intrigues of Alkibiades, in the period which immediately 
followed the Peace of Nikias, did but bring about a temporary 



I.] AND MEDIEVAL ITALY. 25 

confusion ; the cities speedily settled themselves again in 
their old positions as followers of the two ruling- states. The 
neutral Argos was indeed won to the side of Athens, but no 
member of the rival confederacy permanently fell away. If any 
seeming exceptions are found, if cities suddenly changed their 
policy, it only shows how deeply the contending principles 
had in each case divided the national mind. Men often loved 
their party better than their city, and they often forced their 
city to shape its policy to meet the interests of their party. 
Such a change implies no fickleness, no change of sentiment 
in an existing government : it bespeaks an internal revolution 
which has placed in other hands the guidance of the policy of 
the state. The oligarchs are triumphant or the people have 
won the victory ; the Ghibeliii has vanquished the Guelf or 
the Guelf has avenged his wrongs upon the Ghibelin ; the 
haughty leader at least exchanges places with the homeless 
exile, even if no sterner doom is the penalty for the evil deeds 
of his own day of triumph. Does Korkyra open her harbours 
to the Athenian fleet which her rulers have so lately driven 
from her shores ? It is because the people have won the day, 
and have taken a fearful vengeance upon sacrilege and op 
pression. Does the banner of Manfred float on the walls of that 
Florence which was so lately the chosen citadel of the Guelf ? 
The field of Arbia has been won, and Farinata has saved his 
country from her doom, though the good deed may not 
deliver himself from his burning grave. Till the power of 
Athens is broken at Aigospotamos and the insolence of 
Sparta loses her the affections of her allies till Roman 
Caesars sink into heads of a Germanic Federation and Roman 
Pontiffs into tools of the Kings of France this fixedness of 
purpose in parties and commonwealths prevails through both 
the analogous periods, and renders their study far more fasci 
nating and far less perplexing than that of the times which 
immediately follow them. 

In the next period this steadiness of principles is altogether 
lost ; wars and alliances are begun and broken off according 
to the immediate interest of the moment ; instead of two 



26 ANCIENT GREECE [ESSAY 

parties ranged permanently and consistently under their 
several leaders, we behold an ever-shifting scene in which 
Sparta, Athens, Thebes, Corinth, Elis, and Mantineia, or 
Rome, Milan, Venice, Naples, Florence, and Genoa, figure in 
every possible variety of friendship and enmity. In Greece 
the old ruling states become thoroughly worn out, and new 
powers flash across the scene with meteoric brilliancy. Athens 
becomes materially, and Sparta morally, incapable of acting 
as leader of a great confederacy. The genius and virtue of 
Epameinondas raise Thebes to a momentary greatness, but 
they prove only how much and how little even the best and 
greatest of men can do to raise a state whose citizens at 
large are not animated by his spirit. Lykomedes does the 
same, on a smaller scale, for Arkadia ; Philomelos, in a less 
worthy cause, for Phokis ; while the Man of Macedon looks 
on, steadily waiting for the moment when internal discord 
shall at last place the prize within his grasp. So too in 
the later parallel. The Empire well nigh withdraws from 
the scene, and it had been well for the reputation of the 
Church if she had withdrawn also. Many Kings of the 
Romans were content to reign in Germany alone, and forsook 
Italy altogether. Some of the noblest, as Rudolf and Albert 
the Second, never even claimed the rite which should invest 
them with the rank of Emperor. Of those who did cross the 
Alps, Henry of Liizelburg alone crossed them for any other 
purpose than to expose himself and his authority to contempt. 
The papacy sinks through three successive stages of degra 
dation. The Babylonish captivity of Avignon removed the 
Roman Pontiff from his native seat, and changed the Vice 
gerent of Christ into the despised hireling of a French master. 
The Great Schism showed the world the spectacle of a 
spiritual sovereignty contested, like a temporal throne, between 
selfish and worthless disputants. At last the gap is healed, 
and Rome again receives her Pontiffs ; but she receives them 
only that men might see the successors of Hildebrand and 
Innocent in the character of worldly and profligate Italian 
princes, bent only on the aggrandizement of their families or, 



I] AND MEDIAEVAL ITALY. 27 

at best, on making* good the pettiest temporal claims of the 
Holy See. Venice is following her schemes of crooked policy, 
only beginning to be redeemed by her nobler character as 

Europe s bulwark gainst the Ottomite. 

Milan, once the chosen home of freedom, is ground down 
beneath the vilest of tyrannies. Genoa, tossed by endless 
revolutions, is glad to throw herself into the arms of any 
despot who can ensure an hour of repose. Florence alone 
is left ; but the noblest laurels of the Guelf city are now won 
in strife against a hostile Pontiff, and the eight Saints of 
the War are canonized by the voice of their country for 
withstanding the power to whose cause their fathers had 
been devoted. At last her hour comes ; she sinks, gradually 
and well nigh willingly, under the gilded tyranny of citizens, 
Guelfs, and plebeians. Her ancient glories are past, her last 
dying glory is yet to come ; but her degradation under Medi- 
cean rule might have moved her own poet to pity rather than 
to indignation. War is as endless, and it is yet more relent 
less than in earlier times, but it has lost its redeeming and en 
nobling features. Athens and Florence alike have ceased to 
be defended by the arms of their own citizens. Hireling ban 
ditti, without a cause and without a country, sell themselves 
to the highest bidder, and commonly prove a greater curse to 
those whom they profess to defend than to those against whom 
they are paid to wage warfare. Each land is speedily ripening 
for foreign bondage ; each is ready to become the battle 
field of foreign quarrels fought out upon her soil quarrels 
which might now and then awaken a momentary interest, but 
which could never appeal to those high and ennobling feelings 
which were called forth by the warfare of an elder time. 

What the struggles between the successors of Alexander 
were to Greece the wars of the early part of the sixteenth 
century were to Italy. The part of Polysperchon, Kassan- 
dros, Demetrios, and Antigonos was acted over again in all 
its fulness by Charles and Lewis and Ferdinand, and that 
Francis and that other Charles who have won for themselves 
a fame which has been unfairly denied to their victims. 



28 ANCIENT GREECE [ESSAY 

During this period all traces of consistency, almost all traces of 
patriotism, are lost. The names of Guelf and Ghibelin indeed 
are still heard, but they now carry with them no more of 
meaning than the Shanavests and Caravats of a nearer field 
of discord. For the nobler feelings which they once embodied 
there could indeed be no room, now that every question was 
decided by the mere brute force of the stranger. The Mace 
donian plunderers could set forth no claim of right, not even 
the shallow blind of family or dynastic pretensions. Each 
competitor laid hands on whatever came in his way, and 
kept it till the law of the stronger adjudged the right to 
some more fortunate claimant. The subtler diplomacy of 
modern Europe helped the competitors in the later struggle 
to words and forms of legalized wickedness which their 
elder brethren might perchance have envied, perchance have 
honestly despised. When a French prince laid waste a pro 
vince or slaughtered the garrison of a city, it was because 
his great-grandmother had drawn her first breath beneath 
its sky, and had handed on to him the right, thus strangely 
exercised, to be its lawful governor and protector. When 
Charles of Austria handed over city after city to a more ruth 
less and more lasting scourge, when for months and months 
every atrocity which earth or hell could devise was dealt 
out to the wretched people of Rome and Milan, it was all 
in support of the just rights of their King and Emperor ; 
the majesty of Csesar could not allow that claims should be 
any longer trampled on which, in most cases, had slept since 
the days of the Hohenstaufen. But even such pretexts as 
these were wanting to the insatiable and perfidious ambition 
of that Caesar s grandfather. Kassandros or Ptolemy Kerau- 
nos could hardly have devised a more unprovoked and 
flagrant wrong than when the Catholic King parted out 
by treaty with his Most Christian brother the territories of 
his own ally and kinsman of Naples ; when he lulled to 
sleep the suspicions of his victim till the blow could be effec 
tually struck ; when he at last turned his arms against his 
partner in evil, and carried off the whole spoil, without even 



L] AND MEDIAEVAL ITALY. 29 

a shadow of right, from him who could at least bring forward 
some worn-out genealogy to justify his share in the wrong. 
And it is with a feeling, in some sort, of yet deeper indig 
nation that we see the lance of the free Switzer too often 
levelled in warfare hardly more righteous than that of Austrian, 
French, and Spanish tyrants. The boasted age of Francis 
the First and Leo the Tenth is to the lover of right and 
freedom simply an age of well nigh unmixed evil, of evil 
even more unmixed than the warfare of the Successors them 
selves. The wars of Italy afford no such relief as the earliest 
and best days of Demetrios, when, before his head was turned 
by flattery and indulgence, he eagerly caught at the title of 
the chosen head of independent Greece. No province handed 
over to Spanish or Medicean rule underwent so mild a des 
tiny as Egypt under the early Ptolemies, or even Macedonia 
under some of her better Kings. Both pictures show forth 
human nature in its darkest colours ; selfishness, cruelty, and 
treachery stalk forth undisturbed in each ; but it must be 
confessed that, as far as Kings and princes are concerned, the 
advantage is on the side of the earlier chamber of horrors. 
The upstart brigands of Macedonia do not, with all their 
crimes, show themselves in hues quite so dark as the chiefs of 
the Holy Roman Empire, as the Eldest Sons of the Church, 
as the leaders of that Castilian chivalry which boasted of 
overcoming the Moslem at home and the idolater beyond 
the Ocean. 

But in both pictures, among all the crimes of foreign 
oppressors, a gleam of native virtue shines forth. In Italy 
it sheds a ray of light over the darkest gloom of bondage ; 
in Greece it is like a short polar day between her first and 
her last night of overthrow. Florence, so long the nearest 
parallel to Athens, holds, in her latest days, a place which 
rather answers to that of the Achaian League. The last 
time of freedom at Florence came in the darkest days of Italy ; 
it even had its birth in the greatest of national misfortunes. 
The invasion of Charles the Eighth led to the first, the sack of 
Rome to the second, driving out of the Medici. During the 



30 ANCIENT GREECE [ESSAY 

first short interval, she enjoyed a truer freedom and more of 
domestic peace than she had known in the proudest days of her 
former greatness ; during the second, she defied the power of 
Pope and Emperor, who forgot their quarrels to destroy a 
freedom hateful to both alike. She fell only when a single 
city, without an ally at home or abroad, could no longer 
stand, in the mere strength of truth and right, against 
the spiritual thunders of the Pontiff and the secular arm 
of the mightiest potentate in Europe. Achaia ran a longer 
course, but she ended by a less noble fate. The better 
days of Aratos wrought more of lasting good than the gon- 
faloniership of Soderini ; but the devotion of lily to lily, 
unreasonable and unrequited as it was, never betrayed Flo 
rence into such deeds of treason as disgraced his later years. 
Florence never swerved : but the deliverer of S iky on and 
Corinth undid his own work; he betrayed Greece to the 
Macedonian whom he had driven out, because a worthier than 
himself had arisen to contest her championship with him. 
If Italy gave birth to no Agis and no Kleomenes, the fame 
of her last bulwark is not tarnished by a surrender of Corinth 
or by a victory of Sellasia. Florence fell at once and glori 
ously, the last blow in the general overthrow of Italy ; Achaia 
stooped to drag on a feeble and lingering life under the 
degrading patronage of Macedonia and Rome. The course 
of both lands seemed to have been run ; one indeed lived 
on, led captive her conquerors, and ruled in their name for a 
thousand years. The cannon and the scimitar of Mahomet at 
last wrought a conquest more thorough than the pilum and 
broadsword of Mummius. A yoke which could not be light 
ened has since been rent asunder : the very soil of Marathon 
and Thermopylai has again been dyed with the blood of 
vanquished Barbarians; Mesolongi has outdone the fame of 
Eira and Plataia; and Greece, amid cruel difficulties and 
more cruel calumnies, has again taken her place among the 
nations. Must we deem that the last struggle of the sister 
peninsula has been made in vain ? that the elder two-headed 
bird of prey must tear at his will the entrails of Milan and of 



L] AND MEDIAEVAL ITALY. 31 

Venice, and his younger single-headed brother gorge himself 
for ever with the blood of Rome ? Will force for ever trample 
upon right ? or must we deem that there is something in the 
yoke of Habsburg even more grinding, deadening, and cor 
rupting than in that of the barbarian infidel himself? * 

An incidental reference in the last paragraph may suggest 
a third form of our comparison, but one which it is even less 
safe to press into minute particulars than either of the others. 
This is the analogy between the position and destinies of par 
ticular cities. Florence,, the great democracy of Italy, bears 
undoubtedly a general analogy to Athens, the great demo 
cracy of Greece. From the thirteenth century onward, we 
can hardly help looking at Italian affairs from a Florentine, 
just as we look at Greek affairs from an Athenian point of 
view. The oligarchy of Sparta may suggest a fainter like 
ness to the oligarchy of Venice. Sismondi likens the momen 
tary greatness of Lucca under Castruccio to the momentary 
greatness of Thebes under Epameinondas. A still fainter 
likeness may suggest itself in the position, among a system of 
neighbouring commonwealths, of the monarchy of Macedonia 
and the monarchy of Naples, f But in this part of our sub- 

* [The vehemence with which I wrote fifteen years ago seems almost 
amusing when we think how utterly the state of things which called it forth 
has passed away. Of the two birds of prey one has ceased to be a bird of 
prey, the other has had his claws cut at least for a season. But the men 
tion of the two-headed eagle leads to the remark that it would be well if 
the Hungarian King and Austrian Arclfduke, would give up an ensign to 
which he has no kind of right, and which constantly leads people astray. 
Many people fancy that the two-headed eagle, and not the lion, is the bearing 
of Austria, and thence they are led to go on to cry out Austria whenever 
they see a two-headed eagle. At the same time it must be remembered that 
the two heads of the Imperial bird were a comparatively modern innovation.] 

"t" The states of Savoy would be a closer parallel, both in their geographical 
position and in their only half Italian character. The Burgundian Count has 
moved downwards upon Lombardy and Genoa, much as the Macedonian moved 
down upon Amphipolis and Thessaly. But, unlike the Macedonian, he has left 
the greater part of his older dominions behind him. But Savoy was of so 
little account in Italy during Italy s best days that it is hardly needful to 
enter on the comparison. 

[This was how matters struck me when the Duke of Savoy and Prince of 



32 ANCIENT GREECE [ESSAY 

ject especially, the comparison will be found more instructive 
in points of difference than in points of agreement. Mace 
donia was a state at least half Barbarian, though it was ruled 
by Hellenic Kings ; Naples was an Italian land whose Kings 
were, by descent at least, Barbarians. Epameinondas was the 
leader of a free democracy ; Castruccio was a Tyrant, though 
a Tyrant undoubtedly of the nobler sort. The oligarchy of 
Sparta was born from the intrusion of a conquering race : 
the oligarchy of Venice gradually arose out of a people who 
had started on equal terms for a common stock. Sparta was 
great while she abode on the mainland : she failed when she 
attempted distant and maritime conquest. Venice was essen 
tially maritime and colonizing, and she never erred so deeply 
as when she set up for a continental power. But some of the 
points of the two great oligarchic constitutions may be profit 
ably compared. The analogy between the Spartan King and 
the Venetian Doge is striking indeed. Our first impulse 
is to underrate the importance of both princes in their re 
spective commonwealths. We are led to compare the Duke 
of Venice with the Duke of Milan, to compare the King of 
the Lacedaemonians with the King of Macedon, or even with 
the Great King himself. A prince fettered by countless 
restrictions, a prince liable to deposition, fine, exile, or even 
death, seems to be no prince at all. He sinks below the level 
of a Florentine Prior, almost down to that of an Athenian 
Archon. Looked at as princes, the Spartan King and the 
Venetian Doge may indeed seem contemptible; but, looked 
at as republican magistrates, they filled a more commanding 
position than any other republican magistrates in Greece 
or Italy. No Greek save a Spartan Herakleid was born 
to the permanent command of his country s armies; no 
other was born to a place in her Senate which needed 
no popular renewal and could be forfeited only by treason 
against the state. No Italian citizen save the Venetian Duke 

Piedmont reigned on both sides of the Alps. The process by which the House 
of Savoy has, ever since the sixteenth century, gone on losing Burgundian and 
gaining Italian territory has since been carried out in all its fulness.] 



I.] AND MEDIAEVAL ITALY. 33 

was chosen to a position which clothed him for life at once 
with an honorary precedence, and with an important voice, 
if nothing more, in the direction of public affairs. The 
legal authority of the King and the Doge was most narrowly 
limited, but his opportunities of gaining influence were 
unrivalled. Holding a permanent position, while other magis 
trates were changed around him, a King or Doge of any 
ability could win for himself a personal authority far beyond 
any which belonged to his office. He could not indeed com 
mand, but he could always advise, and his advice was very 
often followed. We find therefore that the personal character 
of Kings and Doges was by no means so unimportant as the 
narrow range of their legal powers might at first lead us to 
think. A vigorous prince, an Agesilaos or a Francesco 
Foscari, might, during the course of a long reign, gain an 
influence over the counsels of the republic which was not 
within the reach of any other citizen, and which made him 
virtually, as well as in name, the sovereign of his country. 

Enough has perhaps been said to show that between the 
general position and the general course of events in ancient 
Greece and in medieval Italy the parallel is as near as any 
historical parallel is ever likely to be. It only remains to 
make the likeness still nearer by pointing out the special 
diversities which it is easy to see between the two. 

Nearly all of these diversities spring from the same source. 
In Greece everything was fresh and original, while the con 
dition of mediaeval Italy was essentially based upon an earlier 
state of things. Greece was the first country which reached 
anything worthy of the name of civilization, if by that word 
we understand, not the pomp and luxury of kingly or priestly 
despots, but the real cultivation of man s intellectual and 
political powers. The history of Greece springs out of a 
mythical chaos, out of which we can at least learn thus 
much, that all that made the greatness of the nation 
was strictly of native birth. No earlier or foreign system 
underlies the historical civilization of Hellas : what is not 

D 



34 ANCIENT GREECE [ESSAY 

strictly immemorial is no less strictly self-developed. No 
one capable of any historical criticism will now put faith in 
those tales of Barbarian settlements in Greece of which 
Homer at least had never heard. No one possessed of any 
aesthetic perception will derive the glorious forms of Doric and 
Attic skill from the heavy columns and lifeless idols reared by 
the adorers of apes and onions. The pure mythology of 
the Iliad is indeed akin to the splendid fictions of Hindo- 
stan or Scandinavia, but no one who has a heart to feel or 
a mind to understand will trace it to the follies of Egyp 
tian or to the abominations of Semitic idolatry. But in 
mediaeval Italy nothing is strictly original ; politics, religion, 
literature, and art are all developements or reproductions of 
something which had existed in earlier times. Others la 
boured, and she entered into their labours ; she succeeded 
to the good and the evil of two, we might perhaps say of 
three, earlier systems. Her political institutions rose out of 
the feudalism which had overshadowed the Roman Empire, 
just as the Roman Empire had itself arisen from the gradual 
fusion of the independent states of primaeval Italy. The 
Greek system was the first of its class ; that of mediaeval 
Italy was in some sort a return to that of times before 
Roman supremacy began. It carries us back to the days 
when twelve cities of Etruria gathered under the banner of 
Lars Porsena, and thirty cities of Latium under the banner 
of the Tusculan Mamilius, to humble the upstart asylum of 
shepherds and bandits which had encroached upon their imme 
morial dignity. Even in this primaeval Italy town-autonomy 
was far less perfectly developed than in contemporary Greece ; 
in mediaeval Italy we see only its revival, and a revival modi 
fied by the events of fifteen intervening centuries. 

The grand distinguishing feature between the two systems 
is that over the whole period of Italian freedom there still 
hung the great, though shadowy, conception of the Roman 
Empire.* To this there is nothing analogous in the Hel- 

* [All this has since been worked out more fully both in Mr. Bryce s Essay 
and in my own remarks on it in my former series. But I leave the passage 



I.] AND MEDIEVAL ITALY. 35 

lenic prototype. The sovereign independence of the Grecian 
cities is strictly immemorial. No time can be pointed out 
when every town did not at least pretend, though power 
might often fail to support the pretension,, to a distinct poli 
tical being. The several cities arise out of the mythical dark 
ness in the shape of sovereign states, each governed by its 
independent King, soon to be exchanged for its independent 
commonwealth. The dynasty represented by the names of 
Atreus and Agamemnon probably exercised a kind of suze 
rainty over the whole of Peloponnesos ; but this seems to 
have been a mere passing domination ; everything tells 
against the notion of the separate Grecian commonwealths 
being fragments of an earlier Grecian empire. But in the 
mediseval parallel the case is conspicuously reversed. The 
separate Italian commonwealths were essentially fragments 
of an earlier Italian empire. The republics of Lombardy 
and Tuscany were members of the Roman Empire and of the 
Kingdom of Italy, which had gradually grown from simple 
municipalities into sovereign commonwealths. Their liberties 
were won by local struggles against the petty lord of each 
several district ; they were confirmed by a common struggle 
against the Roman Emperor himself. Sismondi likens 
Frederick Barbarossa to Xerxes.* One is half inclined to 
be angry at seeing one of the noblest of men placed side by 
side with one of the most contemptible ; but, had the com 
parison lain between Cyrus and Wenceslaus, there is the all- 
important difference that, while the Persian was simply 
extending his empire, the German was striving to win back 
rights which his predecessors had held, and of which he 
deemed himself to be unjustly deprived. The old Imperial 
ideas never lost their general hold upon men s minds, and 
new circumstances were continually happening to clothe 
them with new prominence. Strange as it may seem, it 

pretty much as I first wrote it, to show how things had struck me before 
Mr. Bryce s Essay appeared.] 

* Le redoubtable Xerxes du moyen age, vol. ii. p. 8. See above, the 
remarks in p. 19, note. 

D 2 



36 ANCIENT GREECE [ESSAY 

was assumed as an axiom not to be gainsaid that the prince 
who styled himself Emperor of the Romans, however alien 
from Rome and Italy in blood and policy and language, was 
still the lawful successor of Augustus and Constantine. A 
thousand years of history will always be misunderstood, 
unless we bear in mind that, throughout the early middle 
age, the Roman Empire was not merely acknowledged as 
an existing fact, but was believed in as something grounded 
on the eternal fitness of things. We are tempted to 
overlook the importance of this belief as a fact, because 
to us it seems so unreasonable as a principle. In theory 
the Roman Empire never became extinct, though its sover 
eignty was handed on from race to race, though its seat 
of government wandered from city to city. Up to 476, 
Italy still kept her resident Emperors of her own blood. 
Erom 476 to 800 the Old Rome stooped to acknowledge 
the authority, sometimes nominal, sometimes real, of the 
masters of the New. In 800 she again set forth her pre 
scriptive rights, and chose the Frank Charles, not as the 
restorer of a power which had passed away, but as the lawful 
successor of Constantine the Sixth in opposition to his 
usurping mother.* Erom that moment we have again two 
distinct, and now two rival, lines of princes, each alike foreign 
to Rome and Italy, but each claiming to be no longer a mere 
colleague in a divided government, but the true and only 
representative of the undivided monarchy, the one lawful 
Emperor of the Romans. For nearly three centuries after the 
coronation of Charles, -the German Caesar of the West was at 
least the nominal sovereign of Northern Italy, while the 
Greek Caesar of the East retained a far more practical pos 
session of a large portion of its southern provinces. The power 
of the Byzantine Emperors in Italy was at last rooted out by 
the Norman settlers; but circumstances continually arose to 

* R is curious to see how quietly this is assumed in those of the old chro- 
nicles,*which, like that of Radulfus Niger, follow the order of the Imperial 
reigns. Leo, Constantinus, Carolus, Ludovicus/ follow in the most peaceable 
succession. 



L] AND MEDIEVAL ITALY. 37 

invest their Teutonic rivals with both a moral and a material 
authority over Lombardy, Tuscany, and Rome itself. From 
Saxon Otto to Austrian Charles, the dignity which the East 
reverenced so long in her unbroken succession of Emperors, 
was acknowledged by the West as belonging to every German 
prince who could win for himself the Papal benediction. The 
iron crown of Moriza made him, as King of Italy, the feudal 
superior of every Lombard and Tuscan state ; the golden 
diadem of Rome clothed him, as Caesar and Augustus, with 
higher and vaguer claims well nigh co-extensive with the 
sovereignty of the world. One age revives the study of the 
Civil Law ; and its professors at once invest the Frankish 
or Swabian overlord with all the rights and powers of 
the old Roman despotism. Another age beholds the an 
cient poets again assert their supremacy, and all that Virgil 
and Horace had sung of the Julian house is at once trans 
ferred to sovereigns of whose native tribes Germanicus him 
self had hardly heard. Albert of Habsburg is reproached by 
Dante for forsaking the garden of his Empire, and the Eternal 
City is earnestly bidden to be no longer stepdame unto 
Csesar. Henry of Luzelburg came down from the Alps amid 
the applause of Italy. Poets, orators, and civilians alike 
pressed to welcome the barbarian chief of a petty northern 
principality, claiming the lawful jurisdiction over Rome and 
Italy, with the sword of Germany in the one hand and the 
books of Justinian in the other. Both cities and Tyrants were 
always found to support the Imperial claims in their fulness ; 
the stoutest Guelf of Florence would hardly have denied 
the abstract theory that some superiority over his com 
monwealth belonged to Caesar Augustus, however narrow 
might be the bounds within which he would confine his 
practical authority. If a large proportion of the ancient 
kingdom formally disowned the supremacy of the Emperor, 
it was because the Imperial rights were held to have been 
handed over to another lord. Ferrara, Bologna, and Perugia 
acknowledged no superiority in the Roman Emperor ; but it 
was only because they looked up to a temporal as well as a 



38 ANCIENT GREECE [ESSAY 

spiritual master in the Roman Pontiff. Throughout the 
middle ages, no one dreamed that full and absolute sover 
eignty belonged to any Italian city. The notion of an 
Italian kingdom perhaps hardly outlived the Hohenstaufen ; 
but the vaguer claims of the Empire,, the more practical claims 
of the Popedom, still lived on within their respective boundaries. 
Every prince, every commonwealth, held either of the Pope or 
the Emperor as superior lord. The authority of either lord was 
often but nominal ; but the bare existence of such never-for 
gotten claims at once distinguishes the princes who asserted 
them from mere foreign invaders like Xerxes at Thermopylae 
or Mahomet at Constantinople. The Imperial rights, even 
when anything like government was out of the question, 
could often be successfully used as a means of extorting money ; 
when they were at last backed by the might of Castile and 
Burgundy, they laid Italy as prostrate as she had ever lain 
before Belisarius, Charles, or Otto. In like manner, the 
feudal claims of the Papacy could be successfully asserted after 
centuries of abeyance. Thus Bologna lost her republic and her 
demagogues, Urbino lost her magnificent Dukes, in the com 
mon wilderness of ecclesiastical misgovernment. Venice alone, 
strong in her lagoons and her islands, contrived to escape 
the pretensions both of the spiritual and the temporal master. 
She escaped all prescriptive right in the Western Csesar by 
preserving, as long as prudence bade her, her nominal al 
legiance to his Byzantine rival. She destroyed all tradi 
tionary authority in the master of the East by the still more 
practical process of overturning his throne and partition 
ing his Empire. In the ninth century, she drove back the 
Prankish King of Italy, by asserting the lawful claims of 
the true Caesar by the Bosporos. Four centuries later, she 
could divide that Caesar s realm and capital with fellow-rob 
bers of the same Frankish blood * Her style and title had 

* [It would seem that when I wrote this sentence I had not fully learned 
to distinguish between Franks and Frenchmen. The Latin conquerors of Con 
stantinople are rightly called Franks in the sense which that word bears 
throughout the East, and the chances are that many of the leaders of the 



I] AND MEDIEVAL ITALY. 39 

strangely altered in the interval. The slaves of the Em 
peror of the Romans could now invest their Doges with that 
arithmetical title, so worthy of a merchant prince, Lord of 
one fourth and one eighth of the Empire of Romania/ 

The independence of the Greek cities was thus strictly 
immemorial, while that of their Italian antitypes arose from 
the bosom of an earlier feudal* monarchy. From this it almost 
necessarily follows that in Greece the cities were everything, 
while in Italy they indeed became predominant, but could 
never wholly wipe out all traces of the earlier state of things. 
In proper Greece there was no spot of ground which did not 
belong to some city. That city might be democratically, 
aristocratically, or tyrannically governed; it might even be in 
bondage to some stronger city ; but there was no such thing 
as an independent chief who had nothing to do with the 
organized government of any acknowledged city-common 
wealth. But in Italy feudalism had existed, and was never 
wholly rooted out. Not only did there exist in its southern 
portion a powerful kingdom which remained unconnected 
with the Western Empire ; within the Kingdom of Italy 
itself the territory of the towns never took in the whole 
country. The liberties of each city were won from the feudal 
chief of its own district. When those liberties were esta 
blished within, the city usually grew to be dominant without ; 
the neighbouring feudal lords were brought under its autho 
rity, and were often changed into a civic nobility within the 
town. But this process was never carried out through the 
whole extent of the kingdom. In its north-western portion 
powerful feudal princes went on reigning over Piedmont, 

Fourth Crusade would, as a matter of genealogy, really be of Frankish blood. 
Still the expression is a misleading one. When we speak of Gesta Dei per 
Francos, we use the word Francus in its later and not in its earlier sense ; 
in the sense in which Francus and Francigena are used in Domesday the 
sense of persons using the French language, whether subjects or vassals to the 
King of the French or not.] 

* [The word feudal is patient of a correct meaning ; I therefore leave 
it ; but every one should be on his guard against believing that any such thing 
as a feudal system ever existed anywhere.] 



40 ANCIENT GREECE [ESSAY 

Montferrat, and Saluzzo; even elsewhere feudal chieftains of 
less dignity maintained their wild independence in many 
mountain holds. In short, the brood of petty rulers, holding 
nominally of the Emperor, and neither citizens nor Tyrants of 
any city, was for the most part driven into inaccessible holes 
and corners, but it was never wholly rooted out. 

The feudal origin of the Italian aristocracies brought with 
it another important difference between them and those of 
Greece. A Grecian aristocracy was often a body of invaders 
who had settled in a conquered city, and who handed on 
exclusive political rights to their descendants. Sometimes a 
privileged class arose by a gradual process from among the 
body of their fellow-citizens. And this last process has been 
at work in later times also ; to it was owing the closest and 
most unscrupulous, and at the same time the most orderly 
and sagacious of all such bodies, the long-lived oligarchy of 
Venice. A somewhat intermediate process produced the less 
brilliant, but far more righteous and hardly less prudent 
aristocracy of Bern. A city which contained a large patrician 
element from its first foundation enlarged its territory by 
repeated conquests and purchases, till the civic oligarchy 
found itself changed into the corporate despot of an extensive 
dominion. Hence the Grecian, and in after- times the Venetian 
and Bernese, oligarchies acted strictly as an oligarchic class, 
bound together by a common spirit and interest. But in 
most Italian cities the half-tamed feudal lords were gathered 
into the town not a little against their will. They therefore 
naturally kept on within the walls much of the isolation 
and lawlessness of the old life which they had led in the 
mountains. The Venetian noble might boast of his palace, 
but in most Italian cities the patrician mansion was not a 
palace, but a fortress, fitted and accustomed to defend itself 
alike against rival nobles and against the power of the com 
monwealth itself. This state of things was unheard of in 
Greece. No such licence was allowed to any citizen or any 
King of Sparta ; nor can we imagine anything like it in 
aristocratic Chios or Corinth. Even in democratic Athens 



L] AND MEDIAEVAL ITALY. 41 

wealth and birth assumed a strange practical licence. Meidias 
indulged himself in the practice of assault and battery;* but 
it was only the corporate vppLs of the Four Hundred which 
was followed by a band of armed retainers. Alkibiades was 
lord of a private castle ;f but it stood on the shores of the 
Chersonesos, not within the walls of Athens ; even the 
house in which he held the unwilling Agatharchos could 
hardly have been ready to stand a siege against the united 
power of the Ten Generals. 

Another difference between a Greek and an Italian com 
monwealth is to be found in the origin of the commonwealths 
themselves. As the Italian republics were municipalities 
which had gradually grown into sovereign states, they natu 
rally kept on much of the mercantile constitution of the old 
communes. A Grecian city had indeed its smaller political 
divisions. It was either artificially partitioned into local wards 
or districts, or sometimes the city itself was formed by the union 
of earlier villages which still survived as wards or districts of 
the city. But commercial guilds, if they existed at all in 
Greece, were nowhere of any political importance. In many 
Italian cities they were the very soul of the constitution. The 
Athenian acted directly as a citizen of the commonwealth ; the 
Florentine acted only indirectly as a member of some incor 
porated trade. 

From all these causes working together it followed that the 
true republican spirit was very weak in mediaeval Italy, as 
compared with its full growth in ancient Greece. The natural 
tendency of a commonwealth is to vest all authority, as far as 
may be, in some Senate or Assembly, meeting often and con 
stantly looking into public affairs. The constitution of such 
Assembly of course depends upon the aristocratic or democratic 
constitution of the commonwealth. But in either case, each 

* [I almost suspect that this strange insolence of individual men of which 
Meidias and Alkibiades were examples is more likely to be found in a 
democracy than in an oligarchy. In an oligarchy, members of the privileged 
order at least will be safe from it. And a wise and legal oligarchy will have 
the sense for its own interest to protect the non-privileged classes also.] 

f Td eavTov Ttixn- Xen. Hell. i. 5, 17; cf. ii. I, 25. 



42 ANCIENT GREECE [ESSAY 

citizen who is possessed of the fullest franchise deems him 
self entitled to a direct voice in all important affairs. Even 
Sparta, oligarchy within oligarchy as she was, notwithstand 
ing the lofty position of her Kings and Gerontes and the 
more practical authority of her Ephors, did not, like con 
stitutional England, entrust questions of war and peace to 
Ministers acting in the dark, but had them freely debated in 
the General Assembly of the privileged order. The highest 
developement of this tendency is of course to be found in the 
Public Assembly of Athens. Demos made himself an absolute 
monarch, and cut down all magistrates to the position of mere 
executors of his decrees. The Archons had once been sove 
reign, but their powers were gradually cut down to a peaceful 
routine of police and religious ceremonial, which carried with it 
no political influence whatever. The Generals indeed acted as 
Foreign Secretaries, but they confined themselves to the 
functions of Secretaries ; they could not irrevocably commit 
the commonwealth to a policy for which the Assembly could 
only censure them after the fact. But in the most democratic 
states of mediseval Italy, even in Florence herself, a constantly 
superintending popular Assembly was altogether unknown, or 
appeared only in her latest day. At the very utmost, the 
assembled people were only called together now and then, to 
declare peace or war or to agree to some important constitu 
tional change. At Florence, for a long time, they only as 
sembled when the purposes of faction called for the gathering 
of a tumultuous Parliament, whose first act commonly was 
to vote away its own liberties. The old commonwealth 
had indeed its Councils, but a real Assembly, entitled in any 
way to speak in the name of the people, arose only in the 
revived commonwealth under the gonfaloniership of Soderini. 
To individual magistrates it was everywhere usual, and indeed 
it often was necessary, to entrust a power over the lives and 
liberties of the citizens at which an Athenian would have 
stood aghast. And no wonder, when it was perhaps less 
often their business to preside at a peaceful tribunal than to 
march at the head of the armed people to put down some 



I] AND MEDIAEVAL ITALY. 43 

rebellious noble who stood out in utter defiance of all legal 
authority. Hence the excessive shortness of the terms for 
which magistrates \vere elected : no man could be trusted to 
wield such tremendous powers for more than the shortest 
possible time. But hence too the fluctuations and confusions 
of a commonwealth which changed its rulers six times in 
every year. Hence again an Italian commonwealth afforded 
very little of that political education of the entire people 
which was the noblest result of the Athenian democracy. 
The citizen of Athens had his wits sharpened by the constant 
practice of ruling and judging. The Florentine could at 
most look forward to enjoy, some day or other, a two months 
share in the exercise of a despotic power to which during the 
rest of his life he must bow down. The ordinary Athenian 
was necessarily a judge and a statesman ; the ordinary Floren 
tine had hardly the opportunity of so much political education 
as the Englishman may contrive to pick up in the jury-box, 
the parish vestry, * or the quarter-sessions. 

From this comparative weakness of the republican spirit it 
could not fail to follow that the foundation of tyrannies was 
more easy in mediaeval Italy than it ever was in Greece. 
It followed also that they became more lasting and, in out 
ward show at least, more lawful. Civil liberty, as Sismondi 
has drawn out, was but little known or valued even in the 
republican states. The wishes of the people were satisfied if 
rulers were popularly chosen or drawn, and if they kept their 
office only for a short term. While their power lasted, it 
hardly differed in extent from that of any permanent des 
potism not of the most outrageous kind. It followed that 
the change from a republic to a tyranny was, in its begin 
nings at least, less violent than in Greece. Moreover, the first 
generation of each dynasty of Tyrants were almost always 
men of ability ; they were not always quite devoid of virtue ; 

* [For the Parish Vestry I should perhaps now say the Board of Guardians, 
the Highway Board, the School Board, perhaps the County Financial Board of 
the future.] 



44 ANCIENT GREECE [ESSAY 

they were men who had at least been brought up as citizens 
and had not been born in the purple. The saying that 

Nemo repente fuit turpissimus 

seems to apply to families as well as to individuals. It was not 
till after several generations of sovereignty that the viper of 
the Visconti began to hatch the monstrous brood of Bernabos 
and Gian-Marias. In many Italian cities, the mass of the 
people were so used to aristocratic insolence, they were so cut 
off from all real share in the government, that the establish 
ment of a despot might easily look to them like the coming of 
a deliverer. At any rate it might look like the coming of one 
oppressor instead of many. The high magistracies were often 
practically confined to a few distinguished families, even where 
technical nobility was no longer needed. It was to them alone 
that the change would involve any great political loss ; and the 
less exalted spirits among them would easily find compensa 
tion in the honours and flatteries of a court. It is true that, in 
nearly every case, the people came to rue their error. The most 
imperfect form of law, the most turbulent form of freedom, 
was found to be better than deadening submission to a single 
despotic will. The Tyrant too commonly deserved his name 
in the popular as well as in the technical sense; Malatestas 
were more common than Montefeltros ; Francesco Sforza left 
his coronet to Galeazzo-Maria. But, at the moment of change, 
the setting up of a tyranny was far less offensive to Italian 
than it had been to Grecian feelings. The government of 
a single person was far less strange to the Italian mind. To 
the Greek monarchical power in any shape seemed to be one of 
the characteristics which distinguished the Barbarian from 
himself. But Italy was familiar with monarchs of every size 
and degree. The existence of feudal princes side by side with 
the commonwealths,, the feudal notions kept up by many of 
the nobles within the cities, the acknowledged overlord ship 
of the Emperors, all joined together to give an impulse. to 
monarchical government in Italy. The position too both 
of the Pope and of the Emperor afforded a means of bestow 
ing an outward legitimacy on those who became possessed of 



I.J.MJ 

I.] AND MEDIEVAL ITALY. 45 

sovereign power. The means were indeed not quite so easy 
as they have become in later times. In our days nothing- 
is simpler than the change of an elective President into 
a hereditary Emperor. It may be done with equal success 
on either side of the Atlantic ; the skin of the son of fortune 
may be indifferently white or black ; it natters not whether 
the work is done by simple violence or vith some outward 
show of legality. In either case might makes right, and the 
crow r n covers all defects. In old Greece and Italy the art. of 
a Soulouques and a Buonaparte appeared only in a much ruder 
form.* Neither in Greece nor in Italy did the God or the 
saint whom he had sworn by always keep back an ambitious 
leader from the luxury of a coup cV etat. But the Greek was 
commonly high-minded enough to despise the mere gewgaws 
of kingship, and even the Italian was modest enough to 
abstain from the highest of earthly titles. Rumour said 
that Gian-Galeazzo had a royal crown in his treasure-house 
designed for his own brow ; but respect for his feudal superior 
hindered him from forestalling the lofty style of their Ca?sarean 
majesties of France and Hayti. Old Greece was far behind 
the march of modern improvement ; she drew a distinction 
between rvpavvos and fiacnXtvs which our age seems to have 
forgotten, and she afforded no means, violent or legal, of con 
verting one into the other. Italian politics equally drew the 
perfectly analogous distinction between the hereditary prince 
of a feudal lordship and the Tyrant who arose in a civic re 
public, f But the Italian Tyrant, far as he lagged behind more 
recent professors, at least possessed means of changing his title 
which were denied to his Grecian forerunners. The partizan 
chief who, half by force, half by election, became Lord or 
Tyrant of an Italian commonwealth, was himself not unfre- 
quently the hereditary feudal prince of some smaller territory, 

* [Soulouques and Buonapartes are now happily swept away from the list of 
rulers. But the loathsome flattery with which the fallen Tyrant has been 
greeted in this country shows something very wrong in the moral feelings of 
the age, and makes one fear that Soulouques and Buonapartes may not have 
passed away for ever.] 

t The indifferent term signore, exactly translates the indifferent term 



46 ANCIENT GREECE [ESSAY 

and the distinct sources of his authority over the two states 
might easily come to be confounded. Thus the Marquesses of 
Este became Lords of Modena and Ferrara, and they were often 
spoken of as Marquesses of the latter city before they had 
gained any formal right to the title. In any case, the position 
of a feudal prince, independent in fact, though nominally 
holding of a superior lord, was one perfectly familiar both 
to the ruler and to his subjects, and it was one to which an 
easy process could raise him. It only needed the outlay of 
some small part of what he levied on his countrymen to buy 
from the Pope or the Emperor a diploma changing the 
fallen commonwealth into a duchy or marquisate to be held 
by himself and his heirs for ever. Such a document at once 
changed, legally at least, his usurped and precarious power 
into an acknowledged and lawful sovereignty, handed on 
according to a definite law of succession, and subject to all the 
accidents of a feudal lordship. But such a process often carried 
with it the seeds of its own destruction. When Gian-Galeazzo 
bought the investiture of a Duke of the Empire from the 
careless Wenceslaus, he paved the way for all the wars which 
devastated his duchy, and for the final loss of its independence. 
When Borso of Este became a Papal vassal for his new Duchy 
of Ferrara, he took the first step towards its ultimate absorp 
tion into the immediate domain of the Roman See. 

This phenomenon of Tyrants is one which seems to be 
peculiar to Greece and Italy among the various systems of 
town-autonomy. In Switzerland and the Netherlands, a 
demagogue * now and then won an influence which prac 
tically made him the temporary sovereign of his own city. 
But no such demagogue ever founded a permanent tyranny ; 
much less did he ever change his position into an acknow 
ledged sovereignty. Again, between Greece and Italy we 
may discern some chronological differences. In the Greek 
colonies the Tyrant was a phenomenon to be found in all 
ages, and his position seems to have differed less than else 
where from lawful kingship. Not only the laureate 

* [I do not use the word contemptuously : Srjfuiycayos a name given to 
PeriklSs himself is surely the highest title that man can bear.] 



L] AND MEDIEVAL ITALY. 47 

Pindar, but Herodotus himself does not scruple to apply 
the title of /3ao-iAeus to various Sicilian and Italian rulers.* 
In the Macedonian times, when Greece had become familiar 
with kingship, the title was of course more freely assumed. 
But in Greece itself tyranny was a phenomenon confined 
almost wholly to two periods. There were the dema 
gogue-Tyrants of the early days of the republics, partizan 
chiefs who commonly ruled with the good- will of at least 
a portion of the people. There were the military Tyrants 
of a later time, who ruled by sheer violence at the head 
of bands of mercenaries, and who were practically mere 

* [On looking more narrowly into this matter, I doubt whether Herodotus, 
speaking in his own person, ever does give the title of @afft\cvs to any one 
who was strictly rvpavvos. I add an extract from an Essay of mine which 
deals too much with details to be reprinted in full. ( Herodotus and his Com 
mentators, National Keview, October 1862, p. 300.) 

Nothing is more clearly marked in Greek political languages than the dif 
ference between King and Tyrant, Paai\evs and rvpavvos. The (3a.Gt\tvs, we need 
hardly say, is the lawful King, the hereditary or elective prince of a state whose 
constitution is monarchic. It is applicable alike to a good King and to a bad one, 
to the despotic empire of Persia and to the almost nominal royalty of Lacedsemon ; 
but it always implies that kingship is the recognized government of the country. 
The rvpavvos, on the other hand, is the ruler who obtains kingly power in a 
republic, and whose government therefore, whether good or bad in itself, is 
unlawful in its origin. In the same way it is applicable to the lawful King 
who seizes on a degree of power which the law does not give him ; it is there 
fore applied, by their respective enemies, to Pheidon of Argos and to the last 
Kleomenes of Sparta. It is clear then that (3aai\(vs is a title of respect, 
while rvpavvos implies more or less of contempt or hatred. The Tyrant would 
wish to be called &aai\fvs, and would be so called by his flatterers, but by 
nobody else. But in republican language, especially in days when lawful 
Kings hardly existed in Greece itself, lawful kingship might often be spoken of 
as tyranny. Now all these distinctions are carefully attended to by Herodo 
tus ; to translate the words jSaatXevs and rvpavvos as if Herodotus used 
them indiscriminately is utterly to misrepresent the author. Herodotus clearly 
observes the distinction. He applies the word (3aai\evs to foreign Kings, and 
to the princes of those Greek states where royalty had never been abolished. 
He gives us Kings of Kyrene, Kings of Cyprus, Kings of Sparta, a King of 
Thessaly, meaning doubtless the Tagos (v. 63) ; but never, when speaking in 
his own person, does he give us Kings of Athens or Corinth. When therefore 
we find a King of Zankle (vi. 2, 3) and a King of the Taventines (iii. 136) we 
may fairly infer that at Zankle and Tarentum kingly government had not 
gone out of use up to the time of Herodotus. The address cD @aat\(v, at the 
beginning of the angry speech of the Athenian envoys (vii. 161), may well be 
sarcastic. ] 



48 ANCIENT GREECE [ESSAY 

Macedonian viceroys. Neither class were ever acknowledged 
as Killers, but the later class were still further from such 

O 

acknowledgement than the earlier. Between the two periods 
comes the real republican period,, from Kleisthenes to Demo 
sthenes, during which Tyrants are but seldom heard of, and 
scarcely ever in the most illustrious cities. But in Italy, 
the phenomenon of tyranny did not begin at all till the 
republican spirit had begun to decay, and, as we have seen, 
it gradually changed into what was looked upon as legi 
timate sovereignty. 

Lastly, as the Greek nation was the first which developed 
for itself anything worthy of the name of civilization, Greece 
and the Greek colonies naturally formed the whole extent of 
their own civilized world. Other nations were simply outside 
Barbarians. In the best days of Greece the interference of a 
foreign power in her internal quarrels would have seemed as 
if the sovereign of Morocco or China should claim the presi 
dency of a modern European congress. In later times indeed 
Sparta and Thebes and Athens, each in turn, found it con 
venient to contract political alliances with the Great King at 
Ekbatana, or with their more dangerous neighbour at Pella. 
But the Mede always remained a purely external enemy 
or a purely external paymaster; the Macedonian had him 
self to become a Greek before his turn came to be the 
dominant power of Greece. But in mediaeval Italy the case 
was widely different. She affected indeed to apply the name 
Barbarian to all nations beyond her mountain-bulwark. Nor 
did the assumption want some show of justification in her 
palpable pre-eminence in wealth, in refinement, in literature, 
in many branches of art, above all in political knowledge 
and progress. But, notwithstanding this, it was impossible 
to place mediaeval Italy so far above contemporary France 
or Spain or Germany, as ancient Greece stood above the 
rest of her contemporary world. All the states of Western 
Christendom were fragments of a single Empire, whose 
laws and language and general civilization had left traces 



I.] AND MEDIEVAL ITALY. 49 

among 1 them all. A common religion too united them 
against the paynim of Cordova or Bagdad, too often against 
the schismatic who filled the throne of Constantine. Italy 
for ages saw the lawful successor of her Kings and Caesars 
in a Barbarian of the race most alien to her feelings and 
language. Most of her highest nobility drew their origin 
from the same foreign stock. No wonder then if nations 
less alien to her tongue and manners played a part in her 
internal politics which differed widely from any interference 
of Barbarians in the affairs of Greece. Italian parties ranged 
themselves under the German watchwords of Guelf and 
Ghibelin, and fought under the standards of Angevin, 
Provencal, and Aragonese invaders. Florence looked to 
France lily to lily as her natural ally and her chosen 
protector. Sicily sought for her deliverer from French 
oppression in the rival power of a Spanish King. French 
and Spanish princes had been so often welcomed into 
Italy, they had so often filled Italian thrones and guided 
Italian politics, that men perhaps hardly understood the 
change or foresaw the consequences, when for the first 
time a King of France entered Italy in arms as the claimant 
of an Italian kingdom. Gradually, but only gradually, the 
strife which had once been a mere disputed succession be 
tween an Angevin and an Aragonese pretender grew into 
a strife between the mightiest potentates of the West for 
the mastery of Italy and of Europe. 

The coronation of Charles the Fifth ends the history of 
independent Italy. It ends also the history of the Western 
Empire. No Roman Emperor ever again came down into 
Italy to claim the golden crown at the hands of the 
Roman Pontiff. Moreover, since the days of Justinian, no 
Roman Emperor had ever held the same unbounded sway 
through the whole length of the Italian peninsula. That 
sway he indeed handed on to his successors, not indeed to 
his successors in the shadowy majesty of the Empire, but to 
those who wielded the more real might of Spain and the 

E 



50 ANCIENT GREECE [EssA\ 

Indies. If in later times his power in Italy came back to 
German princes who still bore the Imperial title, it came 
back to them, not as chiefs of a Roman or even a German 
Empire, but as those who wielded the power of the hereditary 
states of the Austrian House. The real history alike of the 
Empire and of the commonwealths ends with the fall of 
Florence and the pageant of Bologna. The formal close of 
Italian independence may indeed be put off till the last 
conquest of Sienna some twenty years later. One Italian 
state indeed had yet to run a course of glory, but it was 
hardly in the character of an Italian state. Venice still 
continued her career as the withstander, sometimes the con 
queror, of the infidel. Bragadino had yet to die in torments 
the penalty of trusting to an Ottoman capitulation. The 
fruitless laurels of Lepanto were yet to be won, and Morosini 
had yet to drive out the Barbarian from the plains of Argos 
and the Akropolis of Corinth. Genoa still kept her republican 
forms, and for one moment she showed the true republican 
spirit. Her patrician rulers had sunk in slumber ; but the 
people of the Proud City had still, hardly a century back, 
strength left for a rising which drove forth the Austrian 
from her gates. But as a whole, Italy was dead. We have 
ourselves seen her renewed struggles for life ; we have 
again seen her crushed down under the yoke of the brother 
tyrants of Austria and France. For eight years she has 
crouched in voiceless and seemingly hopeless bondage. That 
she has fallen for ever we will not willingly believe. But 
in what form shall she rise again? Her town-autonomy 
can never be restored in an age of Emperors and standing 
armies. Yet no lover of Italy could bear to see Milan 
and Venice and Florence and the Eternal City itself sink 
into provincial dependencies of the Savoyard. The other 
and more fortunate home of freedom supplies the key. If 
right and freedom should ever win back their own, the 
course of Aratos and Washington, of Fiirst and Stauffacher 
and Melchthal,* must be the guiding star of the liberators 

* [I have since learned that the Three Men are mythical; but the lesson 
of Swiss history is none the less useful.] 



L] AND MEDIEVAL ITALY. 51 

of Italy. The union which she failed to work in the 
twelfth century the bitter experience of ages may lead her 
to work in these later times. We cannot indeed look to 
see Italy, any more than Greece, become once more the 
central point of European history; but it may not be too 
wild a dream, if only foreign intermeddlers will stand aloof, 
to hope that an Italian Confederation may yet hold an 
independent and honourable place in the general system 
of Europe. * 

* [I leave this as I wrote it. The question of an Italian Confederation has 
now become as purely a matter of history as the question of a Boeotian Con 
federation. Italy has chosen her own form of government ; that form of 
government every Italian is bound loyally to accept, and every lover of Italy 
is bound to wish it well. Nor can I wonder that the name of a Confederation 
became hateful in Italy after Buonaparte had put forth the insidious scheme of 
an Italian Confederation as one of his devices for hindering Italian unity and 
freedom. The proposal of the sham Confederation was quite enough to hinder 
the establishment of a real one. Yet I may be allowed to doubt whether 
Italy has not been somewhat hasty in her choice, and whether something of a 
Federal form would not have been better for a constitution which was to take 
in lands differing so widely from one another in their social state and in their 
historical associations as do some of the provinces of the present Italian 
Kingdom.] 



E 2 



II. 



MR. GLADSTONES HOMER AND THE 
HOMERIC AGE.* 

Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age. By the Right Hon. 
W. E. GLADSTONE, D.C.L., M.P. for the University of 
Oxford. 3 vols. Oxford, 1858. 

THESE three volumes of Mr. Gladstone s form a great, but 
a very unequal work. They would he a worthy fruit of a 
life spent in learned retirement. As the work of one of 
our first orators and statesmen, they are altogether won 
derful. Not indeed that Mr. Gladstone s two characters 
of scholar and statesman have done aught but help and 
strengthen one another. His long experience of the w^oiid 
has taught him the better to appreciate Homer s wonderful 
knowledge of human nature ; the practical aspect of his 
poems, the deep moral and political lessons which they teach, 
become a far more true and living thing to the man of busy 
life than they can ever be to the mere solitary student. And 
perhaps his familiarity with the purest and most ennobling 
source of inspiration may have had some effect in adorning 

* [I have left this Essay substantially as it was first written. I have made 
some verbal improvements, and I have left out some passages which had lost 
their point through lapse of time, but I have not altered any actual expres 
sions of opinion. I should now perhaps write a little less enthusiastically on 
one or two points than I did then, but I have seen no reason to change the 
general views which I held then. I still believe that we have in the Iliad and 
Odyssey, the genuine works allowing of course for a certain amount of inter 
polation of a real personal Homer. There are of course difficulties about such 
a belief, but the difficulties the other way seem to me to be greater. The theory 
of Mr. Paley, the most unbelieving of all, I hope some day to have an oppor 
tunity of examining in detail.] 



MR. GLADSTONE S HOMER, tie, 53 

Mr. Gladstone s political oratory with more than one of its 
noblest features. He is not unlike the Achilleus of his own 
story. He may at least say with equal right, 

t\Qpbs yap \JLOI utivos, <5//o)s A /5ao irvXrja iv, -/ /. ~T3C *" s 

6s % fTfpov fj.\v KfvOei eVt (pptalv, &\\o Se /3afi. 

What strikes one more than anything- else throughout Mr. 
Gladstone s volumes is the intense earnestness, the loftiness of 
moral purpose, which breathes in every page. He has not taken 
up Homer as a plaything, nor even as a mere literary enjoy 
ment. To him the study of the Prince of Poets is clearly a 
means by which himself and other men may be made wiser 
and better. Here lies an immeasurable distance between 
him and a purely literary critic like Colonel Mure. Indeed 
Mr. Gladstone s morality, pure and noble as it is, is, we think, 
somewhat overwrought. It sometimes sinks into asceticism, 
sometimes into over-scrupulousness. So, in the more purely 
intellectual portions of his inquiry, we can easily see that 
same over-subtlety with which his censors reproach him in 
his speeches. Everywhere minute, everywhere ingenious, he 
often attempts to prove too much, and to find meanings in 
Homer of which Homer certainly never dreamed. In short, 
every one of the noblest qualities which adorn, every one of 
the defects which mar, the political portraiture of the most 
earnest and eloquent of living statesmen, is to be found trans 
ferred in all its fullness to the Studies on Homer and the 
Homeric Age. 

In one point at least of his subject, and that the greatest 
of all, Mr. Gladstone certainly stands unrivalled. In his 
pages Homer has, for the first time for many ages, had full 
justice done to him. This saying may seem strange, after 
Homer has so long been alike the text-book of school-boys 
and the delight of riper scholars ; but it is true, after all, 
that Mr. Gladstone has been the first to teach us to admire 
Homer as we ought. He claims for him, and that most justly, 
a place differing, not only in degree but in kind, from all who 
have come after him. He is the first of poets, to whom Dante 



54 MR. GLADSTONE S [ESSAY 

and Shakespere alone could ever be seriously compared ; and 
he is set above Dante and Shakespere by the fact of his being 
the first in time, with every thought native and unborrowed. 
Homer is moreover not only a poet, but, indirectly at least, 
he is a historian, a moralist, and a divine ; he is our sole 
witness to the events, the manners, and the creed of Greece 
in her heroic age. Yet, as Mr. Gladstone truly complains,, 
for ages past men have not learned to draw the proper line 
between him and all who came after him. They have not 
even learned to come to the fountain-head, and to quaff for 
themselves at the true well of inspiration. Men s ideas of 
the Homeric age are largely drawn, not from Homer himself, 
but from modern descriptions or abridgements, or at best 
from the later Greek and Latin writers. The popular con 
ception of the Homeric characters comes, not so much from 
Homer himself, as from poets like Virgil and Euripides, who 
treat Homeric subjects in a non-Homeric manner, and in 
whose hands both the spirit of the heroic age and the likeness 
of the individual heroes is utterly defaced and degraded. 
The school-boy reads Homer as his first Greek poet ; but 
he does not read through the Iliad and Odyssey, and, if he 
did, he would be unable to fathom their full depth and 
greatness. In the Universities Homer is strangely neglected 
for the tragedians. In general life many a man keeps up 
some knowledge of Latin literature and Latin poets, while, 
if he has ever gained any real knowledge of those of Greece, 
he has altogether let it slip. In the very assembly where 
Mr. Gladstone holds so high a place, it is quite regular to 
quote the heartless and egotistical talk of the pious ./Eneas, 
while one word of the living oratory of Achilleus spoken 
in his own tongue would be at once cried out against as a 
breach of order. That unhappy habit, continued in blind 
imitation of mediaeval practice, by which we begin education 
with the artificial literature of Rome, instead of going at once 
to the fountain-head of immortal Greece, has done endless 
harm to Homeric and to all Hellenic study. Mr. Gladstone 
himself has not escaped. The example of many earlier 



:L] HOMER AND THE HOMERIC AGE. 55 

scholars, strengthened by the authority of Bishop Thirlwall 
ind Mr. Grote, has fully established the practice of calling 
the Greek Gods by their own names, instead of those of the 
analogous Italian deities ; yet Mr. Gladstone goes back to the 
bygone fashion of calling Zeus Jupiter and Athene Minerva. 
He disapproves of the practice, but he does it all the same. 
Now really nothing is more fatal than this. In the first place 
it is simply a blunder. It is confounding two distinct and 
very different religions. There is just as much and just as 
little reason for calling Zeus Jupiter as there is for calling him 
Woden or Brahma.* And the practice is utterly inconsistent 
with the aim which Mr. Gladstone so specially seeks after, the 
separation of the Homeric poems from all later and inferior 
literature. Mars, Venus, Vulcan, are thoroughly vulgarized j 
so are Jupiter and Juno somewhat less thoroughly. But the 
real Olympian Gods are still untouched. Poetasters do not 
scribble about Ares and Aphrodite ; penny-a-liners do not dub 
the village blacksmith Hephaistos ; nor does any sportsman 
that we ever heard of call his pointer after the wife and sister 
of Zeus. Mr. Gladstone, of all men, was bound to keep the 
Homeric Olympos pure from the introduction of what are 
practically degrading nicknames. So, in rescuing the hero of 
Ithaca from the calumnies of Virgil, we would also rescue his 
name from the perversions of Latin tongues. Ulysses may 
pass, and welcome, as the cruel and crafty sinner of the ZEneid, 
but let us keep unhurt in name as well as in character the 
true and brave and wise Achaian hero, the divine Odysseus 
of Homer. 

Mr. Gladstone scarcely enters at all into what is called the 
f Homeric controversy. He takes for granted, and we think 
quite fairly as regards all the main points, that the controversy 
exists no longer ; that the matter has been set at rest by the 
unanswerable arguments of Colonel Mure. It shows indeed 
how truly Mr. Gladstone may complain of Homer being 
imperfectly understood, when the critics of one age undertook 

* [Practically Woden answers to Zeus ; philologically the English cognate 
of Zeus is Tiw the epdnymos of Tuesday.] 



56 ME. GLADSTONE S [ESSAY 

to run him down, and the critics of the next thought it a 
great exploit to tear him in pieces. How little could men 
have understood the epic art of Homer, how little could they 
have entered into the wonderful dramatic power by which 
every character is clearly conceived and consistently kept 
up from Alpha of the Iliad to Omega of the Odyssey, when 
they looked upon the poems as mere chance assemblages 
of detached ballads ! It is to the honour of English common 
sense that these notions were never very prevalent among us, 
and that it is by English scholarship that they have been 
finally overthrown. Mr. Grote, though a partial unbeliever, 
raised a vigorous protest against the worst forms of unbelief. 
Colonel Mure and Mr. Gladstone have done the business more 
thoroughly, and have cast the whole wretched theory to the 
winds. It is impossible to go through the works of these 
two great scholars without feeling more and more convinced 
that the old critics of Alexandria were more skilful in their art 
than the modern critics of Germany. They have given back 
to us the living personal Homer, the first of bards and the 
first of sages, the painter of the whole life of heroic Greece, the 
man who drew Achilleus and Odysseus, Helen and Penelopeia, 
and who peopled Olympos with the grand assemblage of 
deities created after the likeness of man. They have set up 
again the true Homeric faith. We have again our Homer, 
the author of the Iliad and Odyssey, and of the Iliad and 
Odyssey only, with his works handed down to us in a state 
nearly as pure as any other part of the ancient literature of 
Hellas. 

But, while Mr. Gladstone has done no more than justice in 
claiming for Homer his place at the head of the poets of all 
ages, in claiming for him a paramount authority as the one 
trustworthy expounder of the heroic life of Greece, we cannot 
but think that he goes a great deal too far in the amount of 
positive historical credit which he allows to him. Mr. Glad 
stone seems almost willing to accept the Iliad as a substantially 
true metrical chronicle. The case seems to us to be this. 
Homer is a very high historical authority in a certain sense. 



II.] HOMER AND THE HOMERIC AGE. 57 



We have no doubt that his heroic age is a real age. It is 
drawn with all the simplicity and artlessness of a picture 
taken from the life. Homer describes the sort of scenes 
which he had seen himself and had heard of from his father. 
No doubt he describes the heroic life in its best colours ; 
but it is still a real life and not an imaginary one. In a 
conscious and reflecting age a writer may, by a combination 
of antiquarian knowledge and poetical genius, produce a vivid 
picture of a long past age. But such a picture smells of 
the lamp; it needs an historical student either to produce 
or thoroughly to enter into it. Or again, a great poet may 
produce a grand picture out of an utterly fictitious tale, with 
no reproduction of any age in particular. The former has 
been at least the aim of writers like Scott and Bulwer. 
The latter we see in Shakespere s King Lear.* Now nothing 
is plainer than that the Iliad belongs to neither of these 
classes. In Homer we cannot talk of either knowledge or 
ignorance. He simply sets before us the life which he 
himself lived, described doubtless in its fairest and noblest 
aspect, but still essentially the real life of his own time. 
For all points of archeology, all customs, forms of govern 
ment,, modes of religious belief, we refer to Homer with 
unshaken faith. And, if we accept him as an authority at 
all, it clearly follows that we must, with Mr. Gladstone, 
accept him as a paramount authority, differing in kind from 
all others. For he alone is a direct witness ; every one else 
speaks at secondhand. 

But this is quite another matter from following Mr. 
Gladstone in his whole length of accepting Homer, as he 
really seems to do, as strictly an historical authority, if not 
on the level of Thucydides, at any rate on that of Herodotus. 
To justify us in this we need something like corroborative 
evidence, something like testimony as to the time when he 
lived, and the means of knowledge which he had. But 

* [I might add Macbeth; for, though Lear is an imaginary person, while 
Macbeth and his much calumniated wife really lived, they have been changed 
into imaginary persons in the hands of legend-makers.] 



58 MR. GLADSTONE S [ESSAY 

such corroborative testimony utterly fails us. We know 
nothing either of Homer or of the Homeric heroes except 
from Homer himself. We have no kind of chronology, no 
means of judging how long a time passed between the events 
themselves and the bard who sang of them. He may, as a boy, 
have seen Odysseus as an old man, or he may have thought 
of Odysseus as living ages before himself. We cannot tell 
one way or another. Mr. Gladstone himself has shown how 
little is proved either way by such sayings as that about 
0101 vvv fiporoL et(7i. Now, in either case, we may be sure 
that Homer s picture of Odysseus faithfully sets forth the 
manners and feelings of his own time, whether his own time 
was really the time of Odysseus or not. Such is always the 
case with a purely native and unlearned poetry. In either 
case he is equally great as a poet, equally valuable as an 
archaeological witness. But the two supposed cases make 
simply all the difference as to his strictly historical credit. 
In short we are not in a position to judge. We have no 
means of cross-examining our witness. We can neither 
accept his story nor cast it aside. 

Analogy may indeed help us a little. Homer gives us a 
poetical account of events of which we have no historical 
record. Now other ages give us poetical or romantic accounts 
of events of which we have also the real history*. In these 
cases we commonly find a certain foundation of fact, but 
the truth is covered over with fictitious details. A few 
leading persons, a few leading events, are still preserved, but 
the great bulk of the tale is fabulous. The names of Attila 
and Theodoric may be just seen, and no more, in the old 
Teutonic romances. There is an Arthur and a Charlemagne 
of history, an Arthur and a Charlemagne of romance.f Of 



? [I have since said something on this head in the Essay on the Mythical 
and Romantic Elements in Early English History, in my former series.] 

t [I should now say a Charles of history and a Charlemagne of romance. 
The distinction is convenient, and I wish that we had one of the same kind to 
distinguish the real Arthur who fought against Cerdic from the mythical 
subject of so many romances and poems.] 



II.] HOMER AND THE HOMERIC AGE. 59 

the Arthur of history we can only say that he was a British 
prince who withstood the English invaders. In Geoffrey of 
Monmouth he does exploits rather in the style of the 
Seven Champions of Christendom. Of the Charlemagne of 
history, thanks to Eginhard and the Capitularies, we know 
far more than of many much later Kings. But the Charle 
magne of romance, with his adventures at Constantinople 
and Jerusalem, is quite another person from the Charles 
who beheaded the Saxons and was crowned by Pope Leo at 
Home. Whenever we have the means of judging in such 
cases, we find that there is a kernel of truth; but it is a 
kernel so overlaid with fiction, that, without external help, 
it is impossible to distinguish the two. 

We have here taken an analogy very unfavourable to 
Homer, but it is one which we think justifies us in assuming 
that the Homeric poems do contain some portion of true 
history. We cannot fancy that they are less trustworthy 
than the romances of Charlemagne and Arthur. It is very 
likely that they are much more trustworthy. It is very likely 
that Homer lived much nearer to the events which he records, 
and that he was much more careful of truth in recording 
them. The chances are greatly in favour of the Homeric 
poems containing very much more historical truth than 
the mediaeval romances. But we are not in a position to 
measure the exact amount of truth. W T e cannot dogmatize 
either way. In the worst case we may be pretty sure there 
is some truth ; in the best case we may be pretty sure there 
is a good deal of fiction. But we cannot say how much is 
truth and how much is fiction, except when we can find 
some external evidence, either to corroborate or to confute, 
or else when there is some internal evidence which carries 
with it an overwhelming conviction either of truth or of 
falsehood. 

Now for some points of the Homeric story strong external 
evidence may be brought in corroboration. It is the fault 
of the school represented by Sir G. C. Lewis to rely too 
much upon written books only, and almost to put out of sigh!: 



60 MR. GLADSTONE S [ESSAY 

the growing sciences of archaeology and ethnology. But 
these last sometimes step in very opportunely to confirm the 
legend. The Iliad speaks of a great King of Mykene as 
warring on the coast of Asia. To one who knew Greece 
only from Herodotus and Thucydides the story would seem 
absurd. In their pages Mykene appears utterly insignifi 
cant ; Homer s picture of it as the capital of Peloponnesos 
might be cast aside as wholly incredible. But go to the place 
itself, look at the wonderful remains of early magnificence 
which are still there, and the difficulty at once vanishes. 
Legend and archaeology between them have kept alive a truth 
which history has lost. We may fairly set down the Pelopid 
dynasty as a real dynasty. But, if we are asked whether 
Atreus and Agamemnon were real persons, we have no 
evidence to make us decide either way. Again, the settle 
ment of large bodies of Greeks on the Asiatic shore is an 
undoubted fact. And it is impossible not to connect with 
this undoubted fact the legend of the Trojan war. It is 
impossible not to believe that the warfare of Agamemnon 
represents some stage or other of the process which made 
the western coast of Asia Hellenic. Again, ethnological 
evidence alone would lead us to believe that the Greeks found 
there a people separated from themselves by no very wide 
ethnical barrier. This exactly falls in with Homer s portrai 
ture of the Trojans. They are inferior to the Greeks, but they 
are not broadly distinguished from them in creed, manners, or 
language. Here ethnology supports legend. That Greeks 
did war on the Hellespont is certain ; that a Mykenaian 
King may have led them is highly probable. Here then 
we have clear external evidence corroborating the bare 
historical kernel around which the poetry of the Iliad has 
gathered. 

Again, there are some places in which internal evidence 
leads us to the belief that Homer meant to make direct and 
accurate statements of historical fact. We have never doubted 
for a moment that the Catalogue in the Iliad is a real picture 
of the Greek geography of the time. It is quite unlike any 



II.] HOMER AND THE HOMERIC AGE. 61 

such catalog-ties in other poems or romances, where distance 

either of time or space allowed the author to invent at pleasure, 

and to tickle his audience with strange or high-sounding names. 

The exact amount of its historical value, the degree to which 

we are justified in appealing to it to prove the existence of 

particular persons, depends upon the question which we 

cannot answer, How long did Homer live after his heroes ? 

But we may surely trust it for the names and the position of 

cities, for the boundaries of regions, and for their importance 

relatively to one another. We may be quite sure that, even 

if Homer s heroes lived ages before him, he would give us 

the geography of his own times and not that of any other ; 

and in the geography of his own times he could not venture 

to be otherwise than accurate, with all Greece ready to 

criticize and confute him.* Again, when he makes Poseidon 

foretell that, after Priam and his city had fallen, the 

children s children of Aineias would still go on reigning 

in the Troad, it is impossible not to believe that there 

was, in the poet s days, an existing dynasty, sprung or 

claiming to spring from Aineias. And on negative points 

the historical testimony of Homer becomes of the highest 

importance. If he had ever heard of those Egyptian and 

Asiatic settlements in Greece which are dreamed of by later 

writers, it is utterly impossible that there should have been, 

as there now is, not the slightest reference to them in any 

portion of the poems. The lines in which Homer describes 

the passing of the sceptre from father to son along the line 

of Pelops may or may not be enough evidence to prove the 

real existence of each of the potentates which they speak of, 

but, as other evidence has led us to believe that the dynasty 

is a real dynasty, so this passage may lead us to believe that 

it was not a dynasty of foreign blood. Had Homer believed 

the patriarch of the house of Agamemnon to have been of 



* [Every time I read the Homeric Catalogue I am the more convinced that 
we have in it a real picture of early Greek geography. No conceivable motive 
can be thought of for its invention at any later time.] 



62 MR. GLADSTONE S [ESSAY 

Lydian birth, he would hardly have left the fact to he first 
told to us by Pindar. 

But we must remember, on the other hand, that the silence 
of Homer on any point is not absolutely conclusive. It is con 
clusive only when the point is one which we cannot fancy him 
failing to speak of, had he heard of it. This applies both in 
divine and in human affairs. Nothing is more certain than that 
Homer did not invent, however much he may have embellished, 
either his Olympian mythology or his Trojan war. The con 
stant references which the Odyssey contains to matters which 
do not come within the range of the Iliad, fully show that 
there was a great mass of floating Troic legend, of which 
Homer only wrought up so much as suited his own purpose. 
Again, it is equally clear that Homer allowed his own taste 
or discretion to settle the prominence to be allowed to different 
portions of his theological system. The series of revolutions 
by which Zeus was enthroned on Olympos were clearly not 
unknown to Homer; but, while ^Eschylus has chosen to 
bring them prominently forward, Homer has chosen to 
keep them in the background. It may therefore sometimes 
happen that even very late and inferior writers may 
preserve traditions which fill up Homeric gaps or explain 
Homeric allusions. But we fully grant to Mr. Gladstone 
that Homer s authority is absolutely paramount ; that every 
other testimony is merely secondary ; that, though we may 
admit some things which are not in Homer, we must admit 
nothing which is inconsistent with Homer. 

In what we have already said we have gone through pretty 
nearly all that we have to say on Mr. Gladstone s Prolego 
mena, and we have forestalled some parts of the later divisions 
of his work. Of its three volumes, the first contains Pro 
legomena and Achasis, or the Ethnology of the Greek 
Races ; the second is wholly devoted to Olympus, or the 
Religion of the Homeric Age ; the third contains Agore, 
Politics of the Homeric Age ; Ilios : Trojans and Greeks 
compared ; Thalassa : the Outer Geography ; Aoidos : 
some points of the Poetry of Homer. Here is matter 



II.] HOMER AND THE HOMERIC AGE. 63 

enough, matter whose full examination would need a volume 
rather than an essay, if we were to examine with any minute 
ness. The treatment of the different sections too is widely 
different, hoth in kind and in merit. Kightly to deal with 
some of them would involve a minute examination of nearly 
the whole Homeric text. Other parts are of a more general 
character, and to them we shall chiefly confine our attention. 

The division beaded Thalassa we shall not go into at all. 
It is entirely devoted to points of minute mythical geography, 
which, if examined at all, must be examined in great detail. 
It is better to pass it by than to deal with it cursorily and 
unworthily. We will only say that it shows Mr. Gladstone s 
never-failing minuteness and never-failing ingenuity in a 
high degree ; but we decline to pronounce any opinion for or 
against the accuracy of his theory. 

Achseis is a division which we cannot undertake to 
examine in detail, and which yet we cannot pass by quite 
so briefly as Thalassa. It is, to our minds, the weakest 
part of the book : and we shall presently give our reasons 
for thinking so. 

Olympus is perhaps the most important part of the 
work, and it shows most fully all the strength and all 
the weakness of the author s mind. Agore, Ilios, and 
Aoidos, all contain much attractive and admirable matter, 
mingled with things here and there from which we dissent. 
To these four sections we shall give our chief attention, with 
out binding ourselves minutely to follow Mr. Gladstone s 
arrangement. 

But, first, for a few words as to the ethnological portion of 
the work, the section headed Achseis. It is no disparage 
ment to Mr. Gladstone to say that he is not an ethnologer. 
He is so many things that are great and good that he can 
afford to be told that he has made a mistake in entering at 
all on this particular field. We do not know how far our 
conjecture is really correct ; but it seems to us that while 
Mr. Gladstone has always kept up his general scholarship 
in other respects, he is a kind of series studiontm in this 



G4 MR. GLADSTONE S [ESSAY 

special branch. Now ethnology, like every other science, 
needs a preliminary discipline, and the greatest mind cannot 
deal with the subject offhand. Of Mr. Gladstone s wonder 
fully minute study of the poems, of the wonderful ingenuity 
of his mind, this section gives perhaps the fullest proof of 
any. But it is equally clear that he has no scientific way of 
looking at ethnological problems. He seems to have no clear 
view of the general relations between the great divisions of the 
human family. He is carried away by small points of inci 
dental likeness and unlikeness. He finds a kindred between 
Pelasgians and Egyptians, because both are agricultural and 
neither (according to him) maritime. At the end of his 
inquiry, he seems to identify Medes, Egyptians, and Pelas 
gians with the remains of the Allophylian races in western 
and northern Europe. If this means anything, it must 
mean that Medes, Egyptians, and Pelasgians were all Tura 
nian, a view w T hich certainly struck us with no small amaze 
ment. We had long ago made up our own minds that the 
Pelasgians and the Hellenes differed pretty much as the 
different branches, or rather as the different stages, of the 
Teutonic nations ; as Danes from Germans, or rather perhaps 
as Anglo-Saxons* from modern Englishmen. These Tura 
nian Pelasgians were, according to Mr. Gladstone, overlaid 
by the Aryan Hellenes fresh from Persia. His arguments seem 
to be, that the names f EAAcn and "EAAr/ye? come near to that 
of the Eelleats in modern Persia ; that, on the other hand, 
the name of Fars or Persia is met with again in the hero 
Perseus and the goddess Persephone; that Achaimenes and 
Achaia may be connected ; that there is some likeness between 
the manners of the heroic Greeks and those of the nomad 
tribes of modern Persia. Now there is a good deal of 
Turkish blood in modern Persia ; and one would like to be 
quite sure how many of Mr. Gladstone s Eelleats are true 
Iranians of the land of light, and how many are Turanian 

* [I should not now talk about Anglo-Saxons as opposed to modern 
Englishmen. But it should be remembered that the word Anglo-Saxon 
is a perfectly good word, if people would only use it in its right meaning.] 



II.] HOMER AND THE HOMERIC AGE. 65 

impostors from the land of darkness. But granting that the 
forefathers of every living Eelleat were found under the 
banner of Roostam, what does it all prove ? We really never 
knew a man of a fourth part of Mr. Gladstone s understand 
ing patch up a theory on such wretchedly slender evidence. 
Undoubtedly the Hellenes and the Persians are connected, 
because both are members of the great Aryan family ; but we 
cannot see the slightest sign of any more special connexion. 
Greeks and Persians are kindred ; so are Greeks and Hindoos, 
Greeks and Teutons, Greeks and Slaves, Greeks and Celts. 
But Mr. Gladstone s special Hellene-Persian brotherhood seems 
to us to rest upon no good ground whatever. It is just the 
sort of thought which might come into the mind of an 
ingenious man who had heard of some of the discoveries of 
modern ethnology, but who had not learned to look at them 
in their scientific bearings. But it is quite unworthy of Mr. 
Gladstone. He is a man whom we may fairly ask to forbear 
from dealing with any subject except the many of which he 
is master. 

We will now turn to the Olympian division of the work. 
In treating the mythological side of the Homeric poems, there 
are two obvious ways of dealing with the subject. The com 
mentator may, if he will, strictly keep himself to the Homeric 
text ; he may bring out, as far as may be, the belief about 
his Gods which was held by Homer himself; he may compare 
passage with passage, and, if need be, he may contrast the 
Homeric picture with that of other poets and philosophers. 
In short, he may deal with the Gods simply as divine actors 
in the poems ; he may comment on their functions and 
characters as conceived by the poet, and he may draw what 
ever lessons, poetical or moral, may be suggested by the 
part which they play in the story. In such a view as this 
the origin of the Hellenic mythology, its relation to other 
religious systems, are altogether beside the question. But in 
another aspect, these latter questions become altogether para 
mount, while the mode of dealing with the subject which 



66 MR. GLADSTONE S [ESSAY 

may have been followed by Homer or any other Greek poet be 
comes important only as part of the evidence. Professor Max 
Miiller, in his most striking paper in the Oxford Essays, has 
shown that there is a science of Comparative Mythology, just 
as there is a science of Comparative Philology."* The two 
sciences follow the same process of argument, and indeed, to a 
great extent, they work upon the same set of facts. Neither 
the Greek language nor the Greek mythology stands alone ; 
each is a member of a family. Neither of them therefore can 
be fully understood without reference to the other languages 
and the other mythologies of the same family. A man who 
understands neither Sanscrit nor Teutonic may indeed reach 
to a high degree of Greek scholarship of a certain kind ; he 
may know all the minutest usages of the language, and he 
may be able fully to enter into every literary beauty of the 
poet or the orator. So may a man who knows nothing of 
Indian or Scandinavian mythology no less fully enter into the 
poetical or the political character of the mythology of Greece ; 
he may fully understand its part in the drama of the Iliad ; 
he may trace its gradual change in later times ; he may see 
clearly how it influenced, and how it was influenced by, the 
character of the nation. He can indeed, in either case, carry 
on his researches from Homer onwards into the historic age, 
but he cannot carry them from Homer backwards into times 
when even poetical and mythical evidence fails us. With 
out a knowledge of the languages and the mythologies of 
ancient India and of the other kindred races, no man can 
ever deal with the origin either of the Greek language or of 
the Greek mythology.t 

Now with the purely Hellenic and Homeric side of the 
subject no man is better fitted to deal than Mr. Gladstone. 
Though the Hellenic mythology is historically a mere frag- 

* [It must be remembered that this was written when Comparative Mytho 
logy was quite a new subject, and when even Comparative Philology had not 
made much way in England ; otherwise there now seems something amusing 
in the way in which I wrote then.] 

t [This requirement of knowledge must be taken with the limitations which 
I have made in my Rede Lecture on the Unity of History, p. 1 7.] 



II.] HOMER AND THE HOMERIC AGE. G7 

rnent of a common earlier system, yet practically, poetically, 
and politically it is the original creation of the Hellenic mind. 
In the shape in which we behold it, it bears the full impress 
of the Hellenic character, the stamp of all that distinguishes 
the Greek from the other branches of the Aryan stem. As far 
as the student of Greek literature and of Greek political history 
is concerned, it is of native Hellenic birth. And it is in the 
poems of Homer that we find the Hellenic mythology in its 
earliest and purest form. With this portion of the subject 
Mr. Gladstone s Hellenic scholarship and Homeric enthusiasm, 
his keen observation and refined taste, enable him to deal 
with a master s hand. Allowing for that vein of exaggeration 
and over-subtlety which runs through the whole work, allow 
ing also for a strange ascetic tone of which we shall again 
speak, the dramatic character of the Homeric Gods as actors 
in the Homeric poems, the practical effect of the Homeric 
religion upon the thoughts and acts of the Homeric man, have 
been handled in Mr. Gladstone s Olympian volume with a 
depth, a vigour, a minuteness, and a fullness, with which they 
have never been handled before. But unluckily Mr. Gladstone 
has also thought it his duty to set forth a theory of the 
historical, or rather archa3ological, origin of the Greek re 
ligion. And here he utterly and lamentably fails. He fails 
for the same reason that he fails in his ethnological section. 
Scientific ethnology he attempts without being master of it ; 
scientific mythology he does not even attempt. Though he 
once quotes Professor Miiller s Essay, he seems practically not 
to know that there is such a thing as Comparative Mytho 
logy. That the origin of the Greek mythology is to be 
sought for in some common source with the mythology of 
India, of Italy, and of Scandinavia is a thought which plainly 
never came into his mind. 

The fact is that Mr. Gladstone has sacrificed the scientific 
treatment of his subject to a supposed theological necessity. 
Throughout the book he shows a strange fondness for bring 
ing in references to Scripture, and a strange mixture of 
timidity and daring in his way of dealing with them. Be- 

F 2, 



68 MR. GLADSTONE S [ESSAY 

cause he holds the Old Testament to be the Word of God, be 
cause he holds the Hebrews to have been God s chosen people, 
he forbids us to yield any literary homage to Hebrew writers, 
or any historical admiration to Hebrew warriors and statesmen. 
Yet, with a daring which many would call irreverent, he sees 
a shadow of the Christian Trinity in Zeus, Poseidon, and 
Aidoneus ; he sees the seed of the woman in Phoibos Apollon 
and the Divine Wisdom in Pallas Athene. Now this kind of 
thing is not to be borne. It is fit only for those divines 
who combine thorough weakness of intellect with a certain 
amount of school-boy learning, just as mere vulgar reviling 
of heathens and heathenism befits that other class of divines 
who find it a hard task to construe either their Homer or 
their Greek Testament. Mr. Gladstone does not indeed be 
long to the very worst form of the school ; he does not fancy 
that the Greeks really borrowed, directly or indirectly, from 
the Jews. He divides the Greek divinities into two classes, 
Traditive and Inventive. The former he holds to come from 
recollections, however fragmentary and perverted, of original 
patriarchal tradition. This tradition was, among the Hebrews, 
miraculously preserved. Among other nations, it was left to 
its fate. It was therefore, not indeed wholly lost, but dis 
torted, disintegrated/ and mixed up with mere human inven 
tions. From this last source spring the Inventive deities, 
pure devices of man, embodiments of nature-worship/ pas 
sion-worship, and mere poetic caprice. Some are of Pelasgian, 
some are of Hellenic birth, some were brought in from foreign 
lands. But all are mere human invention ; they do not 
preserve even a distorted form of the genuine patriarchal 
tradition. 

Now our first answer to all this is that Mr. Gladstone s 
division into Traditive and Inventive deities is a purely 
arbitrary one. Those deities in which he personally can see 
traces of primitive tradition he puts in one class, and all the 
rest he puts in another. The whole thing is pure theory, with 
out a shadow of any external evidence. Another writer might 
see traces of primitive tradition in Hermes and Aphrodite, and 



II.] HOMER AND THE HOMERIC AGE. 69 

none at all in Athene? and Apollon. And, for the reason which 
we have just given, we maintain that Mr. Gladstone has not 
earned for himself the right to theorize upon the subject. 
It is evident that the Aryan nations, before their separa 
tion, had made certain advances in knowledge and culture, 
while certain further advances were made by each separate 
branch of the race after the dispersion. Now surely, what 
ever amount of primitive truth is preserved in the Hellenic 
mythology must have been part of this common intellectual 
stock of the whole Aryan family. If, after the dispersion, 
the Hellenes learned any additional truths of which Hin 
doos or Teutons remained in ignorance, knowledge so gained 
could not be unbroken patriarchal tradition; it would come 
near to that special and direct biblical derivation which 
Mr. Gladstone rightly casts aside. We do not at all dog 
matically deny that traces of patriarchal tradition may 
survive in the Hellenic mythology ; but we do say that 
a man can never find them out by merely sitting down 
with his Homer on one side and his Bible on the other. 
He must first of all find out how much of the Hellenic 
mythology is distinctively Hellenic, how much belongs 
to the common stock of the whole Aryan family. Other 
wise he is acting exactly like a philologer of the last century 
who derived some Greek word from Hebrew, without think 
ing of asking whether the root was found in German or 
Sanscrit. It is highly probable that, both in language and 
in belief, there is a certain element common to the Aryan 
and the Semitic families. But it does not do to look for 
Semitic analogies for any one Aryan language or any 
one Aryan mythology. The only scientific process is, to 
ask, First, What have Hellenes, Hindoos, Teutons, &c. in 
common ? Secondly, What have Hebrews, Arabs, &c. in 
common ? Thirdly, What have these two original stocks in 
common ? When Mr. Gladstone has found out the common 
element in the Greek, Italian, Persian, Indian, Teutonic, 
Celtic, and Slavonic mythologies, he may then fairly ask 
how much of this common element is of patriarchal origin. 



70 MR. GLADSTONE S [ESSAY 

and how much is due to human invention before the dis 
persion. Till he has done this, he has no right arbitrarily to 
set down some Hellenic deities as Traditive, and others as 
Inventive. 

And further still, even if we were in a position to deal with 
a common Aryan mythology instead of with a merely Hellenic 
mythology, we should still protest against the particular 
kind of analogies which are sought for by Mr. Gladstone. 
In the Homeric mythology he finds traces of the doctrines 
of the Trinity, of the fall of man, of the promise of Messiah, 
of the existence and the rebellion of Satan. Now we are here 
treading on dangerous ground, as we wish, while dealing with 
the present question, to avoid as far as possible all points of 
dogmatic theology. But it really seems to us that Mr. Glad 
stone might just as well go to his Homer for evidence for or 
against Mr. Gorham or Archdeacon Denison. We say nothing 
for or against the doctrines for which either of those divines 
have been called in question ; we only say that we cannot find 
their confirmation or their refutation either in Homer or in 
the Pentateuch. We say exactly the same of the doctrines 
for which Mr. Gladstone seeks in the Iliad and Odyssey. 
Surely the primitive patriarchal tradition of which Mr. 
Gladstone speaks can be found nowhere else but in the book 
of Genesis. And we trust that we shall give no offence to 
the most orthodox mind, if we say that most of the doc 
trines of which Mr. Gladstone speaks are not to be found in 
the book of Genesis. It is the very essence of Christianity to 
be a religion of progression ; even before we come to actual 
Christian teaching, nothing can be plainer than that far 
clearer and loftier ideas of the divine nature were granted to 
the Prophets than any that can be found in the Law. It 
is thoroughly weak to try to prove that the contemporaries 
of Abraham had equal light with the contemporaries of 
Saint Paul, or even with the contemporaries of Isaiah. We 
claim the right to do for Moses the same good service which 
Mr. Gladstone has done for Homer. We can accept nothing 
as patriarchal tradition except what we can find in a literal 



II.] HOMER AND THE HOMERIC AGE. 71 

and grammatical construction of the text of the book of 
Genesis. We are so much in the habit of reading the Hebrew 
records by the light of Christian and later Jewish glosses 
that few people know what is there and what is not. We 
have known people who fully believed that the book of 
Genesis said, in so many words, that the Devil tempted 
Eve, and we have seen them stand altogether aghast at 
finding that there was nothing of the kind there. Now 
surely no one who reads the book of Genesis, forgetting as 
far as possible all later books, will find in it any of those 
doctrines of which Mr. Gladstone sees traces in the Homeric 
poems. * Genesis tells us of a serpent beguiling Eve by his 
natural subtlety, and of the mutual hatred thence following 
between men and serpents. Genesis tells us of giants be 
gotten between the sons of God and the daughters of men. 
Genesis and the books which follow it contain passages 
which, if they were found in Homer, would certainly be 
understood as implying highly anthropophuistic views of 
Deity. It is in the image of God that man was created. 
The Lord God walked in the garden in the cool of the day. 
God smelled a sweet savour from Noah s sacrifice. The Lord 
went his way after communing with Abraham. The elders 
saw God, and did eat and drink. Moses saw the back parts 
of God, but might not see his face. On the other hand, we 
find no reference whatever to a future state; we find not a 
word against polygamy ; we find marriages with an aunt, 
a wife s sister, a man s own half-sister, having at least the 
sanction of patriarchal example. We presume not to com 
ment or to interpret ; we only say what is in the book. To 
us nothing can be clearer than that, through the whole 
history of Judaism and Christianity, new light has been con 
tinually given ; indeed, no Christian, to be a Christian at 
all, can deny this, though he may weakly strive to escape 

* [Let me say that in all this passage I simply gave the results of my own 
thought. I never read a word of any of the German writers on biblical 
matters, and later controversies in our own tongue had not begun when this 
was written.] 



72 MR. GLADSTONE S [ESSAY 

the consequences. All Mr. Gladstone s doctrines are later 
doctrines ; they are later deductions, later developements, 
later revelations, if he pleases, which he has no right to set 
down as forming any part of patriarchal tradition. The 
personification of the Logos or the Wisdom cannot be traced 
back beyond the book of Proverbs, and there it appears only in 
a most rudimentary shape. Yet this is the doctrine of which 
Mr. Gladstone finds a traditionary vestige in Athene". There 
is not a shadow of evidence that the ancient Hebrews had any 
distinct,* if any, idea of a Divine Trinity, that they had 
any idea at all of a future Deliverer at once divine and 
human, or any idea of evil spirits at warfare with, or in 
rebellion against, the Most High.f We find the first clear 
traces of these doctrines in writings much later than the 
time of Homer. Mr. Gladstone has no right to take for 
granted that they were handed down from the beginning 
by unwritten tradition. He brings no sort of proof, and all 
probability is against it. He cannot show that they formed 
any part of the patriarchal creed ; he has therefore no right 
to look for even the most perverted vestiges of them in the 
primitive mythology of Hellas. 

W r hile dealing with Mr. Gladstone s treatment of this 
portion of his subject, we cannot help expressing our 
amazement at the chapter which concludes the Olympian 
volume ; that headed, The Office of the Homeric Poems 
in relation to that of the early Books of Holy Scripture. 
We must copy the following passage at length : 

Should we, like some writers of the present day, cite the Pentateuch 
before the tribunal of the mere literary critic, we may strain our generosity 



* We speak thus guardedly, because of two remarkable passages, which will 
at once occur to the reader, in the early part of Genesis. But few scholars 
now believe that even these passages have the meaning which was formerly 
so often attributed to them, and certainly the general mode of speaking 
throughout that book would not suggest the idea of a plurality of persons in 
the Godhead. 

t If we rightly understand Mr. Gladstone, he looks upon Kronos as a 
representative of Satan, and yet holds that the Kronid brothers represent the 
divine Trinity. One stands aghast at this amazing piece of theogony. 



II.] HOMER AND THE HOMERIC AGE. 73 

at the cost of justice, and still only be able to accord to it a secondary place. 
The mistake surely is to bring it there at all, or to view its author otherwise 
than as the vehicle of a divine purpose, which uses all instruments, great, 
insignificant, or middling, according to the end in view ; but of which all the 
instruments are perfect, by reason, not of what is intrinsic to themselves, but, 
simply and solely, of their exact adaptation to that end. 

If, however, we ought to decline to try the Judaic code by its merely po 
litical merits, much more ought we to apply the same principle to the sublimity 
of the prophecies, and to the deep spiritual experiences of the Psalms. In the 
first, we have a voice speaking from God, with the marks that it is of God so 
visibly imprinted upon it, that the mind utterly refuses to place the prophetical 
books in the scale against any production of human genius. And all that 
is peculiar in our conception of Isaiah, or of Jeremiah, does not tend so much 
to make them eminent among men, as to separate them from men. Homer, 
on the other hand, is emphatically and above all things human : he sings by 
the spontaneous and the unconscious indwellings of nature; whereas these are 
as the trumpet of unearthly sounds, and cannot, more than Balaam could, 
depart from that which is breathed into them, to utter either less or more. 

But most of all does the Book of Psalms refuse the challenge of philoso 
phical or poetical competition. In that book, for well-nigh three thousand 
years, the piety of saints has found its most refined and choicest food ; to such 
a degree, indeed, that the rank and quality of the religious frame may in 
general be tested, at least negatively, by the height of its relish for them. 
There is the whole music of the human heart, when touched by the hand of 
the Maker, in all its tones that whisper or that swell, for every hope and fear, 
for every joy and pang, for every form of strength and languor, of disquietude 
and rest. There are developed all the innermost relations of the human soul 
to God, built upon the platform of a covenant of love and sonship that had its 
foundations in the Messiah, while in this particular and privileged book it was 
permitted to anticipate His coming. 

AVe .can no more, then, compare Isaiah and the Psalms with Homer, than 
we can compare David s heroism with Diomed s, or the prowess of the 
Israelites when they drove Philistia before them with the valour of the 
Greeks at Marathon or Plataea, at Issus or Arbela. We shall most nearly 
do justice to each by observing carefully the boundary-lines of their re 
spective provinces. 

All this is evidently heartfelt, and it almost deserves the 
name of eloquence ; yet it is to us simply unintelligible. 
Mr. Gladstone, by way of reverence for certain writings, 
actually goes out of his way to disparage them. Why cannot 
he accept the Hebrew writings for all that he says, and yet 
not deny the palpable fact that they are also the literature of 
the Hebrew nation, its whole literature, historical, political, 
and poetical, as well as strictly theological? Why should 
the Pentateuch, as a literary work, be content with a secondary 



74 MR. GLADSTONE S [ESSAY 

place? Could Homer or ^Eschylus or Dante surpass the 
grandeur of the Song of Moses ? What is there that * sepa 
rates Isaiah and Jeremiah from men ? What is more truly 
and beautifully human than the lament of Jeremiah over the 
city sitting solitary which once was full of people ? What 
Lombard dreaming of the rending of the yoke of Habsburg, 
what Greek or Bosnian looking for the final overthrow of the 
trembling Ottoman, could desire a truer paean of a nation s 
vengeance than Isaiah s hymn of triumph over the doomed 
tyrant of Babel?* What is there in the noblest of the 
Psalms, in the seventy-eighth, in the hundred and fourth 
and those which follow it, which need refuse the challenge 
of poetical competition against the noblest poetry of the 
whole world ? And the last paragraph, seemingly designed 
to explain, only makes matters darker still. We do not 
compare the prowess of the Israelites at Gath or Gob with 
that of the Greeks at Plataia or Arbela, simply because 
we doubt whether the Hebrews knew any such skilful order 
as the Dorian phalanx, or wielded any weapon so effective as 
the Macedonian sarissa. But why we may not compare the 
heroism of David and that of Diomedes is altogether beyond 
our understanding. May we compare Greeks and Jews only 
in their sins, and not in their virtues? Mr. Gladstone 
himself, in one place, draws out an elaborate comparison 
between the demeanour of Bathsheba and that of Helen. 
But must we look upon the mutual love of Jonathan and 
David as less touching, less thoroughly human, than that of 
Achilleus and Patroklos, because one is recorded in a Hellenic, 
and the other in a Hebrew volume ? 

We wonder then not a little at the strange mixture of 
daring and timidity which Mr. Gladstone shows in his way 
of dealing with the Old-Testament records; and we dissent 
altogether from the way in which he tries to connect those 
records with the Greek mythology. We therefore altogether 
reject that division into Traditive and Inventive deities 

* [Surely that glorious hymn never sounded in men s ears with a more 
thrilling voice than in September 1870.] 



II.] HOMER AND THE HOMERIC AGE. 75 

which forms the groundwork of his whole system. And 
with our notions of the relations between Pelasgians and 
Hellenes, we see hardly more ground for his division of 
the Inventive deities into Pelasgian and Hellenic, or for his 
derivation of some of them from Phoenician or other foreign 
sources. We hold the Greek mythology to be, exactly like 
the Greek language, a Hellenic developement from the 
common primaeval stock of the Aryan races. The scientific 
problem is to show how much is shared by other Aryan 
nations, how much is distinctively Hellenic. The next en 
quiry would be, what Asiatic elements were mingled in the 
later Greek religion after the date of the Greek settlements 
in Asia. It is clear that the later Greeks practised both 
Barbarian rites and Barbarian vices ; but in Homer we find 
no trace of either. Of these two questions, the latter hardly 
comes within Mr. Gladstone s scope ; the former, in the 
view he has chosen to take of his subject, certainly does so ; 
but he has nowhere even tried to examine it. 

We think then that the general principle of Mr. Glad 
stone s Olympus is altogether inadmissible. But we can 
hardly speak too highly of the services in detail which he 
has done to the study of the Homeric religion. The dramatic 
aspect of the several deities, the conception which Homer had 
formed of each, their powers,, their functions, their physical 
and moral attributes, the features in which Homer s idea of 
each differs from that of later writers, all these points have 
been studied by him with minute and affectionate care, and 
they are brought out in his work with a fullness and accuracy 
of detail, with an union of taste and moral feeling, such as 
we have never seen before. Every reader of the poems must 
have remarked the vast superiority of Apollon and Athene 
over all their fellow divinities ; but few probably have taken 
the trouble to bring together the evidence of their superiority 
in the way in which it has been brought together by Mr. 
Gladstone. They are clearly not subject either to the same 
physical restrictions or to the same moral weaknesses as 
the other dwellers on Olympos. All this, according to 



76 MR. GLADSTONE S [ESSAY 

Mr. Gladstone, shows them to be Traditive deities ; the proofs 
which he brings together to that end are most valuable for 
other purposes, but the main argument altogether fails. For 
Zeus too is a Traditive deity, and Zeus is pursued by Mr. 
Gladstone with a relentless enmity. Smile-loving Aphrodite, 
golden Aphrodite, fares no better. Mr. Gladstone is a stern 
moralist, and will have no pity on the transgressions of either 
father or daughter. Altogether we think that Mr. Gladstone s 
picture of Olympos is a little over-drawn. He tells us that 
the Homeric men are much better than the Homeric Gods. 
This, to a certain extent, is true; though Mr. Gladstone is 
certainly a little over-partial to the Homeric men, and, we 
think, a little over-severe upon the Homeric Gods. But is 
not something of what Mr. Gladstone complains almost in 
herent in any polytheistic system? May not its rudiments 
be found in every attempt of man to conceive of Deity at 
all ? The Homeric Gods live regardless of the restraints 
which they themselves impose on men. Their moral standard 
is lower ; they are more selfish, more capricious, more sensual, 
than their worshippers. Now it is hardly possible to conceive 
of a divine being as governed by the same moral laws which 
rule mankind. Many Christian divines tell us that morality 
is simply conformity to the Divine will. The Deity is here 
looked at as the maker of the moral law, but not as being 
himself bound by it ; and there is probably no religion 
in which devout men do not find difficulties in recon 
ciling what they believe of the object of their worship 
with the rules which they follow in shaping their own 
earthly life. Now, in a monotheistic creed, the Deity may 
be thus placed, as it were, above human morality, and no 
immoral influences need follow. But when we come to a 
polytheistic system, to many anthropophuistic Gods dwell 
ing in an organized society, in such a case to be above 
human morality easily slides into being below human mo 
rality. A monotheistic religion looks on the Godhead as 
all-wise and all-powerful. Polytheism cannot make each of 
its deities separately all- wise and all-powerful ; power and 



II.] HOMER AND THE HOMERIC AGE. 77 

wisdom must at any rate be divided among- them. The 
idea of deity in any case implies superior happiness to that 
of mortals ; the Gods, free from death and from old age, 
cannot lead man s life of pain and labour. But, if so, 
they can hardly be made subject to the rules of law and 
responsibility in the same manner as their worshippers. 
Each God may find hindrances to the carrying out of his 
personal will ; but the Gods, as a body, must exercise a will 
uncontrollable and irresponsible. Deity, in any case, carries 
out its own pleasure ; but it is easy to see what must be 
the pleasure of a company of anthropophuistic Gods. The 
loftiest virtues of man are those which arise most directly 
out of the imperfection of man s nature : deity allows no 
scope for their exercise. No wonder then if the Homeric 
Gods are selfish, capricious, and sensual ; it is rather to the 
credit of Homer and his contemporaries that they are no 
thing worse. The Gods of many mythologies are positively 
malevolent and cruel, attributes which we can hardly fasten 
even upon the Ares of Homer. The Hellenic Gods may be 
both sensual and selfish; but neither cruelty nor obscenity 
forms any part of their worship. The Hellenic Gods are at 
least men ; those of many mythologies are brutes or fiends. 

Closely connected with all this is one of the most remark 
able features of Mr. Gladstone s work ; the ascetic, the almost 
monastic, sternness of its moral tone. We honour him alike 
for the loftiness and for the straightforwardness of his 
teaching ; it is certainly far better to talk with him in plain 
words about lust and adultery, than to speak in the 
common flippant way of * amours, intrigues, gallantries, 
and the like. We believe that Mr. Gladstone is essentially 
right ; but he certainly goes too far ; in short, he becomes 
monastic. It is in this respect, above all others, that he is 
unfairly hard upon his Gods and unfairly partial to his men. 
The first aspect of the Homeric creed in this respect shows 
us two opposite phenomena. On the one hand, the pas 
sions of the Gods are far more unrestrained than those of 
men ; but, on the other hand, there is in Olympos something 



78 MR. GLADSTONE S [ESSAY 

like that monastic reverence for virginity of which we find no 
trace on the Hellenic earth. The sexual morality of the 
Homeric Greeks was manifestly far purer than that of their 
successors, far purer than that of Eastern nations. But of 
the mediaeval notion of virginity there is not a trace. The 
virgin must remain a virgin till she becomes a matron, but a 
virgin she must some time cease to be. In Olympos, on the 
other hand, the Gods, Zeus above all, practise polygamy, 
adultery, and seduction, without scruple. But to set against 
that, we have in Athene, in Artemis, in Hestie, the virgin cha 
racter as distinctly marked as in any mediaeval saint ; it is 
more remarkable still if, as seems highly probable, we are to 
look on the same character as a feature of the male deity 
Apollon. It seems as if two opposite notions were striving for 
the mastery. It seems naturally to follow that anthropophu- 
istic beings should beget and be begotten ; and, once granting 
this, it would be hard to conceive how powers raised above 
human law and responsibility could be tied down by the 
restraints of human matrimonial rules. To be placed above 
humanity becomes, in this respect, almost the same thing as 
to be placed below it. Yet it is clear that in all this there is 
something very repugnant to any idea of deity, especially to 
any idea of female deity. As regular monogamy was the idea 
of the divine condition least easy to be imagined, the Greek 
carried out the two opposite conceptions in all their fullness on 
either side. He pictured to himself libertine deities and virgin 
deities, but few or no regular and respectable married couples. 
Hence we get the profligate Zeus and the pure Apollon, the 
adulteress Aphrodite and the chaste maiden Athene. The 
purity of Apollon and Athene is brought out strongly by 
Mr. Gladstone in his portraits of them as Traditive deities ; 
but he has hardly given prominence enough to the general 
idea of virgin deities as a set-off against the idea of libertine 
deities. 

If the sexual vices of the gods are looked on as the 
natural result of their position, it would seem that lack of 
shame about such matters would almost unavoidably follow. 



II.] HOMER AND THE HOMERIC AGE. 79 

Mr. Gladstone complains bitterly that so it is : men and 
women, if they err, are at least ashamed of their errors ; Gods 
and Goddesses unblushingly avow theirs. But we are not 
sure that such is altogether the case. It would be quite 
logical if it were so ; but an anthropophuistic creed would 
easily, at the expense of logic, transport shame, as well as 
other human feelings, into the breasts of the immortals. 
Now surely the whole song of Demodokos assumes such a 
feeling of shame. Ares and Aphrodite are heartily ashamed 
of being caught ; while it is the same feeling of shame that 
ai8co? about which Mr. Gladstone has much to say which 
hinders the Goddesses from coming to see them in the toils 
of Hephaistos. Mr. Gladstone says that the trespass of an 
immortal is never dealt with in so tender and delicate a 
tone as that of the maiden Astyoche, 

nap9fvos aldoir), virepw :ov tlaava.p3.aa. 

If we may break Mr. Gladstone s canon of never stepping 
beyond the Iliad and Odyssey,, we would appeal to the 
beautiful Homeric hymn to Aphrodite. Mr. Gladstone s 
rule seems to be, that after Homer things could never get 
better, but only get worse. Now certainly the Aphrodite of 
the hymn is very far from the grossly sensual Aphrodite on 
whom Mr. Gladstone is so severe. Certainly, as Colonel 
Mure says, * The author has here treated a licentious 
subject, not merely with grace and elegance, but with an 
entire freedom from meretricious ornament. Colonel Mure 
looks on the poem, and we fully go along with his opinion, 
as being probably indeed not Homeric, but certainly as being 
in no way unworthy of Homer. 

The morals of the Gods can hardly be separated from the 
morals of the heroes. As we said, the sexual morality of 
heroic Greece is far above that of later Greece, far above that 
of any Eastern people. The higher position of women in 
the Homeric age has been admirably worked out by Mr. 
Gladstone. He also distinctly brings forward the marked 

* Literature of Ancient Greece, vol. iii. p. 346. 



80 MR. GLADSTONE S [ESSAY 

difference between early and later Greece in the absence in 
early times of those strange perversions of the passions which 
really had a most important effect upon later Greek society. 
We must remember that the tie which bound Harmodios and 
Aristogeiton, which united men like Solon, Aristeides, and 
Epameinondas to the objects of their affections, was not the 
mere brutality of a Turkish pasha; the whole set of senti 
ments implied in the notion of romantic love had been thus 
strangely turned away from their natural direction. Hence 
this strange side of later Greek society went hand in hand 
with the later Greek seclusion of women. Both customs 
doubtless, notwithstanding the strange assertion of Herodotus 
the other way, were corruptions which were brought into 
Greece from an Eastern source. The harlot again, a charac 
ter familiar enough in later Greece, not unknown at an 
early stage of Oriental life, is nowhere seen in the Homeric 
poems. But Mr. Gladstone certainly tries to make out some 
what too strict a monogamy for his heroes. His notion is 
that the only breach of the strict law of marriage which the 
heroic code tolerated was that each of the chiefs, when away 
from home before Troy, allowed himself a single captive con 
cubine. Briseis, in his view, is the wife of Achilleus, or at least 
she stands to him in a relation hardly to be distinguished from 
marriage.* The damsels offered to him by Agamemnon were, 
according to Mr. Gladstone, not intended as concubines. To 
us it is clear that they were to be whatever Briseis was ; they 
and Briseis are classed together. In Agamemnon s offer f we 
find the words 

Swfffi 8 ITTTO, *ywaf#as aftvuovas, Zpy elSvias, 
Aeo"/3t 5as, &s, ore At trjSoi/ (vKTifievyv e Aes avrus, 
(z\(6\ ai TOTC reaXXti \V IK<UV <pv\a yvvaiKuv. 
TOLS \ifiV TOI Sdxret, /xera 8 taotrai, ijv TOT* dnrjvpa 

KOVpt]V "BptOTJOS. 



* [Something, I conceive, like the marriage more Danico of which we hear 
a good deal in early Norman and English history. It must be remembered that 
Briseis herself (II. xix. 299) draws the distinction between her own position 
and that of a wife.] 

t II. ix. 270. [Cf. xix. 246.] 
" 3 



II.] HOMER AND THE HOMERIC AGE. 81 

So again in the speech of Aias in the same book * 

ffol 8 d\\rjKTov rt KO.KQV re 
6vfj.ov evl GTrjOfffffi Ofol Oeaav, ei veKa Kovprjs 
o l-qs vvv 8e TOI cTTTa irapiaxofj.fv <EOX apiaras, 
aAAa T TroAA 7rt Trjffi. 



Were these Lesbian women to be prized only as Hpy ei6i>iai ? 
One of their countrywomen certainly was thought worthy 
to fill the place of Briseis herself. When the messengers 
were gone, 

Ax<A\us euoe fj.vx$ nXiairjs ev-rr-fjicTov 
T(f 8 &pa irapKarfXcKTo JVVTJ, rrjv Ae(r/366ev tfyf, 
&6p@avTos Ovy&Trjp, 



The fact is that the heroes evident^ allowed themselves full 
Mahometan privileges with regard to those whom their right 
hands did possess. Regular marriages were the law of heroic 
Hellas ; adultery was abhorred ; prostitution was unheard of ; 
but concubinage with captives clearly brought no discredit 
on either party. And is not the relation of Gods to mortals 
very like that of conquerors to captives ? The irregularity in 
either case was not so much immoral as extra-moral ; it im 
plied no corruption and it carried with it no dishonour. And 
it may be doubted whether, on this particular point, historic 
Greece was not more scrupulous than heroic Greece. The 
conduct which is recorded of Achilleus as a matter of course is 
brought up as an unheard-of crime against Alkibiades. Alki- 
biades, who counselled the destruction of Melos, had a son by 
a Melian captive. This, according to Andokides or whoever 
speaks in his name, was something worse than the evil deeds of 
all the sinners represented on the tragic stage, and the birth of 
the child is spoken of as more unlawful than that of Aigisthos.J 

* II. ix. 632. - t Ibid. 659. . } & ) ZX 

J *Os Tt]\tKavTas iroifirai ruv anapTijuaTCw virepfiokas, wore vfpl rwv Mr]\lojv 
yvajfJLTjv iivotpijv&fuvot ea.v8pa.TTo8i((TOai, -rrpidfifvos yvvawa TWV aixnaXuTuv vlov 
e avrrjs ireiroirjTai, bs TOffovry irapavo /ZCOTC peas AlyiaOov ytyovcv, &<TT (K TU>V 
f-)(6i(jTcav a\\r)\ois irecpvKf, KO.\ T>V oiKfioTaTcw vtrapxa avry TO. fO"xa.Ta TOVS p\v 
ntiroii]idvcn. TOVS ol TTCTroj/^tVaf &iov 8^ rr)v ToXpav avrov aa<pfffT(pov ert oie\0e iv 
(which is done at some length). AvooK. KO.T. AA. 22. Surely the moral of 
the case is not greatly affected by the difference between eXes avrbs and yvuprjv 
gavSpatrooifccrOai, between AeafioOtv ^yf and 
G 



82 MR. GLADSTONE S [ESSAY 

The language is certainly exaggerated ; the story may be true 
or false ; the speech may be genuine or spurious ; but there is 
the sentiment, one which the lovers of Chryseis and Briseis 
would certainly not have entered into. 

The language of Homer on all these subjects is simply 
natural. He is neither prudish nor prurient, neither monastic 
nor meretricious. He sets forth the whole life of his Gods and 
of his heroes ; w r hether he is speaking of Zeus or of Achilleus, 
of Alkinoos or of Odysseus, the companion of his bed, whether 
wife or concubine, is recorded in precisely the same matter- 
of-fact way as the materials of his dinner. Mr. Gladstone is 
scandalized at the advice which Thetis gives, in plain language, 
to her mourning son,* and he comforts himself that it is only 
a divine and not a human mother who uses it. But does 
Thetis do anything more than say straightforwardly what 
other people think, but do not say ? Make the language a 
little less direct ; talk about 

Lovely Tha is sits beside thee ; 
Take the gifts the gods provide thee ; 

and it may with propriety be read aloud in a family : dilate 
and dilute it a little more into mere commonplaces about 
love and beauty, and no ears and no tongues will shrink 
from what is essentially the same doctrine. Homer doubt 
less thought that he was simply stating an undoubted fact 
of man s nature, the truth of which the wise Odysseus and 
the chaste Penelopeia did not scruple practically to acknow 
ledge. f 

We have dwelled perhaps over long on these subjects be 
cause of the prominence which Mr. Gladstone has given to 
them, and the very curious way in which he has treated them. 
But his general picture of the heroic Greeks is very true and 



* KT(VOV f^xov, Tfopi /if s o^vpofjLfvos K 

ar]V eStcu Kpabirjv. fj,ffj,vr)fivos ouSe n o nov, 
our fvvrs ; dyaOuv 8t yvvaiKi ntp ev <pi\6rrjn 
piffyfaO . II. xxiv. 128. / f"? ~& 

Achilleus, as Mr. Gladstone says (ii. 464), makes no direct answer; but, later 
in the book (xxiv. 676), he practically accepts his mother s counsel. 
f Od. xxiii. 295-300. 



II.] HOMER AND THE HOMERIC AGE. 83 

noble. There is in it indeed somewhat of exaggeration. 
Mr. Gladstone, after so many years in the House of Com 
mons, seems to be getting rather tired of the nineteenth 
century. The age of Perikles or Demosthenes is one too like 
to his own to give him any relief ; he plunges with increased 
enthusiasm into a state of things more distant and more un 
like. How thoroughly and genially he has gone into the 
life and feelings of those old times may be seen from his 
highly wrought description of the life of an Achaian of the 
heroic times.* It is one of the gems of the book : it would, 
as a description, be a gem in any book; but we suspect 
that Homer himself would hardly have known his heroes 
again in a picture from which nearly all the shades are 
left out. 

The last volume is, we think, on the whole, the best of the 
three. It gives more room for the exercise of the higher 
qualities of the author s mind, and less for the display of 
his ethnological and theological crotchets. On the section 
Thalassa, as we before said, we give no opinion ; nor do 
we mean to dwell at length on some minute and veiy in 
genious criticisms on the sense of number and of colour 
in Homer, which are contained in the section Aoidos. We 
have then the sections * Agore and c Ilios/ and the remain 
ing portions of Aoidos, left before us. 

The section Agore is one which could hardly have been 
written by any man but one in whom the characters of 
statesman and scholar are so happily united as Mr. Gladstone. 
Brim-full as it is of true Homeric scholarship, almost every 
page contains some little touch or other which shows that 
it comes from one who is no solitary student, but a man to 
whom the (3ov\ai and the ayopai of real life are matters of 
every- day experience. In several parts of his argument, Mr. 
Gladstone grapples very successfully with Mr. Grote. Mr. 
Grote s strong point lies in historic Greece ; his great glory is 

* Vol. ii. 468470. 
G 2, 



84 MR. GLADSTONE S [ESSAY 

to have vindicated the character of democratic Athens. But 
to this darling object of his affections he has sacrificed some 
other objects not wholly unworthy of regard. Like the 
Thracian potentate in Aristophanes, 



(V roiffi TOLXOIS e7/>a^> , AOrjvaioi Ka\oi 

but he has forgotten that something worthy of his admiration 
might have been found in federal Achaia, something perhaps 
even in monarchic Macedonia, still more than either in the 
common source of all, in the institutions of heroic Hellas. 
Mr. Grote can see nothing in the Homeric state of things 
but a degrading picture of submission on the part of the 
people towards their princes. This is simply because Homer 
does not record any formal division, any solemn telling of votes, 
such as Mr. Grote is familiar with both in Saint Stephen s 
and upon the Pnyx. Also perhaps because of the chastise 
ment dealt out by Odysseus to Thersites, which would hardly 
appear scandalous on the other side of the Atlantic.* Mr. 
Gladstone, less enamoured of democracy, while an equal hater 
of tyranny, sees more clearly into the truth of the matter. 
Possibly he goes too far the other way, for it would seem that he 
looks on the institutions of historic Greece as corruptions rather 
than developements of the heroic model. Mr. Grote complains 
that in the Homeric Assembly nobody but the princes talk, 
nobody at all votes, and that the will of the King of Men 
always prevails. He is therefore half inclined to look upon 
the whole thing as a sham. Mr. Gladstone reminds him that 
the other princes often oppose Agamemnon, and that the 
mass of the army, if they do not talk, at any rate cheer. 
Now to cheer, as he most truly argues, is in truth to take 
a very practical share in the debate. Mr. Gladstone most 
happily compares the Homeric Assembly to such a scene as 
an English county meeting, where it seldom happens that 
the speaking goes beyond a select few, where a volunteer 

[I was thinking, I believe, of the dastardly attack on Mr. Sumner in the 
Senate-House an act largely approved in the Southern States which was 
then a fresh story.] 



II.] HOMER AND THE HOMERIC AGE. 85 

speaker is far from meeting with encouragement, where a vote 
taken otherwise than by acclamation is decidedly the excep 
tion, but which yet affords a genuine expression of public 
feeling, and where a vote contrary to the popular will could not 
possibly be carried. Within the Hellenic world the Homeric 
Agore went on in the Military Assembly of the Macedonians, 
where Alexander and a few chiefs have most of the talk, 
where we do not read of any divisions or tellers, but where 
the mass of the army still know how to express a real will of 
their own, and where, if they sometimes condemned, they some 
times also acquitted, those whom their King and demigod 
denounced to them as traitors. The Homeric Assembly is in 
everything a youthful institution ; it shares the nature of all 
youthful institutions ; it is imperfect, but it is a reality as far 
as it goes. The early institutions of a nation may fail of fully 
carrying out their ends, but there is no make-belief as to what 
those ends are. We may well believe that the Old-English 
Witenagemot was an imperfect way of expressing public 
opinion ; the King and a few great Earls had doubtless most 
of the talk; and to cry, Nay, nay, instead of Yea, yea, was 
most likely a rare and extreme measure. But we may be sure 
that the spirit of the thing was exactly opposite to the spirit 
which has brought about nearly the same external phenomena 
in Louis Napoleon s Legislative Assembly. There is all the 
difference in the world between an Assembly which dares not 
oppose and an Assembly which has not yet formed the wish to 
oppose. In the one case it is the relation of slaves to their 
master, in the other it is that of children to their father. 
Mr. Gladstone remarks of the Homeric Agore, as Sir Edward 
Bulwer Lytton does of the English Witenagemot, that in both 
we find that public speaking is a real instrument of public 
policy ; and, wherever this is so, they both most truly argue 
that the real essence of liberty is there. Odysseus and God- 
wine could sway assemblies of men by the force of eloquence. 
We need no further argument to show that the assemblies 
which they addressed were assemblies of freemen. 

Of the sections Ilios and Aoidos, some of the most 



86 MR. GLADSTONE S [ESSAY 

important parts, those namely which relate to the characters 
of the poems, run closely into one another. The latter part 
of Aoidos consists of articles reprinted from the Quarterly 
Review. We do not know in what order the different parts 
of Mr. Gladstone s book were written ; but we find a cer 
tain amount of repetition in these two parts. This strikes 
us especially in the estimate of the characters of Paris 
why not give him his Homeric name of Alexander,* and 
shut out Virgilian ideas altogether? and of Argeian Helen. 
But this estimate is one of the very best things in Mr. 
Gladstone s book, and we can well afford to have it twice over. 
Mr. Gladstone nowhere shines more than in dealing with the 
persons of the Homeric tale, and in distinguishing the true 
Homeric conceptions from the perversions palmed off upon 
the world by Euripides and Virgil. Of the whole dealing 
of Virgil with the Trojan story Mr. Gladstone has made 
a thoroughly withering exposure. A modern Roman could 
not be an old Achaian ; the court-poet of Augustus could not 
rival the nature and simplicity of the singer of the Hellenic 
people ; thus far the fault was that of the age and not of the 
man. But Virgil might have spared us his wilful perversions 
both of great matters and of small, alike of the character 
of Helen and of the comparative bigness of Simoeis and 
Skamandros. From the Cyclic poets down to Dryden and 
Racine, the whole world seems to have conspired to disfigure 
the glorious conceptions of Homer, to mar alike the unrivalled 
power and the incomparable delicacy of his touch. Odysseus, 
the wise and valiant, becomes a vulgar rogue; Achilleus 
sinks into a mere brutal soldier, far below the Homeric Aias ; 
the brave, the generous, the affectionate Menelaos becomes 
a coward and a sophist. JEschylus alone seems to have kept 
some little reverence for the heroes and for him who drew 
them. He has given us an Agamemnon who perhaps unduly 

* The double name is curious. Homer does sometimes use the name 
Paris, but far more commonly that of Alexander. But the latter name 
gradually disappears in later writers. 



II.] HOMER AND THE HOMERIC AGE. 87 

surpasses the Agamemnon of Homer ; but in return even 
he seems not to have been able to touch without defilement 
the Homeric conception of Achilleus and Patroklos."* But 
the wretched treatment which the Homeric characters have 
undergone rises to its height in the ruthless way in 
which later writers have marred and defiled the master 
piece even of Homer s art, the picture of the Homeric Helen. 
Even Colonel Mure, who has clone so much for Homer and 
the Homeric personages, here fails us ; it has been reserved 
for Mr. Gladstone to set once more before us the Helen of 
Homer in all her beauty. The Helen of the later poets is a 
vain and wanton adulteress ; the Trojte et patriot communis 
Erinnys, who can at best only excuse herself by laying her 
own sins to the charge of Fate and Aphrodite. Not such is 
the Helen of the Iliad and the Odyssey. There the crime of 
Alexander is not seduction, but high-handed violence ; he is 
not the corrupter, but the ravisher : Helen is not the willing 
partner, but the passive victim ; her fault is at most a half- 
reluctant submission after the fact. No sign of passion or 
affection does she show for her worthless lover; her heart 
yearns for Greece and Menelaos, for her forsaken home and 
her worse than motherless child. The Helen of Homer is, 
in fact, the most perfect, perhaps indeed the only, example of 
humility and repentance of the Christian type conceived by 
a heathen writer. Every word on which a worse view of her 
conduct might be founded is put into her own mouth ; like a 
true penitent, she despises herself, and paints her own doings 
in colours in which no one else would have dared to paint 
them. Readers who carry about with them the vulgar post- 
Homeric conception have always stumbled at the Helen of 
the Odyssey, restored to her hearth and home and to her 
husband s love, as though she had never gone in the well- 

* The strange fragments of the Mvpfii5oves certainly show that ^Eschylns 
was guilty of degrading the relations of Achilleus and Patroklos, just as the 
calumnious pen of Niebuhr has degraded the equally beautiful picture of 
Alexander and Hephaistion. 



88 MR. GLADSTONE S [ESSAY 

oared ships, nor come to the citadel of Troy.* But on the 
Helen of the Iliad, far more sinned against than sinning, 
the Helen of the Odyssey follows as the natural afterpiece. 
All that Mr. Gladstone lias said on these two characters of 
Paris and Helen is worthy the deepest attention of every 
Homeric student. Had he written nothing else, this alone 
would be enough to place him in the first rank of Homeric 
critics, f 

The whole section Ilios is highly interesting and in 
genious ; but some things, as usual, strike us as being over 
done. It is here, above all, that Mr. Gladstone treats the Iliad 
too much as a chronicle in verse. He admits indeed in words 
that the question of historical truth and falsehood is not 
altogether to the point ; that, in any case, it is the part of the 
critic distinctly to find out what was the conception in the 
mind of the poet, whether that conception was historical or 
fictitious. He admits also in words that, whether as chronicler 
or as poet, Homer was not bound to give us the same minute 
picture of the life of Troy as he gives us of the life of Greece. 
But in practice Mr. Gladstone hardly carries out his theory. 
His exaggerated notion of the historical trustworthiness of the 
Iliad leads him to seek for historical signs of Trojan manners 
and institutions in every single word of the poet which can 
anyhow be pressed into such a service. Now we have ad 
mitted that Homer is a real historical witness, at least for a 
real state of things in Greece. But, even if we fully admitted 
the historical reality of the Trojan War, we could not admit 

* OVK cor 5 tTVfios \6yos olros 
ov yap /3as kv vr]va\v evfffXfjLots, 
ovtf iKeo irtpya/Mi Tpoias. Stesichoros Palinodia. 

j* While Mr. Gladstone s version of Paris and Helen is undoubtedly that 
which best harmonizes the various statements in different parts of the Iliad 
and Odyssey, we still think that he builds rather too much upon the mere use 
of the word apirdfa. Surely, as far as we understand such matters, the two 
processes run so much into one another that apirafa might be not inaccurately 
used of a case in which the element of seduction overcame the element of 
violence. And what says Herodotus of this whole class of legends ? 5/~A.a yap 
8?) cm, ct 1^1 aural /3ovA.eaTO, OVK &v rjpird&VTO. i. 4. 



II.] HOMER AND THE HOMERIC AGE. 89 

Homer as an equally trustworthy authority for Trojan affairs. 
He would assuredly describe the Trojans after the pattern of 
the Greeks of his own day, or at the utmost though even 
this is supposing a rather unlikely striving after accuracy 
after the pattern of the inhabitants of the Troad in his own 
day. But we have no right to assume that either of these 
pictures would be an accurate representation of the historical 
Trojans, if historical Trojans there ever were. Again, we 
have said that in no case was Homer bound to be equally 
minute in his descriptions of Greek and of Trojan affairs. 
Negative arguments therefore prove very little. Homer s 
silence as to the existence of any Greek practice in Troy 
does not prove that he purposely meant to imply that it did 
not exist there. But hence the opposite line of argument 
gains increased strength. Any positive account of things 
Trojan is of great importance. And here the minute re 
searches of Mr. Gladstone have brought out 1 some very curious 
points. Everybody has doubtless observed that Priam lives 
in clearly marked polygamy, while the Greek princes at most 
practise concubinage. But everybody probably has not 
observed that, while in Greece the women attract the love 
of the Gods, in Troy the men attract the love of the God 
desses. Again, in Greece we hear little or nothing about 
priests, but a great deal about prophets. In Troy, considering 
our slender means of knowledge, the priests cut a great 
figure. These touches cannot be accidental. They may be 
genuine elder traditions ; they may be the result of Homer s 
own observations on that later Dardanian dynasty for whose 
historical being we hold him to be a trustworthy witness. 
Nor can it be without some reason or other that Homer 
always dwells with such delight upon the good and valiant 
Lykians. They are clearly the only people on the hostile 
side whom he looked upon as worthy foes of his own 
countrymen. We do not know whether it is to the purpose 
or not, but it certainly is a curious coincidence that, while 
Achaian and Lykian are the two names in Europe and in 
Asia which Homer most delights to honour, so it was in the 



90 MR. GLADSTONE S [ESSAY 

Achaian and Lykian Confederations that the greatest share 
of freedom and good government lingered on till all was 
engulfed in the universal dominion of Rome.* 

Homer s general picture of his Trojans as compared with 
his Greeks is very skilfully commented on by Mr. Gladstone. 
The Trojans are a kindred people; they are not widely dis 
tinguished from the Greeks in manners, religion, or polity. 
They are not fiapflapoqxavoi ; they are not a\\69pooi avOpwnoi. 
No such broad line parts them off from the Hellenic world as 
that which parts off the savage Kyklopes and Laistrygonians, 
or even the wholly foreign Egyptians and Phoenicians. But, 
though they are clearly a kindred people, they are no less 
clearly in every way, as men and as soldiers, an inferior people. 
But they are not too greatly inferior. They are inferior enough 
to be beaten ; but they are not so inferior as to make it 
inglorious to beat them. This train of ideas, in which Homer s 
patriotism plainly rejoiced, is very minutely and ingeniously 
worked out by Mr. Gladstone. 

So far as we can conjecture, the picture thus given by 
Homer may be supposed fairly to represent the facts of the 
case. If by the Trojans we understand the race whom the 
-ZEolian and Ionian colonists found in possession of the 
western coast of Asia, one can hardly doubt their near 
kindred with the Greeks. Everything tends to show that 
they belonged to that race, call it Pelasgian or what we 
will, of which the Hellenic nation formed the most 
illustrious member. The little we find recorded of them in 
authentic history the local nomenclature of their country, 
which corresponds in so striking a way with that of the 
other side of the ^Egsean the ease with which the whole 
land was hellenized, all point to them, along with Sikels, 
Epeirots, and Macedonians, as a kind of undeveloped Greeks, 
capable of receiving full Hellenic culture, though not capable 
of developing it for themselves. This exactly falls in with 

* [This parallel came home to me again in the History of Federal Govern 
ment, i. 216.] 



II.] HOMER AND THE HOMERIC AGE. 91 

the true Homeric portrait of the Trojans. But here again 
the true Homeric portrait must be carefully distinguished 
from the later shapes which it puts on in the hands of Sopho- 
kles, Euripides, and Virgil. In their hands every touch of 
Homer s picture is lost. Achaians and Trojans are broadly 
distinguished as "EAA^es and fiapfiapoi. The subjects of 
Priam are degraded into Phrygians. The Achaians sometimes 
figure as Dorians, sometimes as Pelasgians. Homer is, on all 
these points, probable and self-consistent. Euripides treats 
them in a spirit about as historical as when he makes the 
supposed wantonness of Argeian Helen the natural result of 
the scanty clothing which the discipline of Lykourgos allotted 
to the virgins of Dorian Sparta. 

Not the least, to our mind, of Mr. Gladstone s services 
to Homer is his defence of the ninth book of the Iliad. 
In his section Aoidos he has thoroughly overthrown Mr. 
Grote s idea of an Achilleid developed into an Iliad, and he 
has fully vindicated the plot of the poem in its received 
form. Mr. Grote thinks the ninth book inconsistent with 
much that follows; all possible satisfaction has been offered 
Achilleus, and yet in later books he still wishes to see 
Agamemnon and the Greeks humbled and suppliant before 
him. Mr. Gladstone answers that in the ninth book no 
real satisfaction is offered to the wounded spirit of the 
hero. Agamemnon strives, as it were, to buy his return by 
costly offers, which, in plain truth, are simply bribes. But 
there is no real atonement, no humiliation, no confession of 
error. There is therefore no real compensation to the injured 
honour of Achilleus. The wrath of the hero was not to be 
appeased by gifts, not even by the restitution of Briseis. 
He need not have given her up, and he refuses to receive her 
again. Such a feeling as the wrath of Achilleus was not to 
be bought off by gifts, even if it might have been appeased 
by repentance. Homer gives it a far grander and more 
characteristic end ; it is neither bought off nor appeased ; it 
is swallowed up in a still mightier passion. In the grief of 



III. 



THE HISTORIANS OF ATHENS.* 

IT is indeed a wonderful thought, that Herodotus and 
Thucydides were contemporary writers, perhaps not so widely 
removed in age as is commonly the case between father and 
son. As Colonel Mure remarks, an interval of centuries would 
seem to have passed away between them. The question of 
their comparative merit can hardly arise ; the two writers are 
wholly different in kind. It would be as easy to compare 
an old Greek, a writer of the middle ages, and a writer of our 
own time. Herodotus is a Greek of the fifth century before 
Christ. His archaic tastes indeed make him rather a Greek 
of a century earlier. Xenophon is a Greek of the following 
age, a far less favourable specimen of his age than Herodotus 
is of his. But Thucydides belongs to no age or country; he 
is the historian of our common humanity, the teacher of 
abstract political wisdom. Herodotus is hardly a political 
writer at all ; the few political comments which he makes 
are indeed always true and generous ; but they are put forth 
with an amiable simplicity which comes near to the nature of 
a truism. When he infers from the growth of Athens after 
she had driven out her Tyrants that freedom is a noble thing, f 
the comment reads like the remark of an intelligent child, or 
like the reflexion of an Oriental awakening to the realities of 

* [This is part of an article which was originally headed Colonel Mure 
and the Attic Historians. I have changed the title, because Herodotus, 
though not an Attic Historian, may be fairly called a Historian of 
Athens. I have also left out all the minute criticisms on Colonel Mure s 
book, and I have worked in some matter which at first formed part of the 
next Essay, but which seemed more in place here.] 

f T) tffrjyopir] us ZffTi xpfjfjia. ffirovSa iov. Herod, v. 78. 



THE HISTORIANS OF ATHENS. 95 

European life. Xenophon writes from the worst inspiration of 
local and temporary party-spirit. He writes history, not to 
record facts or to deduce lessons, but, at whatever cost of truth 
and fairness, to set up Agesilaos and to run down the Thebans. 
But Thucydides, living- at a time when the political life of 
man had as yet hardly been spread over two ages, seems to 
have drawn from that short time the lessons of whole millen 
niums. From the narrow field which lay before his eyes he 
could draw a political teaching* which should apply to every 
age, race, and country. There is hardly a problem in the 
science of government which the statesman will not find, if 
not solved, at any rate handled, in the pages of this universal 
master. The political experience of Thucydides could have 
set before him only two sets of phenomena the small city- 
commonwealth and the vast barbaric kingdom. But we feel 
that he would have been equally at home under any other 
state of things. If we could think of Herodotus or Xenophon 
as suddenly set down in the feudal France or Germany of a 
past age, in the constitutional England or the federal America 
of our own time, everything would doubtless bear in their eyes 
the air of an insoluble problem. But we can imagine that 
Thucydides would at once behold real analogy through seeming 
unlikeness, and would see that phenomena so unlike anything 
within his own experience were merely fresh instances of the 
general principles which he had learned from another state of 
things. No truth seems harder for men to receive than the 
doctrine that history is really one whole; that ancient, 
modern, mediaeval, mark convenient halting-places and 
nothing more ; that man s political nature is essentially the 
same under every change of outward circumstances. But 
there is no witness which more overwhelmingly confirms its 
truth than the fact that the political wisdom of all ages was 
thus forestalled by the citizen of a small commonwealth living 
twenty-three centuries ago. 

Neither Herodotus nor Thucydides were men of their own 
age. The mind of Herodotus clearly lived in past times. The 
stern truth of chronology tells us that he was contemporary 



96 THE HISTORIANS OF ATHENS. [ESSAY 

with Perikles, perhaps with Alkibiades. But no one thinks 
of the fact while reading his enchanting chronicle. While so 
engaged, we fully helieve him to have been an eye-witness of 
Marathon and Salamis. We are indeed hardly clear whether he 
may not have stood by at the return of Peisistratos, or even 
have been an unseen looker-on in the sleeping-chamber of 
Kandaules. Nothing connects him with his own age, except 
a few brief, sparing, sometimes doubtful, references to events 
later than his main subject. The genial traveller of Halikar- 
nassos loved to gather together, to set in dramatic order, to 
garnish here and there with religious or moral sentiment, the 
antiquities and legends of every age and country except the 
Greece of the Peloponnesian War. His own age, we may be 
lieve, he tried to forget ; a more dignified form of love for 
the past than that which shows itself in querulous long 
ings after what is gone and petulant sarcasms upon what is 
present. Herodotus is the liberal, well-informed, antiquary 
and scholar, who lives out of his own age; he is not the 
disappointed politician, who lives in it only to carp at every 
thing around or beyond him. 

In Xenophon, on the other hand, notwithstanding much 
that is personally attractive and estimable, we see, as a po 
litical writer, only the man of a particular time and place 
in the smallest and most malignant form of that character. 
Herodotus lived in the past, Thucydides lived for the future ; 
Xenophon reflects only the petty passions of the moment. He 
writes not like a historian, whether antiquarian or political, but 
like a petulant journalist who has to decry the troublesome 
greatness of an opposite party. Yet even his writings may 
indirectly lead us to the same lesson as those of Thucydides. 
One teaches us that much of our modern wisdom might be 
reached by a powerful mind while human thought was yet 
in its infancy. The other shows that, if old Greece could fore 
stall modern political science, it could also forestall the pettiest 
forms of modern political rivalry. Thucydides, without Xeno 
phon, might make us place the ideal Greek historian at a 
superhuman height above us. Xenophon, without Thucydides, 



III.] THE HISTORIANS OF ATHENS. 97 

might lead us to drag him down to the level of a very inferior 
modern pamphleteer. But the two together teach the same 
lesson, the lesson that man is essentially the same everywhere, 
that an old Greek was a being of like passions with a modern 
Englishman, that each could show, in the shapes belonging to 
their several ages, alike the highest and the lowest phases of 
our common nature. 

In fact, no one can thoroughly know what Thucydides is, 
if he does not make use of Xenophon as a foil. Without com 
paring the two, we might be led to think that Thucydidean 
dignity and impartiality was an easy commonplace quality 
which did not entitle its possessor to any special honour. When 
we turn to the Hellenics, we at once see how great were the 
temptations to a contrary course which surrounded a Greek who 
wrote the history of his own time. How many opportunities 
must Thucydides have had, how many must he have cast 
aside, for colouring, omitting, exaggerating. How easy was 
it to pass by the good or the bad deeds of one or the other 
party. How hard a task to keep the bitter revengeful spirit 
of the exile from showing itself in every page. Thucydides, 
after all, was a man and a Greek, an Athenian of oligarchic 
tendencies banished under the democracy. The wonderful 
thing is that such a position did not warp his statements in 
every page. Yet all that has ever been alleged against him is 
that once, or at most twice, in his history he has shown that 
he could not deal with perfect fairness between himself and a 
bitter personal and political enemy. That Thucydides does 
bear hard upon Kleon (and upon Hyperboles) is to our mind 
perfectly clear. His way of speaking of them is all the more 
marked from its standing out in such utter contrast to his 
way of speaking of people in general. Nothing is more striking 
throughout his history than the way in which he commonly 
abstains from direct censure of any one. Yet he never brings 
in Kleon s name without some unfavourable insinuation or 
some expression of disparagement. We may freely allow that 
for once the impartiality of Thucydides failed him. But, even 
when it did so, vve have no reason to doubt the thorough honesty 



98 THE HISTORIANS OF ATHENS. [ESSAY 

of his narrative. It bears about it in fact one most convincing 
proof of honesty ; the story, as he tells it, does not bear out 
the epithets which he applies to the actors in it. But, after 
all, what does the utmost that can be made out against him 
amount to ? That he once pronounces a judgement which his 
own narrative does not bear out : in short that, though he 
never ceased to be a truthful witness, he had not reached that 
more than human height of virtue which enables a man to 
be a perfectly fair judge in his own cause. Think of this 
one flaw, and compare it with the moral state of the man 
who could describe the Theban revolution without bringing 
in the name of Pelopidas ; who, when recording at large the 
history of his own times, could hold forth at impertinent 
length on the smallest doings of his Spartan hero, and 
deliberately leave" out all mention of the deliverance of Mes- 
senia and the foundation of Megalopolis. Thucydides himself 
was not absolutely perfect ; but perhaps no other actor in 
important events ever told them with so great an amount of 
impartiality. In Xenophon we have to brand, not merely 
an unpardonable degree of weakness and passion, but sheer 
want of common honesty, a deliberate breach of the first moral 
laws of the historian s calling. 

But the greatness of Thucydides is, after all, of a somewhat 
cold and unattractive character. He does not, like many other 
writers, draw us near to himself personally. What reader of 
Herodotus does not long for a talk face to face with the 
genial and delightful old traveller, who had been everywhere 
and had seen everything who could tell you the founder 
of every city and the architect of every temple who could 
recite oracles and legends from the beginnings of things to 
his own day, and who could season all with a simple moral 
and political commentary, not the less acceptable for being a 
little commonplace ? What would one not give for the chance 
of asking why it was, after all, that the Scythians blinded 
their slaves, or of finding out, in some unguarded moment, 
in honour of what deity the Egyptians submitted themselves 
to the discipline? Xenophon again would evidently not 



III.] THE HISTORIANS OF ATHENS. 99 

have been the less agreeable a companion on account of his 
unpatriotic heresies and his historical unfairness. If he was 
a bitter enemy and an unscrupulous partizan, his very faults 
arose from carrying into excess the amiable character of a 
zealous friend. The pupil of Sokrates could not help being 
unfair to the government by which his master was condemned ; 
the officer of Agesilaos could not mete out common justice to 
those pestilent Thebans by whom all the schemes of Agesilaos 
were brought to nought. But Thucydides awakens no feel 
ings of the kind. We might have highly esteemed the privi 
lege of sitting at his feet as a lecturer ; but we should hardly 
have been very eager for his company in our lighter moments. 
Genial simplicity, hearty and unconscious humour, are, after 
all, more attractive than the stern perfection of wisdom ; a 
little superstition and a little party-spirit, if they render a 
man less admirable, do not always make him less agreeable. 
Impartiality is a rare and divine quality ; but a little human 
weakness sometimes commends itself more to frail mortals. 
There is something lofty in the position of a man who records 
the worst deeds of Athenian and Lacedemonian alike, as a 
simple matter of business, without a word of concealment, 
palliation, or rebuke for either. But we feel quite sure 
that Herodotus would have told us that the massacre of 
Plataia and the massacre of Melos were each of them a TTprj-yna 
OL>X OO-LOV. We suspect that Xenophon would have been so 
ashamed of the evil deed of that side on which his own feel 
ings might be enlisted that he would not have set down both 
crimes in his history. But we get a little puzzled as to 
the moral condition of the man who minutely dissects the 
intellectual and political characters of Themistokles and 
Perikles without a word of moral praise or dispraise of either. 
Our perplexity grows when we find the historian recording 
the treachery of Paches towards Hippias without a word of 
comment.* It grows yet more when we find him honestly 
recording the assassinations in which Antiphon was at least 



* Thucydides iii. 54. 

H a 



100 THE HISTORIANS OF ATHENS. [ESSAY 

an accomplice, and yet pronouncing this same Antiphon to 
have been inferior to no Athenian of his day Konon and 
Thrasyboulos among them, not only in ability but in virtue.* 
Herodotus would have lifted up his hands in pious horror ; 
Xenophon would either have shirked so unpleasant a subject, 
or would at least have found out some ingenious sophism to 
cloak the crime. Then again, human nature craves for some 
thing like religion, and it does not always kick at a little 
superstition. We do not think the worse of Herodotus, 
Xenophon, Pausanias, and Arrian for believing in oracles, 
visions, and the whole art and mystery of divination. It is 
perhaps very admirable, but it is not altogether amiable, in 
Thucydides to have got so far in advance of his age as to 
make it pretty certain that he believed in nothing of the 
kind, and to leave it by no means clear whether he believed in 
any Gods at all. Finally, we cannot forget, possibly even a 
contemporary Greek could not forget, how easy, how pleasant, 
it is to read Herodotus and Xenophon, how very hard it often 
is to read Thucydides. We admire, but we cannot bring our 
selves to love, the man who has clothed the words of wisdom 
with a veil so hard to uplift. W r e are sometimes tempted to 
prefer a teaching less profound in substance, but more con 
formable to the ordinary laws of human and Hellenic grammar. 
There is no denying that a speech of Thucydides is far more 
profitable than one of Xenophon, or even than one of Herodotus. 
But there are times of weakness when we prefer pleasure to 
profit, the fjbv to the \pr\<n^ov t times when, even in spite of 
the repeated exhortations of Perikles to prefer deeds to words, 
we still for a moment prefer the dycoino-jua es TO irapaxp^cL 
even to the Kr?jjua es aei. 

In fact, the wonderful way in which Thucydides soars intel 
lectually over the men of his own age, and indeed of any age, 
while it makes his history the eternal treasure-house of po 
litical wisdom, makes him, in some incidental points, less 



* Thuc. viii. c. 68. AvncpSjv, dvr^p A.6rjvai(uv TUIV Ka.0* tavTov apery oi>8(v&s 
vcrepos, K.T.\., where see Dr. Arnold s note. 



III.] THE HISTORIANS OF ATHENS. 101 

instructive than a very inferior writer might have been, as the 
immediate chronicler of his own particular age. Colonel Mure 
truly remarks that the Greek historians commonly looked on 
the internal politics of the several states as something which did 
not come within their province. A knowledge of them is taken 
for granted in a well-informed Greek reader. The historian, 
for the most part, deals only with the cities in their interna 
tional in what, as Mr. Grote suggests, might more properly 
be called their interpolitical, aspect. It is only when internal 
revolutions bear on foreign affairs that they are set down at 
any length. Thus Thucydides records the Athenian revolu 
tions of the year 41 1 in full detail, because the part which was 
taken in them by the fleet at Samos brings them within the 
immediate sphere of his military narrative. But in his 
Summary he does not give a line to the constitutional changes 
introduced by Aristeides, Ephialtes, and Perikles,, though he 
records military and diplomatic events which were certainly 
not of greater importance. Kleon, Nikias, Alkibiades, are 
brought in only when they begin to have an influence on 
foreign affairs. Of the assaults made on Perikles by Kleon, 
of the demagogues who arose for a short space in the time 
between the death of the one and the confirmed influence of 
the other, Thucydides tells us not a word. Still less, as 
Colonel Mure observes, does he tell us anything directly as 
to the literary, artistic, and philosophic being of Athens 
in her greatest splendour. We should never have learned 
from him that ^Eschylus, Euripides, Pheidias, or Anaxa- 
goras ever lived. From Thucydides alone we should never 
have found out that the Sophokles who figures as an 
admiral in the Samian war was at least not less illustrious 
as the author of the (Edipus and the Electra. Had Thucy 
dides lived to tell the tale of Arginousai, we may well doubt 
whether the name of Sokrates would have been found in 
his report of the great debate on the amendment of Eury- 
ptolemos. One might have expected that the enemy of 
Kleon would have looked with some sympathy on the author 
of the Knights; but the name of Aristophanes is nowhere 



102 THE HISTORIANS OF ATHENS. [ESSAY 

found in the history of the Peloponnesian War. Even in deal 
ing 1 with Perikles, his great artistic works appear only in the 
melancholy position of items in a budget. Even the pictures 
of the heroes of his narrative are in a manner imperfect, 
because they appear as beings wholly political and military. 
We see in all his greatness the Perikles who guided the 
democracy through the horrors of war and pestilence. But 
we hear nothing of the lover of Aspasia, of the founder of 
the Parthenon, nothing even of the reformer who levelled the 
last relics of oligarchy, and placed the popular tribunal in 
the room of the venerable Senate on the hill of Ares. 

On all these points we should doubtless have learned much 
more from either the earlier or the later historian. Had 
Herodotus deigned to record the events of his own age, his very 
love of genial gossip would have led him to tell us a great 
deal on which Thucydides keeps a dead silence, and which we 
are driven to pick up secondhand from Plutarch and other in 
ferior writers. Herodotus may, as Mr. Grote has shown, not 
have understood the full depth and meaning of the democratic 
changes of Kleisthenes. But he has at least recorded their 
outward forms, while Thucydides has not done even thus 
much by those further changes which brought the work of 
Kleisthenes to completion. We can hardly fancy that the 
antiquary who was so curious about the temples of the Samian 
Here and the Egyptian Ammon could have been altogether 
blind to the pile reared under his own eye to Athene of the 
Akropolis. He who has recorded the innovations made by 
Kleisthenes of Sikyon in the choric ritual of his own city 
could hardly have listened unconcerned to the strains which 
told the glories of Kolonos, or to those in which the over 
whelming burst of satire was hurled upon the head of the 
devoted Paphlagonian. Still less can we fancy the prose 
narrator of the fight of Salamis listening, without at least a 
generous rivalry, to the tale of defeat as told in the palace 
of Susa, or to the picture of the glories of Persia under the 
sway of that Darius who, in his own tale, seems less divine 
and invincible. Thucydides either cared for none of these 



III.] THE HISTORIANS OF ATHENS. 103 

things, or he unluckily thought them beneath the dignity 
of history. If the old Halikarnassian could but have been 
brought to deal with things of his own time, we feel sure 
that his less exalted standard would have found room for an 
enchanting picture of the social and artistic, as well as of 
the political, aspect of Athens in the days of her glory. 

And as with Herodotus, so, in another way, with Xenophon. 
The smaller historian has fittingly allotted to him the smaller 
hero. But Xenophon gives us a far more vivid picture of 
Agesilaos than Thucydides gives us of Perikles. In the one 
we simply admire the statesman, in the other we are brought 
into daily intercourse with the man. And again the tendency 
to personal gossip incidentally helps us to valuable political 
knowledge. We doubt whether Thucydides would have en 
lightened us as to the singular and discreditable means by 
which Sphodrias escaped the punishment of his unprovoked 
and treacherous inroad into Attica. Xenophon, in his blind 
zeal for his hero, lets us behind the curtain, and thereby shows 
us what strange causes might warp the course of justice amid 
the secret workings of an oligarchy, and how much personal 
influence lay within the reach of a King who kept hardly a 
shadow of constitutional power. Again, while we reverence 
the set speeches of Thucydides for the deep teaching which 
they contain, we cannot but feel that the shorter and livelier 
addresses and rejoinders preserved or invented by Xenophon 
give us a truer picture of the real tone of a debate in a Greek 
assembly. And though a critical judgement may go along 
with Colonel Mure in condemning Xenophon s profusion of 
small dialogue and petty personal anecdote, we cannot, at this 
distance of time, regret anything which helps to give us a 
more perfect picture of the manner and tone of feeling of an 
age from the hand of a contemporary and an actor. 

One word more as to Thucydides estimate of Kleon. We 
have said that all that has ever been alleged against Thucy 
dides is, that he has allowed personal feelings to colour his 
inferences from facts, while it is not even suggested that he has 
reported the facts inaccurately. Because we owe so much to 



104 THE HISTORIANS OF ATHENS. [ESSAY 

Thucydides, people commonly leap to the conclusion that his 
banishment by the Athenian people must have been unjust. 
It was Mr. Grote who dared for the first time to hint 
that his own narrative of his command at Amphipolis and 
Eion gave no ground for arraigning the judgement of his 
countrymen. Kleon again was a personal and political 
enemy of Thucydides ; he is well nigh the only person in 
speaking of whom the historian deserts his usual unim- 
passioned dignity Mr. Grote was bold enough to hint that 
the historian s prejudice had coloured, not indeed his nar 
rative, but his commentary; and that his own statement of 
the case did not fully bear out his unfavourable judgement. 
Mr. Grote s case was that, when Amphipolis was threatened, 
the Athenian commander ought to have been nowhere but 
at Amphipolis ; least of all should he have been at Thasos, 
which the land force of Brasidas did not and could not 
threaten. He is at the very least called on to show cause why 
he was anywhere else, and such cause he nowhere attempts to 
show. Colonel Mure went a step further than Mr. Grote, and 
hinted very broadly what the real cause was. Thucydides, as 
he himself tells us, was a mining proprietor in that part of 
the world. Colonel Mure ventures to say, 

May not this very fact, his extensive interest as a proprietor in that 
extremity of his province, furnish an explanation of his preference of Thasus 
to Amphipolis or Eion as his head-quarter? The centre of the Thracian 
mining district, where his own possessions were situated, was Scaptesyle, on 
the coast immediately opposite Thasus; arid the principal town and port of 
that island was also the chief emporium of the mineral trade of Thrace. In 
the absence, therefore, of all other apparent motive for his being stationary in 
the extreme* north of his province, while Brasidas was conquering the prin- 



* We must confess that we do not understand Colonel Mure s geography. 
How is Thasos the extreme north of his province more than Amphipolis ? 
Did Colonel Mure think that Amphipolis lay south of Thasos? He says so 
directly in the page before. It (Thasos) lay as far from Amphipolis to the 
north, as the scene of the Spartan warrior s earliest successes from the same 
city to the south. Now Akanthos, the city already won by Brasidas, cer 
tainly lies as nearly as possible due south of Amphipolis. The island of Thasos 
lies, not north, but south-east. The island, as a whole, is decidedly south of 
Amphipolis ; the city of Thasos, in the extreme north of the island, is very 
nearly on the same parallel as Amphipolis, but still a little south of it. 



III.] THE HISTORIANS OF ATHENS. 105 

cipal cities of its south and centre, it is not very uncharitable to suppose that 
the fault laid to his charge, and not without reason, was his having been more 
occupied witli his own affairs than with his official duties, at a time when the 
latter had an imperative claim on his undivided attention. (p. 40.) 

Now as to Kleon. Mr. Grote fully accepts Thucydides 
narrative, both as to the scene in the Assembly, and as to the 
campaign at Pylos. He simply thinks that, for once, personal 
enmity has betrayed Thucydides into a comment which his own 
statement does not bear out. Thucydides says that a certain 
scheme was mad, which his own narrative shows to have been 
quite feasible. Mr. Grote refuses to believe either the satires 
of Aristophanes or the invectives of Thucydides, because he 
holds that the facts, as reported by Thucydides himself, do 
not justify them. Aristophanes represents Kleon as stealing 1 
away the well-earned prize from Demosthenes. Certainly no 
one would find this out from the fourth book of Thucydides. 
Aristophanes represents Kleon as winning his influence over 
the people by the basest and most cringing flattery. Thucy 
dides puts into his mouth a speech on the affair of Mitylene, 
which counsels indeed a wicked line of policy, but which, 
of all speeches in the world, is the least like the speech of a 
flatterer of the people. In fact, it is a bitter invective against 
the people. Nothing that Demosthenes did say, nothing that 
Perikles can have said, could outdo the boldness of the censures 
which Kleon passed on his own hearers. The exact amount of 
historic reality which belongs to the Thucydidean orations is 
very doubtful, and it probably differs much in different cases. 
But we may be quite sure that Thucydides would not put into 
the mouth of Kleon a speech more austere and dignified than 
became his character. And as for the general conduct of the 
much reviled demagogue, we may make an extract from 
Colonel Mure which is the more valuable because it is some 
what inconsistent with his general tone about the matter. 

Another evidence of impartiality [on the part of Thucydides] is the circum 
stance, that while those authorities represent the whole career of the dema 
gogue as one unmitigated course of folly or mischief, Thucydides gives him 
credit for a conduct in some of his undertakings not very easy to reconcile 
with the incapacity displayed in others. The apparent inconsistency implies 



106 THE HISTORIANS OF ATHENS. 

at least a disposition to award him such merit as he really possessed. In his 
campaign of Amphipolis, Cleon certainly figures in a contemptible light, both 
as a soldier and a general. But his other military operations are not repre 
sented as open to censure. Thucydides, indeed, withholds from him the merit 
of having made good his insane promise to capture the Spartan garrison of 
Sphacteria. He describes Demosthenes as having already matured his 
measures for the success of that enterprise, and as the director-in-chief of 
their execution. But there is no hint of Cleon, as the honorary commander- 
iri-chief on the occasion, having shown any want of capacity or courage. In 
the early part of his ensuing Thracian campaign, his operations are repre 
sented not only as successful, but as well planned and vigorously executed. 
He even, on one important occasion, outmanoeuvred the formidable Brasidas, 
by whom he was afterwards defeated; and, by a curious coincidence, much 
in the mode in which Thucydides himself had been discomfitted not long 
before by the same able adversary. 

After all, what is the accusation against Thucydides? 
Simply, as we have already said, that though he has nowhere 
misstated facts, he has in one instance allowed political or 
personal pique to warp his judgement. All honour to the 
contemporary historian against whom this is the heaviest 
charge ! Think of the temptations, not merely to a single 
false judgement, but to constant misrepresentation of fact, 
which beset every political chronicler; above all, those 
which must have beset a Greek of the days of the Pelopon- 
nesian War. Think, in a word, what Xenophon was what 
Thucydides might have been, and was not. We may well 
admit that Thucydides was prejudiced against Kleon, and 
that he himself failed of his duty at Amphipolis, without 
taking away one jot from the sterling worth of his immortal 
history. 



IV. 
THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY.* 

A History of Greece. By GEORGE GROTE, Esq. 
Twelve Volumes. London, 1846-56. 

Mr. GROTE S great work is at last brought to an end. 
For ten years his massive octavos have been gathering upon 
our shelves, and they have won for themselves a place from 
which it is hard to fancy that they can ever be dislodged. 
Few reputations indeed seem to be less lasting than that which 
proclaims a man to be the great historian of times which have 
long since gone by. Hooke and Mitford have passed away : 
if Sir George Lewis is to be trusted, Niebuhr and Arnold 
ought to pass away after them. We therefore cannot posi 
tively affirm that Grote may not be to our grandchildren 
what Mitford is to ourselves. Yet the thought that it may 
be so is one very hard to take in. Mr. Grote has done so 
much,, he has throughout shown so much real vigour and 
originality, he has thrown so much clear and practical light 
upon points which had been hitherto misunderstood, that, 
though we may conceive him being surpassed, we can hardly 
conceive him being wholly forgotten. 

That one thoroughly good history need not wholly set aside 
another thoroughly good history of the same people, is very 

* [The references to Mr. Grote s book were so thoroughly interwoven with 
the framework of this Essay that I have thought it better to leave it, like that 
on Mr. Gladstone s Homer, in its first shape of a review. Beside verbal im 
provements, I have only left out or modified a few passages of only temporary 
interest, and I have given the Essay a title of which I think that Mr. Grote 
would not have disapproved.] 



108 THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. [ESSAY 

clearly shown by the case of Mr. Grote himself. The pub 
lication of his history in no way sets aside the sterling 
work of Bishop Thirlwall. Each has its own use. The 
professed historical student cannot do without either. But 
there are doubtless many persons who have no special 
devotion to Grecian history, but who still wish to study its 
main outlines in something higher than a mere school-book. 
To such readers we should certainly recommend Thirlwall 
rather than Grote. The comparative shortness, the greater 
clearness and terseness of the narrative, the freedom from 
discussions and digressions, all join to make it far better 
fitted for such a purpose. But for the political thinker, who 
looks to Grecian history chiefly in its practical bearing, Mr. 
Grote s work is far better fitted. The one is the work of a 
scholar, an enlarged and practical scholar indeed, but still 
one in whom the character of the scholar is the primary one. 
The other is the work of a politician and man of business, 
a London banker, a Radical Member of Parliament, whose 
devotion to ancient history and literature forms the most 
illustrious confutation of the charges brought against such 
studies as being useless and unpractical. Till some one arises 
who can cast both alike into the shade, we trust that these 
two great writers will continue to be honoured side by side."* 
High indeed is the honour which each of them deserves from 
all who see in the history of ancient freedom no vain and 
lifeless inquiry into a state of things which is as though it 
had never been, but one of the most living and instructive 
pursuits for the ruler and the citizen. Still, of the two we 
must give the higher place to the more zealous and fervent 
champion of the parent state of justice and liberty, the 
great Democracy of Athens. 

Mr. Grote s work is so vast, and it may be looked at from 

* [At the risk of being thought behind the age, I must say that I do not 
look on the German work of Curtius as throwing either of them into the shade. 
I add, by way of Appendix to this Essay, some extracts from various notices 
of the earlier volumes of Curtius which I have contributed to the Saturday 
Eeview.l 



IV.] THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. 109 

so many different points of view, that it will be better to try 
to do justice to one only of its many aspects^ and to give but 
a few words to the other parts of the work. Which aspect it 
is that we have chosen we have perhaps already made known. 
Mr. Grote is, to our mind, greatest as the historian of Athenian 
Democracy. It is therefore as the historian of Athenian 
Democracy that we intend specially to look at him. We 
choose this particular subject at once from its intrinsic interest, 
from the misrepresentations under which it has suffered, and 
from the masterly and original manner in which it has been 
dealt with by Mr. Grote. The common misrepresentations of 
the Athenian Democracy have to a great extent arisen from 
sheer ignorance of its real nature, combined with a prejudice 
against democratic government in general. But there is no 
doubt that, in popular conception also, the literary glory of 
Athens has been allowed to overshadow her political greatness. 
Now, in truth, the pre-eminence of Athens in literature, phi 
losophy and art, was simply the natural result of her pre 
eminence in freedom and good government. We have now 
to speak, not of the result, but of the cause, and of the cause 
more specially as dealt with by Mr. Grote. After some short 
general criticisms on his work as a whole, we shall go on 
to examine his conception of the origin, the greatness, and 
the fall of the most illustrious of commonwealths. 

In point of mere style, Mr. Grote is not specially pleasing ; 
but either he improves by practice as he goes on, or else his 
readers become reconciled to his manner. Certainly, from 
one cause or the other, we think him a better writer now 
than we did ten years ago. His style is diffuse and heavy ; 
it often lacks both dignity and simplicity. In his anxiety 
to make his meaning plain from all points of view, he is 
like Macaulay. But nothing can be more unlike than the 
means by which the two historians go about to compass this 
praiseworthy end. Instead of epigrammatic sentences and 
brilliant antitheses, it is by dint of ponderous and paren 
thetical repetitions that Mr. Grote seeks to hinder any scrap 
of his meaning from escaping the reader. Yet his style is not 



110 THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. [ESSAY 

unpleasing when one is used to it, and it gives a favourable 
impression of Mr. Grote as a man. Writers who are clearly 
artificial, like Gibbon and Macaulay, we admire, but at the 
same time we rather distrust them. But the noble simplicity 
of Arnold was clearly not more natural to him than a wholly 
different style of writing is to Mr. Grote. We feel quite sure 
with both of them, while we do not feel quite sure with 
Gibbon and Macaulay, that neither of them ever sacrificed a 
single atom of truth to improve the turn of a period or to 
sharpen the poignancy of an epithet. 

Mr. Grote indeed strikes us as an eminently conscientious 
writer. He is an avowed partizan, therein differing from 
the more than judicial coldness which Dr. Thirlwall shows 
through a large part of his work. His partizanship is 
moreover tinged with a certain love of paradox. It is a 
real delight to him to differ from every earlier writer. 
But both partizanship and love of paradox are kept within 
bounds, not only by scrupulous honesty,, but by the calm 
and dignified tone which runs through the whole work. 
Mr. Grote s political views colour his judgements, but they 
in no way colour his statements. He always argues, and 
never assumes or insinuates. He always fully and fairly sets 
forth the whole evidence, and places elaborately before his 
reader the grounds of his own judgement. The pupil of 
Mr. Grote, though he should never see any other history, will 
never be surprised into an opinion ; he always has full oppor 
tunity, if he be so disposed, of dissenting from the decisions of 
his teacher. And Mr. Grote is altogether free from the vice 
to which his somewhat aggressive and paradoxical position 
specially lays him open. He is painstaking and merciful 
towards all previous writers. He never condemns, he hardly 
even dissents, without telling us at full length why he con 
demns or dissents. Even Mitford,* at whom Dr. Thirlwall 

* Mitford was a bad scholar, a bad historian, a bad writer of English. Yet 
we feel a lingering weakness for him. He was the first writer of any note who 
found out that Grecian history was a living thing with a practical bearing. 
We of course hold that he applied it the wrong way. He hated Demo- 



IV.] THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. \\\ 

sneers till we feel a reaction in his favour, is never set aside 
unheard. Mr. Grote stops to wonder at him, to argue with 
him, to prove, as well as to assert, that he is very much 
in the wrong. Everything that Mr. Grote does is serious 
and earnest. Twice perhaps in his volumes we think we can 
see his features relaxing into a stern smile. Mr. Grote 
loves a parallel both well and wisely. But when Iphikrates 
is coupled with Wellington and Bliicher as having lent an 
honourable denomination to boots and shoes, * we cannot 
ourselves keep down a slight tendency to laughter, one which 
we would fain justify by the hope that the historian himself 
intended to arouse it. 

In fact, Mr. Grote s praiseworthy desire to be full and ac 
curate on every point, and to give his reasons for everything, 
has sometimes led him astray. To his office as historian 
of Greece, he very needlessly adds the quite distinct func 
tions of a commentator on the text of Thncydides. He is 
always filling up his pages with notes of frightful length and 
tediousness, proposing and elaborately defending new trans 
lations of particular passages. Now most of these digressions 
are by no means called for by his subject. Mr. Grote more 
over is a great historian, but he is not a great Greek scholar. 
He understands the Greek language quite well enough to 
make excellent use of his Greek books. He does not under 
stand it well enough to enter into elaborate discussions on 
minute grammatical points. By thus attempting a line 

sthenes ; we love and reverence him. But it was a great step to find out that 
Demosthenes could be the object of any human emotion. For the young 
student or for the general reader Mitford s History would be simply mislead 
ing ; but it is quite worth reading by any one who wishes to look at Grecian 
history from every possible point of view. 

* Vol. ix. p. 468. So in vol. vi. p. 174, speaking of the odd abodes to 
which the Athenians were driven during the Peloponnesian war, in sheds, 
cabins, tents, or even tubs, he adds, Aristophanes, Equites, 789, O IKOVVT 
ev rais iriOaKvaiai KOLV yvtrapiots KCU nvpyidiois. The philosopher Diogenes, in 
taking up his abode in a tub, had thus examples in history to follow. Surely 
Mr. Grote laughed over both the boots and the tub. We are not so clear 
whether he laughed when, describing the Scythian expedition of Darius 
(vol. iv. p. 361), he speaks of Mr. Kenrick as being among those who cannot 
swim the Dniester. 



112 THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. [ESSAY 

which is not really his own, he has laid himself open to the 
puny and insolent attacks of men to whose small minds his 
real greatness is simply unintelligible. There is a story of 
King Philip trying to set a harper right after dinner, and 
receiving for answer, * You ought to be ashamed if I did not 
know such things better than you. * When a politician and 
historian like Mr. Grote wanders into the narrow field of verbal 
criticism, he might well have received an answer of the same 
kind from a man who could find nothing better to do with 
twenty years of his life than to devote them to the empirical 
study and teaching of Greek pronouns. If Mr. Grote, in the 
course of his great work, has now and then made a slip or 
given a judgement which cannot be maintained, we can only 
say, with Sir Archibald Alison, that such things will cease 
1 when human nature is other than it is, but not till then. 
No man that ever wrote is surer and sounder than Bishop 
Thirl wall; but we have found inaccuracies even in him. 
Nay, more, in one or two placesf we have found Mr. Grote 
himself in pieces of false construing which he makes the 
foundation of historical arguments. Yet it never came into 
our mind to write an impertinent pamphlet against either of 
them. Great men may now and then err ; small men may 
now and then set them right : yet, after all, there is a certain 
decent respect owing from the small men to the great. 

From the general character of Mr. Grote s style, it follows 
almost necessarily that he is greater in comment than in nar 
rative. His narrative is always full and clear; but it is 
seldom graphic or eloquent. But he is ever on the watch 
for the moral and political teaching of every incident. Per- 

* Plut. Apoph. Phil. 29. (Moralia, ii. 20. Tauchnitz.) 

f Vol. v. p. 481, Mr. Grote s translation of TO Sc StKaarfipia fu<rdo(f>6pa. 

tcaTf(TT7)fft TlfpiK^s, is quite untenable ; but this passage we shall probably 

have to refer to again. In vol. iv. p. 145 (compare Thirlwall, vol. ii. p. 68) 

Mr. Grote is clearly wrong, and Dr. Thirlwall clearly right, in his translation 

of the passage from Herodotus. 

In vol. ii. p. 585, vol. x. p. 463, vol. xi. p. 68 1, we find Mr. Grote reviving, 

wholly or partially, interpretations of Mitford s -which Dr. Thirlwall (vol. v. 

p. 200, vol. vi. p. 66 of the old edition ; compare vol. vi. p. 103 of the new) 

had scornfully set aside. 



IV.] THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. 113 

haps he overdoes it in this way ; but Grecian history has 
been so much misunderstood, and most of Mr. Grote s com 
ments are so weighty, that it is quite a fault on the right 
side. 

Mr. Grote divides his work into two portions of very un 
equal length Legendary and Historical Greece. In the 
former he makes it his business to tell all the myths at full 
length ; from his point of view, we really cannot understand 
why. To tell them fittingly as legends, as Dr. Arnold has 
done with the Roman stories, he does not even try, and it 
would certainly be quite out of his line to do so. And his 
code of historical belief expressly forbids all attempts to find 
historical truth in them, in the way which has been carried 
out by Niebuhr. Mr. Grote is not quite so strict in point 
of evidence as Sir George Lewis ; but it is only with the first 
Olympiad, B.C. 776, that he sees anything like even the first 
glimpse of real history. Now we are quite as far as either 
Mr. Grote or Sir George Lewis from the old uncritical belief 
in poetic fables, which, if they contain any kernel of truth, 
hide it under such disguises that it can no longer be seen. 
But surely both of them cast aside one whole source of 
knowledge of a very different kind. It is clear that neither 
of them has the least turn for prse-historic or ethnological 
researches. They have hardly a word to tell us about the 
Pelasgians"* or the Leleges. Speculations of this kind rest, 
they say, on no evidence. Sir George Lewis especially would 
seem to rank them almost below the legends of the poets. 
Certainly they rest on no contemporary written evidence; 
but surely they rest on an evidence of their own. That 
evidence is of the same kind as that which forms the ground 
work of philology and of some branches of natural science 
of geology, for instance, which is simply archaeology before 
man. Moreover it sometimes happens, as in the case of the 

* On the historical Pelasgians of Krestdn and Plakia Mr. Grote has one of 
his best notes, vol. ii. p. 351. He shows very clearly, against Dr. Thirl wall, 
that in the well-known passage of Herodotus x a P afcT *)P mus t he interpreted 
by a/>j8apos, not ftappapos by 



114 THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. [ESSAY 

legendary greatness of Mykene, that archaeological and legen 
dary evidence coincide so wonderfully as to leave no doubt that 
the legend has preserved the memory of a real state of things.* 

Mr. Grote s chapters on Sparta, her gradual developement 
and her distinctive constitution, form a most valuable contri 
bution to early Grecian history. He shows very clearly how 
thoroughly Argos was the leading state of Peloponnesos in 
the early Doric times; how very slowly it was that Sparta 
rose to the post of honour ; how obstinately Argos clung 
to the assertion of her ancient position, long after she had 
lost all means of practically enforcing it. Highly valuable 
also are the chapters which, at various stages of the work, are 
given to the fortunes of the Sicilian Greeks. In the pro 
minence which Mr. Grote gives to them he agrees with 
Mitford, though no contrast can be greater than that which 
is shown in the treatment of the subject by the two writers. 
Dr. Thirlwall, somewhat unaccountably, takes very little notice 
of this important part of the Hellenic world. 

The Homeric poems are another subject to which Mr. Grote 
gives much of his attention. His general philosophical re 
marks on the origin and growth of legend are among the pro- 
foundest things in his work ; but in purely literary criticism 
he is hardly equal to Colonel Mure, His view is one which 
lies between the Wolfian hypothesis of disjointed lays, 
and Colonel Mure s belief in the essential unity of both 
poems.t The Odyssey Mr. Grote looks on as an integral 
whole, the Iliad as a poem enlarged out of an earlier Achilleid. 
This view he very ably supports, but on the whole we incline 
to Colonel Mure. It is instructive indeed to contrast these 
two eminent men, to whom Grecian literature is so deeply 
indebted. Each is so well fitted for his own task ; neither is 
quite safe when he handles the task of the other. The one 
has all the strength and depth of the political historian, 
the other the taste and acuteness of the refined literary critic. 

* [See above p. 60. I have struck out a passage to the same effect as what I 
said there.] 

f [This was written before the appearance of Mr. Gladstone s book.] 



IV.] THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. 115 

Sir George Lewis, Colonel Mure, and Mr. Grote, may all be 
classed together as illustrious examples of a love of learning 
kept on in the midst of busy life. Three public men, one 
a distinguished son of Oxford, another brought up at a 
foreign University, a third without any academic training at 
all, are all, among pursuits which do not commonly lead men 
to such researches, equally led to profound research into 
the literature and politics of distant times. No argument can 
be more overwhelming against those who gainsay the useful 
ness of such studies. 

But we must hasten on to our real subject, the origin and 
working of the Athenian Democracy. What old Greece was 
to the rest of the contemporary world, Athens emphatically 
was to Greece itself. Every tendency which marked off 
the Greek from the Barbarian marked off, in its highest 
developement, the Athenian from every other Greek. The 
Athenian, in short, was the highest form of the Hellenic type. 
By nothing is the Greek more emphatically distinguished 
from every nation with which he came in contact during 
his best days, than by the presence of what Mr. Grote calls 
a constitutional morality. 5 Political liberty was grounded on 
a habit of fairly hearing both sides, and then deciding ; it 
was understood that the minority should peaceably yield to 
the will of the greater number. This is a doctrine which 
was wholly unknown to the Persian or the Egyptian, who 
knew no choice but either blind submission to a master or 
open rebellion against him. But in every Greek city the 
theory was thoroughly well known, though it was by no 
means in every Greek city that the theory was fully or con 
stantly carried out. It is in democratic Athens that we find 
the nearest approach, and that positively a very near approach, 
to its perfect fulfilment. 

Old Greece, taking in under that name not only the original 
Hellas, but all the settlements of the Greek nation every 
where, was, we must always remember, a system of cities 
wholly independent of one another. It was moreover a system 

I 3 



116 THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. [ESSAY 

which, during its best days, was co-extensive with its own 
civilized world. In ancient and in mediaeval Italy, in mediaeval 
and in modern Switzerland, a like system of what Mr. Grote 
calls town-autonomy, has more or less largely prevailed. 
But it is in old Greece alone that the system is seen in its 
full perfection. The City was the highest and the lowest 
political unit which the Greek willingly acknowledged. He 
must have a city ; a mere village was not enough for him : he 
did not want the wild independence of the mountaineer, but 
the settled legal freedom of the citizen. There must be an 
authority to obey, but of that authority he must himself 
form a part. But for such authority he did not willingly 
look beyond his own city ; he had no mind to merge the full 
sovereignty of that city even in a federation, much less in an 
empire. The full and perfect sovereignty of each separate 
city formed the political ideal of the Greek mind. The less 
advanced members of the Hellenic race did not fully attain 
to the conception, because they did not fully attain to the per 
fection of Greek city-life. In later times Greece learned by 
bitter experience the need of closer union; and at last the 
Achaian League was the result. But among the most ad 
vanced Greeks in the best days of Greece the sovereignty 
of each city was the acknowledged political theory. If it 
was never fully carried out, it was only because every city 
had not physical resources to maintain its independence. 
But every city looked on perfect independence as its natural 
right ; every city asserted its independence whenever it could ; 
every city deemed itself wronged if it were hindered from so 
doing by superior force. 

Now in the earliest times into which we can get any 
insight, this system of small separate communities formed 
the whole political world of which the Greek had any know 
ledge. In old Greece, above all, he never met, either as 
friend or foe, with any but a Greek neighbour. Even in the 
early colonies the Greek never came across any foreigner 
able to meet him on equal terms either of friendship or of 
hostility. In this state of things the bond between Greek and 



IV.] THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. 117 

Greek differed little from the bond between man and man. 
But the colonizing system first gave birth to a feeling which 
the rise of great Barbarian states strengthened, a feeling that 
the Greek race did not stand alone in the world. In Thrace, 
in Asia, in Sicily, the Greek learned the existence of the Bar 
barian ; and as Lydia, Carthage, Persia, Macedonia, and Rome 
arose one after the other, he learned that the friendship or 
enmity of the Barbarian might be a matter of moment to 
the Greek. But he learned at the same time that the 
Greek could boast of something whereby to distinguish him 
self from the Barbarian. He learned that, over and above 
the independent political being of the several Grecian cities, 
there was a higher national being in which every Greek could 
claim a share. From Spain to the Tauric Chersonesos, every 
Greek shared a common language, a common religion, com 
mon political and intellectual tendencies. The Greek of the 
Iberian Zakynthos and the Greek of the Borysthenic Olbia 
might meet and contend in those games, by the banks of 
the Alpheios or beneath the crags of Delphi, from which 
even the Macedonian and the Thesprotian were hopelessly 
shut out. He began to feel that his brother Greek might by 
chance be an enemy, but that he was still in himself a 
countryman. He felt that even to a hostile Greek he stood 
in a relation in which he did not stand to the outside 
foreigner, whose language, manners, and worship were alto 
gether strange to him. Thus the feeling of separate town- 
autonomy began to be somewhat modified by the wider feel 
ing of Pan-hellenic obligation. As Mr. Grote several times 
suggests, the proper union and harmony of these two tenden 
cies would have led to the establishment of a Federal Govern 
ment. No such Federal Government could have taken in the 
whole Hellenic race ; but a Federal Government might easily 
have taken in all the Grecian cities around the ^Ega?an. It 
might have taken in all Greeks from Epidamnos to Sinope, a 
range nearly answering to the extent of the Greek race at 
the present day. But the only really effective Federal Govern 
ment which Greece ever saw arose too late to do the work, and 



118 THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. [ESSAY 

never spread to any purpose beyond the bounds of Peloponnsos. 
As it was, the natural inclination of all communities to extend 
their dominion, whether rightfully or wrongfully, too often 
clashed alike with town-autonomy and with Pan-hellenic 
patriotism. At no time of their history did Greeks scruple to 
hold dominion over other Greeks. And as soon as they had the 
means, they did not scruple to win and to uphold such do 
minion by the help either of barbaric steel or of barbaric gold. 

Now Athens stands out prominently as the highest de- 
velopement of all these tendencies. She is the most illustrious 
example alike of the single autonomous city, of the Pan-hellenic 
leader against the Barbarian, and of the Greek state bearing 
rule over other Greeks. In all these characters she has been 
thoughtfully examined and clearly described by the great 
historian with whom we are dealing. In the sketch of the 
Athenian Democracy which we are now about to attempt, our 
readers will understand that we are chiefly following Mr. 
Grote, and that we mean to set the seal of our full agreement 
to his general views, of course not pledging ourselves to 
every minute detail, whenever we do not stop formally to 
argue against them. 

As a single autonomous city, Athens was in two ways the 
greatest in Greece. No other single city could boast of so 
great a number of citizens ; in no other did those citizens so 
directly and thoroughly hold the government of their own 
city. A glance at the map of Greece will show that Attica 
was far larger than the territory of any other single city. 
Sparta of course ruled over a far larger extent of country ; 
but that was because Sparta held the sovereignty over many 
other cities, which were thereby thrust down to the rank 
of subjects. Attica was nearly as large as Bceotia ; but while 
Bceotia formed an ill-contrived and inharmonious federation, 
Attica formed one indivisible body-politic. Attica was in fact 
about as large a territory as could, according to Greek notions, 
form one indivisible body-politic. Had the land been much 
larger, each qualified citizen could no longer have exercised a 
personal share in the government. This happy position was 



IV.] THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. 119 

owing to an event which comes to us in the form of legend, but 
which is supported by so great a weight of probability that 
we may fairly set it down as a historical fact. That Attica 
once contained twelve independent cities, and that they were 
led to give up their separate political life and to be merged 
into the one city of Athens, we may undoubtedly believe. 
But as to the exact date of the change, whether it took place 
at once or gradually, whether some cities kept their inde 
pendence longer than others, whether their inhabitants re 
ceived the full Athenian citizenship at once, or after struggles 
like those of the Roman Commons, whether any of the 
early dissensions in Attica were owing to distinctions between 
Athenians and Atticans, are questions at which we can do little 
more than guess. But it is plain that the change had been 
fully wrought out before the time of Drakon and Solon. The 
Athens for which they legislated was an Athens in whose 
rights and in whose wrongs all Attica shared alike. Marathon, 
Aphidnai, and Eleusis * had no longer any distinct political 
being ; they were merged into the higher whole of Athens. 
It is the utter disappearance of the Attic towns as political 
bodies which forms the distinguishing phenomenon of Athe 
nian history. Several of them kept on a large population and 
considerable municipal importance ; but they had given up all 
claims to separate sovereignty. Their relation to Athens was 
one neither of subjection nor of federation. A Laconian town, 

* Mr. Grote (vol. iii. p. 94) remarks that the story of Tellos, which is put 
into the mouth of Solon at the Lydian Court, assumes the independence of 
Eleusis in earlier times. We think that it does even more : it seems to show 
(so far as we can trust it at all) that the union of Eleusis and Athens was not 
in Solon s days of very long standing. The tale certainly does not sound like 
an event of mythical antiquity, but rather like something of which Sol6n might 
have heard from his grandfather. Mr. Grote also infers, with much force, from 
the Homeric hymn to Deme ter, that Eleusis formed an independent state at 
the time when that hymn was made, perhaps as late as the middle of the 
seventh century before Christ. If the union of the Attic towns was gradual, 
so important a place as Eleusis would doubtless be one of the last to come in, 
much like Orchomenos in Bceotia or Akanthos in Chalkidike. It is even pos 
sible that the choice of Eleusis, rather than any other Attic town, to form 
a separate state under the oligarchy, after they were driven from Athens, may 
point to some abiding memory of its ancient independence. 



120 THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. [ESSAY 

whatever municipal rights it might keep, was politically in 
utter bondage to Sparta. Its citizens had no share whatever 
in the general government of their country. A Boeotian town 
formed a distinct commonwealth, whose sovereign rights were 
somewhat curtailed by its federal relations towards its fellow 
Boeotian towns, and still more so by the practical supremacy 
of Thebes over the whole Boeotian League. The burgher of 
Thespia or Orchomenos was a Boeotian ; but he was in no sense 
a Theban. The burgher of Eleusis or Marathon had well nigh 
lost the name of Attican in that of Athenian.*" By this 
happy diffusion of equal political rights over the whole of 
Attica, Athens became the greatest of Hellenic cities. Other 
cities ruled over wider domains and more numerous subjects ; 
no other city could marshal so great a number of free and equal 
citizens. Whether this great event was owing to force or to 
persuasion, to some happy accident or to long-sighted political 
wisdom, whether we see in it the gradual result of pre 
disposing causes or attribute it to the single genius of some 
nameless f statesman of an unrecorded age, in any case, it 
stands forth as one of the foremost events in the history of the 
world. As the determining cause of the greatness of Athens, 
it was the determining cause of the distinctive and lasting 
greatness of Hellas. As such, the union, the VVOLKKTLS, of 
Attica becomes nothing less than the beginning of the poli 
tical history of mankind. 

The union of the old Attic towns made Athens and Attica 
words of the same political meaning; but it was very far 
from wiping out all political distinctions between the several 
classes of their inhabitants. Eleusinians and Athenians no 
longer strove with each other upon the field of battle ; but 

* [Dikaiarchos (Periegesis, 4) says of Attica TWV 8 IVOIKOVVTUV ol p.tv avraiv 
&TTIKOI, ol 5 AOrjvaToi, and he goes on to draw a distinction between the 
characters of the two. C. Miiller, in his note, has brought together a few 
other cases of this rare use of the word.] 

t The legend attributes it to the mythical King Theseus. In this change, as 
in most others, some one man was most likely the chief agent ; several things 
look as if it was at least begun before kingship was done away with ; the King 
who had the chief hand in it may as well have been called Theseus as anything 
else ; but this is as much as we can say. 



IV.] THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. 121 

the poor Eleusinian and the poor Athenian had alike to 
bear the yoke, personal and political, of the oligarchy which 
ruled over their common country. Such is the aspect of 
Athenian affairs when we first begin to see them in anything 
like detail, at the time of the Solonian legislation. Theseus 
and Solon were the two great names round which the loving 
memory of Athens gathered. Her orators and poets sometimes 
scrupled not to attribute her full-grown democracy to Theseus 
the King, no less than to Solon the Arch on. Of Theseus we 
can say nothing ; of the reforms of Solon we can happily 
make out a good deal. If Theseus* founded a democracy, it 
was assuredly not a lasting one. Even of Solon the utmost 
we can say is that his reform took a decidedly democratic 
turn. The most distinctively democratic of Athenian in 
stitutions were undoubtedly of later date. 

The questions which have been so often raised as to the 
so-called four Ionic tribes we^ shall pass by, as not directly 
bearing on our immediate subject. It is enough for our 
purpose that they formed an oppressive oligarchy. The 
question which immediately concerns us is, How far did Solon 
break down the barriers of this oligarchy ? We all know how 
he made a division into classes according to property, and how 
under his system the rich alone could be chosen to the great 
offices of the state. But here an important question arises, Who 
were the persons thus classified ? According to one answer, 
Solon could hardly have even looked in the direction of de 
mocracy. Niebuhr^f at one time at least, held the Solonian 
timocracy to have been a mere change within the patrician order 
itself; the poor noble was to be shut out from office, while the 
rich plebeian was not let in. Surely such a change would have 

* If we may trust the sage Diodoros, democracy could look still higher for 
its founder. Zeus himself established that form of government, not only at 
Athens, but throughout the world. -rre\0(iv 5 avrov [A/a] teal TT)V o lKov^vrjv 
aX f duv airaaav, rovs fjitv \riffTas KOI dtrejSffs dvaipovvra, rty 8 Icrurrjra Kal rty 
$r]fj.oKpa.Tiav dsrjyov^vov. Diod. v. 71. One would certainly never have 
found this out from the Prometheus of ^Eschylus. 

f History of Kome, vol. ii. pp. 384, 385. In his Lectures on Ancient 
History, vol. i. p. 288, he seems to take a different, but less intelligible, view. 



122 THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. [ESSAY 

been merely to make the oligarchy still narrower than it was 
before. Surely it is inconsistent with the well-known saying* 
of Solon himself, which, whatever be its exact meaning, clearly 
implies that he gave the mass of the people some power. It 
would be easier to believe that the timocracy simply took the 
place of the oligarchy, that wealth became the qualification 
instead of birth, that the rich plebeian was qualified no 
less than the rich patrician, and the poor patrician dis 
qualified no less than the poor plebeian. But this view seems 
inconsistent with the fact, which is allowed on all hands, 
that the Four Tribes went on as real political divisions down 
to the legislation of Kleisthenes. We are therefore driven, 
though not without some doubt and difficulty, to the be 
lief that the timocracy extended only to the patrician 
order, and that the whole body of the plebeians, rich and 
poor, were placed, together with the poorest patricians, in the 
fourth or lowest class. This seems to be the view taken both 
by Dr. Thirlwallf and by Mr. Grote. J 

Athens then, after the Solonian reform, was still a modified 
oligarchy. Solon preserved the old Senate of Areiopagos, 



fj.V yap tSuKa TOOOV ttpdros offcrov tirapKet. *(* Vol. ii. p. 45. 

J Mr. Grote seems decidedly to assert this, when he formally describes the 
Solonian constitution. He there (vol. iii. p. 1 76) speaks of persons not included 
in the Four Tribes, who still were citizens with votes in the Assembly, and 
adds, It seems, therefore, that all persons not included in the Four Tribes, 
whatever their grade of fortune might be, were on the same level in respect to 
political privilege as the fourth and lowest class of the Solonian census. Yet 
afterwards (vol. iv. p. 169), when he describes the legislation of Kleisthenes, he 
says, the political franchise, or the character of an Athenian citizen, both 
before and since Solon, had been confined to the primitive four Ionic tribes, 
each of which was an aggregate of so many close corporations or quasi families, 
the gentes and phratries ; none of the residents in Attica, therefore, except those 
included in some gens or [and ?] phratry, had any part in the political franchise. 

. . Kleisthenes broke down the existing wall of privilege, and imparted 
the political franchise to the excluded mass. We cannot reconcile these two 
statements, and we greatly prefer the former one. The latter seems to agree 
with the view of Niebuhr quoted above, according to which Sol6n really made 
the oligarchy more oligarchical. 

Mr. Grote has, we think, clearly made out that the Senate of Areiopagos 
was the original one, older than Sol6n, and that the yearly Senate was of his 
foundation. 



IV.] TEE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. 123 

which was made up of all who had served the office of Archon 
with credit. But he set up alongside of it another Senate 
of a somewhat more popular kind. A hundred patricians 
chosen from each tribe formed a yearly Senate. The chief 
executive and judicial powers those which had been vested 
in the ancient Kings, and in their successors, the Archons for 
life, for ten years, for one year Solon found and left in the 
hands of nine yearly Archons. These, by his legislation, 
were to be chosen from the first class of the census, so that 
their qualification implied both noble birth and the possession 
of the highest degree of wealth in the community. What 
then did the people gain by the Solonian reform ? Very little, 
as compared with their power in after times ; but very much, 
as compared with their earlier state of utter political nothing 
ness. They still shared in nothing, but they now had the 
disposal of everything. They still had masters, but they were 
masters of their own choosing. The Public Assembly, the 
famous Ekklesia, now arose, in which every Athenian citizen 
had an equal vote. Here the poor or ignoble citizen, himself 
shut out from office, chose and sat in judgement upon those 
who ruled him. Here the yearly Senate and the yearly 
Archons were chosen by the common suffrage of the people. 
Here the same Archons, after their year of office, underwent 
the euthyne or examination, without honourably passing 
through which they could not take their seat in the per 
manent Senate of Areiopagos. 

The constitution of Solon had hardly time to show itself in 
practical working, before the tyranny * of Peisistratos practi 
cally set it aside. Peisistratos, as is acknowledged on all 
hands, respected the forms of the constitution. Senate, 
Assembly, and Archons all doubtless went on, but their 
practical power was probably about as great as when, ages 

* We keep to the common usage of Tyrant and tyranny, to express TV- 
pavvos and its derivatives, rather than Mr. Grote s Despot and despotism. 
Neither Tyrant nor Despot, in its usual English meaning, exactly expresses 
rvpavvos ; either word must be used in a fixed technical sense. We see there 
fore no reason for departing from established custom. 



124 THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. [ESSAY 

after, Athens was enrolled as a favoured ally of Nero. But 
the rule of the Tyrants, by bringing- nobles and people 
under one common bondage, indirectly helped the cause of 
democracy. When the tyranny was overpassed, it was found 
impossible to call back the old distinctions into practical 
life. Still, as the constitutional forms had been respected, 
there was an established system to fall back upon and to 
reform. Under the unwitting guidance of Peisistratos and 
Hippias, the Athens of Solon had become ripe for its 
change into the Athens of Kleisthenes. Democracy had now 
fairly begun its course, though it was still far from having 
reached the goal. 

From Kleisthenes to Perikles, reforms were so steadily 
going on in a democratic direction that it is not easy to fix 
the exact date of each change. But three great stages may 
clearly be made out. First come the reforms of Kleisthenes 
himself, after the driving out of the Tyrants : secondly, the 
changes which were wrought immediately after the Persian 
War, some of which are attributed to Aristeides : thirdly, 
those which brought about the perfect consummation of 
democracy under Ephialtes and Perikles. 

What Kleisthenes himself did seems to have been wholly 
to sweep away all distinctions founded on birth, and greatly to 
lessen the strictness of those founded on property. The Four 
Tribes, as a political institution, ceased to exist. The gentes 
and phratries of which they are made up went on as religious 
and social unions, but they no longer determined a man s 
political rank. The whole people patricians, commoners, 
together with many slaves and foreigners who now received 
the franchise for the first time were divided into Ten Tribes. 
These tribes were again subdivided into Demoi or Parishes. 
These last were essentially local divisions, each Demos forming 
a larger or smaller municipality. Full scope was thus given 
for the working of those local feelings which were very strong 
in the Attic bosom. But a wise arrangement, whereby the 
Demoi forming each Tribe did not lie together, hindered these 
local feelings from having any bad political effect, such as 



IV.] THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. 125 

they had had in the time between Solon and Peisistratos. The 
ten Tribes were the immediate constituent members of the 
body-politic. On them all the arrangements of the state, 
both military and civil, depended. The citizens of each tribe 
were marshalled together in battle, while a board of ten 
Generals, one from each tribe, was placed at the head of 
military affairs. The yearly Senate now consisted of five 
hundred members, fifty from each tribe ; and the Senators of 
each tribe in turn enjoyed the presidency in the Public 
Assembly. The aristocracy of birth was thus legally swept 
away, but the Solonian timocracy was only modified. The 
Archonship, confined by Solon to the first class of his census, 
was now opened to the first three, into which all citizens who 
had the legal amount of wealth were now admitted. The 
fourth and poorest class alone were still shut out. 

Between Kleisthenes and Perikles three great changes were 
gradually wrought, which, as Mr. Grote clearly shows, all 
hang together. All citizens became eligible for all offices. 
The Archons and the yearly Senate began to be named 
by lot instead of by election. The Archons, the successors 
of the ancient Kings, were cut down to that routine of police 
and religious ceremony which is all that we find left to them 
under the full-grown Democracy. Of these three changes, 
the earliest must, in the nature of things, have been that 
which admitted all citizens without distinction to office. As 
Mr. Grote observes, the use of the lot implies that this change 
had taken place. As long as restrictions were left, the intro 
duction of the lot would not have been any gain to democracy. 
As long as the high offices were confined to rich men, the 
poor man s influence lay in his vote, by which he decided 
among the rich candidates. He clearly would not give up 
this form of power till the loss was made good by his being 
himself made admissible to office. 

But, if the lot implies universal admissibility to the archon- 
ship, it no less implies a diminished power in the office of 
Archon. The Archons, like the Roman Consuls, took the place 
of the ancient Kings. Indeed the single Archon, whether for 



126 THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. [ESSAY 

life, for ten years, or for one year only, held a still more 
commanding position than the Roman Consul. But while 
Rome kept on the powers of the consulship, with compara 
tively little change, down to the end of the commonwealth, 
Athens was always lessening the once kingly powers of her 
Archons. Even under the oligarchy, a board of nine Archons 
took the place of a single ruler. Under the Democracy, whether 
from jealousy of the old patrician magistracy, or from what 
ever cause, the Archons sank into something like aldermen 
or police magistrates. They still kept a summary jurisdiction 
in small cases, but they had to bring weightier matters before 
the popular courts, which had succeeded to their old judicial 
powers and where they themselves kept only a barren presi 
dency. Their old administrative and military functions, so far 
as Demos did not take them upon himself, were handed over 
to his favourite magistracy, the Ten Generals. We may be 
quite sure that this change was at least far advanced before 
the lot was made to decide their appointment. The lot was 
never applied at Athens to offices which called for any special 
fitness."* Generals and ambassadors were always chosen by 
the Assembly. It follows that, so long as the Archons were 
still the effective heads of the state, they were appointed 
in the same way. The lot could only have come in after 
the Archons had been cut down to mere routine duties, 
which it was held that any respectable citizen was able to 
go through. Notoriously discreditable persons would either 
be shut out by the Dokimasia or examination before admis 
sion to office, or else punished by the Euthyne or examination 
after their term of office was over. 

The following then must have been the order of the three 
changes. First, All citizens were made admissible to the 
archonship. Secondly, The powers of the archonship were so 
cut down as to be within the competence of any respectable 
citizen. Thirdly, The Archons were appointed by lot. But it 
is allowed on all hands that all citizens were not admissible 

* To KXypcaras twai TOS dpx&s r) irdffas fj offai fj.r) t(j.ireipias SeovTdi KOI 
Arist. Pol. vi. 2. 5. 



IV.] THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. 127 

to the archonship till after the battle of Plataia. It follows 
therefore that, at least up to that time, the Archons were 
elected,* and that they still held powers which needed special 
qualifications. As for the yearly Senate, where the same 
special qualifications were not needed in each individual 
member, f it is possible, though by no means certain, that the 
lot may have been applied to their appointment as early as 
the time of Kleisthenes. 

The reforms of Kleisthenes and the reforms of Aristeides, 
mark two great stages in the democratic march. Under 
Peisistratos and his sons, patrician and plebeian were con 
founded in one common bondage, which most likely pressed 
more heavily upon the patrician. Liberty was brought back, 
and the legal distinction between patrician and plebeian was 
swept away by the legislation of Kleisthenes. During the 
Persian invasion rich and poor showed themselves equal in 
suffering and in heroism ; the Thes did and suffered side by 
side w r ith the PentaJcosiomedimnos. Their common country was 
won back, and the legal distinction between rich and poor was 
swept away by the legislation of Aristeides. The lot and the 
lessened powers of the Archons must soon have followed, till 
at last the full-grown Democracy showed itself under Ephialtes 
and Perikles. What the Athenian constitution became under 
them, such it went on being with the short interruptions of 
the Four Hundred and the Thirty during the whole remain- 

* The only objection to this view is the expression of Herodotus with regard 
to Kallimachos at Marathon, 6 TO> Kvap.ca \a\wv no\fj.ap^os. Now Herodotus 
directly bears witness to the fact that the Poleraarch then still held high 
military command. This is essential to the story, and it is a point on which 
he could hardly be mistaken. But the mention of the lot is a mere obiter 
dictum, in which Herodotus might easily transfer the language of his own 
day to an earlier period. Herodotus shows that in B.C. 490 the Polemarch 
acted as a General. Now the Generals were always elected ; surely then in 
B.C. 490 the Polemarch must have been elected. There is also the direct 
witness of Isokrates and of Idomeneus of Lampsakos quoted by Plutarch. 
Their direct authority is much lower than that of Herodotus ; but their positive 
statement on a point to which they are specially referring, may counterbalance 
his mere casual allusion. See Grote, vol. iv. p. 197. 

t See Lysias c. Evan. 14. The whole speech should be studied as 
illustrative of the Dokimasia. 



128 THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. [ESSAY 

ing period of Athenian independence. It was only by the 
Macedonian Antipatros Philip and Alexander had spared her 
thus much that Athens was driven once more to set up a 
money qualification for the exercise of her now narrowed and 
dishonoured citizenship. 

And now what was the true nature of the full-grown 
Athenian constitution, that great Democracy which has been 
made the object of such unsparing abuse, and of which Mr. 
Grote stands forth as the defender ? The essence of this typi 
cal Greek Democracy is that it unites all power, legislative, 
executive, and judicial, in the Assembly of the People. The 
essence of pure Democracy, as it was understood by Demos him 
self, was that the assembled people should be Tyrant; the name 
at which he shuddered when applied to a single person, 5 he 
seems rather to have rejoiced in when it was applied to his 
own collective majesty.* In the popular Assembly, where 
every citizen, rich or poor, has an equal vote, centres the whole 
authority, legislative, judicial, and executive. It may be con 
venient to delegate some of its functions to committees taken 
by lot from its own number; hence we have a probouleutic 
Senate and popular courts of judicature ; but these bodies 
never lose the character of committees of the sovereign As 
sembly ; the courts of justice are by the orators who address 
them constantly identified with the political Ekklesia, and 
they are held to be animated by the same views and passions. 
Hence too magistrates have no independent authority; the 
Archon, and even the General, is the mere executor of the will 
of the sovereign People ; the former indeed is charged with 
little more than to carry out, formally and ministerially, 
certain routine duties of police and ceremonial religion. 
The division of powers which we look on as so essential to 

* Arist. Eq. 1027, 1113, 1329, 1331. Thuc. ii. 63, iii. 37. Isok. Areop. 29. 
us 5e avvrS/jidis clircw, eKeivoi SifyvcaKores rjaav on Set TOV Arjpov, &sirfp 
rvpavvov, KaOiffravai ras apx^s Kal Ko\.&fiv TOVS f^a^ipravovTas real icpiveiv 
irep] TWV dfjL^icr^rjTOviJLfVcav, TOVS tie axo\-r)V &yeiv Swa/jLtvovs KOI fiiov iteavov 
/ee/tTTjfjLfvovs tm^f\f^a6ai TUV KOIVUV &sircp olKtras. Cf. Mitford, chap. 37, 
sect. vii. 



IV.] THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. 129 

good government was at Athens never heard of. Demos was 
himself King, Minister, and Parliament. He had his smaller 
officials to carry out the necessary details of public business, 
but he was most undoubtedly his own First Lord of the Trea 
sury, his own Foreign Secretary, his own Secretary for the 
Colonies. He himself kept up a personal correspondence both 
with foreign potentates and with his own officers on foreign 
service; the despatches of Nikias and the notes of Philip 
were alike addressed to no officer short of the sovereign him 
self ; he gave personal audience to the ambassadors of other 
states, and clothed his own with just so great or so small a 
share as he deemed good of his own boundless authority. He 
had no need to entrust the care of his thousand dependencies 
to the mysterious working of a Foreign Office ; he himself sat 
in judgement upon Mitylenaian rebels ; he himself settled the 
allotment of lands at Chalkis or Amphipolis ; he decreed by 
his own wisdom what duties should be levied at the Sound 
of Byzantion ; he even ventured on a task of which two-and- 
twenty ages have not lessened the difficulty, and undertook, 
without the help of a Lord High Commissioner, to adjust the 
relations and compose the seditions even of Korkyra and 
Zakynthos.* He was his own Lord High Chancellor, his 
own Lord Primate, his own Commander-in-Chief. He listened 
to the arguments of Kleon on behalf of a measure, and to the 
arguments of Nikias against it, and he ended by bidding Nikias 
to go and carry out the proposal which he had denounced as 
extravagant or unjust. He listened with approval to his own 
explanations ; he passed votes of confidence in his own 
policy ; he advised himself to give his own royal assent to the 
bills which he had himself passed, without the form of a 
second or third reading, or the vain ceremony of moving that 
the Prytaneis do leave their chairs. 

Demos then was Tyrant ; and now the question comes, Did 
he use his despotic powers well or ill? Did he truly bring 

* [Let Englishmen be thankful that this responsibility no longer lies upon 
them.] 

K 



130 THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. [ESSAY 

himself under the censure of a great historian, who lays 
down the rule that an assembly of even five or six hundred 
persons has a tendency to become a mob ; and that a 
country of which the supreme executive council is a mob is 
surely in a perilous situation ?* This is doubtless very good 
constitutional doctrine for an age of Cabinet Councils and 
diplomatic conferences ; but a Greek of the fourth or fifth cen 
tury before Christ might well have doubted it. The supreme 
executive council of his most illustrious city was a mob, not 
merely of five or six hundred, but of five or six thousand, 
conceivably of from twenty to thirty thousand. This mob 
restrained itself just where a modern Parliament gives itself 
full freedom, and it gave itself full freedom just where a modern 
Parliament restrains itself. Its legislative powers were greatly 
narrowed by one of its own committees ; f but its executive 
powers were unbounded. This mob, as we have seen, made 
peace and war ; it appointed generals and gave them instruc 
tions ; it gave audience to foreign ambassadors and discussed 
their proposals; it appointed its own ambassadors, and gave 
them instructions for foreign powers. J If comparative secrecy 
was ever needed in a diplomatic transaction, the larger mob 
which counted its thousands handed over its powers to the 
smaller mob of five hundred which formed the Senate of the 
republic. Generals, ambassadors, and other ministers, were 
of course allowed a certain liberty and authority, but so are 
the generals and ambassadors of the most absolute despot. 
But the control which Demos exercised over generals and 
ambassadors was the control of a Government, not merely 
the control of a Parliament. The Athenian system admitted 
of individual Ministers, but it admitted of nothing in the 
shape of a Ministry. Even the probouleutic Senate did not 
take on itself the functions of a Cabinet. It was by the Sove 
reign Assembly that all public servants were directly ap- 

* Macaulay s History of England, vol. iv. p. 434. 
t The sworn Nomothetai. See Grote, vol. v. p. 500. 

O yap TT)V xP vp&v p.f\\<av ctfpeiv, ovros 6 irpeffftcvcav (ffriv, dirorep av 
u SOKTJ, KOI rty eiprjvrjv Kal rbv -noXf^ov iroietv. Andok. Tlepl Elp. p. 41. 
See Grote, vol. xi. p. 332. 



IV.] THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. 131 

pointed ; it was to the Sovereign Assembly that they were 
directly responsible. 

Now a fair examination of Grecian history will assuredly 
lead us to the- conclusion that this mob clothed with exe 
cutive functions made one of the best governments which 
the world ever saw. It did not work impossibilities; it 
did not change earth into paradise nor men into angels; 
it did not forestall every improvement which has since 
appeared in the world ; still less did it forestall all the 
improvements which we may trust are yet in store for man 
kind. But that government cannot be called a bad one 
which is better than any other government of its own time. 
And surely that government must be called a good one which 
is a marked improvement upon every government which has 
gone before it. The Athenian Democracy is entitled to both 
these kinds of praise. Demos was guilty of some follies and 
some crimes ; but he was guilty of fewer follies and fewer 
crimes, and he did more wise and noble deeds, than any 
government of his own or of any earlier age. 

First then, the Democracy of Athens was the first great 
instance which the world ever saw of the substitution of law 
for force. Here, as usual, we find in Athens the highest 
instance of a tendency common to all Greece. The rudest 
Greek community had a far more advanced conception of 
law than any barbarian state which it came across. The 
Athenian Democracy carried the conception into more perfect 
working than any other state in Greece. The history of an 
eastern despotism is commonly a history of usurpations, 
rebellions, and massacres. Blood is shed without mercy to 
decide which of two rival men shall be the despot. In too 
many Greek commonwealths, blood was shed with hardly more 
of mercy to decide which of two political parties should have 
the upper hand. But even here, as the aim of the Greek is 
one degree nobler, so are his means one degree less cruel. 
The barbarian mutilates, impales, crucifies : the Greek simply 
slays. Again, what the Greek of Argos or Korkyra is to the 
Barbarian, the Greek of Athens is to the Greek of Argos or 

K 2 



132 THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. [ESSAY 

Korkyra. The Athenian, at least the democratic Athenian, 
does not even slay. Demos put some men to death unjustly, 
some illegally : the Generals at Arginousai died by a bill of 
attainder worthy of a Tudor Parliament ; but Demos was 
never guilty of massacre or assassination in any civil struggle. 
The dagger of the assassin, the hemlock administered without 
trial, were the weapons only of his enemies. Their use was 
confined to the good, the noble, the refined, the men of birth 
and culture, the boasted /3eArioroi and KaXoKayaOoi who shared 
the power, and abetted the crimes, of the Four Hundred and 
the Thirty. Never did the history of the world show forth 
nobler instances of moderation and good faith than the con 
duct of the Athenian People on each occasion of its restoration. 
In no other city could such a triumph have been wrought with 
out wholesale massacres and confiscations. The victorious 
Demos was satisfied with the legal trial and execution of a few 
notorious traitors. For the rest an amnesty was proclaimed, 
oaths were sworn, and, as even the oligarchic historian point 
edly tells us, the People abode by its oaths.* Such was the 
result of a form of government in which every citizen partook, 
where every question was fairly argued on both sides, and 
where the minority peaceably yielded to an adverse vote. 

But we are told that the Athenian people were jealous 
and suspicious of their most distinguished citizens. Aris- 
teides was ostracized, Perikles was fined, Sokrates was put 
to death, Iphikrates and Chabrias dared not live at home 
for fear of popular jealousy. No rich man had a moment s 
quiet between liturgies on the one hand and sycophants on 
the other. Base and selfish demagogues enjoyed the con 
fidence from which high-born and virtuous aristocrats were 
debarred. Such is the picture commonly drawn of the prac 
tical working of Athenian freedom. Let us group together all 
these charges into two or three. First, then, what was the 
general condition of a rich man at Athens ? 

The real ground of complaint brought against the Athenian 

* To?s tipKois fftfjtevci 6 Ar?/ios. Xen. Hell. ii. 4, 43. 



IV.] THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. 133 

Democracy by its aristocratic enemies was simply that it kept 
them from somewhat of that licence to do evil which they en 
joyed elsewhere. We may judge of the real nature of their 
wrongs by one charge which is gravely brought against 
Athens by her own apostate citizen. She did not indeed fore 
stall our own fathers and grandfathers by abolishing either 
slavery or the slave-trade ; but she at least did something to 
lighten the yoke of the slave. At Athens, says Xenoph6n,* 
a man did not dare to beat a foreigner or another man s 
slave : in well-regulated Sparta such liberty seems to have 
been allowed. But what did the rich really suffer ? All legal 
advantages had been taken away both from birth and wealth ; 
but in all ages birth and wealth carry with them certain 
natural advantages which no legislation can take away. And 
these advantages the Athenian aristocrats enjoyed only too 
freely. What licence the rich practically exercised even under 
the full-grown Democracy we see in the stories of Alkibiads 
and Meidias. What licence they deemed themselves entitled 
to we see in the share taken by the whole equestrian 
order in the vilest deeds of the Thirty. The high and 
honourable offices of the commonwealth fell all but exclusively 
to their share. It was rare indeed that the fleets and armies 
of Athens were commanded by other than men of old aristo 
cratic blood. If the rich man was burthened with heavy 
and costly liturgies, if he had to furnish a chorus or to 
fit out a trireme, we commonly find that he laid out a sum 
far beyond his legal liability, in order to make political 
capital out of his munificence, f 

Again, did the Athenian Demos deserve either the charge of 
inconstancy so commonly brought against it, or that other 
charge which Macaulay brings in its stead against the com 
mon people, namely, that they almost invariably choose their 
favourite so ill, that their constancy is a vice and not a virtue ? J 
Do the common people of Athens, the mob of lamp-makers, 

* De Rep. Ath. i. 10. 

f See Lysias, Atr. Acup. 2-9. Ai^. Kar. 16. Hepl Evav. 4. 

J History of England, vol. i. p. 627. 



134 THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. [ESSAY 

lyre-makers,, and leather-sellers, fairly come under either charge? 
With regard to measures, their fault was certainly rather 
obstinacy than inconstancy. Till their energy began to fail 
them altogether, they were, as the fatal Sicilian expedition 
proved, only too slow to change, too fully bent on cleaving to 
a policy after it had been shown to be hurtful. But, if they 
were obstinate about measures, were they fickle about men ? 
Were they either inconstant in their attachments, or did they 
form those attachments on slight grounds ? They are said to 
have been inconstant because Miltiades was fined. This charge 
Mr. Grote* has tossed to the winds. No man can dare to 
bring it up again, unless he is ready to lay down the principle 
that one great public service is to secure a man from punish 
ment for all his after offences. In fact, instead of fickleness, 
the Athenians seem rather to have been remarkable for strange 
constancy to their favourites. Take the case of Nikias at 
one stage of their history, and that of Phokion at another. 
Nikias, on whom we hold that Mr. Grote is unduly hard, was 
a rich man, a man of decided aristocratic tendencies, but one 
who never found that either his wealth or his politics laid him 
open to public jealousy or mistrust. Phokion was poor ; but 
of all men he was the last to be called a flatterer of the 
People; he was rather remarkable for saying the most 
unpleasant things in the most unpleasant way. Yet, year 
after year, first Nikias, and then Phokion, were elected 
Generals of the commonwealth. Nikias kept to the last a 
confidence which proved fatal both to himself and to the 
state. Phokion at last drank the hemlock juice ; but it was 
not till Athens had lost her freedom ; it was not till he had 
been the accomplice of her oppressors ; and even then, it was 
not by the lawful sentence of the People, but by the voice of 
an irregular rabble, hounded on by a foreign deliverer or 
conqueror. In the greatest crime that the People ever did, 
the execution of the Generals at Arginousai, what we have 
a right to condemn is the breach of the ordinary securities 
which the law had provided for accused persons. On the 

* Vol. iv. p. 497. 



IV.] THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. 135 

guilt or innocence of the Generals themselves it is hardly safe 
to pronounce with confidence."* 

But what has the apologist of Athens to say to the insti 
tution of Ostracism ? Aristeides, Themistokles, Kimon, Thucy- 
dides son of Melesias, were all ostracized; all, that is, were 
banished without crime banished, we might almost say, 
avowedly on account of their merits. Mr. Grote has, we think, 
made out a very fair case in behalf of the ostracism. It was 
a rude and imperfect means of meeting a temporary danger, 
while the Democracy was still in a rude and imperfect state. 
In the fully developed Democracy ostracism had no place ; it 
was never formally abolished, but it silently dropped out of 
use. It was bad in theory ; it could have no place in a 
fixed and settled polity ; but it was meant to meet and 
perhaps no other means could have met a real danger 
during the infancy of the commonwealth. In most Grecian 
cities, the triumph of one political party carried with it the 
slaughter, exile, and confiscation of the other. Ostracism 
was meant to hinder these horrors ; it did hinder them very 
thoroughly. Ostracism stood instead of revolutions, proscrip 
tions, bills of attainder. When civil strife seemed to hang 
over the state, the People were called on to decide who was 
the dangerous person. If six thousand secret votes agreed 
in naming the same person, he had to go abroad for ten 
years. He could hardly be said to be banished ; still less 
was he dishonoured. f His property w T as untouched ; his 
political rights were merely suspended ; in many cases he 
was actually recalled before his whole time of absence was 
over. Ostracism then might be an evil, perhaps a wrong ; 
but it was the only way that showed itself of hindering far 
greater evils and far greater wrongs. The honourable exile 

* Mr. Grote s remarks on this event are throughout most weighty. He 
leans however a little more to the unfavourable side, as regards the Gene 
rals than we are disposed to do. 

[I shall say something more on this head in the Appendix to this Essay.] 
*t* The pseudo-Andokides (c. Alcib. 4) says that ostracism was too heavy 
a punishment for private, too light for public offences ; TUV St S^/ioatW fiiiepav 
Kal ovdfvos aiav ^yovftai fyfiiav, tov KoXafav xp^o.ffi teal Secr^< KO.I Oavdry. 



136 THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. [ESSAY 

of one stood instead of the proscription of many. Ostracism 
did its work and then disappeared. It became as wholly out 
of date under the later Democracy as the far sterner safeguard 
of impeachment has now become in England. In both cases 
liberty has grown strong enough to dispense with any ex 
ceptional safeguard. It has been found that party-spirit can 
be kept within legal and constitutional bounds without re 
sorting to extra-legal means for its restraint. 

But Demos not only banished his statesmen; he allowed 
himself to be led by his Demagogues. Now on this head not 
only is there a great popular misconception afloat, but we can 
not help thinking that Mr. Grote himself labours under a 
certain amount of misconception. Mr. Grote delights to call 
the Demagogues opposition speakers, in contrast to the great 
men of action whom he half looks on as an executive Cabinet. 
He evidently has in his mind the vision of Joseph Hume 
calling the ministerial estimates over the coals, or of his own 
annual motion for the ballot defeated by the frowns of the 
Treasury benches or the apathy of the Opposition itself.* 
He does not always remember, what no man knows better 
than himself as matter of fact, that at Athens there were 
no Treasury benches, no ministerial estimates, and there 
fore no opposition speakers. He allows that the term is not 
strictly accurate : to us it seems not only not to be strictly 
accurate but to be altogether misleading. There is hardly any 
analogy between the two cases. The direct sovereignty vested 
in the Assembly admitted of nothing answering to office and 
opposition. Mr. Grote looks on Nikias as being in office, and 
Kleon as being in opposition. Now undoubtedly; as one of the 
Generals of the commonwealth, Nikias was, in a certain sense, 
* in office. He held one of the highest places of trust and 
authority in the state. But he was not in office in the same 
sense in which Lord Palmerston or Lord Derby was in office 
among ourselves. He was not even in office in the same sense 
in which Quintus Fabius or Manius Curius was in office at 

* [Pity that the historian could not see the fruit of his own labours in 
1872.] 



IV.] THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. 137 

Rome, or in which Aratos or Lydiadas was in office in the 
Achaian League. With us a minister whose policy is no longer 
followed is held to be no longer trusted, and he no longer retains 
office. But Nikias constantly saw his policy set aside, while he 
himself still continued to be trusted, and still continued to retain 
office. Out of the Assembly Nikias was a great officer of the 
commonwealth, armed with high authority to carry out the 
bidding of the Assembly. In the Assembly Nikias was one 
citizen out of some thousands, a citizen who was always listened 
to with respect, but whose advice was sometimes followed and 
sometimes not. Kleon, in the Assembly, stood in the same 
position as Nikias. He often canvassed the doings of men in 
office ; but he often persuaded the People to follow his policy 
rather than theirs. Now the idea of an opposition speaker 
implies that his policy is not at present followed. We hold 
then that it is not merely not strictly accurate, but that it 
is thoroughly misleading, to apply the name to an Athenian 
Demagogue."* 

The word Demagogue means simply a leader of the people/f 
and it belongs to Themistokles and Perikles as much as to 
Kleon and Hyperboles. But, apart from any invidious mean 
ing, it means, in its later use, a political leader who is not 
also a military leader. The Demagogue is a citizen whose 
advice the Assembly habitually takes, but whom it does not 
place at the head of its armies. In early times political and 

* The late Professor Grote, in a pamphlet in answer to a puny attack on 
his brother, acutely remarked that Mr. Grote had been somewhat misled by 
assuming the position of Kleon at Athens as being the same as that of AthSna- 
goras at Syracuse. Now the speech of Athenagoras in Thucydides does read 
like that of an opposition speaker. He talks like one who has been rather 
kept in the dark about public affairs, and who wants to get an answer out of 
men in office. We do not know the details of the Syracusan constitution, and 
the probability is that at this time it entrusted individual magistrates with 
greater powers than was the case at Athens. Such is the* natural inference 
from the debate in Thucydides, while Aristotle distinctly says that Syra 
cuse became, after the Athenian invasion, more democratic than before. See 
Grote, vol. x. p. 538. In no case can we safely argue from one Grecian city 
to another. 

f Lysias does not scruple to speak of dyaOol Srjuaycoyoi, and to point out 
their duties. Kard Eirttc. 1 1. 



138 THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. [ESSAY 

military authority always go together. Homer s perfect ruler is 

afupoTfpov (3affi\(vs T ayaOos ttparcpos r alxprjTqs. 

And this Homeric sentiment long survived the establishment 
of democracy. Miltiades, Aristeides, and Themistokle s, were 
great alike on the battle-field and in the Assembly. But, 
as both military and political science advanced, it was found 
that the highest merit in the one w r as not always found in 
company with the highest merit in the other. The cha 
racters of the military commander and the political leader 
were gradually separated. The first germs of this division 
we find in the days of Kimon and Perikles. Kimon was no 
mean politician ; but his real genius clearly called him to 
warfare with the Barbarian. Perikles was an able and suc 
cessful general ; but in him the military character was quite 
subordinate to that of the political leader. It was a wise 
compromise which entrusted Kimon with the defence of the 
state abroad and Perikles with its management at home. 
After Perikles the separation widened. We nowhere hear of 
Demosthenes and Phormion as political leaders ; and even in 
Nikias the political is subordinate to the military character. 
Kleon, on the other hand,, was a politician but not a soldier. 
But the old notion of combining military and political position 
was not quite lost. It was still deemed that he who proposed 
a warlike expedition should himself, if it were needful, be able 
to conduct it. Kleon in an evil hour was tempted to take 
on himself military functions : he was forced into command 
against Sphakteria; by the able and loyal help of Demosthenes 
he acquitted himself with honour. But his head was turned 
by success ; he aspired to independent command ; he measured 
himself against the mighty Brasidas ; and the fatal battle of 
Amphipolis was the result. It now became clear that the 
Demagogue and the General must commonly be two distinct 
persons. The versatile genius of Alkibiades again united the 
two characters ; but he left no successor. The soldier Thrasy- 
boulos needed the help of the civilian Archinos to give its 
new life to the restored Democracy. Konon, Iphikrates, 
Chabrias, Timotheos, were almost exclusively generals ; Kal- 



IV.] THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. 139 

listratos, Demosthenes, Hyperides, and ^Eschines, were quite 
exclusively demagogues. Phokion alone united something of 
both characters. But Phokion was primarily a general : in 
the Assembly he was more truly an opposition-speaker 3 than 
Kleon ; at least he commonly spoke in opposition to the pre 
vailing opinions of his time. 

In fact, as times advanced, the separation between the two 
characters became too wide. Their final separation is closely 
connected with that decay of military spirit in Greece which is 
so instructively dealt with by Mr. Grote in his eleventh volume. 
Under the old system, citizen and soldier, political and mili 
tary leader, had been convertible terms. The orator who 
proposed an expedition was the general who commanded it. 
The citizens who voted for his. proposal were the soldiers 
who served under his command. But the later Athenians 
shrank from military service in their own persons. Nor was 
the evil peculiar to Athens. Throughout Greece there arose a 
class of professional soldiers. Now in Greece a professional 
soldier could hardly be distinguished from a mercenary, and 
a mercenary could hardly be distinguished from a brigand. 
Professional soldiers of this kind needed professional generals, 
just as naturally as the citizen-soldiers of earlier times needed 
orator-generals. We are told that it was because of the 
jealousy of the people that Iphikrates and Chabrias commonly 
lived away from Athens. The real case is very plain. Iphi 
krates and Chabrias were professional generals. When their 
country was at war, they served their country. When their 
country was at peace, they liked better to serve some one else 
than to live quietly at home. Iphikrates even went so 
far as to help his barbarian father-in-law in a contest with 
Athens. From professional generals of this kind there is 
surely but one step to professional robbers like Chares and 
Charidemos of Euboia. 

A Demagogue then was simply an influential speaker of 
popular politics. Demosthenes is commonly distinguished as 
an orator, while Kleon is branded as a Demagogue ; but the 
position of the one was the same as the position of the other. 



140 THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. [ESSAY 

The only question is as to the wisdom and the honesty of the 
advice given either by Kleon or by Demosthenes. Now no 
part of Mr. Grote s History took the world more by surprise 
than his elaborate vindication of Kleon. A vindication we may 
fairly call it, though it leaves many points in Kleon s character 
open to blame, when we compare it with the unmeasured invec 
tive of every other writer. We suspect that Mr. Grote at once 
enjoyed the paradox, and felt himself bound to say something 
on behalf of the Demagogue. We do not wholly go along with 
him, but we must say that his defence is more than plausible ; 
it is perfectly good on several of the counts. Two remarks we 
must make. We are told that the Demagogues flattered the 
People. Now nothing can be less like flattery of the People 
than Kledn s speech in the debate on Mitylene. It is as full 
of reproaches against the People as the speeches of Demo 
sthenes eighty years later. Again, we are told that Kleon was 
so frightfully abusive. He could hardly be more abusive than 
both Demosthenes and ^Eschines. Now in Demosthenes and 
-ZEschines, every one regrets their abusive language as a fault; 
no one looks on it as wholly destroying their claim to honour. 
Why then should Kleon receive harder measure ? 

With the character of Kleon the character of Thucydides 
is inseparably bound up. Mr. Grote has brought some censure 
upon himself by putting forth two opinions on this point. 
First, that Thucydides was to blame for the loss of Am- 
phipolis ; secondly, that the disparaging character which he 
gives of Kleon was partly the result of personal enmity. 
Now Thucydides is our only witness, and we have perfect 
right to cross-question him. And we think Mr. Grote clearly 
shows that Thucydides should have been nowhere but at 
Amphipolis when Amphipolis was in danger; at all events, 
Thucydides gives no good reason for his being at Thasos. 
Mr. Grote in no way disputes the truthfulness of Thucydides ; 
he only disputes the propriety of his military conduct as re 
ported by himself. The Athenian People, by whom Thucy 
dides was banished, clearly took the same view as Mr. Grote. 
As for the case between Thucydides and Kle6n, of that we 



IV.] THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. 141 

have spoken elsewhere.* Here we need only ask why, as no 
one thinks himself bound to accept Thucydides judgement of 
Antiphon, it should be thought such frightful heresy in Mr. 
Grote to make use of the like discretion as to Thucydides 
judgement of Kleon ? 

The judicial system of the Democracy formed a most re 
markable feature in Athenian life, and Mr. Grote s remarks 
upon the working of the popular courts of justice are among 
the most valuable things in his work. But we think that he 
is not quite clear in his historical view as to their introduction. 
When speaking of Kleisthenes, he seems to attribute more to 
his early reform than he afterwards does when he speaks of 
Perikles. t This judicial system, which at any rate received its 
final perfection from the hands of Perikles, was, as Mr. Grote 
truly says, an exaggeration of jury trial, both in its merits 
and its defects. We should remember that the Athenian juris 
prudence was much less complicated than our own, and that 
there was no class of professional lawyers. The question was, 
Who shall judge ? an individual Archon or a large body of 
citizens ? All Grecian experience showed that, where a single 
magistrate judged, there was far more danger of corruption, 
oppression, and sacrifice of justice to private interest. That the 
popular courts were always inclined to undue severity is a mere 
calumny. Their fault was a tendency to listen to ^irrelevant 
matter on both sides alike. They doubtless pronounced some 
unrighteous condemnations and some unrighteous acquittals, 
but the unrighteous acquittals were at least as common as the 
unrighteous condemnations. J 

* See above p. 108. 

f We have already mentioned Mr. Grote s mistranslation of the passage 
in Arist. Pol. ii. 12, 4. ret, 5 diKaarrjpta niado(p6pa KariaTrjaf IlfpiKXrjs, which 
he renders Perikles first constituted the paid dikasteries ; that is, the 
dikasteries as well as the pay were of his introduction. Mr. Grote s version, 
we need hardly say, would require TOL SiKaffrrjpia TO. luaOofyopa. But it is just 
possible that the meaning may be (paraphrastically) something of this kind : 
Perikles, in instituting the diKaarripia, made them paid rather than gra 
tuitous. But, on turning back to Mr. Grote s account of Kleisthenes (vol. iv. 
p. 187) we find that he allows very considerable judicial powers to have been 
vested in popular bodies by his constitution, 

{ On this head see especially Dem. Ilfpl Tlapairp. 252, and the opening of 
Lysias speech against Nikomachos. 



142 THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. [ESSAY 

The Athenian system of jurisprudence is moreover closely 
bound up with one of the most important subjects of all. It 
is bound up with the relations of Athens to her dependencies 
among other Grecian cities. Athens, as we have already said, 
was the most illustrious of Greek states, not only as an indi 
vidual autonomous city, but as a ruler over other Greeks, and 
as a Pan-Hellenic leader against the Barbarian. In the latter 
character at least she stands unrivalled. When Croesus sub 
dued the Ionic cities, Sparta was the ally of the first Barbarian 
who bore rule over Greeks. When the same cities revolted 
against Darius, Athens fought by their side in the first Greek 
War of Independence. During the great Persian War, Athens 
was the one Grecian city whose endurance never failed for a 
moment. While Northern Greece fought on the side of the 
invader, while Peloponnesos thought of Peloponnesian interests 
alone, Athens never flinched, never faltered. Her fields were 
harried ; her city was destroyed ; the most favourable terms 
of submission were offered to her ; but neither fear nor hope 
moved her for a moment. She rose far above that local 
jealousy which was the common bane of Hellas. When her 
contingent was two-thirds of the whole fleet, she cheerfully 
gave up the command to a Lacedemonian landsman. On 
the field of Plataia, the victors of Marathon were ready to 
yield the place of honour to the presumptuous pretensions of 
Tegea. Athens, more than any other state, drove back the 
invader from Greece itself; Athens, without any help from 
the mainland, carried a triumphant war into his own terri 
tory. She freed the ^Egean from the presence of barbarian 
fleets, and the Greeks of Asia from the presence of barbarian 
tribute-gatherers. And from this glorious position she never 
willingly drew back. The Democracy of Athens was never 
numbered among the pensioners of the Great King, till the 
oligarchy of Sparta drove her to such a course in self-defence. 
It was Sparta who first betrayed the Greeks of Asia as the 
price of barbarian help. It was Sparta who negotiated the 
shameful peace of Antalkidas ; it was Sparta who again ac 
knowledged the Greeks of Asia as the subjects, and the Greeks 



IV.] THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. 143 

of Europe as something very like the vassals, of the power 
which Athens had kept back three days journey from the 
shores of the Grecian seas. 

These thoughts lead us at once to the character and po 
sition of Athens as a ruler over other Greeks. When the 
Spartans withdrew from the war with Persia, the Greek cities 
of Thrace, Asia, and the J^gsean islands, formed themselves 
of their own free will into the confederacy of Delos, under the 
presidency of Athens. Mr. Grote has well shown how, by 
the gradual working of circumstances, and without any single 
coup d etat, this Athenian presidency was changed into an 
Athenian empire. This empire began in a pre-eminence 
honourably won and willingly bestowed; it ended in a su 
premacy, not positively oppressive, but offensive to Greek 
political instincts, and exercised with little regard to aught 
but the interests of the ruling city. That is to say, Athens, 
like every other recorded state, ancient or modern, kingdom or 
commonwealth, could not withstand the temptation to unjust 
though plausible aggrandizement. But certainly Athens, as a 
ruler of dependencies, need not be ashamed of a comparison 
with other states in the same position. The subject of Athens 
gained some solid advantages : he saw the sea kept clear alike 
from pirates and from hostile fleets ; he was wholly at rest as 
to all danger from the Great King ; if one city had a quarrel 
with another, the supremacy of Athens afforded means for a 
peaceful, instead of a warlike, settlement of differences. Far 
less oppression was exercised by Athenian than by Persian or 
Spartan commanders ; and, when instances of oppression did 
happen, the chance of redress was far greater than commonly 
lies open to subject commonwealths. Here we see one great 
advantage of the Athenian system of judicature, of the numer 
ous judges, the publicity of proceedings, the free licence alike 
of accusation and defence. The popular courts of Athens, as 
even their enemies acknowledged, were ever ready to punish 
the wrong-doer. Nor does it appear that Athens, as a general 
rule, interfered with the form of internal government in the 
allied cities. But all these advantages which the allied cities 



144 THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. [ESSAY 

enjoyed under the rule of Athens were purchased at the 
cost of what the Greek loved more than all of them, the 
position of his city as a sovereign state. It is of this political 
degradation, much more than of any practical oppression, that 
the orators hostile to Athens always complain. The Athenian 
sway was not hated ; but it was acquiesced in without affection. 
Revolts were almost always the work of a few leading men, 
without the consent, sometimes directly against the will, of 
the people. But, on the other hand, the people were not 
often found ready to do or to suffer anything in the cause 
of Athens. Athens, in short, was not an oppressive sovereign, 
but she was a sovereign; and the mere existence of a sovereign 
was hateful to the political instincts of Greece. 

But let us see what happened when the Athenian Empire 
came to an end, when Sparta gave herself out as the 
liberator and president of Greece. Freedom, under her, cer 
tainly put on a strange form. Athens had at least kept back 
the Barbarian: Sparta gave up the Asiatic Greeks to be 
subjects of Persia. Athens, satisfied with tribute, left the in 
ternal government of the cities to themselves : Sparta set up a 
narrow oligarchy in each, and backed it by a Spartan governor 
and garrison. Truly the subject states must have longed 
for the restoration of Athenian bondage, when each Asiatic 
city bowed to a Persian satrap, and each European city to 
a Spartan harmost. One main principle of Spartan govern 
ment was never to punish,, much less to redress, the evil deeds 
of Spartan commanders abroad. Phoibidas seized the Theban 
Kadmeia : justice was mocked by the infliction of a fine on 
the offender, while his government continued to profit by his 
offence. Sphodrias invaded Attica in time of peace : private 
interest rescued the wrong-doer from even the pretence of 
judicial censure. When the Athenian Paches carried off two 
free women of Mitylene and slew their husbands, the injured 
women accused him before an Athenian tribunal : his con 
demnation was certain, and he stabbed himself in open 
court. But when two Spartan officers did the like outrage 
by the daughters of Skedasos of Leuktra, the father in vain 



IV.] THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. 145 

sought for redress at Sparta, and not the ravishers, but their 
victims, were driven to self-destruction. 

The best tribute to the comparative merit of the Athenian 
empire is the voluntary reconstruction of the confederacy 
under Timotheos. The insular cities had found that Athenian 
supremacy was at least the second best thing when absolute 
independence was not to be had. Again was Athens installed 
as constitutional president of an equal confederacy. Again 
she began gradually to change into an autocrat. Again she 
grasped at the absolute possession of various cities. And 
moreover, under the new state of things, her professional 
generals and mercenary soldiers proved far greater scourges 
to the allied cities than the orator-generals and citizen- 
soldiers of her first empire. These causes at last led to 
the Social War, which left both parties ready victims for 
the Macedonian aggressor. 

Athens then, as a ruler of Greeks, deserves at least com 
parative praise. Not but that some of her individual acts 
were both cruel and impolitic. The massacres which she 
decreed at Mitylene, which she carried out at Skione and 
Melos, are sad blots on her fame. But, even here, we should 
remember the harshness of the Greek laws of war. The life 
of the prisoner, apart from any special compact, was in no way 
sacred. The victor might at pleasure enslave or put him to 
death. These massacres were only very harsh instances of a 
very harsh rule, carried out on a scale which gives them a 
character of fearful atrocity. That at Melos, above all, is 
clothed with additional blackness when we think that the war 
itself was an utterly unprovoked aggression. But think of 
the deeds of oligarchic Sparta. Viler than any Athenian 
deed of blood was the Spartan massacre at Plataia. Athens 
relentlessly carried out a cruel law of war ; but the Plataian 
captives were no longer prisoners of war: they were prisoners 
at the bar of justice, mocked by the promise of a fair trial, and 
slaughtered, not by a military, but by a judicial murder. Even 
in this catalogue of crime, we find our usual three degrees. 
Athens massacred her prisoners by wholesale; Sparta murdered 



146 THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. [ESSAY 

the unarmed merchants of neutral states. But at least both 
Athens and Sparta were satisfied with simple murder : the re 
finements of torture and mutilation were left to the Barbarians 
of Persia and of Carthage. 

Such is a picture of the Democracy of Athens, drawn chiefly 
after the great historian with whose noble work we have been 
dealing. We thus see how that great commonwealth, the 
first fully developed free constitution that the world had seen, 
not only gave the political life of each citizen a fuller and wider 
action than any constitution that has ever been, but also secured 
life and property and personal freedom better than any other 
government of its own age, or of many ages afterwards. Its 
defect was that it was the offspring of an enthusiasm too high- 
strung, and of a citizenship too narrow, to allow of lasting 
greatness. Demos was but the shadow of his former self after 
his * happy restoration by the Albemarle of Democracy, the 
hero of Phylai and Peiraieus. At the age of two centuries he 
became politically and morally dead under the care of his two 
rival Demetrioi, and from thenceforth he did but drag on a 
weary second childhood till he disappeared under a Flavian 
Emperor in the vast charnel-house of Roman dominion. But 
his real life, short as it was, was as glorious as it was short. 
English writers are too apt to argue on this head from what 
they see around them at home. Mitford was right enough 
when he assumed that an English county meeting reached the 
very height of political ignorance ; only he should not have 
thence leaped to a similar conclusion as to the assembled people 
of Athens. Certainly squires and farmers alike, gathered 
together at times few and far between under some political 
excitement, are utterly incapable of really entertaining a 
political question, or of getting beyond some party watch 
word of Liberal or Conservative, Free-Trade or Protec 
tion. * But we must not thence infer that the Ekklesia of 

* [I believe however that I was not so much thinking of meetings gathered 
for any real political purpose, as of the Ephesian mobs largely made up of 
well-dressed persons which came together to roar against religious liberty at 



IV.] THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. 147 

Athens presented a scene equally deplorable. Such writers 
forget that, as Macaulay has shown in a brilliant passage 
which every one should be able to call to mind, the common 
life of the Athenian was itself the best of political educations. 
We suspect that the average Athenian citizen was, in political 
intelligence, above the average English Member of Parliament. 
It was this concentration of all power in an aggregate of 
which every citizen formed a part, which is the distinguishing 
characteristic of true Greek democracy. Florence had nothing 
like it ; there has been nothing like it in the modern world : 
the few pure democracies which have lingered on to our own 
day have never had such mighty questions laid before them, 
and have never had such statesmen and orators to lead them. 
The great Democracy has had no fellow; but the political 
lessons which it teaches are none the less lessons for all time 
and for every land and people. 

It is not without some important points of dissent, but 
it is with deep and heartfelt admiration, that we part com 
pany with the illustrious subject of this essay rov ptyav 
* Ayy\ov toroptoypa(oi> Te&pyiov Fpore, as we are glad to find 
him called in the land of which he writes. * His work is 
one of the glories of our age and country. Honourable as 
it is to the intellectual, it is still more honourable to the 
moral, qualities of its author. His unwearied research, his 
clearness of insight, his depth and originality of thought, are 
more easily to be paralleled than his diligent and conscien 
tious striving after truth, and the candour with which he 
marshals in their due order even the facts which tell most 
strongly against his own conclusions. And when we think 
that we can place him side by side with another writer of the 
same age and country, and devoted to the same studies a 
writer of merit equal in degree, though widely different 

the time of the so-called Papal Aggression. For that folly some of our 
statesmen have since stood on the stool of repentance.] 

* In the Lectures of Professor Constantine Paparregopoulos of Athens, irtpl 
TTJS Apx^s Kal rfjs Aianoptyuoecas rov dpxaiov E\\rjviKov edvovs, p. 3- 

L 2 



148 THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. [ESSAY 

in kind we may say that it is no small tribute that the 
England of the nineteenth century has paid to the first 
founders of art and freedom and civilized life. If the 
mighty men of old Hellas can look out of their graves, 
they may be well pleased to see two such minds as those 
of George Grote and Connop Thirlwall give long years 
of busy life to set forth their thoughts and deeds as a lesson 
of wisdom for the men of lands of which they themselves 
had never heard. 



CURTIUS S HISTORY OF GREECE. 
I. 

THE Grecian History of Ernst Curtius is doubtless already well known to 
all those students of the subject who do not shrink from reading a German 
book in the original. It is really wonderful how many histories of Greece 
may be written, each of them thoroughly good in its own way, and yet none 
of which allows us to dispense with the others. We believe that the im 
petuous generation which now presides over education at Oxford has long ago 
thrown Bishop Thirlwall behind the fire. Yet no rational English student of 
Grecian history would think that he had mastered his subject, unless he had 
compared both Thirlwall and Grote with one another and with the original 
writers. So now, though we should recommend every such student to read 
Curtius without fail, we in nowise hold that his reading of Curtius at all lets 
him off from the duty of reading both Grote and Thirlwall also. In study 
ing what is called ancient history, where the original authorities are for the 
most part scanty, good modern guides are a matter of distinct necessity as com 
mentators and harmonizers. But where a great deal must always be matter of 
inference, theory, and even conjecture, it is highly dangerous to follow any one 
modern guide implicitly. Inferences and theories, however ingenious and pro 
bable, must not be put on the same level as ascertained facts. Five-and-twenty 
years ago the theories of Niebuhr were accepted as if they rested on the evidence 
of eye-witnesses. A faith yet more self-sacrificing seems now to be given to 
the more novel theories of Mommsen. All this is thoroughly bad. The use of 
a modern historian is to collect and sift the original writers, and to act as their 
interpreter, not to act as a prophet on his own account. In a subject like 
Grecian or Roman history, it is specially mischievous to rely on any one modern 
guide. Each writer, if he is fit for his work, will suggest valuable matter 
for thought ; but none of them can be entitled to implicit submission. Each 
will look at things differently, according to his natural turn of mind, according 
to his place of birth, his political party, and the many other influences which 
affect a man s point of view. One writer will succeed best in one part of his 
subject, another in another. Thirlwall, Grote, Curtius, others besides, all have 



IV.] THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. 149 

their use ; each teaches something which the others do not teach ; each is the 
strongest in some particular part of their common subject. A careful student 
will read and weigh all of them, but he will decline to pledge himself as the 
bondslave of any one among them. 

The work of Curtius appears in the same series with the work of Mommsen, 
and it is impossible to avoid comparing the two. There is no trace in Curtius 
of that boisterous dogmatism with which Mommsen, in well nigh every page, sets 
forth some startling theory without deigning to give any shadow of a reason, 
and hurls some epithet of abuse at all who refuse to believe on the spot. The 
one very startling thing which Curtius has to put forward in his first volume 
is put forth quietly and soberly, not the least in the knock-me-down style of his 
fellow- worker, and it is moreover supported by an Excursus at the end. In 
another point also Curtius has greatly the advantage over Mommsen. A Ger 
man, professing to write in German, he does not shrink from what he professes. 
No one can give the honourable name of High-Dutch to the half- Welsh jargon 
of Mommsen, in which abo ut every third word is some needless French or Latin 
intruder. There is nothing of this kind about Curtius. Few modern books, 
German or English, are freer from this wretched affectation. In his hands the 
stores of his own noble language are shown to be fully capable of dealing with 
his subject, as with any other subject. And, more than this, his book is one 
of the few books in German prose which can be read with real pleasure. He is 
always clear and graceful, and, though some even of his sentences might be 
shortened with advantage, they at least do not go rambling over whole pages. 
As a mere work of literature, apart from its historical value, we are disposed to 
place the work of Curtius in a very high rank. 

The first volume of the original text goes down to the Ionic revolt and the 
battle of Lade. It thus contains the whole of that ethnological and mythological 
matter which must form the beginning of any History of Greece, the introduc 
tion to its strictly historical portions, and it also carries on the story some way 
into far more strictly historic times. In going again through matters which 
have so often been gone through before, we look, if not for actually new facts, 
at least for some new way of looking at them, for some new light thrown upon 
them. Without some such claim as this on our attention, we do not admit a 
new writer s right to call us to listen again to so old a story. But Curtius un 
doubtedly makes out his claim to attention by a display of special excellence in 
one branch of his subject. His strong point seems to us to be geography. 
Curtius was known as a traveller and a geographer before he was known as an 
historian ; and his knowledge of the country, and his keen eye for the charac 
teristic features of the whole land and of its several portions, stand him in good 
stead in every page. The first chapter seems to us the best, simply be 
cause it is the most geographical. We never read a more vivid sketch of the 
aspect of any country. Curtius gives us an elaborate picture of the whole land, 
marking with a most delicate touch all that distinguishes every valley and sea 
board from every other. He brings out, as clearly as words can bring out, the 
physical conformation, the climate, the products, of the different countries round 
the ^Egaean Sea, and the way in which the course of their history has been in 
fluenced by these geographical features. The whole thing is done with a kind 
of enthusiasm which communicates itself to the reader, and which could only 
be kindled by one who is personally and minutely familiar with the land of 



150 THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. [ESSAY 

which he is writing. Mr. Grote bestowed great pains on the geographical 
part of his work, but we believe that he never visited Greece, and we sus 
pect that, even if he had, he would not have given us the same vivid picture as 
Curtius has done. The difference lies in the turn of mind and way of looking 
at things natural to the two men. We might perhaps say that Curtius has 
a direct love, a sort of personal regard, for Greece that is, for Hellas in the 
widest sense for the land itself, as for a personal friend whose acquaintance 
he has made and enjoyed. To Mr. Grote, on the other hand, Greece is simply 
the scene of certain great political events. He has studied the geographical 
and other features of the country with minute and conscientious care, because 
a knowledge of them is essential to an understanding of the events which 
happened among them. But it is only in this secondary way that the country 
itself has any attraction for him. He cannot, as Curtius can, throw a fascina 
tion over a geographical lesson. Next to the opening part, the description of 
Greece taking in of course Asiatic as well as European Greece comes, in 
our eyes, the chapter on Greek colonization. Here again the geographical 
powers of Curtius are called out with admirable effect. But of course he can 
not produce the same fascinating picture of settlements in Spain or in the 
Tauric Chersone sos as he can when he is describing European Greece itself, 
and those Asiatic islands and shores which cannot be separated from it as a 
geographical and historical whole. 

But, to keep everything in its proper proportion, when we turn to the strictly 
political parts of the history, we find the balance of merit no less distinctly in 
favour of the English writer. In these parts of the history, it is to the English 
writer that we have to look for originality, vigour, and clearness for sug 
gestions which strike at the time, and which we carry off to dwell upon after 
wards. To read the political part of Mr. Grote s history, even in these its 
earliest portions, is an epoch in a man s life. Soldn, Peisistratos, Kleisthenes, 
are names with which we had been familiar from childhood ; it was in the 
hands of Mr. Grote that they received a life and meaning which had never be 
longed to them before. But we have read the parts of Curtius history which 
answer to them without receiving any marked new impression. It is all good and 
clear and accurate, and we often light upon very suggestive remarks. But the 
whole is not specially striking. In the geographical parts of the book, just as in 
the political parts of Grote, we feel that a really new light has come upon us ; we 
do not feel this in the political parts of Curtius. The difference is no doubt in some 
degree owing to the different forms of the two works. Mr. Grote could discuss 
and argue ; he could illustrate by examples, he could explain and confirm by re 
ferences, to any amount that he thought good. Curtius has been cut off from 
much of this liberty by the fetters in which he has evidently been working, at 
any rate in his first volume. He never falls into the offensive dogmatism of 
Mommsen, but his work unavoidably takes a shape in which the writer calls 
on his readers to take down a great deal simply because he says that it is so. 
Now this kind of treatment does thoroughly well for the geographical and 
other descriptive portions. The observer and describer is here himself an ori 
ginal authority, and we receive what he tells us as such. The same treatment 
may also suit a flowing narrative, where we have no reason to suspect the good 
faith and accuracy of the writer, or where, even if we have, his mere power 
of narration carries us away with him. But it does not at all suit a political 



IV.] THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. 151 

history like the early history of Greece and Italy. In those histories a great 
deal must depend upon conjecture, or at any rate upon inferences drawn from 
scattered notices, which allow of room for great varieties of opinion. In such 
cases we allow a reasonable deference to the opinion of a man who is evidently 
learned and thoughtful; but we refuse to pin our faith upon any one. We like 
to know, and we think we have a right to ask, a man s reasons and authorities 
for every one thing that he says. Mr. Grote fully satisfies this demand. He 
gives us full means of accepting or rejecting whatever he tells us. Curtius does 
not do so ; not, we feel sure, from any lack of good will, but because the 
scheme of this part of his work hindered him. In this sort of case even the 
violence of Mommsen has an incidental advantage over his better-mannered 
colleague. We may not believe perhaps we are even set against believing 
but we at any rate understand and remember. We must confess that we have 
read a good deal of Curtius political history, without carrying away anything 
in particular. 

The point of greatest novelty in Curtius work is that he has given us, as far 
as we know, the first History of Greece in which any attempt is made to con 
nect Grecian history with the results both of Comparative Philology and of 
Eastern research. When Bishop Thirlwall wrote, those studies were hardly 
advanced enough to have been applied to Grecian history to much purpose, 
and, even when Mr. Grote wrote, they were far from being so advanced as 
they are now. The ethnological part of Bishop ThirlwaH s history, what he 
has to say about Pelasgians and so forth, is certainly the least satisfactory 
part of his work. Mr. Grote, perhaps more prudently, throws the Pelasgians 
overboard altogether. In truth, the practical and political turn of Mr. Grote s 
mind is hardly suited for pure ethnological research. He thoroughly masters 
and clearly sets forth the historical and political relations of the various 
neighbouring nations to the Greeks ; but for their exact relations, as a 
matter of race and speech, even to the Greeks, much more to one another, he 
seems to care very little. In one respect this tendency has done Mr. Grote s 
history a serious damage. It has combined with his position as the historian of 
Athenian Democracy to make him distinctly unfair to Alexander and to Mace 
donia in general. Now Curtius comes to his Grecian history thoroughly pre 
pared with the last results of ethnological and philological study. This is a 
most valuable qualification, and it gives him so far a great advantage over both 
his English predecessors. We are not quite so clear about his Eastern studies. 
Purely Western scholars, classical or mediaeval, have not yet made up their 
minds about the results of Egyptian and Assyrian research. They do not take 
upon themselves to reject what they have often had no opportunity of minutely 
examining. But they are by no means prepared implicitly to believe every 
thing. They cannot help seeing that the Eastern scholars do not always seem 
to know their own minds, and they feel that they are constantly asked to be 
lieve statements about Egypt and Nineveh on evidence which they would not 
think enough for a statement about Athens or England. It is easy to see that 
Curtius standard of belief is much laxer than that of Mr. Grote ; much more 
then is it laxer than that of Sir George Lewis. He clearly holds that a good deal 
of history, the history of the successions of states and dynasties, if not of indi 
viduals, may be recovered out of mythical times. It is by no means our wish 
to say that no such history can be recovered, but we must confess that Curtius 



152 THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. [ESSAY 

sometimes goes on faster than we can follow him. It is rather a call on our 
faith to be asked to believe, if not in Minos personally, at any rate in his Tha- 
lassocracy. The Pelopid dynasty at Mykene" is another thing ; Homer and 
the existing monuments are two distinct kinds of evidence which corroborate 
and explain one another. Indeed our chief objection to Curtius treatment of 
prehistoric times is that he believes a great deal which Homer implicitly 
contradicts. The Lydian origin of Pelops, the Egyptian origin of other Greek 
patriarchs, seem to us to be mere dreams of after-times, of which Homer had no 
knowledge. In the system of Curtius all these supposed immigrations play an 
important part. 

It must not however be thought that Curtius is at all an advocate of the 
exploded notions of past days about purely barbarian settlements in Greece. 
He accepts from Niebuhr and Bunsen, but he works out in full for himself, the 
theory of extensive Hellenic or quasi- Hellenic colonization though coloniza 
tion is not exactly the right word in prsehistoric times. Greeks were spread 
over the Asiatic coast, and they had made settlements in various places, Egypt 
among them, ages before the date of that later Greek colonization which followed 
the Dorian migration. When the European lonians settled in the Asiatic Ionia, 
they were but returning to an older Ionic land. The distance to which Greek 
colonies had spread in very early times is said to be shown by the occurrence of 
the lonians the Uinim of the Egyptians, the Javan of the Hebrews among 
the subjects of the early Egyptian Kings. But then the Egyptologists are at 
loggerheads amongst themselves about the meaning of the inscription in which 
these early Uinim are said to be mentioned. What Lepsius admits, Bunsen 
rejects, and far be it from us to decide between them. Indeed for strictly 
Grecian history the point is not of much moment. As it is made use of by 
Curtius, the effect, if any, of this early connexion between Greece and Egypt 
must have been that a chance of improvement was offered to Egypt, 
of which Egypt, in true Egyptian fashion, made no use. Curtius asks us to 
believe that colonists from Lydia and Egypt settled in Peloponnesos ; but he 
does not ask us to believe that Lydian and Egyptian Barbarians settled there. 
His Lydians and Egyptians are Lydian and Egyptian Greeks. This is indeed 
somewhat of a relief, but it is surely simpler to cast aside these utterly un- 
authentic immigrations altogether. 

We confess that we cannot always follow Curtius in detail in his speculations 
about what he calls Old-Ionians and the like. But this whole part of the book, 
especially what may be called the prsehistoric history of Peloponnesus, is 
throughout most ingenious and interesting, and it is, in the original, set forth 
with a charm of style which some may perhaps have thought that neither the 
subject nor the German language admitted. And we should not have a word 
of complaint to make, if Curtius would be satisfied with our believing that the 
inhabitants of a large region from Sicily to Asia were closely allied to the 
Greeks, that the Greeks in settling among them were not settling among utter 
strangers, and that this original ethnical kindred accounts for the speedy, 
thorough, and in many places lasting, hellenization of those districts. This we 
believe to be one of the most certain, and one of the most important, facts in 
Grecian history. Round Greece Proper we find a circle of nations, neither 
strictly Greek nor strictly Barbarian, not Greek in the fuller sense, but capable 
of easy hellenization half-developed Greeks, whom a slight intercourse with 



IV.] THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. 153 

their more advanced neighbours easily raised to their level. Such a quasi- 
Greek people we find in Epeiros, the original seat of the Greek name, and 
the scene of national migrations which Curtius has set forth in his best 
manner. 

We will take a leap from the beginning of the present volume to the end. 
In all these inquiries, whether we agree with the author in every detail or not, 
Curtius is plainly in his element, and his treatment of all these matters is 
most masterly. He is, we think, less successful, because he is on ground which 
is less thoroughly his own, when he attempts to grapple with Mr. Grote on a 
point of the developement of the Athenian Democracy. We cannot think, with 
Curtius, that the lot came in with Kleisthenes. What is the evidence ? On 
the one side is an obiter dictum of Herodotus, who is not examining into the 
matter ; on the other side is a direct statement of Isokrates, who is examining 
into the matter, and also, as we think, the probability of the case. 



II. 

The main strength of Curtius seems to us to lie, not so much in narrative, 
not so much in military or political history, as in drawing a picture of those 
other parts of the life of a nation which some historians neglect and which do 
not enter into the plan of others. The mere narrative power of Curtius. though 
by no means small, is hardly of the first order, and his way of dealing with 
political history is feeble by the side of Mr. Grote s. To Mr. Grote, with his poli 
tical experience and his political views, the political life and development of 
Athens was a real and living thing in a way in which it can never be to a mere 
student. No other historian ever entered as Mr. Grote has entered into the 
real spirit.of such a body as the Athenian Assembly ; no one therefore has ever 
drawn so full and clear a picture of its nature. But on the other hand this 
greatest merit of Mr. Grote s work led directly to its greatest defect. His 
history is, after all his strivings to make it otherwise, Athenian rather than 
Hellenic, and this purely Athenian way of looking at things makes him unfair 
both to the earliest and to the latest ages of Greece. No charge of this sort 
can be brought against Curtius, and this though he has given a more full and 
vivid picture of Athens as a whole than Mr. Grote has. But then Curtius 
picture of Athens as a whole is a picture of Athens as the intellectual centre 
of Greece, as the abode of art, philosophy, and inquiry of every sort, rather 
than as the great example of democratic freedom. Curtius in no way neglects the 
political history ; we have little direct fault to find with his way of treating it, 
but it clearly has not been to him the same intense labour of love which it 
evidently was to Mr. Grote. The two great chapters in the present volume 
are undoubtedly those headed The Unity of Greece and The Years of 
Peace. They are the best pictures we ever saw of the general mind and life 
of Greece at the two dates fixed upon at the time before the Persian War and 
in the age of Perikles. In both of these we find a great deal of matter, some 
of which is actually new, while much more is not to be found in other His 
tories of Greece, worked together with great skill, so as to make a vivid and 
interesting picture. The developement of Greek poetry, science, and art at the 
time when art and the later poetry had reached their highest point, is here set 



154 THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. [ESSAY 

forth in a full, clear, and connected way, such as we have never seen elsewhere. 
Curtius looks at all these matters with a thoroughly artistic eye ; they are 
plainly the parts of his subject on which he best loves to dwell, and yet he 
never gives them any exaggerated importance or puts them in more than their 
proper relation to the general march of the history. This is a great point to 
have gained. Some writers and talkers, both on ancient Greece and mediaeval 
Italy, have utterly wearied us with poets, artists, and philosophers, till we 
have sometimes been tempted to wish that neither Greece nor Italy had ever 
produced any poets, artists, or philosophers at all. Curtius never errs in this 
way. He never forgets that, if Athens did great things in the way of literature 
and art, it was only by virtue of her position of a great and free city that she 
was enabled to do so. Curtius has ever before his eyes the memorable words of 
Perikles himself, how to make Athens the school and ornament of Greece was 
a distinct part of his plans, but a plan conceived with a definite political object, 
and one which really had important political results. In this point of view, 
the architectural splendours of the Akropolis, the dramatic splendours of the 
Dionysiac Festivals, are clothed with a twofold interest. They have an interest 
strictly their own, and they have a still higher interest as parts of the political 
system and the general life of the great Democracy. This Curtius always 
bears in mind, and we look on it as the greatest merit of this part of his 
History that he has done so. 

Somewhat of the same nature is the earlier general chapter, headed The 
Unity of Greece. This chapter is, in effect, a picture of Greek religion as dis 
tinguished from Greek mythology. There are some things in it which startle 
us somewhat, some things for which we should have been well pleased to have 
fuller references, some things which we should ask for longer time before we 
either accept or reject. But it is a chapter at once most interesting and most 
suggestive, which supplies abundant materials for thought, and which contains 
many propositions that commend themselves at once to our acceptance. One 
great point on which Curtius insists is the importance of religious and sacred 
rites, above all of the Delphic temple and oracle, in the formation of Greek 
national life. He skilfully and elaborately traces out the effects of the position 
of Delphoi and the growth of the importance of the oracle as the religious 
centre of Greece. We are not sure that he does not sometimes press matters 
too far, and elothe Apollon with even greater authority than really belonged to 
him ; still there is nothing that he says which does not at least deserve to be 
most carefully weighed. At the very outset he clearly sets forth the influence 
which the Apollon worship had on the process by which the Hellenes disen 
tangled themselves, so to speak, from among the mass of neighbouring and 
kindred tribes and stood forth, not indeed as a political unit, but still as a 
nation in every higher sense of the word. He then goes on to point out the 
importance of Dorian influences upon the developement of Delphoi. It was of 
course the great Dorian Migration and Conquest of Peloponnesos which mainly 
extended the influence and authority of Delphi, but this extension was merely 
a development of a connexion which began at an earlier period, when the 
Dorians first settled at the foot of Parnassos. 



IV.] THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. 155 



III. 

We have remarked in notices of his earlier volumes that Curtius way of 
dealing with the strictly political side of his subject was by no means equal to 
his way of dealing with the more artistic and general side of it. The deficiency 
comes out yet more strongly in the latter part of the second volume of the 
German original, which takes in the history of the Peloponnesian War. The 
treatment of this part of the history is the most memorable thing in Mr. Grote s 
work. We by no means profess ourselves unreserved followers of all Mr. Grote s 
views. He is throughout a partizan, the champion of a side. The Athenian 
Democracy is to him as a party or a country, and he says all that is to be said 
for it. We read what he says, not as the sentence of a judge, but as the 
pleading of an advocate ; but it is a great thing to have the pleading of such 
an advocate. We may not be prepared to go all Mr. Grote s lengths on every 
matter, but we should have thought that no reader of Mr. Grote ever shut up 
his book in exactly the same frame of mind in which he opened it. If he does 
not think exactly as Mr. Grote does about Sophists and Demagogues, about 
Kleon and Kleophon, he will not think exactly the same about them as he did 
when he began. He will at least have seen that there is another side to 
a great many things of which he had hitherto only looked at one side. And 
even if we admit that Mr. Grote, besides his political bias, has a certain love 
of novelty for its own sake, such a tendency on his particular subject does 
much more good than harm. Our knowledge of Grecian history comes from 
a very few original sources. The mass of so-called classical writers are no 
more original sources than Grote and Curtius are ; their only value is that 
they wrote with original sources before them which are now lost. A writer 
under the Roman Empire had far better means than a modern scholar of 
getting at the facts of Greek republican history, but he had not nearly such 
good means of forming a judgement on those facts as the modern scholar has. 
He lived in an age which, in point of time, in language, in all outward circum 
stances, came much nearer to the time of which he wrote than our own time 
does. But in real fellow-feeling for the earlier time, in real power of under 
standing it, a writer of the age of Plutarch was further removed from the age 
of Thucydides than we are. And he had not the same habit of drawing histo 
rical analogies as the modern scholar, nor had he the same wide field of 
historical experience to seek his analogies in. And a writer of the age of 
Plutarch was really all the further removed from the age of Thucydides, 
because the great men of that age had in his day already grown into a sort of 
canonized heroes. A conventional way of looking at Grecian history therefore 
grew up very early ; the same statements, tinged by thjs conventional view, 
were repeated over and over again from so-called classical times to our own 
day, till Grecian history, instead of a living thing of flesh and blood, be 
came a collection of formula?, of misunderstood models, and of sentiments 
fit only for a child s copy-book. Mitford, with all his blunders and all his 
unfairness, did good service in showing that Plutarch s men were real human 
beings like ourselves. The calm judgement and consummate scholarship of 
Bishop Thirlwall came in to correct, sometimes a little too unmercifully, the 
mistakes and perversions of Mitford. But it was Mr. Grote who first thoroughly 



156 THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. [ESSAY 

tested our materials, who first looked straight at everything, without regard 
to conventional beliefs, by the light of his own historical and political know 
ledge. Bishop Thirlwall had clearly drawn the line between primary and 
secondary authorities. Mr. Grote went further, by hinting that primary 
authorities themselves are not infallible. We may or we may not agree with 
Mr. Grote s strictures on Thucydides in the matter of Amphipolis or in the 
matter of Kleon ; still it is a useful thing to be reminded that Thucydides was, 
after all, a fallible human being; that, in a matter which touched himself 
personally, he gave his own view on the matter, and that there was most likely 
something to be said on the other side. We read Mr. Grote with a respectful 
freedom, and we use our own judgement upon each detail of his conclusions. 
But we feel that his work is the great landmark in the study of Grecian 
history. He has done a work which had never been done before him, and 
which can never be done again. 

With these feelings we turn to Curtius, and we find with regret that, in the 
most important points, he is simply prce-Grotian. He has his own sphere in which 
he rises far above Mr. Grote, or, more truly, he has a sphere in which Mr. Grote 
has no part or lot whatever. But, after all, the highest side of history is its 
political side ; its highest object is to set man before us in his highest character 
as a member of a free state. It is here that Mr. Grote has shown his pre-eminent 
qualifications, his power of bringing his practical knowledge of public life to bear 
upon wide reading and deep thought. It is here that Curtius altogether breaks 
down. He does not enter with any spirit into either military or political events ; 
he can give a brilliant picture of a country or of a city, but he has very little 
power of giving a lifelike narrative of a campaign or a debate. The greater 
part of Mr. Grote s views, whether we call them theories or discoveries, are 
passed by without any notice. Curtius speaks of the Demagogues and the 
Sophists pretty much as if Mr. Grote had never written. Of course it may be 
that he has come to different conclusions from Mr. Grote, but is hindered by 
the scale of his work from entering on the grounds of his conclusions. But it 
will hardly apply to his treatment of two or three of the most remarkable 
passages of the history which come towards the end of the present volume. 
Every reader of Mr. Grote, indeed every reader of Xenophdn, must have 
admired the heroic character of Kallikratidas, the man who had the lofty 
courage to run counter to the evil habit of the whole Greek nation and to 
declare that no Greek should be sold into slavery by his act. The words stand 
out even in the bald narrative of Xenophon ; OVK H(f>r], kavrov "ye ap^ovros, ovdeva 
E\\T]V(av 4s Tovtceivov Swarov dvSpaTroStaOrjvai. Mr. Grote s comments on the 
grandeur and sublimity of this proceeding, unparalleled in Grecian history, 
carry him beyond himself. No one, we should have thought, could have for 
gotten his picture of Kallikratidas, unfortunately only shown by the Fates 
and not suffered to continue in the Grecian world. We turn to Curtius, and 
we are told how great a man Kallikratidas was, how he united the merits both 
of a Spartan and of an Athenian ( Er vereinigte in seltenster Weise den 
hochherzigen und stolzen Sinn eines Altspartaners mit der Thatkraft und 
Gewandtheit, wie sie der Beruf eines Flottenfiihrers in lonien verlangte ), but 
he leaves out this most signal example of his rising high above either character. 
Methymna is taken alpf f KarcL Kpdros according to Xenophon, sie musste sich 
ergeben according to Curtius but the striking scene that follows, the demand 



IV.] THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. 157 

of the allies for the sale of the prisoners, the refusal of Kallikratidas, the mag 
nanimous declaration which gladdens Mr. Grote s heart, find no place in 
Curtius s narrative. A little time before Mr. Grote had dwelled at some length 
on the circumstances of the battle of Notion, which led to the final disgrace of 
Alkibiades. Alkibiades left the Athenian fleet in command of Antiochos, 
forbidding him to fight with Lysandros fjirj kiwrXelv kin ras AvaavSpov vavs. 
This Antiochos was no qualified commander at all, but the pilot of Alkibiades 
own ship, and a personal favourite of his. Xenophdn simply calls him TOV 
avrov KvpcpvTjTrjv ; Plutarch adds that he was ajaOos Kv/Bepvrjrrjs, dvurjros S 
TaAAa KOI (pcpriKos. In Curtius he becomes einer der trefflichsten Schiffs- 
fiihrer. This Antiochos, thus put in a post for which he was utterly unfit, 
challenged Lysandros in a way which was simply frantic, and the defeat of 
Notion followed. On this the Athenians deprived Alkibiades of his command, 
ol6fj.voi 5i apeXfiav re KOL dtcpareiav diro\ca\K(vai ras vavs, says Xenophon; 
and Plutarch adds that he was charged with neglecting his duties for banquets 
and the company of Ionian women. His removal from his command of course 
forms the ground for one of the stock charges of ingratitude against the Athe 
nian people. Mr. Grote argues with great power that the removal was fully 
deserved, that Alkibiades left the fleet when he ought to have been with it, 
and left it in the hands of one who was quite unfit to command it. He was 
therefore responsible for the disasters into which his unworthy representative 
led it. Now why did Alkibiades leave the fleet ? The contemporary Xenophdn 
gives an account which by itself is quite unintelligible ; aKovaas Qpaavfiovkov 
fca EXXrjanuvTov iJKOvra rfix iC lV Qwttaiav, dieTT^fvfff irpbs avrov. Plutarch 
makes him go dpyvpoXoyrjacw tm Kapias. Diodoros sends him to Klazomenai ; 
but Mr. Grote works in a story which Diod6ros gives two chapters afterwards 
about Alkibiades attacking Kyme, a town in alliance with Athens, on which 
the Kymaians very naturally sent a charge to Athens against him. Curtius 
tells us, Es war ems Ehrenschuld des Alkibiades, lonien, dessen Abfall sein 
Werk war, den Atbenern wieder zu verschaffen. He therefore leaves the 
fleet with Antiocl os, w ahrend er selbst bei Phokaia den Eroberungskrieg 
begann, der natiirlich darauf berechnet war, dass ein Flottensieg den Feldzug 
eroffhen und sein Gelingen erleichtern sollte. It is hard to see all this in any 
of the Greek writers, and we certainly hold with Mr. Grote that no case is made 
out to excuse Alkibiades for leaving the fleet in the care of a man so incompe- 
ent as Antiochos, especially when such an enemy as Lysandros was near. But 
Curtius makes the following wonderful comment, Alkibiades war ohne Schuld 
an diesem Ungllicke ; auch Antiochos trug sie nicht allein. Denn er hatte 
alien Schiffen Befehl gegeben, sich kampfbereit zu halten, und dieser Befehl 
war nicht befolgt worden. We do not know what this last sentence means, 
but what excuse can there be for an officer who disobeys the direct commands 
of his chief, and disobeys them in a way which, if he had been himself in com 
mand, would have been simple madness ? Antiochos met with a fate too good 
for him by dying in the battle. But certainly nothing could be more just than 
the sentence which the Athenian people pronounced upon Alkibiades. Now 
our charge against Curtius is, not simply that he differs from Mr. Grote, which, 
when he has a good reason for so doing, he is perfectly right to do ; but 
that he seems to have made absolutely no use of Mr. Grote on a matter which 
Mr. Grote has made thoroughly clear, and still more that, as it seems to us, 



158 THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. [ESSAY 

his own statements are, setting Mr. Grote quite aside, not borne out by his 
Greek authorities. Good books, as we have been lately told with much 
solemnity, may commonly be written in German, but in this case we venture 
to think that the better book is written in English. 

Here then is more than one passage in Curtius s History in which we hold 
that Mr. Grote s treatment far surpasses his in judgement and accuracy. We 
have another passage to speak of, in which Curtius distinctly calls Mr. Grote s 
views in question, and in doing so shows that he altogether misunderstands 
them. This is with regard to the treatment of the Generals after the battle of 
Arginousai. Of this matter we have two accounts, that ofXenophon and that 
of Diodoros, besides a few allusions in Lysias and in Xt-nophon himself at a 
later stage. Xenophdn is contemporary, but his account is thoroughly unsatis 
factory and unfair on the face of it. This is allowed even by those who, like 
Bishop Thirlwall, are inclined to put more faith in it than Mr. Grote does. 
Diodoros wrote long after, and he was thoroughly stupid and careless, but he 
had original writers before him whom we have not. The allusions in Lysias 
and in the later speech of Theramens in Xenophon himself are incidental 
allusions in the speeches of orators, and every student of Grecian history knows 
how often such allusions are quite inaccurate, even when made very soon after 
the events. And inaccuracy of this kind is certainly not confined to Athenian 
debates. Our materials then, though fairly full, are by no means good in 
quality, and we must make use of our own judgements upon them. One thing 
however is perfectly plain, that the sentence by which the Generals died was 
monstrously illegal. All the forms of Athenian jurisprudence were trampled 
under foot. By Athenian law each man ought to have been tried separately 
before a sworn court ; he ought to have been heard in his own defence, and to 
have been convicted or acquitted by a vote of the judges which touched him 
self only. Instead of this, the whole body of accused men were condemned by 
a single vote of the unsworn Assembly, and they were not heard in their own 
defence, except so far as some at least of them had spoken on the subject in an 
earlier debate. The Generals in short died by a Bill of Attainder, very much 
like those which gladden the heart of Mr. Froude. It is perfectly plain that, 
if any of us had been present in the Assembly, we should have voted against 
the proposal of the Senate and for the amendment of Euryptolemos, who de 
manded that the Generals should be fairly tried according to law. But this does 
not at all prove whether, if we had sat on a court for trying any one of the 
Generals, we should have acquitted or convicted him. These two questions 
are perfectly distinct ; but Mr. Grote seems to be the only writer who 
thoroughly distinguishes them. The utter injustice of the vote by which the 
Generals died is plain on any showing, and Mr. Grote asserts it as strongly as 
any man. But as to the circumstances which led the People to this unhappy 
vote, as to the probable guilt or innocence of the Generals themselves, our ac 
counts are confused and contradictory, and it is not wonderful if different readers 
of the story come to different conclusions. Mr. Grote comes to one conclusion ; 
Curtius or any other man has a perfect right to come to another. Mr. Grote 
does not see any elaborate oligarchical plots on the part of Theramenes for 
the destruction of the Generals or of anybody else ; he looks on the People as led 
away by overpowering family feelings. He points out what many have failed 
to see, though Curtius does see it that what the Generals were charged with 



IV.] THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. 159 

was not merely neglecting to take up dead bodies for burial though that alone, 
according to Greek religious ideas, was a heinous crime but leaving their 
wounded and drowning comrades to perish. Mr. Grote too accepts as 
genuine the lamentations and accusations of the kinsfolk of the forsaken 
men, who are commonly represented as being no kinsfolk at all, or at any 
rate as being stirred up and bribed by Theramenes. Xenoph6n mentions 
that certain mourners appeared ; so does Dioddros. But Xenoph&n adds, 
while Diodoros does not, that these mourners were not real mourners, but 
people set to work by The ramenes. Mr. Grote shows the impossibility of 
this story in itself. Besides this, the appearance of the mourners was a fact 
about which there could be no doubt ; that they were bribed by The ramenes 
was a surmise, about which Xenophdn or anybody else might be mistaken, 
and which the writers whom Dioddros followed did not accept. So again a 
certain man came forward (Traprjkde} in the Assembly, saying that he had, in 
the wreck, saved himself on a meal-tub, &c. &c. Till Mr. Grote wrote, every 
modern writer represented this man also as an instrument of Theramenes. 
He was produced, brought forward, and the like wurde endlich auch ein 
Mann vorgefuhrt, as Curtius has it though no such meaning can be got out 
of iraprjXOe. As to the guilt of the Generals and the guilt of Theramenes, all 
that we can say is that Mr. Grote and Curtius come to different conclusions. 
Our own conclusion, if it is worth anything, would be that some of the Generals 
were guilty, and some innocent; whether the guilty ought to have been 
punished with death is a question of Athenian law and feeling, which is hard to 
settle at this distance of time. But it is hardly fair in Curtius to leave out of 
sight that we cannot condemn Theramenes so strongly as he does, without in 
some degree also condemning Thrasyboulos, who clearly had a share, although 
a less prominent one, in the first accusation. But it is really too bad to say, 
as Curtius does, after quoting a work unluckily unknown to us, Herbst s Die 
Schlacht bei den Arginusen : 

In dieser Schrift ist gegen Grote s Versuch, das Verfahren der Biirgerschaft 
zu rechtfertio-en und die Feldherreii als schuldig darzustellen, das richtige 
Sachvurhaltmss entwickelt, wie es sich aus Xenophon ergiebt. X. gegeniiber 
kann Diod. xiii. 101 keine Autoriat sein und es ist unstatthaft, Theramenes 
Verfahren als eine nothgedrungene Selbstvertheidigung zu enschuldigen. 

Now Herbst may possibly have refuted Mr. Grote on any of the points 
which are open to controversy. He may have proved the innocence of all the 
Generals ; he may have shown that Theramenes bribed the supposed mourners 
or even the man who said that he had escaped on the meal-tub ; but he can 
not have refuted any attempt of Mr. Grote s to justify the proceedings of the 
Assembly, because no such attempt was ever made. Mr. Grote as distinctly 
condemns the doings of the Assembly as Curtius or Herbst can do. On 
the very heading of one of his pages may be read the words Causes of the un 
just sentence. In his text he speaks of the temporary burst of wrong, of the 
enormity of the proposal of the Senate, of its breaking through the esta 
blished constitutional maxims and judicial practices of the Athenian de 
mocracy, of its depriving the Generals of all fair trial, and of the well-merited 
indignation with which it was heard by a large portion of the Assembly. It 
was an illegal and unconstitutional proposition ; the Athenians dishonoured 
themselves ; under a momentary ferocious excitement they rose in insurrec- 



160 THE ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY. 

tion not less against the forms of their own democracy than against the most 
sacred restraints of their habitual constitutional morality. We do not see 
what stronger language Herbst can have used, or what stronger language Cur- 
tius can have wished any one to use ; and it is hard indeed, when Mr. Grote 
has expressed himself so plainly, that he should be charged, in a sort of pass 
ing contemptuous sneer, with having defended what he most righteously 
condemned. The truth plainly is that Curtius has neither the same political in 
stincts nor the same knowledge of human nature as Mr. Grote. He seemingly 
cannot understand that a sentence may be utterly monstrous both in a legal and 
a moral point of view, and yet that the persons condemned may not be wholly 
free from blame. 

We have thought it right to point out these things clearly, because there 
seems every chance that Curtius may depose Grote, and we believe that such a 
deposition would be a great evil. In all these political matters Curtius is behind 
his generation ; he is behind the generation to which Mr. Grote has explained 
so many matters which before were dark. But even in this matter of the con 
demnation of the Generals, we may mention one point of detail in which we 
think that Curtius has the better of Grote. Mr. Grote rejects, on grounds 
which seem to us very inconclusive, the speech which Diodoros puts into the 
mouth of Diomedon as he is led to execution. Curtius silently accepts it. But 
an incidental advantage like this goes for little when the whole story is so 
completely misconceived. 

Nearly the same objections will apply to Curtius s treatment of most of the 
subjects in which he comes into collision with Mr. Grote ; that is to say, of most 
of the political questions which arise during the Peloponnesian War. We 
cannot express our feeling better than by saying that Curtius is behindhand, 
prcB-Grotian. He writes with the notions and prejudices of a time which we 
thought had passed away. But there are better things in the present volume 
than these. What Curtius does grasp, no man can set forth more clearly or 
effectively. His picture of Perikls is thoroughly well done ; so is his general 
narrative of Sicilian affairs. Both these subjects carry us a little out of the 
beaten track of Athenian politics. This may seem a strange thing to say of the 
great organizer of Athenian Democracy. But if Perikles was the organizer of 
the Athenian Democracy, he was many other things as well. He stands out 
as a man so completely by himself that questions about the exact nature of his 
dealings with the Areiopagos or with the law courts seem of secondary moment. 
Into the many sides of the character of Perikles Curtius thoroughly enters, and 
he works them up into a portrait in his best style. So again, Sicily, the island 
which so largely filled Greek imagination, with its cities and their revolutions, 
with its ancient legends and its contending races, a land which to the dweller 
within the ordinary range of Greek history is a land half familiar and half un 
accustomed, supplies Curtius with a far better field for his peculiar powers than 
he finds in the everyday walk of the Athenian commonwealth. Curtius could, 
it strikes us, have given us a series of monographs of Greek subjects of brilliant 
excellence ; many particular parts of his subject he has treated as they have 
never been treated before ; but the continuous ma ch of Greek political and 
military events is not his strong point, and, in attempting them, he falls, to our 
thinking, far below the level of either of our great English historians. 



V. 

ALEXANDER THE GREAT. 

History of Greece. By GEOEGE GEOTE, Esq. Vol. XII. 
London: 1856. 

ME. GEOTE has fixed the end of his great work at an earlier 
point than we could have wished. It is indeed that which he 
chose at the beginning 1 of his labours ; but we had hoped 
that he might be led to think over the matter again, and not 
to lay down his pen till he had traced the history of Grecian 
freedom down to its final overthrow. As it is, he contents him 
self with tracing the decline of Athenian independence down 
to its lowest pitch of degradation. The historian of the great 
Democracy cannot bring himself to go on with his labours in 
times when Athens vanishes into political insignificance, and 
when the main interest of the drama gathers around kingly 
Macedonia and federal Achaia. His contempt for the Greece 
of Polybios, we must confess, surprises us. The Greece of Poly- 
bios stands indeed very far below the Greece of Thucydides ; 
but it is still Greece, still living Greece, Greece still free and 
republican. It was indeed but a recovered freedom which it 
enjoyed, a freedom less perfect, less enduring, than that of the 
elder time ; but it was still, as Pausanias calls it, a new shoot 
from the old trunk.* But Mr. Grote has turned away with 
something of disdain from a subject which we think is worthy 
of him, and which we are sure that no other man living is 



"Ore 87) Ka.1 fj.6yis, are etc SeVSpov X^Xu^rj^vov /rat tvOv TO. TrXeiova, 

rfjs EAAdSos TO AXCUKOV, vii. 17. 2. Mr. Grote himself quotes the 
passage, xii. 527. 

M 



162 ALEXANDER THE GREAT. [ESSAY 

so fit to treat. Excellently as it has been dealt with by 
Bishop Thirlwall, there is still something to be added from 
Mr. Grote s own special point of view. No one could have so 
well compared the Achaian institutions with those of earlier 
and of later commonwealths. Mr. Grote is strongly anti- 
Macedonian, but we should have expected that his very dislike 
of Macedonia would have led him to look with special in 
terest on the revolution which freed so large a part of 
Greece from Macedonian bondage. It is indeed strange to 
find Mr. Grote dismissing, in two or three contemptuous 
lines, the revival and the final struggles of that Hellenic 
liberty which is so dear to him. And strange too we think 
it, in so careful an observer of the affairs of Switzerland, to 
pay so little heed to one of the first and most successful 
attempts to solve the great problem of Federal Government. 

With regard to the Macedonian aspect of the subject, we 
must confess that we hold a different opinion. Mr. Grote 
is admirably fitted to be the historian of Achaia ; he is not 
so well fitted to be the historian of Macedonia. Indeed, in 
the present volume and in the one next before it, he has 
given us a history of Macedonia in its most brilliant period, 
which we cannot but look upon as the least satisfactory part 
of his noble work. Mr. Grote s History is so great a work 
that some points fairly open to discussion could not fail to 
be found in it. He puts forth so much that is new and startling 
that he must be prepared for a certain amount of dissent even 
among admirers who study him in his own spirit. And we 
ourselves have so often set forth our admiration for his general 
treatment of his subject, we have borne such full and willing 
witness to all that Mr. Grote has done for the truth of history, 
that we have fairly earned the right to dispute any special 
point, however important. Such a special point of contro 
versy we find in his treatment of the history of Macedonia, 
and especially of its greatest sovereign. From Mr. Grote s 
view of Alexander the Great, we respectfully but very widely 
dissent, and our present object is to set forth our reasons for 
so dissenting. 



V.] ALEXANDER THE GREAT. 163 

Mr. Grote has many claims on the gratitude of the his 
torical student ; but it is as the historian of the Athenian 
Democracy that his claims are highest and most enduring. 
In that character he has won abiding fame. He has grappled 
with popular errors : he has put forth truths which, but for 
the weighty arguments with which he has supported them, 
would have been at once cast aside as paradoxes. He has 
justified ostracism ; he has found something to say for Kleon ; 
he has shown that, even in the condemnation of Sokrates, 
though the People erred and erred deeply, yet their error was 
natural and almost pardonable. Demos is the darling of his 
affections ; he watches him from his cradle, and forsakes him 
only when he has sunk into a second childhood from which no 
Sausage-seller on earth could call him up again. Now it was 
by Macedonian hands that this cherished object was trampled 
down, degraded, corrupted, well nigh wiped out from the list 
of independent states. That Mr. Grote should be perfectly 
fair to Macedonia and Macedonians would have been too much 
to hope for. But the result is that Mr. Grote, in this part 
of his history, sinks far below the level of his great prede 
cessor. Bishop ThirlwalPs narrative of this period it would 
indeed be hard to outdo. The clear and vivid narrative, 
the critical appreciation of evidence, the thorough impar 
tiality which can fully sympathize with the cause of Athens 
and yet yield all due honour to Alexander and even to 
Philip, all are here in the pages of Bishop Thirlwall, but 
they are not found in those of Mr. Grote. Alexander, with 
him, becomes a vulgar destroyer, a mere slaughterer of men. 
He overthrows Greece and Persia alike, and founds nothing 
in their stead. That Philip and Alexander put an end to the 
brightest glory and fullest independence of Greece, cannot 
be gainsaid. But it is another thing when Mr. Grote 
deals with them as mere barbarian invaders, as aggressors as 
thoroughly external as Darius and Xerxes. Whether the 
claims which Philip and Alexander made to a Hellenic cha 
racter for themselves or their people were just or unjust, it was 
only under that Hellenic character that they took on them 

M 2 



164 ALEXANDER THE GREAT. [ESSAY 

the dominion of Hellas. That their conquests brought a large 
portion of the world within the pale, not indeed of Greek 
political city-freedom, but of Greek social life and intellectual 
culture, can as little be gainsaid as anything that is said against 
them. And it is surely not unreasonable to believe that Alex 
ander looked forward to such a result, and that he adapted 
means to such an end. In our view, Alexander founded a 
great deal. He founded the civilization of Alexandria and 
Constantinople. He founded the modern Greek nation. On 
such a point as this, Mr. Finlay, who fully appreciates the 
great Macedonian, is a better judge than Mr. Grote. To the 
one Alexander is the end of his subject ; to the other he is its 
beginning. Yet even here, where we think that his judgement 
is thoroughly warped, we must bear our thankful testimony to 
Mr. Grote s careful and conscientious collation of every state 
ment and every authority. In this he presents throughout a 
most honourable contrast to another great writer who shares 
his view of the subject. Niebuhr s Lectures on the age of 
Philip and Alexander are throughout conceived in the spirit of 
the too famous oration of Kallisthenes. * Everything Mace 
donian is brought in only to be reviled. Every recorded scandal 
against Alexander is eagerly seized upon, without regard to the 
evidence on which it rests. Even for actions which the whole 
world has hitherto agreed to admire Niebuhr is always ready 
to find out some unworthy motive. And all is put forth with 
overbearing dogmatism, on the mere ipse dixit of Barthold 
Niebuhr. Wholly unlike this is the conduct of Mr. Grote. 
Even here his laborious honesty never fails him. Mr. Grote 
does not refuse, even to a Macedonian, the right, no less 
Macedonian than Athenian, of being heard before he is con 
demned. The evidence is, as ever with Mr. Grote, fully and 
fairly marshalled ; the reader who has not gone through the 
original authorities for himself is put in a position to dissent, 
if he pleases, from the decision of the judge. Hardly ever 
does Mr. Grote fail to bring forward the passages which tell 



* Ov rrjs 8fiv6Tf]Tos 6 Ka\\icrOfvr)s, dAA& rrjs Sva^evftas M.a.tte56ffiv dir65tiiv 
Se Sowe. Plut. Alex. 53. 



V.] ALEXANDER THE GREAT. 165 

most strongly against his own view. He believes much 
against Alexander which we hold that the evidence does not 
warrant : but he never invents scandal or attributes motives 
after the manner of Niebuhr. * Niebuhr is simply incapable 
of understanding a hero ; Mr. Grote merely fails to rise 
to the heroic point of fully appreciating an enemy. With 
Niebuhr, Alexander becomes a monster instead of a man ; 
with Mr. Grote he becomes at the worst a Barbarian instead 
of a Greek. In short, Niebuhr is, in this case, a mere reck 
less calumniator ; Mr. Grote is simply one who, after weighing 
a mass of conflicting authorities, has come to a conclusion less 
favourable to Alexander of Macedon than we ourselves have 
come to after weighing the same authorities. 

Of the life of Alexander we have five consecutive narratives, 
besides numerous allusions and fragments scattered up and 
down various Greek and Latin writers. Of these last, the 
greatest in number and the most curious in detail are to be 
found in the strange miscellany of Athenaios; but the most 
really valuable are due to the judicious and accurate Strabo. 
Of our five writers, Arrian and Quintus Curtius have given 
us separate histories of the great conqueror. The work of 
Arrian has come down to us whole, with the exception of 
a single gap. In the work of Curtius there are several such 
gaps, and the whole of his two first books are wanting. 
Plutarch has devoted to Alexander one of his longest biogra 
phies ; Diodoros bestows on him a whole book of his Universal 
History ; Justin gives a shorter narrative in his abridgement 
of Trogus Pompeius. But we have again to regret a very con 
siderable gap in the narrative of Diodoros, which however is 
partially supplied by the headings of the chapters being 
preserved. 

Here, it might be thought, are authorities enough ; but 
unluckily, among all the five, there is not a single contempo 
rary chronicler. All five write at secondhand j the earliest of 

* [Of these Lectures of Niebuhr s something more will be found in the next 

Essay.] 



166 ALEXANDER THE GREAT. [ESSAY 

them writes about three centuries after Alexander s death. 
The value of all, it is clear, must depend upon the faithfulness 
with which they represent the earlier writings which they had 
before them, and upon the amount of critical power which 
they may have brought to bear upon their examination. 
Unluckily again, among all the five, one only has any claim 
to the name of a critic. Arrian alone seems to have had at 
once the will and power to exercise a discreet judgement upon 
the statements of those who went before him. Diodoros we 
believe to be perfectly honest, but he is, at the same time, 
impenetrably stupid. Plutarch, as he himself tells us, does 
not write history, but lives; his object is rather to gather 
anecdotes, to point a moral, than to give a formal narrative of 
political and military events. Justin is a feeble and careless 
epitomizer. Quintus Curtius is, in our eyes, little better than 
a romance-writer ; he is the only one of the five whom we 
should suspect of any wilful departure from the truth. 

The contemporary historians of Alexander s exploits were 
by no means few, but most of them seem to have been of 
very inferior character. His own generation gave birth to 
no Thucydides, and the next to no Herodotus. Both Arrian 
and Strabo * constantly complain of the contradictions in 
their statements, and of the w r ay in which most of them 
trifled with their subject. They tell us of their wild fables, 
their gross exaggerations, their constant sacrifice of truth to 
effect. Kleitarchos, Onesikritos, Hegesias, the unfortunate 
Kallisthenes, all have a very bad name among later writers. 
Even Chares of Mytilene, though an author of higher 
character, has handed down to us some very doubtful state 
ments. Some seem to have been wilful liars f ; others were 



* OuSe rots irfpl A\(avSpov 5 ffvyypdipaffiv paSiov jriffrevfiv rofs 
K.T.\. Strabo, xi. 6 (vol. ii. p. 424, Tauchnitz). ArjXovai 8e p.a\iara TOVTO 
ol rds A.\edvSpov irpdfis dvaypdi/savrfs, TTpoffTiOevres n\v iro\v real TO rfjs 
Ko\aKias eTSos. xvii. I (vol. iii. p. 459)- 

f Such at least seems to have been Strabo s judgement of Onesikritos, xv. I 
(vol. iii. p. 269). OvrjffiKpiTOS, $>v OVK A\edvSpov fjid\\ov TJ ruv irapaSogcav 
dpxiKvf3fpvriTr]v irpoaeiiroi TIS dv iravrfs plv ydp ol irtpl A\(av8pov TO Oav/^aarov 
avrl ra\r]Qovs dirf5(x OJ/TO f*<*\\ov virfp&dXXfaOai 5e SoKfi TOVS roffovrovs eKtivos 



V.] ALEXANDER THE GREAT. 167 

nothing 1 worse than dreaming pedants, whose accounts of 
military and political affairs seemed ridiculous to practical 
men like Polybios and Arrian. 

Of the guides that we have, it is plain that Diodoros and 
Curtius drew largely from the same sources, but they do not 
often quote their authorities. Of these two, Diodoros, w r e 
have no doubt, honestly repeated what he found in his books, 
as far as he understood it ; but he had not the slightest 
critical power to judge between one statement and another. 
In fact, as we find from his narrative of times when we are 
better able to test him, he could not always grasp the 
meaning of a plain story when it was set before him. Cur 
tius, whoever he was and whenever he lived, was a man of 
far higher powers. Like Livy, he tells his tale to perfection 
as a mere matter of rhetoric. But then rhetoric is all that 
he has to give us ; his constant sacrifice of everything to 
oratorical display, his palpable blunders in history and geo 
graphy, his manifest exaggerations, his love of the wonderful 
and the horrible wherever he can find them all show that he 
represents the most extravagant and inaccurate among the 
earlier writers ; they even suggest the thought that a great 
deal may in truth come from his own imagination. In fact, 
in reading Curtius, we feel that we are already on the road to 
the wild romance of the false Kallisthenes, and to the yet 
stranger imaginings of the Eastern historians. It is highly 
dangerous to accept any statement on his witness alone. * 

The object of Plutarch, as we have already said, was anec 
dote or biography rather than history. He may therefore 
fairly be judged by a less severe standard than any of the 
other writers. And certainly, of the two, we look far more 
favourably upon the anecdotes of Plutarch than upon the 
marvels of Curtius. We are far from accepting them in the 

* Curtius, we suspect, was capable of better things. He once or twice (see 
ix. 5. 21) attempts criticism ; he once really gives us a piece of it. There was 
a tale that Alexander once caused Lysimachos, the future King, to be exposed 
to a lion. Curtius acutely finds the origin of the fable in an encounter be 
tween Lysimachos and a lion at a hunting-party in Alexander s presence (viii. 
i. 17). 



168 ALEXANDER THE GREAT. [EssAY 

mass as literal facts. Anecdotes are easy to invent and easier 
to improve ; indeed the man is a sort of martyr to truthful 
ness who can withstand the temptation of making a good story 
still better. But, for an anecdote to pass current at all, it 
must have a kind of truth. It must have a certain degree of 
probability ; it must at least be the kind of thing which might 
have happened, even if it never actually did happen. Stories 
of this kind may therefore generally be accepted as throwing 
light upon the character of the persons of whom they speak. 
Plutarch, again, is more valuable than Curtius or Diodoros, 
from his frequent references to his authorities. Among these 
he often refers to one source of information which would be 
the highest of all, could w T e only feel sure of its genuineness, 
namely, the private letters of Alexander himself. Of the 
letters which claimed to be Alexander s we should like to 
know more than we can find out from Plutarch s occasional 
quotations. It is well known that letters are easily forged, 
and that they often were forged in those times. We cannot 
therefore look upon these documents, which seem to have 
been unknown to Arrian,* with any great measure of trust. 
At most they can only be looked on as one source of know 
ledge among others. 

Arrian, as he himself tells us, chose the two narratives of 
Ptolemy and Aristoboulos as the groundwork of his own. 

* Arrian indeed (vii. 23, 9) refers to a letter sent by Alexander to Kleo- 
menes, his Satrap in Egypt ; but he merely works its contents into his narra 
tive, as if he had read in Ptolemy or Aristoboulos that such a letter was sent. 
Had he known and believed in the collection of epistles referred to by Plu 
tarch, he would surely have placed them above either of his favourite authori 
ties. 

Bishop Thirlwall (vol vii. p. 386) argues in favour of the genuineness of one 
of the letters quoted by Plutarch, that it is placed beyond doubt by its direc 
tion [KpcLTfpu teal ArToAo; KOL A\KtTa], which would not have occurred to a 
forger. Surely this turns upon the skill of the forger and the means of 
knowledge at his command. 

Strabo (xv. i ; vol. iii. p. 275, Tauchnitz) quotes a letter from Krateros to 
his mother, which may belong to the same collection. Either the letter must 
have been a forgery, or Krateros must have been a liar of the first order. 
Strabo himself calls it 7ria-ro\^v -no\\d re a\\a Trapd8oa <ppdov<rav Kal oi>x 
6fj.o\oyovaav ovSevi. It makes Alexander reach the Ganges. 



V.] ALEXANDER THE GREAT. 169 

Both, he tells us, were companions of Alexander ; both wrote 
after his death, when they had nothing- to hope or to fear 
from him : Ptolemy moreover was a King-, in whom false 
hood would be specially unlikely. We do not profess to 
share Arrian s ultra-royalism on this last head ; but we think 
that we can see good reasons for placing 1 Ptolemy among our 
most trustworthy authorities. On two occasions, when his 
name was honourably put forward by other writers probably 
his own flatterers he himself disclaimed all merit. When 
Alexander received his famous wound among: the Malli, 

O 

Ptolemy, according to some stories, was one of those who 
first came to his help. According to Ptolemy himself, he 
was in command of another division of the army in another 
part of the country."* In the like sort, according to Diodoros 
and Curtius, Ptolemy was once wounded by a poisoned arrow, 
and the means of relief were revealed to Alexander in a 
vision. As Arrian speaks of nothing of the kind, we may 
infer that Ptolemy spoke of nothing either : f for the tale was 
one which, had it rested on any tolerable evidence, Arrian 
would not have been inclined to cast aside. For Arrian, like 
Pausanias, was a devout pagan, and he loved tales of omens 
and prodigies, which he sometimes tells at disproportionate 
length. But he is quite free from that general love of ex 
aggerated and horrible stories which is so rife among the 
inferior writers. It was doubtless the sober and practical 
tone of the narratives of Ptolemy and Aristoboulos, as con 
trasted with the monstrous fables of Onesikritos and Kleit- 
archos, which led him to follow them before all others. 

We hold then that Arrian ought to be our chief guide; 
and yet we can grant to Mr. Grote that his silence does not 
always absolutely set a statement aside. But our reason is 
not quite the same as Mr. Grote s. The other writers often 
contain stories to the discredit of Alexander, which are not 
found in Arrian. Mr. Grote infers that the other writers 
preserved the truth, which was kept back by Ptolemy and 

* Arrian, vi. n. t See Ste Croix, p. 409. 



170 ALEXANDER THE GREAT. [ESSAY 

Aristoboulos, in their zeal for Alexander s good name. Arch 
deacon Williams of Cardigan, on the other hand, will have it 
that the writers of what he calls republican Greece did 
nothing hut invent tales to the disparagement of the royal 
Macedonian. This phantasy has been tossed to the winds by 
the stronger hand of his Diocesan.* The mass of Greek 
writers, at all events of later Greek writers, certainly did not 
run down Alexander either as a King or as a Macedonian. 
They had got over their hatred of Kings, and they had learned 
to look on Macedonians as Greeks. The chief vice which Strabo 
lays to their charge, is not depreciation, but flattery and love 
of the marvellous. And no small appetite they do indeed 
show for the extravagant, the horrible, and the scandalous. 
Among all this, Alexander of course comes in for his share ; 
but so do his enemies likewise. Deeds of wrong are laid to 
the charge of both which most likely neither of them ever 
did. But on the other hand, it is not necessary to believe 
that Ptolemy and Aristoboulos were such formal apologists 
for Alexander as Mr. Grote seems to take for granted. To 
suppose that they wilfully left out Alexander s crimes implies 
that they looked on them as crimes. But there is no reason 
to give Ptolemy and Aristoboulos credit for a higher moral 
standard than that of Alexander himself. If Alexander, as Mr. 
Grote believes, f massacred the Branchidai as an act of piety, 
Ptolemy or Aristoboulos would be quite as likely to applaud 
as to condemn the deed. If, out of zeal for Alexander s good 
name, they left out the kiss publicly given by him to BagoasJ 
in the theatre, we must infer that their morals were sterner 
than those of the assembled Macedonians, Greeks, and Per- 

* Perhaps every one of Bishop Thirlvvall s endless sarcasms against Arch 
deacon Williams s Life of Alexander, is in itself strictly deserved. Yet the 
book, as a whole, is not so bad as might be thought from the specimens thus 
embalmed. Among a good many blunders and a great deal of partiality, it 
shows some thought and research, and it is written in a specially agreeable 
manner. 

f Vol. xii. p. 275. 

J See Plut. Alex. 67 (compare, on the other hand, c. 22) ; Athen. xiii. 80 
(p. 603) ; compare on the other hand, x. 45 (p. 435). Compare also the 
counter story about Agesilaos, Xen. Ages. v. 4. 



V.] ALEXANDER THE GREAT. 171 

sians, who called for and who applauded the act. It is far 
more likely that they passed by the one tale as untrue, the 
other perhaps as untrue, anyhow as trivial. Still it must be 
known that the silence of Arrian is not of itself conclusive 
against a statement. Arrian was himself a military man of 
some reputation, fond both of the theory and the practice of 
his art. His history therefore is primarily a military one, 
and he sometimes passes lightly over matters which do not 
bear on military affairs. But both the assertions and the 
silence of Arrian afford strong a priori grounds of historical 
presumption, against which the statements of the other 
writers must be weighed at whatever they are worth. 

It is no wonder then that, from such a mass of conflicting 
evidence, different minds should draw different conclusions, 
and that Alexander should appear one kind of being to 
Mitford, Droysen, and Archdeacon Williams, and quite 
another to Ste Croix, Niebuhr, and Mr. Grote. Among these, 
Droysen and Niebuhr form the two extremes on either side, 
for blind and often unfair idolatry, and for still more blind 
and unfair depreciation. High above them all, the serene 
intellect of Bishop Thirlwall holds the judicial balance. He 
can sympathize with the fall of Athenian freedom without 
denying the common rights of mankind to its destroyers. 
He can reverence Lykourgos and Demosthenes, and can yet 
see a hero in Alexander, and not an unmixed monster even in 
Philip. He can understand how a man exposed to the most 
fearful of temptations may sink into many faults and occa 
sional crimes, and yet keep a heart sound at its core. He 
will not deny to such an one, though he may have been the 
author of much incidental evil, his claim to be ranked 
among the benefactors of mankind. The oftener we read 
Bishop ThirlwalFs narrative of this period, the more disposed 
are we to see in it the nearest approach to the perfection of 
critical history. The acute appreciation, the calm balancing 
of evidence, the deep knowledge of human nature, the clear 
and vigorous narrative, the eloquence and feeling with which 
he sums up the character of the conqueror, would be alone 



172 ALEXANDER THE GREAT. [ESSAY 

enough to place their author in the very first rank of his 
torical writers. In his treatment of the internal affairs of 
Athens in earlier times Mr. Grote far outshines Bishop 
Thirlwall ; but nowhere does he equal, or even approach, the 
Bishop s admirable narrative of the period from the accession 
of Philip to the death of Demetrios Poliorketes. It is there 
fore, on the whole, the Alexander of Thirlwall, rather than 
the Alexander either of Grote or of Droysen, who deserves to 
live in the memory of mankind and to challenge the admira 
tion of the world. 

The first leading fact in Alexander s history is that a King 
of the Macedonians overthrew the Persian empire, in the cha 
racter of Captain-general of Hellas and in the name of Hellenic 
vengeance for wrongs wrought on Hellas by the Barbarians 
of a past generation. The second fact is that, when he had 
carried out this work, he began to identify himself with the 
empire which he had overthrown, that he took on himself 
the character of King of Asia, that he began a series of con 
quests in which neither Greece nor Macedonia had either real* 
or sentimental interest, and, that he was cut off while engaged 
in organizing a world-wide dominion of which both Greece 
and Macedonia would have been, in geographical extent, 
insignificant corners. In looking at such a career, its hero 
must be judged by the standard of his own times, and not 
by any standard, whether moral or political, which is either 
purely Christian or purely modern. Alexander cannot be 
fairly judged by a higher standard, except on a view which is 
of itself the greatest homage to him namely, that he was a 
man of such greatness as to belong to all time, one to whom 
men might reasonably look to forestall the progress of future 
ages. But in all fairness, Alexander must be looked on 
simply as a heathen Greek warrior of the fourth century 
before Christ. It is enough if his career, allowing for his 
special circumstances and temptations, be found to be not less 
honourable than that of Agesilaos or Pelopidas. Mr. Grote, 
who looks at Alexander not as a Greek but as a Barbarian, 



V.] ALEXANDER THE GREAT. 173 

should in fairness judge him by a standard still less strict ; 
he should not condemn him if he reaches the measure of the 
better class of Persian rulers, of the first Darius, of the elder 
or the younger Cyrus. 

Nothing would be easier than to set forth in glowing 
language the wretchedness which must have been the im 
mediate result of Alexander s conquests, and* to lament that 
the lives of countless thousands should have been sacrificed to 
the insatiable ambition of a single man. But these are ob 
jections, not to Alexander, but to war in the abstract. The 
real questions are, Were the wars of Alexander unjust accord 
ing to the principles of his own age ? Were they carried on 
with any circumstances of cruelty or perfidy contrary to the 
laws of war which were then acknowledged ? 

The notions which were held, not only by Greek soldiers, 
but by Greek philosophers also, as to the relations between 
Greek and Barbarian, were of a kind which it is not easy for 
modern Europe to enter into. They may be compared with the 
line which Islam draws between the true believer and the in 
fidel. Between those two classes there is to be an endless holy 
war, modified only by the obligations which may spring out of 
special treaties, or rather truces. Unless he is under the safe 
guard of such special engagements, the infidel has nothing to 
look for but death or submission. Not very unlike this 
was the light in which, for some ages at least, the Chris 
tians* of Europe looked on the heathens of Asia, Africa, 
and America. The old Greek deemed the Barbarian, unless 
he was protected by some special compact, to be his natural foe 
and his natural slave. War between the two was looked upon 
as the regular order of things. And war, it should be re 
membered, even when waged by Greek against Greek, carried 
with it utter havoc and devastation. Fruit-trees were cut 
down, corn-fields were trampled, houses were burned, every 
kind of wanton ravage was wrought, not only from the 
incidental necessities of a battle, but as the ordinary con 
sequence of a march through an enemy s country. Nothing 
* See Arnold, Thucydides, vol. i. p. 28. 



174 ALEXANDER THE GREAT. [ESSAY 

but a special capitulation could even secure the life and 
freedom of the prisoner. To slaughter the men and sell the 
women and children of a captured town was looked on indeed 
as harshness, but as harshness which occasion might justify, 
and which was no breach of the received laws of war. If 
we look at it by these principles, we shall hardly pronounce 
Alexander s attack on the Persian Empire to have been unjust 
in itself; we shall certainly not pronounce it to have been 
carried out with wanton harshness in detail. 

Long before Alexander was born, long before Macedonia 
rose to greatness, a Pan- Hellenic expedition against Persia 
had been the day-dream alike of Greek statesmen and of 
Greek rhetoricians. It was the cherished vision of the long 
life of Isokrates. It had been planned by the Thessalian 
Tagos Jason. It had been actually begun by the Spartan 
King Agesilaos. Demosthenes himself would hardly have 
said anything against it on the score of abstract justice. In 
his view it was untimely, it was impolitic, it was dangerous 
to Athenian and even to Hellenic interests. Persia was no 
longer to be feared, while Macedonia was of all powers the 
one that was most to be feared. These arguments settled the 
matter as against a Pan -Hellenic attack on Persia under 
Macedonian headship. But there is no reason to think that 
such a warfare, under more favourable circumstances and 
with a less dangerous leader, would have sinned against any 
abstract moral instinct in any Athenian or Lacedaemonian 
statesman. 

The question now arises, How far had Alexander any right to 
put himself forward as the champion of united Hellas against 
the Barbarian ? According to Mr. Grote, Alexander himself 
was no Greek, but a mere Barbarian or half-Barbarian, who 
had at most put on some superficial varnish of Hellenic cul 
ture. He was a mere non- Hellenic conqueror/ almost as 
external as Darius or Xerxes. Instead of the champion, he 
was the destroyer, the tyrant, of independent Hellas. Grecian 
interests lay on the side of Persia, not on that of Macedonia. 
The victory of Alexander at Gaugamela brought about sub- 



V.] ALEXANDER THE GREAT. 175 

stantially the same results as would have followed a victory of 
Xerxes at Salamis. In fact, if a cry of Hellenic liberty or 
Hellenic vengeance was to be raised, it was the despot of 
Pella, not the despot of Susa, against whom the national 
crusade ought to have been preached. 

In all this there is much of truth. Indeed, the purely 
political portion of the theory cannot be disputed. It had 
been before put forth, with no difference that we can see, by 
Bishop Thirlwall himself. Archdeacon Williams indeed 
holds, with the Corinthian Demaratos, that the sight of 
Alexander on the throne of Darius must have been a source 
of the greatest pride and exultation to every Greek who 
possessed a single spark of national feeling." 1 * But even he 
can see that the Macedonians at Issos conquered not the 
Persians alone, but the united efforts of Southern Greece and 
Persia. f Undoubtedly Grecian interests, in the narrower 
sense, lay on the Persian, and not on the Macedonian side. 
A Persian victory at Gaugamela would have been almost as 
great a gain for the political freedom of Athens as was the Per 
sian defeat at Marathon. The old Greek system of independent 
city-commonwealths was in no wise threatened by Persia ; it 
was more than threatened by Macedonia. We see all this 
now; Athenian and Spartan statesmen saw it at the time. 
It was natural that every Athenian patriot should see a friend 
in his old enemy the Great King, a foe and an oppressor in the 
self-styled champion of Greece. Nor is it unnatural that the 
modern champion of Athenian freedom should see the whole 
matter from an Athenian point of view, and should set 
down the claims of Alexander to Hellenic championship as 
mere mockery and pretence. But all this by no means proves 
that there was not another side to the question, one which 
might be fairly taken, and which actually was taken, both by 
Alexander himself and by a large part of the Greek nation. 

The exact ethnical relation between the Greek and the 
Macedonian people is a difficult question, and one on which 

* Life of Alexander, p. 176. t Ibid. p. in. 



176 ALEXANDER THE GREAT. [ESSAY 

we need not here enter. * Very different statements are found 
in different authorities. Alexander assumes Macedonia to 
be beyond doubt part of Greece, f Demosthenes reckons 
Philip not only as no Greek, but as among the vilest of 
Barbarians. J Both these statements are clearly interested 
exaggerations in opposite directions. The Macedonian was 
certainly not strictly a Greek, yet neither was he strictly a 
Barbarian ; he had at least a power of adopting Greek 
culture which was not shared by the Persian or the 
Egyptian. Throughout the campaigns of Alexander, we 
always feel that Greeks and Macedonians, whatever might 
be the amount of difference among themselves, form one 
class as opposed to the mere Asiatic Barbarian. It is not 
only that they were fighting under the same banners, so 
were Greek and Barbarian on the opposite side, it is that 
Greek and Macedonian alike display those peculiar military 
qualities which have always distinguished the European from 
the Asiatic, and of which the Greek had hitherto been the 
great example. The Macedonian, in short, if not a born 
Greek, became a naturalized Greek. He was the first-fruits 
of that artificial Greek nation which was to play so important 
a part in later times, and whose nationality is still vigorous 
and progressive in our own day. Indeed, from the highest 
Hellenic type at Athens the descent is very gradual down to the 
non- Hellenic or semi- Hellenic Epeirots and Macedonians. The 
latter surely did not stand so far below the Greek of ^Etolia 
or Thessaly as the Greek of ^Etolia or Thessaly stood below 
the Greek of Athens. The few traces which we have of the old 
Macedonian language show it to have been a speech not strictly 
Greek, but still closely allied to Greek. It may even have 

* [See above, p. 90.] 

t MaKcSoviav KCU rrjv d\\rjv EAAaSa. (Arrian, ii. 14.) 

J ov /j,6vov ovx "E\\r)vos ovros ov5e irpoarjicovTos ovStv rois "E\\rjaiv, dXA. 
ovSt fiapfiapov tvTevQfv oOev Kd\ov ciVetV, d\\ b\iQpov Ma>ff56vos, K.T.\. Dem. 
Phil. iii. 40 (p. 119). 

Greeks, Macedonians, Barbarians are spoken of as three distinct classes, 
not only by Arrian (ii. 7, iv. ii) but by Isokrats, Philip, 178. So Plutarch, 
Alex. 47 (cf. 51). 



V.] ALEXANDER THE GREAT. 177 

been no further removed from Attic purity than was the 
speech of the wild ^Etolians.* At all events, Greek of 
respectable purity soon became the one tongue of Macedonian 
government, literature, and business. A nation which could 
so soon take up with the language, manners, and religion of 
Greece cannot be looked upon as a horde of outside Bar 
barians like the Persian invaders. Nor did the adoption of 
Greek manners by the Macedonians merely answer to their par 
tial adoption in after days by the Roman conquerors of Greece. 
The Roman never lost his separate national being and his 
national dominion. He never looked on himself as a Greek 
or laid aside the language of Latium. But the Macedonian 
sunk his distinct nationality in that of his subjects. He 
was content with the position of the dominant Greek among 
other Greeks. 

But whatever the Macedonian people were, the Macedonian 
Kings were undoubtedly Hellenic. Isokrates loves to point 
to the willing subjection of Macedonia to its Greek rulers as 
one of the noblest tributes to the inborn superiority of the 
Greek, f In much earlier times the judges of Olympia had 
acknowledged another Alexander as a Greek, an Argive, a 
Herakleid. In the veins of the son of Philip and Olympias the 
blood of Herakles was mingled with the blood of Achilleus. 
Not only Philip, but earlier Macedonian Kings, had striven, 
and not without fruit, to bring their subjects within the pale of 
the civilization of their own race. Philip first showed himself 
to the south of Olympos, not as a Barbarian conqueror, but as 
the champion of Apollon, chosen by the Amphiktyonic Synod 
to lead the armies of the God against the sacrilegious Phokian. 
His services were rewarded by the admission of himself and 
his successors as members of the great religious Council of 
Greece. From that moment Macedonia is clearly entitled to 
rank as a Greek state. 

The object of Philip clearly was, not to macedonize Hellas, 

* "Oirep [Eupurapes] pfyHTTov /xtpos tart TWV Ahca\S>v, dyvcaaToTaTOi 5s 
yXuffffav Kal wfj-ocpdyoi eiatr, ws Ae *yovTCU. (Thuc. iii. Q4-) 
f Isok. Philip. 125, 6. 

N 



178 ALEXANDER THE GREAT. [ESSAY 

but to hellenize Macedonia. Macedonia was acknowledged 
as a Greek state ; the next step was to make it the dominant 
Greek state. The supremacy, the r/ye/^ozna, of Greece, which 
had so often been struggled for among her leading cities, was 
now to be claimed by the King of the Macedonians, not as a 
foreign invader, but by virtue of his Hellenic position as chief 
of the most powerful of Greek states. By the confederacy of 
Corinth, Macedonia was clothed with the same supremacy 
which, after the battle of Aigos Potamos and again after the 
peace of Antalkidas, had been held by Sparta. The existence 
of such a supremacy in both cases sinned against Greek 
political instincts, and in both cases it led to much practical 
oppression. But we have no reason to think that the 
supremacy of Macedonia was at all more oppressive than the 
supremacy of Sparta. Demosthenes, or rather some con 
temporary orator under his name,* has drawn a dark enough 
picture of Macedonian rule ; but hardly so dark a picture as 
Isokrates had before drawn of Spartan rule.f Philip and 
Alexander do not seem to have systematically interfered witli 
the governments of the Greek cities. J Athens, under the 
supremacy of Sparta, was put under the tyranny of the 
Thirty. Under the supremacy of Macedonia, she kept her 
democracy, and listened to Demosthenes pleading for the 
Crown. In Asia, Lysandros everywhere set up oligarchies ; 
Alexander, in several places at least, restored democracies. || 
We need not believe that he had any enthusiasm for popular 
rights, but he at least had not that abstract hatred of freedom 



* See the oration Hepl TOJV Trpbs AXegxvfipov GvvQr\K(av throughout. 

t Paneg. 144. et seq. Panath. 57. et seq. &c. 

% In two cases, that of Messene and of the Achaian Pellene, Alexander is 
accused (Dem. irepl ruv irpos A. 5. 12., Pausanias, viii. 7. 27) of forestalling 
the policy of his successors and of setting up a Tyrant in a Grecian city. 
But these acts seem to stand quite alone. Elsewhere we find him (Arrian, 
v. 25) expressing admiration for the aristocratical constitutions which he 
found in some Indian states. He would doubtless favour whatever form of 
government best suited his policy in each particular case. 

See Isok. Panath. 58. 

II Arrian, ii. 17, 18; ii. 5. 



V.] ALEXANDER THE GREAT. 179 

which has been the leading feeling of so many Kings. The 
supremacy of Philip and Alexander was naturally hateful to 
great cities like Thebes, Athens, and Sparta, which strove 
to set up a similar supremacy of their own. But we can 
hardly doubt that many of the smaller states hailed them as 
deliverers, and gave their votes in the synod of Corinth with 
hearty good will. 

The main difference between the Macedonian supremacy 
and the earlier supremacy of Athens, Thebes, or Sparta, lay 
in this that those states were republics, while Macedonia 
was a monarchy. Mr. Grote seems to argue that Philip 
and Alexander could not be Greeks, because they were 
Kings.* In another placet he far more truly speaks of 
Alexander as being, in many respects, a revival of the 
Homeric Greek. But the Homeric Greek was surely a 
Greek and not a Barbarian ; one main difference between 
Greece and Macedonia was that Macedonia had kept on the 
old heroic kingship which Greece had cast aside. Such was 
the case with Molossis also, the land of Alexander s mother, 
a state where, just as in Macedonia, Greeks of heroic descent 
reigned over a people who were at most only half Hellenic. 
Molossis, like Macedonia, became Greek ; indeed it went a 
step farther than Macedonia, and became a democratic con 
federation. 

We hold then that Alexander has the fullest right to all the 
honours of the Hellenic name, though his sympathies may 
well have lain more warmly with the heroic Greeks of the 
Homeric age than with the republican Greeks of his own day. 
Yet he did not appear among those republican Greeks as a 
barbarian conqueror. It was his ambition to attack the Bar 
barian in the character of the chosen champion of Hellas, and 
that rank was formally bestowed upon him, with the out 
ward consent of all,J and doubtless with the real good will 
of many. As such, he crossed over to Asia, he overthrew 

* Vol. xii. p. 3. t Ibid. p. 95. 

Arrian, i. I. Sparta alone refused. 

N 3 



180 ALEXANDER THE GREAT. [ESSAY 

the Persian dominion, and solemnly destroyed the palace of 
the Persian Kings in revenge for the ravages wrought by 
Xerxes in Greece. The championship of Hellas was, at least 
during this stage of his life, always strongly put forward; 
and who has the right to say that it was dishonestly put 
forward ? The inscription on his votive offering was, Alex 
ander the son of Philip, and the Greeks, the Lacedaemonians 
excepted, from the Barbarians who inhabit Asia. * The place 
chosen for the offering was not Dion or Pella, but the Akro- 
polis of Athens. In his passage through Grecian Asia, he 
proclaimed himself as a Grecian deliverer, and, as we have 
seen, he restored to the Grecian cities their democratic freedom. 
If he dealt harshly with Greeks in the Persian service, it 
was because they had transgressed the common decree of the 
nation ;f and he carefully distinguished between those who 
had enlisted before and those who had enlisted after his 
own acknowledgement as Pan-Hellenic Captain-general. J 

There is no doubt that the mercenary Greeks who fought 
for the Great King against that Pan-Hellenic Captain-general 
were in truth fighting the battles of Hellas. So, if Persia 
had taken mercenary Greeks into her service against Agesilaos, 
they would have fought the battles, perhaps of Hellas, at any 
rate of Thebes and of Athens. But the battles of Hellas were 



* Arrian, i. 16. 

t Ibid. i. 16. 29 ; iii. 23. Mr. Grote, somewhat strangely to our mind, 
likens Alexander s relation towards the Greek Confederacy to Buonaparte s 
relation towards the Confederation of the Rhine (vol. xii. p. 70). He quotes 
an instance of the distinction made by Buonaparte, in his Russian campaign, 
between native Russians and Germans in the Russian service. The former 
were honourable enemies doing their duty; the latter were his own rebellious 
subjects, whom he might deal with as traitors. This, Mr. Grote tells us, 
answers to Alexander s treatment of the Greeks in the Persian service. But, 
to make the analogy good for anything, Buonaparte should have proclaimed 
himself as a German, the chosen head of Germany, the Germanizer of France, 
the invader of Russia to avenge German wrongs. Alexander did not say that 
the Greek prisoners were his subjects, as Buonaparte did with the Germans. 
He said that they were Greeks, fighting against Greece, contrary to the 
common agreement of all the Greeks (dSiKelv yap p.e-ya\a roi/s 
tvdvTia rrj EXA.dSt, irapd. rots fiopftdpois, irapd rd SdypaTa rd 

Arrian, iii. 24. 



V.] ALEXANDER THE GREAT. 181 

fought in the one case,, they would have been fought in the 
other, in an indirect and underhand way. One can hardly 
believe that the Greeks who fought for Persia at Issos and 
Gaugamela shared the same feelings of Hellenic patriotism 
as the Greeks who fought openly for Greece at Chaironeia 
and at Krannon. The show and sentiment of Hellenic 
nationality must have been throughout on the side of Alex 
ander. An Athenian patriot lamenting the degradation of 
his own once ruling city, indeed a keen-sighted politician in 
any Grecian city, might wish well to Darius and ill to Alex 
ander.* But the sight of a hero-King, sprung from the most 
venerated heroes of Grecian legend, devoting himself to 
avenge the old wrongs of Greece upon the Barbarian, must 
have had a charm about him which it was hard indeed to 
withstand. Alexander at least fully believed in his own 
mission ; and such of his Macedonians as took up any Hel 
lenic position at all, would, with the usual zeal of new con 
verts, feel such influences even more strongly than the Greeks 
themselves. 

Nor does Alexander s conduct within Greece itself, at all 
events during the earlier years of his reign, at all belie these 
Hellenic claims. The destruction of Thebes was indeed an 
awful blow, but it was a blow in no wise more awful than 
Hellenic cities had often suffered at each other s hands. As 
far as human suffering went, the vengeance of Alexander 
upon Thebes was less extreme than the vengeance of Athens 
upon Skione and Melos. The fate of Thebes moreover was 
referred by Alexander to his own Greek allies, to Plataians 
and Orchomenians, whose own cities had been overthrown by 
Thebes in her day of might, and who now hastened with 
delight to wreak their vengeance upon their oppressor. 



* [In my Essay, as it was published in the Edinburgh Eeview, the following 
words followed this sentence : As many of the French emigres and some of the 
friends of liberty in 1814 supported the cause of the Allies against the cause of 
Napoleon. What these words mean, what they have to do with the matter, is 
beyond my power even of guessing. The interpolator, whoever he was, must 
explain.] 



182 ALEXANDER THE GREAT. [ESSAY 

What seemed so specially awe-striking in the fate of Thebes 
was not the mere amount of misery that was wrought, hut, 
as Mr. Grote says,* the breach of Hellenic sentiment in the 
destruction of so great a city, a city of such historical and 
legendary fame, and the danger of offending local Gods and 
heroes by putting an end to their accustomed local worship. 
Had Alexander merely driven out or enslaved the existing 
Thebans, and had handed over the walls and temples to a 
new Theban community formed out of his own Greek allies, 
but little would have been said of his cruelty. As it was, the 
destruction of Thebes was held to follow him through life. 
The native city of Dionysos was overthrown, and the destroyer 
had to look for the vengeance of the patron-God. He paid 
the penalty when Kleitos fell by his hand, and when his army 
refused to march beyond the Hyphasis.f But, even in earlier 
days, he repented of the deed, and he tried to make amends 
by showing special kindness to such Thebans as the chances 
of war threw in his way. f 

Against harshness towards Thebes we may, in the case 
both of Philip and Alexander, set generosity towards Athens. 
Both of them, it is plain, had a strong feeling of reverence for 
the intellectual mistress of Hellas. Such a feeling was likely 
to be far stronger in Macedonians who had adopted Grecian 
culture than it would be in contemporary Spartans or Thebans, 
to whom Athens was merely an ordinary enemy or ally. Athens 
was a political adversary both to Philip and to Alexander ; 
both of them humbled her so far as their policy called for ; 
but neither of them ever thought in her case of those acts of 
coercion and vengeance which they deemed needful in the 
case of Thebes. When Thebes received a garrison from 
Philip, Athens was only called on to give up her foreign 
possessions. When Thebes was levelled with the ground 
by Alexander, Athens was only called on to give up her 
obnoxious orators, and even that demand was not finally 



* xii. 57. t Plut. Alex. 13. 

J Arrian, ii. 15. 



V.] ALEXANDER THE GREAT. 183 

pressed.* As we have seen, Alexander s first barbarian spoils 
were dedicated in Athenian temples ; from the captured palace 
of the Great King he sent back to Athens the statues of her 
tyrannicides. Even the anecdote told by Plutarch, f which 
sets forth Athenian praise as the chief object of his toils, exag 
gerated as it doubtless is, shows at least that the Macedonian 
conqueror, though his conquests might carry with them the 
overthrow of the political greatness of Athens, was in no way, 
in spirit or feeling, the foe of Athens or of Greece. 

Three great battles and several great sieges made Alex 
ander master of the Persian empire. And it is worth remark 
that the immediate results of the three battles, Granikos, Issos, 
and Gaugamela, coincide with lasting results in the history 
of the world. The victory of the Granikos made Alexander 
master of Asia Minor, of a region which in the course of a 
few centuries was thoroughly hellenized, and which remained 
Greek, Christian, and Orthodox, down to the Turkish inva 
sions of the eleventh century. The territory which Alexander 
thus won, the lands from the Danube to Mount Tauros, 
answered very nearly to the extent of the Byzantine Empire 
for several centuries, and it might very possibly have been 
ruled by him, as it was in Byzantine times, from an European 
centre. The field of Issos gave him Syria and Egypt, lands 

* Mr. Grote (vol. xii. p. 63) has a note on the details connected with 
Alexander s demand for the extradition of the orators, into which we need 
not enter. But we may mention thus much. Mr. Grote says : 

I think it highly improbable that the Athenians would by public vote 
express their satisfaction that Alexander had punished the Thebans for their 
revolt. If the Macedonising party at Athens was strong enough to carry so 
ignominious a vote, they would also have been strong enough to carry the 
subsequent proposition of Phokion, that the ten citizens demanded should be 
surrendered. 

But surely it is on thing to pass a vote which, however ignqminous, did no 
actual harm to anybody, another to hand over illustrious citizens to exile, bonds, 
or death. Doubtless many votes would be given for the one motion, which 
would be given against the other. 

f* Alex. 60. & AOrjvaioi, apa ye niffreva aiT av rjK movs vironeva) KivSvvovs 
tveita. rrjs nap vpiv evdogias ; This is put into his mouth at the crossing of the 
Hydaspes, just before the great battle with P6ros. 



184 ALEXANDER THE GREAT. [ESSAY 

which the Macedonian and the Roman kept for nearly a 
thousand years, and which for ages contained, in Alexandria 
and Antioch, the two greatest of Grecian cities. But Syria 
and Egypt themselves never became Greek; when they 
became Christian, they failed to become Orthodox, and they 
fell away at the first touch of the victorious Saracen. Their 
government called for an Asiatic or Egyptian capital, but 
their ruler might himself still have remained European and 
Hellenic. His third triumph at Gaugamela gave him the 
possession of the whole East; but it was but a momentary 
possession : he had now pressed onward into lands where 
neither Grecian culture, Roman dominion, nor Christian 
theology proved in the end able to strike any lasting root. 

Mr. Grote remarks that Philip would most likely have 
taken the advice of Parmenion, so scornfully cast aside by 
Alexander, and would have accepted the offer of Darius to 
give up the provinces west of the Euphrates. Alexander him 
self might well have taken it could he have foreseen the future 
destiny which fixed the Euphrates as the lasting boundary 
of European dominion in Asia. But for the sentiment of 
Hellenic vengeance we may add for Alexander s personal 
spirit of adventure it was not enough to rob Persia of her 
foreign possessions; he must overthrow Persia herself. Per 
sian Kings had taken tribute of Macedonia and had harried 
Greece ; Greek and Macedonian must now march in triumph 
into the very home of the enemy. As Xerxes had sat in state 
by the ruins of Athens, so must the Captain-general of Hellas 
stand in the guise of the Avenger over the blackened ruins of 
Persepolis. But the conquest of Persia at once changed the 
whole position of the conqueror. The whole realm of the 
Achaimenids could neither be at once hellenized, nor yet 
turned into a dependency of Macedonia. The limited King of 
the Macedonians, the elective Captain-general of Greece, was 
driven to take to himself the position of the Great King, and 
to reign on the throne of Cyrus, as his lawful successor, and 
not as a foreign intruder. 

Here was the rock upon which Alexander s whole scheme 



V.] ALEXANDER THE GREAT. 185 

of conquest split. He had gone too far ; yet his earlier 
position was one which would hardly have allowed him to 
stop sooner. Till he crossed the Persian Gates, he had 
appeared rather as a deliverer than as an enemy to the 
native inhabitants of all the lands through which he passed. 
The Greek cities of Asia welcomed a conqueror of their own 
race, a King who did not shrink from giving back to them 
their democratic freedom. Even to the barbarian inhabitants 
of Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt, Alexander might well appear 
as a deliverer. A change of masters is commonly welcome to 
subject nations ; and men might fairly deem that a Greek 
would make a better master than a Persian. Against Phoe 
nicians, Egyptians, Babylonians, Alexander had no mission of 
vengeance ; he might rather call on them to help him against 
the common foe. If they had served in the army of Xerxes, 
so had his own Herakleid forefathers.* If the Gods of Attica 
had been wronged and insulted, so had the Gods of Memphis 
and Babylon. In Western Asia therefore Alexander met with 
but little strictly native opposition, save only from those fierce 
tribes which had here and there still kept their independence 
against the Persian, and which had as little mind to give 
it up to the Macedonian. But at last he reached Persia 
itself; he entered the royal city, where the Great King 
reigned, not, as at Susa and Babylon, as a foreign conqueror, 
lint as the chief of his own people, in the hearth and cradle of 
his empire. He saw the palace of the Barbarian arrayed with 
the spoils of Greece ; he threw open his treasure-house rich 
with the tribute of many Grecian cities, and of his own once 
subject kingdom. The destruction of the Persepolitan palace 
might well seem to him an impressive act of symbolical 
vengeance, a costly sacrifice to the offended Gods of Greece 
and Macedonia, of Babylon and Syria and Egypt. 

* Mr. Grote would seem (vol. xii. p. 56) to imply that this fact barred 
Alexander from all right to avenge the Persian invasion ; at all events that 
it barred him from all right to reproach Thebes with her share in it. But 
the earlier Alexander, in following Xerxes, only bowed to the same constraint 
as all Northern Greece ; and it is clear that his heart was on the side of 
Athens, while Thebes served the Barbarian with hearty good will. 



186 ALEXANDER THE GREAT. [ESSAY 

But in this impressive scene at Persepolis Alexander 
showed himself for the last time in the character of Hellenic 
avenger. Not long afterwards, the fortunate crime of Bessos 
handed over to the invader all the gains, without any of the 
guilt, of the murder of Darius. From this moment Alexander 
appears as the Great King, the successor of Cyrus. On his 
change of position naturally followed many changes in other 
respects. He began to claim the same outward marks of 
homage as had been shown to his predecessors, a homage 
which, according to Greek and Macedonian notions, was de 
grading, if not impious. We readily allow that from this 
time the character of Alexander changed for the worse ; 
that his head was in some degree turned by success ; that his 
passions, always impetuous, now became violent;* that, in 
short, with the position of an Eastern despot, he began to 
share a despot s feelings, and now and then to be hurried into 
a despot s crimes. 

His position was now a strange one. He had gone too far for 
his original objects. Lasting possession of his conquests beyond 
the Tigris could be kept only in the character of King of the 
Medes and Persians. Policy bade him to put on that character. 
We can also fully believe that he was himself really dazzled 
with the splendour of his superhuman success. His career had 
been such as to outdo the wildest dreams which he could have 
cherished either in his waking or his sleeping moments. The 
Great King, the type of earthly splendour and happiness, had 
fallen before him ; he himself was now the Great King ; he 
was lord of an empire wider than Grecian imagination had 
assigned to any mortal ; he was master of wealth which in 
Grecian eyes might enable its possessor to enter into the lists 
with Zeus himself, t But no feature of the Hellenic character 
is more remarkable, as Mr. Grote himself has so often shown, 
than inability to bear unlooked-for good luck. A far lower 



* Arrian, vii. 8. f t v *fap 5?) ogvrcpos tv T$ TOT, /rat curb rrjs 
6epaireias OVKCTI us ird\ai eirifiK^s Is TOVS Ma/feSovas. 

f Herod, v. 49. l\6vrfs 5e rainrjv TT)V iro\iv, [2ov<ra] fla/xrcoVres ijSrj TO> Au 
TT\OVTOV TTfpi epieT. 



V.] ALEXANDER THE GREAT. 187 

height had turned the heads of Miltiades, Pausanias, and 
Alkibiades. Was it then wonderful that, on a height such as 
none of them had dreamed of, the head of Alexander should 
be turned also ? We may believe that the conduct which 
policy dictated was also personally agreeable ; that he took a 
delight, unreasonable indeed to a philosopher, but natural to 
a man, in the splendours of his new position; that he may 
even have been beguiled into some of its besetting vices, into 
something of the luxury and recklessness of an eastern King. 
The mind of Alexander was one which lay specially open to 
all heroic and legendary associations ; he was at once the off 
spring and the imitator of Gods and heroes. His own deeds had 
outdone those which were told of any of his divine forefathers 
or their comrades ; Achilleus, Herakies, Theseus, Dionysos, 
had done and suffered less than Alexander. Was it then 
wonderful that he should seriously believe that one who had 
outdone their acts must come of a stock equal to their own ? 
Was it wonderful if, not merely in pride or policy, but in 
genuine faith,* he disclaimed a human parent in Philip, and 
looked for the real father of the conqueror and lord of earth 
in the conqueror and lord of the heavenly world ? 

We believe then that policy, passion, and genuine super 
stition were all joined together in the demand which Alexander 
made for divine, or at least for unusual, honours. He had 
taken the place of the Great King, and he demanded the 
homage which was held to be due to him who held that place. 
Such homage his barbarian subjects were perfectly ready to 
pay ; they would most likely have had but little respect for 
a king who forgot to call for it. But the homage which to 
a Persian seemed only the natural expression of respect for the 
royal dignity, seemed to Greeks and Macedonians an invasion 
of the honour due only to the immortal Gods. Yet Alexander 
could hardly, with any prudence, draw a distinction between 
the two classes of his subjects. He certainly could not put 
up with a state of things in which every Persian who came to 

* Mr. Grote admits this, vol. xii. p. 202, 



188 ALEXANDER THE GREAT. [ESSAY 

do his ordinary service to his King was left open to the coarse 
jeers of Macedonian soldiers and to the more eloquent rebukes 
of Grecian sophists.* The claim of divine birth was not needed 
to impose upon Orientals ; it was needed to impose upon 
Europeans. The Orientals were ready enough to pay all that 
Alexander asked for to a mere earthly sovereign. For a man 
to be the child of a God was an idea utterly repugnant to the 
Persian religion, while nothing was more familiar to Grecian 
notions. Least of all would Alexander, in order to impose 
upon his Persian subjects, have chosen as his parent a God 
of the conquered and despised Egyptians. This was no diffi 
culty to the Greeks and Macedonians, who looked on the 
Egyptian Ammon as the same God with their own Zeus. 
The homage which they refused to an earthly King they 
might willingly pay to the son of Zeus, the peer of Herakles 
and Dionysos. Nor was Alexander the first who had re 
ceived the like or greater honours even during his lifetime. 
Lysandros, the Spartan citizen, had supplanted Here in the 
worship of the Samians ;f and Philip, the Macedonian King, 
had, on one memorable day, marched as a thirteenth among 
the twelve great Gods of Olympos. J At what time the idea 
of a divine birth first came into the mind of Alexander or 
of his courtiers is far from clear. The inferior writers give 
us full details of the reception which his divine father gave 
him at his Libyan oracle ; but the sober Arrian keeps a dis 
creet silence. 

Probably no other way could be found to reconcile his 
European subjects to a homage which was absolutely neces 
sary to maintain his Asiatic dominion. But nothing shows 
more clearly the incongruous nature of Alexander s position as 
at once despotic King of Asia, constitutional King of the 



* See Arrian, iv. 12. Compare Plut. Alex. 74. 

h Plut. Lys. 18. J Diod. xvi. 92. 95. 

We think we may fairly use this word. Of course, as Mr. Grote often 
tells us, the will of the King, and not the declared will of the people, was 
the great moving cause in Macedonian affairs. But the Macedonians were 
not slaves. Alexander himself (Arrian, ii. 7) contrasts the Macedonians as 



V.] ALEXANDER THE GREAT. 189 

Macedonians, and elective President of the Hellenic Confede 
racy. It is not wonderful if it led him in his later days to 
deal with his European subjects and confederates in a way 
widely different from any in which they had been dealt with 
in the early part of his reign. He not only sent round to all 
the cities of Greece to demand divine honours, which were 
perhaps not worth refusing,* but he ordered each city to 
bring back its political exiles. This last was an interference 
with the internal government of the cities which certainly 
was not warranted by Alexander s position as head of the 
Greek Confederacy. And, in other respects also, from this 
unhappy time all the worst failings of Alexander become 
more strongly developed. Had he not been from the first 
impetuous and self-confident, he could never have begun his 
career of victory. Impetuosity and self-exaltation now grew 
upon him, till he could bear neither restraint nor opposition. 
In one sad instance we even find these dangerous tendencies 
going together with something like the suspicious temper 
of an Eastern despot. Kleitos might perhaps have fallen by 
his hand in a moment of wrath at any stage of his lifejf 
but we cannot believe that the fate of Philotas and Parmenion 
could have happened at any moment before his entry into 
Persepolis. It is not safe to rely on the details of that un 
happy story as given by Curtius and Plutarch ; and we hardly 
know enough to pronounce with confidence upon the guilt or 
innocence of the victims. We need not believe that Alexander 
invited Philotas to his table after he had made up his mind to 
destroy him, nor that he listened to and mocked the cries of 



\tvd(poi with the Persians as 5ov\oi ; Curtius (iv. 7. 31) speaks of them 
as, Macedones assueti quidem regio imperio, sed majore libertatis umbra 
quam cseterae gentes. Certainly a people who kept in their own hands the 
power of life and death, and before whom their sovereign pleaded as an 
accuser sometimes as an unsuccessful accuser cannot be confounded with 
the subjects of an Eastern despotism. 

* See Thirl wall, vol. vii. p. 163. 

t The scene between Alexander and his father recorded by Plutarch 
(Alex. p. 9) certainly shows the germ of those failings which afterwards led 
to the murder of Kleitos. 



190 ALEXANDER THE GREAT. [ESSAY 

his former friend when in the agonies of the torture. But 
we can plainly see that Alexander brought a charge and 
sought a condemnation on grounds which, to say the 
least, were not enough for a fair verdict of guilty. For 
once the narrative of Arrian gives us the impression that 
there was something which he or his authorities wished to 
slur over ; and one would like to know the grounds which 
led the judicious Strabo to his seeming conviction of the 
guilt of the accused.* We are told that the Macedonian law 
of treason sentenced the kinsfolk of the condemned traitor 
to the same punishment as himself. We are also told by 
Diodorosf that Parmenion was formally condemned by the 
military Assembly, the constitutional tribunal when the life 
of a Macedonian was at stake. We may add that the acquital 
of some of the persons whom Alexander accused shows that 
that Assembly did exercise a will of its own, and did not 
always meet merely to register the royal decrees. It is there 
fore quite possible that the death of Parmenion, as well as 
that of Philotas, may have been strictly according to the 
letter of the law. But we may be far more sure that Alex 
ander would never have put such a law in force against his 
old friend and teacher in the days when he handed Parme- 
nion s own accusing letter to his physician, and drank off the 
draught in which death was said to lurk. 

We have already quoted the remark of Mr. Grote that the 
character of Alexander recalled, to a great extent, that of the 
heroes of legendary Greece. By virtue of the same features, 
it forestalled, to a great extent, that of the heroes of mediaeval 
chivalry. Bishop Thirlvvall J truly says that his disposition 
was rather generous than either merciful or scrupulously 
just, but that cruelty, in the most odious sense of the word, 
wanton injustice, was always foreign to his nature. Reck 
lessness of human suffering is a necessary characteristic of 
every conqueror ; but we have no reason to attribute it to 

* xv. 2 (vol. iii. p. 312). &i\wrav avt iXf rov Hapneviowos vlov, (fxupdffas 
(nifiov\iiv. 

f xvii. 80. J Vol. vii. p. fi. 



V.] ALEXANDER THE GREAT. 191 

Alexander in any greater degree than to all other aggres 
sive warriors. But in Alexander, a general of the highest 
order and at the same time a man full of the highest 
spirit of personal adventure,, we find, it may be, a greater 
delight in the practice of war for its own sake than in the 
warriors of the Grecian commonwealths. In Alexander too, 
a royal warrior, we find a feature of the chivalrous character 
which could not show itself in his republican predecessors. 
This is his extreme courtesy and deference to persons of his 
own rank ; his almost overdone generosity to the family of 
Darius, and to Darius himself when he was no more. This 
is still more impressively set before us in his famous dialogue 
with the captive Poros, a foe indeed after his own heart. 
The death and misery of innocent thousands are easily for 
gotten in the excess of chivalrous respect which is thus ex 
changed between the royal combatants who use them as their 
playthings. All these faults grew upon Alexander during 
the latter stages of his career. It is impossible to look with 
the same complacency upon his Indian campaigns as upon 
his warfare in Bithynia and Syria. The mission of Hellenic 
vengeance was then over. Personal ambition and love of 
adventure had been strongly mingled with it from the first ; 
they now became the ruling passions. Yet Alexander s posi 
tion, even in his later expeditions, is one easy to understand, 
if not altogether to justify. He was the Great King, partly 
winning back provinces which had been torn away from his 
predecessors, partly making good their vague claims to the 
universal empire of Asia. But he was also the Hellenic 
warrior, asserting the natural right of the civilized man 
over the Barbarian. He was the demigod, -the son of Zeus, 
commissioned, like Theseus or Herakles, at once to conquer 
and to civilize the earth. He was the ardent searcher after 
knowledge, eager to enlarge the bounds of human science, 
and to search out distant lands which could be searched out 
only at the point of the sword. In his later campaigns we 
can see a larger measure of arrogance, of rashness, of reckless 
ness of human suffering ; but it is nowhere shown that he 



192 ALEXANDER THE GREAT. [ESSAY 

ever sinned against the received laws of war of his own age ;* 
and certainly, even in his most unprovoked aggressions, we 
may still see traces of a generosity of spirit, a nobleness of 
purpose, which at once distinguish him from the vulgar herd 
of conquerors and devastators. 

The unfulfilled designs of Alexander must ever remain in 
darkness ; no man can tell what might have been done by 
one of such mighty powers who was cut off at so early a 
stage of his career. That he looked forward to still further 
conquests seems ^ beyond doubt, f The only question is, 
Did his conquests, alike those which were won and those 
which were still to be won, spring from mere ambition and 
love of adventure, or is he to be looked on as in any degree 
the intentional missionary of Hellenic culture? That such 
he was is set forth with much warmth and some extrava 
gance in a special treatise of Plutarch ; J it is argued more 
soberly, but with true vigour and eloquence, in the seventh 
volume of Bishop Thirlwall. Mr. Grote denies him all 
merit of the kind. But Mr. Grote too thoroughly identifies 
Hellenism with republicanism to be altogether a fair judge. 
He will hardly allow that there could be such a thing as 
Hellenic culture under a monarchy. Yet surely there is a 
difference between Greek and Barbarian before and above 
any distinction as to forms of government. Alexander is 
said to have found both aristocracies and democracies in 
India, but surely such aristocracies and democracies might 
need hellenizing by his Macedonian monarchy. That Alex- 

* Plutarch (Alex. 59) says of one occasion in the Indian war : airfiaafifvos 
V TIVI 7roA.t trpos avTovs dniovras tv o5y \a/3uv airavras cnreKTeive nal TOVTO 
TO?S iroXtp-iKois avrov epyots r&\\a vofJiifJLcas Kal PaaikiKus iro\fjiT]0 avTOS Skairfp 
KIJ\LS Trp6ffffTiv. The place intended must be Massaga. If so, the narrative 
in Arrian (iv. 37) does not bear out Plutarch s censure. The capitulation was 
clearly broken on the other side. We may accept Bishop Thirlwall s (vol. vii. 
p. 8) censure, that Alexander exhibited less generosity than might have been 
expected from him, even if mercy was out of the question ; but there was no 
breach of faith. 

f Arrian, vii. I ; ib. 19. 

J Ufpl TTJS A.\favdpov TI^S fy dpfTrjs. 

P. 121 et seq. 



V.] ALEXANDER THE GREAT. 193 

ander did carry Hellenic culture into a large portion of the 
world is an undoubted fact. That he intended to do so is 
but an inference ; but surely it is a very natural one. 

Mr. Grote however somewhat strangely depreciates the 
merit of Alexander in this respect, in order by comparison to 
extol his successors.* So far as Asia was helleniz ed at all, it 
was, he tells us, not Alexander, but the Ptolemies and Seleu- 
kids, who hellenized it. No doubt the details of the process 
were carried out by them ; but they did nothing but follow the 
impulse which had been given to them by their great master. 
No doubt also, as Mr. Grote points out, their circumstances 
were in some respects more favourable than those of Alexander 
for carrying on the work. Alexander himself could not do so 
much in eleven years of marching and countermarching as 
they could do in two centuries of comparative peace. Again, 
Asia Minor, as the event proved, could receive a lasting 
Hellenic culture, and Syria and Egypt could at least receive 
lasting Hellenic colonies. But no lasting Hellenic culture 
could nourish on the banks of the Indus and the Jaxartes. 
Yet it surely speaks much for Alexander s zeal in the cause, 
when we find him labouring for it under such unfavour 
able circumstances. At every promising spot he founds a 
Greek city, an Alexandria, and plants in it a Greek or Mace 
donian colony, whose language and manners might be spread 
among their barbarian fellow-citizens. Nor was his labour, 
even in those far-off lands, altogether thrown away. A 
Greek kingdom of Bactria nourished for some ages; several 
of his cities, though no longer Greek, nourish to this day ; 
one at least, Candahar, still keeps the name of its founder. 
Mr. Grote himself does not deny that real consequences 
beneficial to humanity arose from Alexander s enlarged and 
systematic exploration of the earth, combined with increased 
means of communication among its inhabitants. t Bishop 
Thirlwall, as might be expected, is far more copious and 
eloquent on this point : 

* Vol. xii. p. 362. t Vol. xii. p. 368. 



194 ALEXANDER THE GREAT. [ESSAY 

* Let any one contemplate the contrast between the state of Asia under 
Alexander, and the time when Egypt was either in revolt against Persia, or 
visited by her irritated conquerors with the punishment of repeated insurrection, 
when almost every part of the great mountain chain which traverses the length 
of Asia, from the Mediterranean to the borders of India, was inhabited by 
fierce, independent, predatory tribes : when the Persian kings themselves were 
forced to pay tribute before they were allowed to pass from one of their capitals 
to another. Let any one endeavour to enter into the feelings, with which a 
Phoenician merchant must have viewed the change that took place in the face 
of the earth, when the Egyptian Alexandria had begun to receive and pour 
out an inexhaustible tide of wealth : when Babylon had become a great port : 
when a passage was open both by sea and land between the Euphrates and the 
Indus : when the forests on the shores of the Caspian had begun to resound 
with the axe and the hammer. It will then appear that this part of the 
benefit which flowed from Alexander s conquest cannot be easily exaggerated. 

And yet this was perhaps the smallest part of his glory. * 

Still more strangely, to our minds, does Mr. Grotef specially 
depreciate the merit of the greatest of Alexander s foundations. 
On a spot whose advantages had, for we know not how many 
thousand years, been overlooked by the vaunted wisdom of 
Egypt, a glance and a word of the Macedonian called into 
being the greatest mart and hearth of the commerce and 
cultivation of the world. But Mr. Grote tells us that the 
greatness of Alexandria was not owing to Alexander, but 
to the Ptolemies. As a single city of Alexander s universal 
empire, it could never have become what it did become as 
the royal seat of the smaller monarchy. Perhaps not : yet 
two points are worth noticing : first, that, if we may believe 
Niebuhr, Alexander designed Alexandria as the capital of his 
universal empire ; secondly, that the commerce of Alexandria 
became far greater when it had sunk into a provincial city 
of the Roman dominion than it had been under at least the 
later Ptolemies. { And surely, after all, it is no disparage 
ment to an originally great conception, if circumstances give 
it in the end a still greater developement than its first 
designer could have hoped for. 

Nor does Alexander s partial adoption of Asiatic manners 
really prove anything against his civilizing intentions, The 

* Vol. vii. p. 1 20. t Vol. xii. p. 200. 

+ See Merivale s Rome, vol. iv. p. 125. 



V.] ALEXANDER THE GREAT. 195 

Barbarian could not be won to the higher calling which was 
set before him unless his teachers stooped in some degree to 
his own prejudices. Greek sophists and Macedonian soldiers 
saw in the Persians merely born slaves with whom it was de 
grading to hold intercommunion. Alexander thought better of 
his new subjects. If he himself wore the costume of a Persian 
King, he taught the chosen youth of Persia the tongue of 
Greece, the arms and discipline of Macedonia.* This surely 
does not justify the doctrine of Mr. Grote, that instead of 
hellenizing Asia, he was tending to asiatize Macedonia and 
Hellas. f Mr. Grote is again deceived by his unwillingness 
to look at the case from any but a political point of view. 
Alexander seems to him to be tending to asiatize Macedonia 
and Hellas/ because he increased the royal power in Mace 
donia, and extended it over Hellas. And we cannot help 
remarking how often, throughout his whole argument, Mr. 
Grote, who looks on Alexander and his Macedonians as utterly 
non-Hellenic, is driven to speak of Greece and Macedonia as 
forming a single whole in opposition to the Barbarians of 
Asia. 

On the general merits of Alexander in his purely military 
capacity there is the less need for us to enlarge, as no one 
has ever done more full justice to them than Mr. Grote him 
self. The carping spirit of Niebuhr seems half inclined, if 
it were possible, to depreciate him in this respect also. The 
campaigns of Alexander are the earliest in which we can 
study war on a grand scale, carried out with all the appliances 
of art which was then known. Above all, he was conspicuous 
for his skill in the harmonious employment of troops of dif 
ferent kinds. Horsemen, phalangists, hypaspists, archers, 
horse-archers, all found their appropriate places in his armies. 
But our object is less to extol Alexander as a soldier than 
to vindicate him as a conqueror, to claim for him a higher 
moral and intellectual rank than can ever belong to the 
mere soldier, however illustrious. We have always delighted 
to look on Alexander as one who, among all the temptations 

* See Thirlwall, vol. vii. p. 89. t Vol. xii. p. 359. 

2 



196 ALEXANDER THE GREAT. [ESSAY 

of the King- and the warrior, still kept his love for elegant 
literature and scientific discovery. We were therefore sur 
prised indeed at finding the last paragraph of Mr. Grote s 
ninety-fourth chapter thus analysed in the margin : Interest 
of Alexander in literature and science not great? Yet in 
the text he allows that Alexander probably gave Aristotle 
help in his zoological researches, and he adds that the intel 
lectual turn of Alexander was towards literature, poetry, 
and history. He goes on to quote the instances given by 
Plutarch of his sending for historical and poetical works on 
his distant campaigns. To us it seems as much as can well 
be asked of a general on a distant march if he keeps up his 
personal taste for literature, poetry, and history, and encou 
rages others in the pursuit of physical science. 

We have thus far striven to defend the general character 
of Alexander against the view of him taken by Niebuhr, and, 
in a milder form, by Mr. Grote. We have implied that there 
are many particular cases in which, out of various conflicting 
reports, Mr. Grote adopts those which are most unfavourable 
to Alexander, and that on what seems to us to be incon 
clusive grounds. It is quite beyond our power to examine 
all of them in detail. We w r ill therefore choose three of the 
most remarkable,, namely, the conduct of Alexander at Tyre, 
at Gaza, and at Persepolis. 

Of the first two of these enterprises each was the crowning 
of one of Alexander s earlier victories, the third was the formal 
gathering in of his final success. At Granikos, at Issos, and 
at Gaugamela he overthrew the hosts of the Great King in 
open fight ; at Tyre and at Gaza he overcame the most stub 
born resistance of his feudatories and lieutenants ; at Persepolis 
he entered into undisputed possession of his home and treasure. 
We must confess that we cannot enter into Mr. Grote s con 
ception of the siege of Tyre.* He seems to look on it, laying 
aside moral considerations, as a mere foolhardy enterprise, 

* Vol. xii. p. 182. 



V.] ALEXANDER THE GREAT. 197 

a simple waste of time which, from Alexander s own point 
of view, might have been better employed. Sympathy may 
be enlisted on the side of the Tyrians on many grounds. 
In the narrative of any siege our feelings almost unavoidably 
side with the beleaguered party. Whatever may be the right 
or wrong of the original quarrel, the besiegers are, then and 
there, the aggressors and the besieged are the defenders, 
and the besieged too are commonly the weaker party. The 
Tyrians again, from their former history, their commercial 
greatness, their comparative political freedom, have a claim 
on our sympathy far beyond the ordinary subjects of Persia. 
They were fully justified in braving every extremity on behalf 
of their allegiance to the Persian King. They were more 
than justified in braving every extremity in behalf of 
their independence of Persian and Macedonian alike. Nor 
should we be very hard upon them, if they first of all sub 
mitted to the invader, and then repented, drew back, with 
stood him to the death. But we must look at the matter from 
Alexander s point of view also. The question of abstract 
justice must of course apply to the war as a whole, not to 
each particular stage of its operations. If Alexander was 
to conquer Persia, he must conquer Tyre. Tyre offered her 
submission without waiting to be attacked ; she acknowledged 
Alexander as her sovereign, and promised obedience to all his 
commands.* His first command was an announcement, 
conveyed in highly complimentary language, of his wish to 
enter the city, and to offer sacrifice in the great temple of 
Herakles. The request was doubtless half religious, half 
political. Alexander would be sincerely anxious to visit and 
to honour so renowned a shrine of his own supposed forefather. 
But he would be also glad to avail himself of so honourable 
a pretext for trying the fidelity of his new subjects. We 
really cannot see that this was, as Mr. Grote calls it, an 
extreme demand ; and, in any case, the Tyrians had promised 
to comply with all his demands, extreme or otherwise. When 

* Arrian, ii. 15. 



198 ALEXANDER THE GREAT. [ESSAY 

the demand was refused, it was utterly impossible to leave 
the refusal unpunished. So to have done would at once have 
broken the charm of success, and would have made the con 
quest of Western Asia imperfect. Had Tyre, with her power 
ful fleet, been left to defy Alexander unchastised, anti-Mace 
donian movements might have been always set on foot in 
Greece and Asia Minor. Nor could he leave Tyre, like the 
Halikarnassian citadel, to be blockaded by a mere division 
of his army. The work called, as the event proved, for 
his own presence and his whole force. This famous siege had 
undoubtedly the unhappy result of degrading and crushing 
one of the most ancient, spirited, wealthy, and intelligent 
communities of the ancient world; but that community most 
undoubtedly brought its destruction upon itself, and we cer 
tainly cannot admit that its conquest was politically unprofit 
able to the conqueror. 

Now how did Alexander treat his conquest? Tyre, after 
a noble resistance, was taken by storm. The Macedonians, 
according to Arrian, * were kindled to extreme wrath be 
cause the Tynans had habitually killed their prisoners before 
the eyes of their comrades, and had thrown their bodies 
into the sea. The mere slaughter of the prisoners was no 
breach of the Greek laws of war, though it would doubtless 
be felt as a special call to vengeance. But the mockery and 
the denial of burial were direct sins against all Greek religious 
notions. We therefore cannot be surprised that the successful 
assault of the city was followed by a merciless slaughter. 
Such would most likely have been the case with the most 
civilized armies of modern times. But did Alexander add to 
these horrors in cold blood ? Arrian tells us that he spared 
all who took refuge in the temple of Herakles who happened 
to be the King and the principal magistrates and that he 
sold the rest as slaves, the common doom of prisoners in 
ancient warfare. According to Diodoros and Curtius, a 
certain number of the captives were hanged or crucified by 



11. 24. 



V.] ALEXANDER THE GREAT. 199 

Alexander s order.* Mr. Grote accepts this tale. "We see no 
ground to believe it. It is, to our mind, an instance of the 
mere love of horrors, which, as in other cases, shows itself in 
the invention of additional crimes on both sides. Curtius, 
who speaks of Alexander as crucifying Tyrian prisoners, also 
speaks of the Tyrians as murdering 1 Macedonian heralds, f 
Arrian records neither atrocity ; and we believe neither. 
Mr. Grote accepts the charge against Alexander and rejects 
the charge against his enemies, 

The like, as seems to us, is the state of the case with regard 
to the atrocity laid to the charge of Alexander after his second 
great siege, that of Gaza. Mr. Grote here brings up again 
a tale which, as far as we are aware, has found acceptance 
with no other modern writer, and which Bishop Thirlwall 
passes by with the scorn of silence. Mr. Grote would have us 
believe that Alexander, after the capture of Gaza, caused its 
brave defender, the eunuch Batis, to be dragged to death 
at his chariot-wheels, in imitation of the treatment of Hektor s 
dead body by Achilleus. Thfe tale comes from Curtius ; he 
most likely got it from Hegesias, who is quoted by Dionysios 
of Halikarnassos in one of his critical treatises .% Arrian, 
Plutarch, and Diodoros are alike ignorant of the story. The 
passage from Hegesias is quoted by Dionysios, without any 
historical object, as an instance of bad rhythm and bad taste. 
Mr. Grote truly says that f the bad taste of Hegesias as a 
writer does not diminish his credibility as a witness. But his 
credibility as a witness is not a little diminished by the general 

* Diod. xvii. 46. 6 Se fiaatXfvs Tftcva plv not yvvaT/fas (r)vdpairo5iaa.To, 
TOVS Se vfovs ti.Tra.VTas ovras ovrc kKarrovs T&V 5ia^i\io:v, (Kp/j.affe. 

Curtius iv. 4. Triste deinde spectaculum victoribus ira praebuit Regis. 
Duo millia, in quibus occidendi defecerat rabies, crucibus affixi per ingeiis 
littoris spatium pependerunt. 

Mr. Grote, here and elsewhere, translates ffcpe/jtafff, hanged, Bishop Thirl 
wall, crucified. It need not imply the latter, and, between Diod6ros and 
Curtius, a tale of hanging might easily grow into a tale of crucifixion. 
Similarly Plutarch has, in one place (Alex. 72) avfaraiptaffe, where Arrian 
(vii. 14) has crepe paae. 

t iv. 2. 

J Vol. v. p. 125, ed. Eeiske. 



200 ALEXANDER THE GREAT. [ESSAY 

witness of antiquity against him on more important points. * 
The tale seems to us utterly incredible. Mr. Grote allows that 
it stands out in respect of barbarity from all that we read 
respecting the treatment of conquered towns in antiquity. 
Curtius acknowledges that it is repugnant to the usual 
character of Alexander, f We might add that Alexander, 
if he wished to copy Achilleus, could hardly have forgotten 
that Hektor was dead, while Batis was living, and moreover 
he would hardly have copied Achilleus in an action which 
Homer expressly condemns. J But Mr. Grote should surely 
not have left out the fact that those who attribute this 
cruelty to Alexander speak of it as an act of revenge for 
a treacherous attempt which had been made upon Alexander 
on the part of Batis. Both Hegesias and Curtius tell us 
that an Arab of the garrison,, in the guise of a suppliant or 
deserter, obtained admission to Alexander, that he attempted 
to kill him, and was himself killed by the King. The tale 
reminds one of the stories, true or false, of the fate of the Seljuk 
Sultan Togrel Beg and of the tHtoman Amurath the First. || 
Mr. Grote leaves out all mention of it, the only instance in 
which we have found him fail to put forth the whole evidence 
against his own view. To us the whole story, in both its 
parts, seems to be merely another instance of the way in 
which the love of marvels and horrors triumphed over simple 
truth. Imaginary crimes are heaped, certainly with praise 
worthy impartiality, alike upon Alexander and upon his 
enemies. 

And now as to Persepolis. We have already shown that 
we agree with Mr. Grote in believing that the destruction 
of the Persepolitan palace was Alexander s deliberate act. 
We have no doubt that the tale of Thais at the banquet is 

* See Smith s Diet, of Biog., art. Hegesias. 

t Alias virtutis etiam in hoste mirator. 

J II. xxii. 395. 77 pa, Kal"EKTOpa 8iov defect fj.r)8tTO Zpya. 

Hegesias clearly implies this. The words p.iarjaas (f> ols (fit(3ov\evTO must 
refer, not to the general resistance, but to the special attempt against Alex 
ander s life. 

H [And of the story of the death of Stesagoras in Herodotus, vi. 38.] 



V.] ALEXANDER THE GREAT. 201 

a mere romantic invention. Arrian indeed* blames^ the act 
of destruction, because it could be no punishment to the real 
offenders, the Persians of a century and a half earlier. This 
is rather an objection to the whole war than to this particular 
action. No doubt to Alexander the destruction of the palace 
seemed a high symbolic rite, setting forth Grecian victory 
and barbarian overthrow. The deed was done against the 
remonstrance of Parmenion, who argued that it did not be 
come Alexander to destroy what was his own, and that so 
to do would lead the Asiatics to look on him as a mere passing 
devastator, and not as a permanent sovereign. To Alexander 
such arguments would doubtless sound like the suggestions of 
base avarice to stay the hand of vengeance. Nor do we see, 
with Bishop Thirlwall, f that this view is at all inconsistent 
with the fact that he repented of the deed in after times. 
The destruction was the act of the Captain-general of Greece ; 
the repentance was the sentiment of the King of Asia. When 
the deed was done, he did not yet feel that the home of the 
Barbarian was his own. With altered circumstances and 
altered feelings, he might well look back with regret on the 
ruin of one of the choicest ornaments of his empire. 

Mr. Grote J indeed would add to this symbolic and im 
posing manifestation of vengeance an act of quite another 
kind, namely, a general massacre of the male inhabitants 
of Persepolis, done, if not at Alexander s bidding, at least 
with his approval. In his version, in short, a city which 
seems to have made no resistance is described as undergoing 
the worst fate of a city taken by storm. This version he takes 
from Curtius and Diodoros, || on whose accounts, we think, 
he somewhat improves. For neither author directly says 
that Alexander ordered the massacre, while Curtius does say 
that he stopped it in the end. Arrian says nothing about 

* iii. 1 8. 

t Vol. vi. p. 287. He Argues again that this deliberate destruction is 
inconsistent with the reverence shown by Alexander to the tomb of Cyrus. 
But Cyrus was guiltless of Marathon and Salamis, while the buildings at 
Persepolis were actually the works of Darius and Xerxes. 

Vol. xii. p. 239. v. 6. 3-7. H xvii. 70, 71. 



202 ALEXANDER THE GREAT. [ESSAY 

the whole story, nor yet, in our judgement, does Plutarch. 
Mr. Grote refers indeed to a letter of Alexander s quoted by 
Plutarch, in which the King- speaks of a slaughter as having 
taken place by his order on grounds of state policy. But 
this reference occurs in a most confused and incoherent 
passage, in which Plutarch jumbles together the passage 
of the Persian Gates and the seizure of the Persepolitan 
treasure. Of neither event does he give any geographical 
description more exact than is implied in the words Persia 
and Persians. We have no doubt that the slaughter 
referred to by Plutarch means the slaughter at the Persian 
Gates. * There Alexander met with a most desperate resist 
ance. To bid his soldiers to refuse quarter, horrible as it 
seems to us, would be nowise repugnant to Greek laws of 
war. A slaughter there might very likely be profitable to 
him (avT& Auo-ireAetj>) as tending to strike fear into others 
who might otherwise have thought of resistance. But no 
such motive of policy could apply to the massacre of an 

* [The whole passage runs thus. Plut. Alex. 37. Irjs 8e UepaiSos ovarjs Sid 
TpaxvTr)Ta 8ucre/x/3oA.ou nal (pv\aTTO(j,tvr)s vno ytvvaiordrcav Tlfpcruv (AaptTos fjitv 
yap ir<pevyei) yiyverai TWOS nfpioSov KVK\OV k\ovarjs ov TTO\VV ^ye/jiobv avru 
SiyXcuffffos dvOpojnos eft irarpbs AVKIOV, fir^rpos 8 Tlfpaidos ytyovws ov (f>ao~iv, ert 
TratSos OVTOS A\^dvSpov, TJ)V TlvOiav -npoenreiv, ws \VKOS tcrrai ffaOrjyepwv A.\e- 
avSpca rfjs km Tlipaas iropdas. &ovov p.lv ovv kvravOa iroXvv T&V aXiGKOpevuv 
ytveaOcu avvtireaf ypcupei yap avr&s, &s vop,ifav avrqi TOVTO \vaiTf\ew (Ke\evev 
airoGfycLTTtaQai rovs avOpw-rrovs vo pi ff paras 8 evpeiv ir\f)0os oaov ev ^ovffois, TTJV 
8 d\\rjv KaraaKfvrjv KOI rov irXovrov ^KKo^iaOrjvai (pyffi fj.vpioi.s vpinols fvyeai. Kal 



It seems impossible to believe that this can refer to anything except the 
slaughter at the Persian Gates, which is described by Arrian (iii. 18) in the 
earlier part of the same chapter in which he describes the destruction of the 
palace at Persepolis. But it is clear from Arrian, as indeed the geography 
proves, that the two things were wholly distinct, and he has not a word to make 
us fancy that the destruction of the palace was accompanied by any slaughter. 
Curtius (v. 2), describes the slaughter at the Gates as well as the supposed 
slaughter at Persepolis. But between the two he brings in a moving story of the 
Macedonian army being met by four thousand Greek captives who had been 
mutilated in various ways by the Persians. Justin and Diodoros tell the same 
story, but cut the number down to eighty. If we accept this, we get, as in the 
cases of Tyre and Gaza, a special motive for the alleged cruelty done at 
Persepolis. But the whole story of these inferior writers seems to me to be not 
a little doubtful. Arrian alone gives us a clear and probable narrative.] 



V.] ALEXANDER THE GREAT. 203 

unarmed people. Such a deed would be fully open to the 
objection urged by Parmenion ; it would not strike terror, but 
horror ; if submission earned no better fate than resistance, 
all men would choose the bolder alternative. A massacre at 
Persepolis could only have been allowed, as Mr. Grote seems 
to imply, under the influence of some perverted and horrible 
form of the same feeling which prompted the destruction of 
the palace. But this feeling was something quite different 
from state policy ; it was even, as Parmenion very soundly 
argued, quite repugnant to it. In fact Mr. Grote this time 
treats his authorities rather loosely. Diodoros and Curtius 
speak of the massacre ; they also speak of the destruction of 
the palace as a drunken freak suggested by Thais. Arrian 
says nothing of the massacre, and speaks of the destruction 
of the palace as deliberate. Mr. Grote takes something from 
each narrative to work up, together with some touches of his 
own, into a picture of savage and cold-blooded ferocity on the 
part of Alexander which is not to be found in either. We 
follow Arrian ; but the other story may well be, as is so often 
the case, the exaggeration or distortion of something which 
really happened. The destruction of the palace may have 
been accompanied by a licence to plunder ; still more probably 
would it be seized on as an occasion for unlicensed plunder. 
In such a scene of confusion, some lives might easily be 
lost ; and this would be quite groundwork enough for rhe 
torical historians to work up into the moving picture which 
we find in Curtius and Diodoros.* 

* We have already referred to another horrible tale, which Mr. Grote 
accepts (vol. xii. p. 275), but on which Bishop Thirl wall is silent, namely, the 
massacre of the Branchidai in Sogdiana. On this we will remark thus 
much : 

First, that the second of the passages from Strabo which Mr. Grote 
quotes does not imply a massacre. Strabo merely says, TO rtav Epa-yx i ^ v 
affrv dve\Tv. 

Secondly, that in the third passage the grounds of Alexander s supposed 
special devotion to the oracle of Branchidai are introduced by Strabo with 
great contempt : irpoarpaycadfi 5e TOVTOIS o KaAAtcrfltV^s, K.r.X. 

Thirdly, that the whole story of the Sogdian Branchidai and their origin 
is very difficult to reconcile with the narrative of Herodotus. The tale in 
Strabo and Suidas reads very like a perversion of that in Herodotus vi. 20. 



204 ALEXANDER THE GREAT. [ESSAY 

Perhaps, as we have already hinted, Alexander would have 
better consulted his own truest glory and the lasting benefit of 
mankind, had he kept himself to Tyre and Gaza, and had he 
never entered Persepolis at all. His strictly Hellenic mission 
called him to the conquest of those lands only which his suc 
cessors, Macedonian, Roman, and Byzantine, proved in the 
end able to keep. But it was not in human nature to stop 
in such a career. Had he turned back when Parmenion 
counselled him, he must needs have been, as Eastern writers 
paint him, not only Iskender the Conqueror, but Iskender 
the Prophet. And a prophet perchance, in an indirect and 
unwitting way, he really was. As the pioneer of Hellenic 
cultivation, he became in the end the pioneer of Christianity. 
He paved the way for the intellectual empire of the Greek and 
for the political empire of the Roman.* And it was the extent 
of that empire, intellectual and political, which has marked 
the lasting extent of the religion of Christ. As the champion 
of the West against the East, Alexander foreshadowed the 
later championship of the Cross against the Crescent. He 
pointed dimly to a day when the tongue which he spoke and 
the system which he founded should become the badge and 
bulwark of a creed which to him would have seemed the most 
alien to all his schemes and all his claims. That creed first 
arose in a land where his name was cherished; it received 
its formal title in the greatest city of his successors ; it allied 
itself with the intellectual life of that yet more famous city 
which still hands down to us his name. Jerusalem, f Antioch, 

* Nowhere has fuller justice been done to the effects of Alexander s con 
quests than in the opening chapter of Mr. Finlay s Greece under the Romans. 
The two great historians, of Greece independent and Greece enslaved, are 
here well contrasted. The historian of the Athenian Democracy curses the 
Macedonian as a destroyer; to the historian of the Byzantine Empire he 
seems entitled to the honours of a founder. 

t It is not needful for our purpose to go into the famous details of Alex 
ander s supposed visit to Jerusalem. But, if the tale, as it stands, be a fable, 
it at least points to favours bestowed by Alexander upon the Jews and to 
gratitude felt by the Jews towards Alexander. Cyrus and Alexander, the 
Persian and the Macedonian founder, fill a place in Jewish history most unlike 
that of most heathen rulers. 



V.] ALEXANDER THE GREAT. 205 

Alexandria, all revered the Macedonian conqueror as in some 
sort their founder or benefactor. The son of Ammon, the 
worshipper of Belus, made ready the path for a faith which 
should overthrow the idols of Egypt and Assyria. The 
heroes of a later age, who bore up against the Fire- worshipper 
and the Moslem, did but tread in his steps and follow out the 
career which he had opened. If he overthrew the liberties of 
Hellas in their native seat, he gave to the Hellenic mind a 
wider scope, and in the end a yet nobler mission. He was the 
forerunner of Heraclius bringing home the True Cross from 
its Persian bondage, of Leo beating back the triumphant 
Saracen from the walls of the city which Philip himself had 
besieged in vain. The victories of Christian Emperors, the 
teaching of Christian Fathers, the abiding life of the tongue 
and arts of Greece far beyond the limits of old Hellas, per 
haps the endurance of Greek nationality down to our own 
times, all sprang from the triumphs of this, it may be, non- 
Hellenic conqueror, but, in the work which he wrought, most 
truly Hellenic missionary. And though we may not give him 
in his own person the praise of results which neither he nor 
any mortal could have looked for, let us at least do justice to 
the great and noble qualities, the wide and enlightened aims, 
which marked his short career on earth. Many faults, and a 
few crimes, indeed stain his glory ; but perhaps none of 
mortal birth ever went through such an ordeal. It would 
indeed have been a moral miracle if a fiery and impulsive 
youth had passed quite unscathed through such temptations 
as had never beset mortal man before. A youth, a Greek, a 
warrior, a King, he would have been more than man, had he 
looked down quite undazzled from the giddy height of what 
he might well deem more than human greatness. The fame 
of even the noblest of conquerors must yield to that of the 
peaceful benefactors of mankind, or of the warriors whose 
victories do but secure the liberties of nations. We do not 
place Alexander beside Leonidas or Washington, beside JElfred 
or William the Silent. But we do protest against a view 
which places him in the same class with Attila and Jenghiz 



206 ALEXANDER THE GREAT. 

and Timour. Their warfare was havoc for its own sake ; his 
was conquest which went hand in hand with discovery and 
improvement. Theirs was a wild beast s thirst of blood, a 
barbarian s lust of mere dominion; his was an ambition 
which almost grew into one with the highest of which man is 
capable, the desire of knowledge and the love of good. J 
Such is the judgement of one who yields to none in the extent 
of his research, and who, if he may yield to some of his 
rivals in the brilliancy of original discovery, yet surpasses 
all in those calm and judicial faculties, without which re 
search and brilliancy are vain. By the judgement of that 
great historian we still abide. Not the petty malignity of 
Niebuhr, not the weighty accusations of Grote, can avail to 
tear away the diadem of unfading glory which the gratitude 
of ages has fixed for ever on the brow of Alexander, the 
son of Philip, the Macedonian.* 

* Thirl wall, vol. ii. p. 119. 



VI. 

GREECE DURING THE MACEDONIAN PERIOD. * 

Lectures on Ancient History , from the Earliest Times to the 
Taking of Alexandria by Octavianus ; comprising the History 
of the Asiatic Nations, the Egyptians, Greeks, Macedonians, 
and Carthaginians. By B. G. NIEBUHR. Translated from 
the German edition of Dr. Marcus Niebuhr, by Dr. LEON- 
HARD SCHMITZ, &c. &c. London, 1852. 

THERE is perhaps no part of the history of the civilized 
world which has of late years, in this country at least, re 
ceived a degree of attention less proportioned to its import 
ance than the later or Macedonian sera of Greece, under which 
name we must take in the contemporary history of those 
more distant lands which then became part of the Grecian 
world. True it is that this period is forced upon our notice 
from our earliest years ; none is richer in that literature of anec 
dotes of which the Lives of Plutarch form the great store 
house ; stories of Alexander and Pyrrhos rush naturally to the 
mind of the school-boy to furnish illustrations for his theme 
on the dangerous consequences of drunkenness or the need 
of bridling a hasty temper. But this precocious and super- 

* [I have preserved this Essay, or at least some parts of it which seemed 
worth preserving, because it was in some sort the germ of the first volume 
as yet, but I trust not for many years longer, the only volume of my His 
tory of Federal Government. I have struck out a good deal, and I have trans 
ferred some passages to other Essays, where, in the present arrangement of 
the collection, they seemed more in place. But I have left my general sketch 
of Macedonian and Achaian affairs as a kind of introduction to the great subject 
with part of which I have already dealt, and which I hope one day to take up 
again.] 



208 GREECE DURING THE [ESSAY 

ficial knowledge seldom forms the groundwork of any after 
knowledge of a more solid kind. Philip and his son are 
household words in every mouth ; but we suspect that they 
often fare like those standard works in every language, of 
which it is caustically said, that they are quoted by everybody 
but read by none. Of the Successors/ to give them their 
old technical name, men commonly have the vaguest notions; 
we suspect that not a few fair classical scholars would be sore 
put to if called on to draw any minute distinction between 
Demetrios Poliorketes and Demetrios Phalereus. We suspect 
that there are plenty of learned persons who know the exact 
number of courses in the walls of Plataia, and who can accu 
rately describe every evolution of Phormion s fleet, who still 
have nothing but their school-boy recollections of the Anabasis 
to remind them that deeds of no small note were done both 
among Greeks and Barbarians, at a later time than a certain 
sacrifice with which Tissaphernes honoured the Ephesian Ar 
temis. The orators may perhaps carry on a few to behold 
the death-struggle of Athens ; but that death-struggle is too 
often hastily assumed to have been that of Greece also. At 
all events, when Thucydides, Xenophon, and Demosthenes 
have all failed us, none but the professed historian can be 
called on to wade through a period where he has to pick his 
way at every step amid the careless blunders of Plutarch and 
the impenetrable stupidity of Diodoros, where constant refer 
ences have to be made to the scandalous gossip of Athenaios 
and the antiquarian twaddle of Pausanias, and where the very 
purest and most familiar atmosphere that we are allowed to 
breathe consists of the scattered fragments of Polybios and of 
those out-of-the-way decades of Livy which nobody ever 
thinks of reading. 

There is doubtless force in all this; it at least shows 
that this period cannot be so easily made a subject of 
minute academical study as the history of the Persian and 
Peloponnesian Wars.* Had we the whole work of Polybios, 

* [That is to say, Polybios could hardly be taken up as a book, as Thucy- 
dides is ; but the part of Grecian history with which we are concerned might 



VI.] MACEDONIAN PERIOD. 209 

the case would be widely different. It is sad indeed when, 
at some critical point of warfare or negotiation, the too familiar 
break in the text warns us that we have to fill up the gaps of 
the historian and the statesman with the double-filtered talk 
of moralists, topographers, and anecdote-mongers. But it is 
something to have even such fragments as we still have of 
such a work as that of Poly bios is still. To him, through a 
happy though mournful fate which befell no other historian, 
the old local politics of Greece and the wide-spreading diplo 
macy of the Eternal City were alike living and familiar things. 
His lot was cast, now among party feuds in Bceotia and 
Arkadia and border warfare of Messene and Megalopolis, 
now among those scenes of vast intrigue and conquest which, 
to a vulgar mind, might have made the events of his youth 
seem but combats of the kites and crows. He who had borne 
the urn of the last of Hellenic heroes the last who had 
organized a Grecian commonwealth for war and peace, the 
last who had fought, Greek against Greek, at no Macedonian 
or Roman bidding lived to stand beside the conqueror of 
mighty Carthage, when he wept over the predestined fate of 
Rome amid the ashes of her proudest rival.* 

While then our great authority has come down to us only in a 
patched and fragmentary state, it is no wonder that the want 
of a text-book is enough to frighten away those who are used 
to such guidance as that of Herodotus and Thucydides from 
venturing themselves among the shoals and quicksands of so 
dangerous a coast. And, besides this, we must allow that the 
history itself is, in many respects, far from an attractive one. 
We are working among the dregs of a nation, the vigour of 
whose political and literary life has for ever passed away. 
Conscious speculation on the science of commonwealths and 



well be taken up as a subject or period. I am glad to see it recommended for 
this purpose in Mr. A. W. Ward s suggestions for the reform of the History 
Tripos at Cambridge.] 

* [On the position of Poly bios see History of Federal Government, i. 228. 
I also found something to say about him in my Rede Lecture on the Unity of 
History.] 



210 GREECE DURING THE [ESSAY 

kingdoms has taken the place of the inborn and experimental 
wisdom of Themistokles and Perikles. The grammarian and 
the imitative poet strive, at a still wider distance, to make np 
for those glorious days of Homer or of j^Eschylus which are 
gone from us for ever. It is a shock to old and high asso 
ciations when, in the heading or the index, we see the death 
less names of Thermopylai and Sal amis attached to unfamiliar 
and comparatively ignoble conflicts. The city of Teukros and 
Evagoras so keenly suggests the memory of its more famous 
parent,* that one is grieved to find that so glorious a name 
now recalls only the selfish warfare of Macedonian robbers. 
The very spot where Leonidas had fallen beholds indeed 
Europe revenge its old wrongs upon the rival continent, but 
our sympathies are well nigh called forth for the fallen despot, 
when it is not the patriot fervour of old Greece, but the cold 
and selfish ambition of the masters of the world before which 
the pride of Eastern tyrants has now to bend. 

In short, there is quite enough to account for, though we 
cannot bring ourselves to think that there is enough to justify, 
the neglect into which this part of history has commonly 
fallen. We have always looked upon the period from the 
second battle of Mantineia to the reduction of Macedonia 
and Achaia into Roman provinces f as by no means lacking 
either in interest to the reader or in value to the general 
historian of Greece and of the world. The rise of the Mace 
donian state under its two great princes, the spread of Hel 
lenism in Asia through the conquests of Alexander, the great 
political phenomenon of the Achaian League, even the mo 
mentary glory of Young Sparta under the last Kleomenes, 
are surely events of a kind at once highly important and 
highly interesting. They are less important and less in- 

* We may here reverse the words of ^Eschylus 

.... "2,a\afjLtv6, re, rds vvv f*aTp6iroXis TV$ 
alria arfvay^uv. Pers. 864. 

^ [By the reduction of Macedonia and Achaia into Roman provinces, I 
doubtless meant what happened in B.C. 146. But, though Achaian liberty 
came practically to an end at that time, Achaia did not formally become a 
Roman province till long after. See History of Federal Government, i. 75-] 



VI.] MACEDONIAN PERIOD. 211 

teresting, we fully grant, than the old days of Marathon and 
Thermopylae, of Arginousai and Aigospotamos, but they are 
still very far from deserving to be wholly passed by in a 
historical survey either of Greece or of the world at large. 

We were therefore naturally well pleased to find thorough 
sympathy with these feelings set forth by no less an authority 
than Niebuhr, and the more so as Mr. Grote seemed to have 
fallen into the common error of undervaluing this period. 
Niebuhr, on the other hand, we are told, had made these 
times the object of more careful study than any other part 
of ancient history, and in his great course of professorial 
lectures by far the most elaborate and valuable part is 
given to its examination, while the lecturer himself several 
times directly sets forth his opinion that this period had 
been in general unduly neglected. 

The time with which we have now to do naturally divides 
itself into two great periods the age of Philip and Alex 
ander and their immediate Successors ; and that of the Achaian 
League and the Antigonid dynasty. 

The first period takes in the organization of Macedonia 
under Philip, first as a Greek state, and then as the ruling 
Greek state, the wonderful career of Alexander, and the endless 
wars among his immediate Successors till the kingdoms which 
they founded were brought into something like a settled order. 
Now, except the romantic tales of Alexander s own conquests, 
there is but little in this period to please, and in its last 
stage there is, at first sight, little to interest. The reign of 
Philip was a triumph of slavery over freedom, and it wrought 
the degradation of the city to which every real student of 
history, every real lover of literature and art, must for ever 
look as the most sacred shrine of his intellectual pilgrimage. 
Again, the last stage, the wars of the Successors, loses the 
interest which attaches to the glorious struggle of Demo 
sthenes, and sinks, at first sight, into little beyond a mere 
record of crimes. 

While the narrative of this period by Bishop Thirlwall is 



210 GREECE DURING THE [ESSAY 

kingdoms has taken the place of the inborn and experimental 
wisdom of Themistokles and Perikles. The grammarian and 
the imitative poet strive, at a still wider distance, to make up 
for those glorious days of Homer or of ^Eschylus which are 
gone from us for ever. It is a shock to old and high asso 
ciations when, in the heading or the index, we see the death 
less names of Thermopylai and Sal amis attached to unfamiliar 
and comparatively ignoble conflicts. The city of Teukros and 
Evagoras so keenly suggests the memory of its more famous 
parent,* that one is grieved to find that so glorious a name 
now recalls only the selfish warfare of Macedonian robbers. 
The very spot where Leonidas had fallen beholds indeed 
Europe revenge its old wrongs upon the rival continent, but 
our sympathies are well nigh called forth for the fallen despot, 
when it is not the patriot fervour of old Greece, but the cold 
and selfish ambition of the masters of the world before which 
the pride of Eastern tyrants has now to bend. 

In short, there is quite enough to account for, though we 
cannot bring ourselves to think that there is enough to justify, 
the neglect into which this part of history has commonly 
fallen. We have always looked upon the period from the 
second battle of Mantineia to the reduction of Macedonia 
and Achaia into Roman provinces f as by no means lacking 
either in interest to the reader or in value to the general 
historian of Greece and of the world. The rise of the Mace 
donian state under its two great princes, the spread of Hel 
lenism in Asia through the conquests of Alexander, the great 
political phenomenon of the Achaian League, even the mo 
mentary glory of Young Sparta under the last Kleomenes, 
are surely events of a kind at once highly important and 
highly interesting. They are less important and less in- 



* We may here reverse the words 

.... 2,a\afuva re, ras vvv fMTp6no\is TUV& 
air la ffTfvayfj.wi . Pers. 864. 

^ [By the reduction of Macedonia and Achaia into Roman provinces, I 
doubtless meant what happened in B.C. 146. But, though Achaian liberty 
came practically to an end at that time, Achaia did not formally become a 
Roman province till long after. See History of Federal Government, i. 75-l 



VI.] MACEDONIAN PERIOD. 211 

foresting 1 , we fully grant, than the old days of Marathon and 
Thermopylai, of Arginousai and Aigospotamos, but they are 
still very far from deserving to be wholly passed by in a 
historical survey either of Greece or of the world at large. 

We were therefore naturally well pleased to find thorough 
sympathy with these feelings set forth by no less an authority 
than Niebuhr, and the more so as Mr. Grote seemed to have 
fallen into the common error of undervaluing this period. 
Niebuhr, on the other hand, we are told, had made these 
times the object of more careful study than any other part 
of ancient history, and in his great course of professorial 
lectures by far the most elaborate and valuable part is 
given to its examination, while the lecturer himself several 
times directly sets forth his opinion that this period had 
been in general unduly neglected. 

The time with which we have now to do naturally divides 
itself into two great periods the age of Philip and Alex 
ander and their immediate Successors ; and that of the Achaian 
League and the Antigonid dynasty. 

The first period takes in the organization of Macedonia 
under Philip, first as a Greek state, and then as the ruling 
Greek state, the wonderful career of Alexander, and the endless 
wars among his immediate Successors till the kingdoms which 
they founded were brought into something like a settled order. 
Now, except the romantic tales of Alexander s own conquests, 
there is but little in this period to please, and in its last 
stage there is, at first sight, little to interest. The reign of 
Philip was a triumph of slavery over freedom, and it wrought 
the degradation of the city to which every real student of 
history, every real lover of literature and art, must for ever 
look as the most sacred shrine of his intellectual pilgrimage. 
Again, the last stage, the wars of the Successors, loses the 
interest which attaches to the glorious struggle of Demo 
sthenes, and sinks, at first sight, into little beyond a mere 
record of crimes. 

While the narrative of this period by Bishop Thirlwall is 



212 GREECE DURING THE [ESSAY 

by far the greatest portion of his great work, the way in 
which Niebuhr has treated it is one which we cannot but call 
altogether unworthy both of his intellectual and moral nature. 
We may believe that this defect was chiefly owing to the pe 
culiar form of lectures, and that in a History of Greece, answer 
ing to his greatest work, he would have written in quite 
another way. Lectures delivered extempore, and printed, 
without the author s revision, from notes taken by the pupils 
who heard them, are something which must be measured by 
quite a different standard from an elaborate work written in 
the writer s study, with every means for reference and second 
thoughts. It would be vain to look in these volumes for entire 
freedom from slips and contradictions, but it would be unfair, 
under such circumstances, to make them the subject of un 
favourable criticism. It shows in fact the wonderful range of 
Niebuhr s knowledge, and his still more wonderful power of 
applying his knowledge without external help, that the amount 
of errors or inconsistencies which his editor has pointed out, 
or which we have found out for ourselves, does not greatly 
exceed in number or importance the allowance which would 
be fairly pardonable in a work of the same bulk written or 
dictated at the author s fireside. The lectures also, in their 
present form, have a peculiar value, as shewing us the workings 
of Niebuhr s mind, and the manner in which his opinions were 
worked out. There are many passages in which it is clear, not 
only that the lecturer spoke extempore, but that the thoughts 
themselves came into the speaker s mind while he was in the 
act of speaking. Of course such illustrations or conjectures do 
not carry with them the weight of Niebuhr s mature judge 
ment, but they are specially valuable as illustrating Niebuhr s 
own self. Again, in his History Niebuhr appears as far more 
happy in what he thought than in his way of telling us 
why he thought it. Many of his views need only to be 
stated in order at once to carry conviction with them,* but 

* [When I wrote this, I could hardly have thrown off that idolatry of 
Niebuhr which was the natural result of the Oxford training of thirty years 
back ; not that the idol of the present moment is any improvement.] 



VI.] MACEDONIAN PERIOD. 213 

the reader s confidence is anything but increased by toiling 
through the maze of argument in which theorem and de 
monstration are confused together. In the Lectures, on the 
other hand, all is clear and straightforward ; results are given 
and little more, which is just what we want. It is enough to 
be told Niebuhr s opinion ; the grounds of it, for the most 
part, any other man could explain better than himself. 

But, on the other hand, this mode of delivery has brought 
out certain characteristics which, while they greatly enhance 
the value of the work as an index of the author s mind, 
certainly lessen its trustworthiness as an historical guide. 
This is specially the case in the period with which we are 
now dealing. Niebuhr was a man of ardent and indeed 
hasty feelings ; his love and his enmity were strongly felt 
and strongly expressed, and he had a wonderful power of 
throwing himself into the feelings of past ages, and of look 
ing on the men of two thousand years back in the light of 
living friends and foes. Now all these qualities, as could 
not fail to be the case, appear in these lectures in their most 
exaggerated form. In throwing himself into the cause of 
right and freedom Niebuhr failed to do justice to those 
whom circumstances made its enemies. In his admiration 
of the high, heroic, unselfish, virtue of Demosthenes, he 
sometimes forgot that language which was natural in the 
mouth of the orator in the Pnyx was no longer becoming 
when it fell from the mouth of the Professor in his lecture- 
room at Bonn. The business of Demosthenes was to call on 
his hearers to arm against Philip or Alexander ; the business 
of Niebuhr was calmly and judicially to set before his hearers 
the right and wrong of the cause in which those mighty men 
were the actors. The first aspect of Niebuhr s treatment of 
this period is that of simple unscrupulous malignity towards 
everything bearing the Macedonian name. The two great 
Kings are reviled to an extent which might have wearied the 
willing ears of Demos himself; their crimes are exaggerated, 
their virtues depreciated, their motives distorted ; every piece 
of scandalous gossip is raked up against them on evidence 



214 GREECE DURING THE [ESSAY 

which Niebuhr himself is the first to cast aside when it 
tells against his own favourites. Now in all this we see 
no ground for charging Niebuhr with intentional disin- 
genuousness ; we fully believe that in the solitude of his 
closet he would have drawn his pen through most of the 
passages of which we complain ; he must certainly have been 
both a worse historian and a worse man than we have ever 
deemed him, if he could, in his calmer moments, have ven 
tured to brand Alexander as the murderer of his father, and 
to sully one of the most amiable features of his character 
with the foulest of imputations. We believe the case simply 
to be that Niebuhr had so thoroughly thrown himself into 
the position of Demosthenes and Hyperides, that he had 
become even less capable than they were of doing justice to 
their mightiest adversary. 

From Niebuhr we may turn to our own great historian of 
the same period. If Bishop Thirlwall is not so ardent as 
Niebuhr for Athens and Demosthenes, it is because it is neither 
his nature nor his principle to be so ardent about anything. 
But he shows with equal clearness where his sympathies lie, 
and which side he holds to be the side of truth and justice. 
Here and there a burst of indignant eloquence shows that his 
convictions are as deeply rooted as those of Niebuhr himself. 
But he never lowers himself to reviling or misrepresentation 
of the other side. On his showing, we see in Philip the very 
founder of intrigue and diplomacy, unscrupulous when his 
ends were to be served, but far from lacking generous feel 
ings, and never allowing himself to be hurried into an useless 
crime. It is 1 highly unfair to class men of this stamp with 
monsters like Ochus or Nero, Bufus or John, Gian-Maria 
Visconti or Galeazzo Sforza, who seem to have revelled in 
evil for its own sake. To raise his own country, to make 
Macedonia a Greek state and the first of Greek states, was 
surely no mean or paltry ambition, no worse surely than 
exploits which have attached lasting honour to the names of 
many Christian potentates. And Alexander, whom for two 
thousand years the world has rejoiced to reckon among the 



VI] MACEDONIAN PERIOD. 215 

first of its heroes, can never be changed into a mere monster 
of wickedness and weakness, even though the wand of the 
historical Kirke be grasped by the hand of Barthold 
Niebuhr. 

Between the years B.C. 280 and 270, we may place the boun 
dary which parts the two periods into which we have divided 
the later history of Greece. The storm of Macedonian conquest 
has passed by, and its results now begin to appear in the 
comparatively settled state of Grecian Europe ; that of Gre 
cian Asia, so far as it can be said to have ever been settled at 
all, may fairly date from the field of Issos. The deaths of 
Demetrios, Pyrrhos, Lysimachos, and Seleukos, the Gaulish 
invasion and the first great display of power on the part of 
the ^Etolians, the establishment of the Antigonid dynasty in 
Macedonia and the first beginnings of the Achaian League, 
all come within about twelve years of each other, a period of 
far smaller practical extent at that point of Grecian history 
than it was in either an earlier or a later generation. From 
this point Niebuhr s treatment of his subject wonderfully 
improves. He seems to have got over his abstract hatred 
of Macedonians ; he can see some merit in the later Anti- 
gonids, while his treatment of the affairs of the League is 
most just and valuable. It was evidently, as his editor tells 
us, a favourite period, which he dealt with thoroughly as a 
labour of love. And, when we look at the whole time under 
his guidance, we soon see how great a mistake it is to look 
on the whole period with the usual scorn. It is a time 
which sets before us the political fall of Greece, accompanied 
by an increased spread of Grecian influence over the world ; 
it shows to us the slow and sure advance of Rome, and how, 
in the meshes of her policy, the former masters of the civilized 
world were led down the gradual descent of alliance, depend 
ence, subjugation, and amalgamation. Surely every one who has 
traced Grecian history and literature through its earlier and 
more brilliant stages must feel some share of what Niebuhr 
calls a natural Pietas towards Greece, which is of itself 



216 GREECE DURING THE [ESSAY 

enough to make us wish to follow out its history to the 
end. Wretched indeed as was the last century and a half 
of Athenian existence,"* it is still the duty of those who 
have walked in the full blaze of its earlier day, at least 
to watch the glimmering light till it is wholly put out. 
And again, Athens is not Greece ; other states will give us 
real political and historical lessons down to the last moment. 

But while Greece itself is thus falling, Greeks are rising 
to the height of their intellectual sway in other lands. The 
spread of Hellenism in the East through the Macedonian 
conquests is in itself a phenomenon worthy of study, and 
it becomes of yet greater importance when we think of its 
bearing on the spread of Christianity, and its close con 
nexion with the Apocryphal, and even with the New Tes 
tament history. The Greek language became the badge at once 
of European civilization and of Orthodox Christianity ; Asia 
Minor was really hellenized ; Syria and Egypt had only a 
few great Hellenic cities scattered over them. Hence these 
latter countries first fell aside into heresies or national 
churches, and afterwards became an easy prey to Mahometan 
conquest. The thoroughly Greek provinces, on the other 
hand, withstood Monophysite and Nestorian, Saracen and 
Turk, for many ages longer. When Gibbon spoke of Antioch 
retaining ( her old allegiance to Christ and Caesar/ he doubt 
less meant a scoff, but he none the less set forth a great 
historical truth. 

Again, if the gradual advance of Roman power, and its 
still more gradual decline, contain, as in truth they do, the 
whole history of the civilized world, it is surely no uninstruc- 
tive task to trace the steps by which Rome gradually wound 
the toils of her crooked diplomacy around the fairest of her 
conquests. Bishop Thirlwall truly says that in such arts 
the Roman Senate surpassed every cabinet, ancient and 

* [Again I must have forgotten that Athens, still less than Achaia, did 
not formally come to an end in B.C. 146. It must be remembered that 
Hadrian was an Archon, and Constantine a General, of the Athenian De 
mocracy.] 



VI.] MACEDONIAN PERIOD. 217 

modern; and it was to them, more than to her pilum and 
broadsword, that Rome owed the reduction of Macedonia and 
Achaia into provinces of a city of which Demosthenes and 
Philip may have barely heard the name. And again, if we 
remember how the hellenized nations took up the name and 
position of Romans,, how they kept on the political life of 
the Roman Empire in a Megarian and a Milesian*" colony, for 
hundreds of years after the old Rome had forgotten her 
ancient mission, it can be no fruitless speculation to trace 
the steps by which the first impulse was given to so strange 
and lasting an union between the intellectual supremacy of 
Greece and the political eternity of Rome. 

And when we carry on our view beyond the limits of direct 
cause and effect, when we take in the wider field of analogy 
and historical parallelism, this period becomes clothed with 
yet deeper interest. The history of old Greece and the history 
of medieval Italy can never be thoroughly understood unless 
the two are constantly employed to illustrate one another, f 
And the fall of each country presents a picture, in which, 
though the likeness is certainly less strong than in the earlier 
periods, it is still marked enough to make it worth while to 
point out some of the chief features, both where the parallel 
clearly exists and where it must be allowed to fail. 

As Greece was the elder, the more native, in every sense 
the nobler, of the two great developements of republican splen 
dour, it seems only right that Greece should, even in her 
corruption and her fall, keep more of dignity than her me 
diaeval antitype. J 

* [Trapezous, which became, ages after, the seat of that Empire of Tre- 
bizond which outlived that of Constantinople, was a colony of Sinope*, and 
so a granddaughter of Miletos.] 

t [I have cut short this comparison, which I afterwards expanded into the 
First Essay in this Series. But I have left one or two points on which I 
said little or nothing there.] 

J [This may seem to contradict what I have said above in p. 30, but 
I do not think that it really does so. The point is that, after the wars of the 
Successors, Greece had a time of revived freedom, which Italy, since the time 
of the French, Spanish, and German wars, never had till our own day.] 



218 GREECE DURING THE [ESSAY 

Magna feres tacitas solatia mortis ad umbras 
A tanto cecidisse viro. * 

Italy, in fact, has no parallel to the age of Philip and 
Alexander, when Greece might forget her bondage in the 
dazzling glory of a hero who boasted of her blood, and whose 
pride it was to bear her language and civilization into realms 
which had never obeyed the voice of Assyrian or Persian 
despot. It is clear that both the great Macedonians really 
loved and revered Greece, Athens above all. To humble her 
politically was an unavoidable part of their policy ; but they 
always kept themselves from doing her any wrong beyond 
which their policy called for. They felt as Greeks, and they had 
no temptation to destroy what they claimed as their mother 
country. They had clearly no wish to swallow up Greece in 
Macedonia, but rather to make Macedonia, as a Greek state, 
the ruling power of Greece, f Such was undoubtedly the aim of 
Philip, and it was that of Alexander too, till, from the throne 
of the Great King, he may have learned to look on both 
Greece and Macedonia as little more than corners of his 
empire, nurseries of his most valiant soldiers. 

But the desolation of Greece under Alexander s immediate 
Successors very fairly answers to the desolation of Italy 
by French, Spanish, Swiss, and German invaders. As in 
the later parallel, the history of these endless wars is indeed 
little more than a revolting record of crime ; still we cannot 
help looking even on them with somewhat more of favour 
than they receive from Niebuhr. Selfish and unscrupulous 
as they were, we cannot set them down as mere monsters ; 
even the blood-stained Kassandros must not be ranked with 
a Phalaris or an Eccelino. Treachery and murder were 
familiar to them all when they served their purpose; but, 
when they were once established in their kingdoms, we 
do not find that they became such mere savage scourges 
of mankind as Kings and rulers have too often shown 
themselves. Ptolemy s hands were no cleaner than those 

* [I have since used this quotation for another purpose. Willelmus Mag 
nus may surely rank in the same class as Alexander Magnus. ] 
f See above, p. 178. 



VL] MACEDONIAN PERIOD. 219 

of his fellows ; he won his way to his throne by equal crime ; 
yet when he was once seated there, the unanimous voice 
of history has placed him in the first rank of sovereigns. 
Such rulers as Augustus, as Francesco Sforza, as our own Cnut, 
form a far truer parallel to the better class of Macedonian 
princes, to Antigonos, Ptolemy, or Seleukos, than the mere 
loathsome tyrants either of classical or of mediseval Italy. 

For one prince of these troubled times, whom Niebuhr 
holds up to special hatred, we must confess a certain ten 
derness, it may be a weakness. This is Demetrios Polior- 
ketes, the Alkibiades or Antonius of his age. An ambition 
not only selfish, but utterly reckless and extravagant, a 
private profligacy of the wildest and most revolting kind, 
a haughty carelessness of others, and all this joined with an 
utter lack of those arts of the ruler and the statesman which 
distinguish a Seleukos and a Ptolemy, might, at first sight, 
seem to stamp him with hopeless infamy, as the vilest speci 
men of a vile time. But, as in his Athenian prototype 
open to all these charges but the last, and towards whom 
Niebuhr is by no means harsh there is still something about 
Demetrios which renders it impossible to look on him with 
unmixed dislike. In his first expedition we may fairly attri 
bute to him a really generous ambition to become the chosen 
prince of independent Hellas, and as such Athens at least was 
ready to receive him. And when we think how Athens re 
ceived him, we may deem that it was nothing wonderful if 
a fiery and voluptuous youth had his head utterly turned 
by such incense as had never before been offered to mortal 
man. Demetrios would have had no claim to rank even as a 
naturalized Greek, could he have gone unscathed through a 
milder ordeal than that of being formally acknowledged as the 
peer of Zeus and Athene, and of having his will solemnly de 
clared to be the measure of holiness and justice. It is perhaps 
only because we judge him by a higher standard that we speak 
so harshly of his private life; that it went far beyond the 
bounds even of Athenian licence cannot be denied, but it would 
have seemed nothing wonderful in the seraglios of Nineveh 



220 GREECE DURING THE [ESSAY 

or Susa. He seems to have won the affections of his many 
wives, and he certainly was not in the habit of divorcing or 
murdering- them, like many of his contemporaries and suc 
cessors. The harmony which reigned between himself and his 
father, and afterwards between himself and his son, forms a 
beautiful picture in itself, and it is a remarkable character 
istic of the whole family, in contrast to the fearful domestic 
tragedies which disgraced almost every other Macedonian 
palace. Till the quarrel in the last generation between Per 
seus and the last Demetrios, no Antigonid ever stained his 
hands with the blood of father, son, or brother ; none ever 
even stood forth as the enemy or rival of his nearest kinsman. 
Against the Besieger himself no special deed of blood or 
perfidy is distinctly proved; haughty and overbearing in 
prosperity, faults wilich lost him the Macedonian throne, 
he does not seem even there to have sunk into an actual 
oppressor. Adversity no man knew better how to bear ; the 
rebound was always greater than the fall. Throughout his 
whole career, whether dealing with Ptolemy, with Rhodes, or 
with Athens, we see touches of a generous and chivalrous 
spirit, which he shares with Alexander and Pyrrhos, but with 
perhaps no other prince of his age. Surely he deserves at 
least as much tenderness as Niebuhr grants, with full justice 
we allow, to his descendant, degenerate indeed, but not 
wholly unlike him, the last Philip of Macedon. 

And if Italy has no exact parallel to the age of Philip and 
Alexander, still less has she a parallel to the days of revived 
freedom which in Greece followed the age of the Successors. 
Stern as was the doom of Greece, it was still not to be com 
pared to the doom of her antitype ; her race was as yet by 
no means run, the day of her final overthrow was still far 
off. Even during the period of confusion, Greece was never of 
so little account among the struggles of her masters as Italy 
was during the analogous time; her attachment was eagerly 
sought after, both from the reverence which she inspired, and 
still more from the substantial force which she still held, 
a force quite enough in most cases to turn the scale between 



VI.] MACEDONIAN PERIOD. 221 

two contending potentates. And when things began to fall 
back again into something- like settled order, a new sera of 
freedom and glory arose, shorter and less bright indeed than 
her elder day, but still at least a worthy old age for such 
a youth. And it was the more true and vigorous because 
it was no mere superficial restoration, but a developement 
really fitted to the political circumstances of the age. With 
this period Italy has nothing to compare, unless we may 
venture to see in the successful working of constitutional 
government in Piedmont at the present moment, a harbinger 
of still brighter days for Italy than those of federal liberty in 
Greece.* 

By one of those strange cycles which are often found in 
history, the last people who kept up the glory of the Grecian 
name were the people who first came forth into historic being 
from the darkness of the old prse-historic time. It was as 
Achaians that the Greeks gathered round the walls of Ilios ; 
it was as Achaians that they fell beneath the tardy vengeance 
of a people whose boast it was to trace their origin to that 
sacred source. The cities of Perikles and Epameinondas had 
sunk into utter insignificance ; Lykourgeian Sparta had indeed 
done a work worthy of her old fame when she drove back the 
hero of Epeiros from her gates ; but it was the last work of 
Lykourgeian Sparta; as the city of the Herakleids she had 
still to run a short course of glory, but as the city of the Dorian 
she was no more. Achaia, a land which had lived on through 
Persian, Peloponnesian, and Macedonian warfare, perhaps at 
once the most respectable and the most insignificant part of 
proper Greece, now becomes the field for this second crop of 
Grecian freedom and dignity, though it must be confessed 
that the harvest was for the most part reaped for her by 
generals and statesmen who were Achaians only by adoption. 
The great value of the Achaian League to the student of 
history comes from its being the best known example of the 
ancient Federal constitutions, indeed the only genuine confede 
ration of equal cities which ever rose to much importance in 

* [Cf. the note on p. 51.] 



222 GREECE DURING THE [ESSAY 

Greece itself.* Mr. Grote has fully set forth how deeply the 
pervading 1 notion of the autonomous city was rooted in the 
Grecian mind; in truth, the more highly developed and civi 
lized a Grecian state was, the more strongly did it cleave to its 
separate independence, the more it shrank from Federal rela 
tions with any other. It might find it expedient or needful 
to acknowledge, to a certain extent, the external supremacy, 
the fjycfjiovia, of some ruling city, but no Grecian town in 
historic times willingly consented to sink its separate being 
in any general confederacy. This is the more to be noted, 
because several phenomena are found which at first sight 
look very like such an union, but which at all events differ 
very widely from its fully developed Achaian form. 

A Federal union of the whole nation was a thing which 
was never thought of; the Amphiktyonic Council has often 
been mistaken for such an one ; but such an opinion is now 
thoroughly thrown aside by scholars. In fact, the existence 
of the Amphiktyonic Council tells the other way ; without 
being really a Federal union, it came near enough to such an 
union to have suggested the idea, and to have formed the germ 
of such an institution, had the want of it been at all felt by 
the Greek mind. If indeed the Council had ever taken such 
a character on itself, its first act must certainly have been 
to pass a Reform Bill, as its constitution was strikingly like 
that of the House of Commons up to 1832. The Malians and 
Phthiotic Achaians, rotten states, in which the Tagos of 

* Hellenic cities beyond the bounds of proper Greece seem to have had far 
less dislike to Federal relations, doubtless because, as strangers scattered in a 
foreign land, they often found it needful to join together against powerful 
barbarian neighbours. Thus we find several confederations, more or less close, 
among the Hellenic and hellenized states in Asia Minor. There was also the 
great Olynthian Confederacy, of which Mr. Grote has given so clear an account, 
and whose forcible suppression was one of the most crying sins of Spartan 
ascendency. But here there was one predominant city, which at once dis 
tinguishes it from our Achaian state. 

[On the Olynthian Confederacy see History of Federal Government, i. 
190-197. Later thoughts on the matter carried me further away from Mr. 
Grote s view of the constitution of the Confederacy. But none the less thanks 
are owing to him for first bringing out the Olynthian scheme into its fitting- 
prominence.] 



VI.] MACEDONIAN PERIOD. 223 

Thessaly enjoyed, according to the modern euphemism, 
considerable influence/ must have gone the way of Gatton 
and Old Sarum. In like manner, the same principle which 
gave parliamentary being to Birmingham and Manchester 
must have given distinct votes to Sparta, Corinth, and Argos, 
and the system which gave an enlarged representation to the 
English counties might even have bestowed the Amphi- 
ktyonic franchise upon the enlightened and independent free 
holders of Arkadia. In truth, the one fact that the Amphi- 
ktyonic votes were reckoned by tribes, and not by cities, at 
once shuts it out from our present comparison, and shows it 
to be a mere vestige of a bygone state of things, alien to 
the common tendency of Grecian feeling in its best days. 
In truth, the shadow at Delphi * hardly pretended to any 
political functions at all, till it suited the policy of Thebes 
and of Philip to push it into a factitious importance. 

The other confederations which meet our notice among 
the Grecian states may well have suggested ideas to the 
founders of the League, but none of them, not even the 
Arkadian League under Lykomedes, so thoroughly forestalled 
it as to show, in actual and lasting working, a combination of 
many equal cities united, for all external purposes, into one 
indivisible Federal republic. The League stands distinguished, 
alike from mere alliances, however close they may be made 
by traditional sentiment from combinations of cities which, 
like that of Bceotia, acknowledge a greater or less degree of 
supremacy in some leading state and from those irregular 
unions among the less developed branches of the Greek 
nation, which were confederations of tribes rather than of 
cities. The ^Etolians, Akarnanians, and the like, never reached 
to the full developement of Greek city life. One of these 
unions, that of the brigands of ^Etolia, attained a strange and 
unnatural amount of power during the times we are now con 
sidering; but every recorded act of that confederation only 
shows how utterly incapable it was of exercising political 



* OI/KOVV tvrjOes Kal o/zt5fj a\fr\iov .... irpos TTO.VTO.S irfpi rrjs Iv AeA. 
<pois aKias vvvl iro\(fj.rjaai ; Dem. de Pace, ad fin. 



224 GREECE DURING THE [ESSAY 

power, and in truth its reckless conduct brought about the 
final ruin of Greece. 1 * 

Unlike all these, the Achaian League was, in the strictest 
sense, a confederation of cities united on equal terms. The 
cities of the original Achaia, which formed its kernel, seem 
to have been united in the same kind of way before the 
Macedonian times. These therefore did little more than 
restore an old connexion on still closer terms ; but all the 
historical importance of the League was owing to its non- 
Achaian members, Sikyon, Corinth, and Megalopolis. For all 
external purposes the united cities formed one state ; no single 
city could treat with a foreign power, still less could it make 
war upon any other member of the League. But the several 
towns still kept much more than a mere municipal being, 
as is shown by the very fact that it was needful to forbid 
diplomatic intercourse with foreign powers. Still, it is clear 
that the general tendency of the League was to a far closer 
union, even in internal matters, than Greece had ever before 
witnessed among distinct cities. In the end Polybios could 
boast, with only a slight exaggeration, that all Peloponnesos 
was united under the same government and the same laws. 
Any tendency to separation seems, unless when stirred up 
by foreign intrigues, to have been wholly confined to those 
cities which, like Sparta and Messene, had been unwillingly 
incorporated with the League, and which therefore added 
nothing to its real strength. 

The constitution of the League was professedly democra 
tic : and herein it affords us a great political lesson, as the 
first instance in Greece of a democratic government on so 
large a scale. Now this mere fact of its extent, to say 
nothing of any unlikeness in the characters of the two 
nations, at once brought with it most important differences 
in the Achaian democracy, as compared w r ith the typical de- 

* [This is true ; but the mere constitutional forms of the JEtolian League 
differed very little from those of Achaia. 

The Akarnanian League on the other hand, though always secondary in 
point of power, was of all Greek commonwealths the most upright in its 
policy and the most faithful to its engagements.] 



VI.] MACEDONIAN PERIOD. 225 

mocracy of Athens. * In the new state the purely demo 
cratic ideal had to be greatly modified. Every free Achaian 
of full age, no less than every free Athenian, might attend 
and speak in the sovereign Assembly of his country ; but 
then that Assembly was not held weekly at his own doors, 
but twice a year in a distant city. Such a franchise could 
have but little attraction for any but the high-born and 
wealthy, who alone could afford the cost of the journey, and 
who alone would be likely to be listened to when the As 
sembly met. Again, such a franchise, the exercise of which 
came so seldom, could of itself have given but little political 
education ; and, though each citizen had his share in the in 
ternal management of his own town, yet a vote in the petty 
local affairs of Dyme or Tritaia must have been a very different 
thing from a voice in the direction of the vast and complicated 
relations of a ruling city like Athens. As the meetings of the 
Assembly were so rare, the powers of individual magistrates 
were necessarily far greater than could have been endured 
under the Athenian system ; and here it is perhaps that we 
find the most marked difference between the two constitutions. 
At Athens, as we have seen, Demos himself was the real execu 
tive power ; magistrates were the mere ministerial instruments 
of his sovereign will. But the Achaian Assembly took up 
only six days in its two ordinary sessions; therefore, when 
no extraordinary Assembly happened to be summoned, the 
sovereign authority was suspended for three hundred and 
fifty- three days in each year, during which time the 
executive power had to be lodged somewhere. The natural 
result was a far nearer approach than Athens ever beheld 
to the system of modern commonwealths, monarchical or re 
publican. We find foreshadowings by no means dim of a 
Council of Ministers and of a President of the Republic. 
There was a Senate which held far greater authority, and was 
far more independent of the Assembly, than the mere Com 
mittee of Five Hundred at Athens; there was a Cabinet of 

* [A picture of the Athenian Democracy which followed here I have trans 
ferred to the Essay specially devoted to that subject.] 

Q 



226 GREECE DURING THE [ESSAY 

ten Demiourgoi, a body which Demos would never have borne ; 
lastly, the Republic had a single person at its head. For 
the two Generals whom the League in its first form chose 
year by year a single one was afterwards substituted, who 
was indeed appointed by annual election, but who, during his 
year of office, held a position such as no Athenian had ever 
held since the decennial Archons came to an end. During his 
time of office he was clearly the very soul of the State. * Not 
indeed that Aratos exercised a greater practical authority than 
Perikles ; but, while the Athenian, a single citizen to whom 
the other citizens habitually looked for wise counsels, owed 
all his influence to his personal qualities, the Sikyonian stood 
before his countrymen with all the weight of official position, 
like a Premier or President of our own day. We do not 
indeed find that any Achaian General ever showed any wish 
to change his elective and temporary magistracy into a here 
ditary empire, or even into a consulate for life ; but his place 
was a place of dignity enough to lead more than one well- 
disposed Tyrant to lay aside his sovereignty and to unite his 
city to the League. f Lydiadas doubtless enjoyed a far greater 
personal influence over Grecian politics as the elective magis 
trate of the Achaian democracy than he had ever wielded as 
irresponsible despot of the single city of Megalopolis. 

It is clear that, where there was a President and Cabinet, as 
we may fairly call them, of such a kind, the whole executive 
power must have been lodged in their hands, and that, even 
without formal enactments to that effect, they must have held a 
practical initiative in the Assembly at least as fully as a modern 
Ministry holds it. Moreover the right of individual citizens 
to make proposals in the Assembly was very narrowly restricted 
by law; a precaution which was perhaps not needless in a 
session of three days. The real business of the Assembly was 
to choose the magistrates, and to say Yea or Nay to their pro 
posals. After the somewhat unfair monopoly which Aratos 
so long enjoyed had come to an end, it was clearly in the 
election of the General that the parliamentary warfare of 

* See Thirlwall, viii. 93. t See Polyb. ii. 41, 44. 



VI.] MACEDONIAN PERIOD. 227 

the League found its fullest scope. We often find the policy 
of the Republic fluctuating from year to year, according as 
one party or another had succeeded in placing its leader at 
the head of the state. Each election might, in fact, bring on 
what we should call a change of Ministry ; but to the grand 
device of constitutional monarchies Achaia never reached. 
Every year the Ministry and its policy were put in jeopardy, 
but, when that ordeal was past, they were safe for another 
twelvemonth. Achaia had not hit upon our happy plan by 
which the executive power is held at the silent pleasure of the 
Legislature, by which the real rulers may be kept on for 
an indefinite time, or may be sent away at a moment s 
notice, according as they behave themselves. * 

These parliamentary functions were probably discharged by 
a few erf the leading men of each city, together with a some 
what undue proportion of the inhabitants of Aigion. Though, 
by the Achaian constitution, the presence of any dispropor- 
tioned number of citizens of a particular town had no direct 
effect on the reckoning of the votes, still the men of Aigion 
must have had an unfair monopoly as long as the Assembly 
was invariably held in their city. Philopoimen acted like a 
truly liberal statesman when he procured that its meetings 
should be held in each city of the League in turn. But so 
long as the place of meeting was confined to any one city, 
Aigion, as one of the less considerable members of the Con 
federation, was a good choice ; had the Assembly been always 
held at Corinth or Megalopolis, one can fancy that some pre 
tension to supremacy on the part of those great cities might 
have gradually arisen. 

The practical working of such a system was doubtless that 
of a mild and liberal aristocracy, f which, existing solely on 
sufferance, could not venture upon tyrannical or unpopular 
measures. The material well-being of the people may have 

* [The result of the general election of 1868 showed that, under the Eng 
lish constitution, this power can on occasion be exercised, not only by the 
House of Commons, but by the people themselves in their polling-booths/J 

f [Aristocracy in the strictest sense ; not its counterfeit oligarchy^} 



228 GREECE DURING THE [ESSAY 

been equal to that of Attica in its best days, but for the 
intense vigour of Athenian political and intellectual life there 
was no room. The individual Achaian was a free citizen, 
and not the slave of a Tyrant or of an oligarchy ; but 
he was not himself Minister, Senator, and Judge, in the 
same way as a member of the typical Democracy. His per 
sonal happiness, as far as human laws can secure it, may 
have been equally great, and his political life was certainly 
more peaceful ; but he could not, by the hand which he 
held up or by the bean which he dropped, exercise a con 
scious influence over the greatest questions of his own age, 
and an unconscious one over those of all the ages that were 
to come. 

One more remark must be made. The votes in the 
Assembly were not counted by heads, but by cities. Whether 
one Corinthian or a thousand were present, Corinth had one 
vote, and no more. Here, as Niebuhr justly says, lay the 
great fault of the constitution, that great cities like Argos 
and Corinth had no greater weight in the councils of the 
united nation than the petty towns of the original Achaia. 
Had any proportion of this kind been observed, as it after 
wards was in the Lykian Confederation, the constitution would 
have been very nearly a representative one ; and, in such a 
case, the final step could hardly have been delayed of each 
city sending just as many deputies as it had votes in the 
Assembly. * 

* [I am not sure that, when I wrote this, or even when I wrote what I 
said upon the same matter in the History of Federal Government, i. 273, 
274, I fully understood that in a perfect Federal constitution it is needful 
to have two Houses, one of which represents the sovereignty of the united 
nation, and in which the vote to be taken is that of the majority of the 
whole people or their representatives, while the other House represents the 
separate sovereignty of the several Cantons, and must give an equal voice to 
each Canton, great or small. This object is gained in the United States by 
the Senate and House of Representatives, as distinct and equal branches of 
the Federal legislature. In Switzerland it is gained, not only by the same 
constitution of the Federal Legislature, the Standerath and Nationalrath 
answering to the Senate and House of Representatives, but also by the dis 
tinct votes of the Cantons and of the People which are taken in the case of 



VI.] MACEDONIAN PERIOD. 229 

But while the great political phenomenon of the League is 
certainly the first object of attraction in later Grecian history, 
there are not wanting others of no small importance. The his 
tory of the Macedonian monarchy is in itself one of high 
interest. A small nation, of uncertain origin in its first be 
ginnings, gradually swells into a civilized kingdom ; under 
several energetic princes it becomes Greek and the ruling 
state of Greece ; it overthrows the throne of Cyrus, and for a 
while the single realm of Macedon stretches from the Hadri- 
atic to the Hyphasis. Such an empire as this could not be 
lasting ; but the Macedonian race gave rulers and a lasting 
civilization to vast regions of the East, and the Kingdom of 
Macedonia itself kept its place as the leading power of Greece, 
as the dreaded rival of Rome. This is hardly the history of 
so worthless a people as Niebuhr, and even Thirlwall, seem 
to deem them. We cannot go along with Niebuhr in the 
way in which he identifies the Macedonian royalty with that 
of Eastern kingdoms. It is more like an irregular mediaeval 
monarchy, which, under a weak prince, sank into mere 
anarchy, while an able and popular prince had everything 
his own way. The Macedonian government was indeed 
essentially monarchical ; there was no formal constitution, and 
probably few or no written laws ; the absence of a Legislative 
Assembly is expressly asserted by Polybios ;* and Demosthenes 

a constitutional amendment. No arrangement of votes in a single assembly, 
whether primary or representative, can in the same way give their due weight 
to each of the two elements of that divided sovereignty which is the essence 
of a Federal state. But there is no need to blame either the Achaian or 
the Lykian Confederation for not at once reaching to the latest refinements 
of modern political science. We must always remember that in all these 
commonwealths representation was unknown, though, as specially in the case 
of the Lykian League, they often trembled on the very verge of it. And 
in Greece at least, the coordinate power of two legislative chambers was 
altogether unknown, though something like it may be seen in the relations 
between the Senate and the Popular Assembly in the best days of Rome.] 
* xxxi. 12. MawcSoj/as drjOfis OVTO.S drjfiOKpaTiKTJs Kat crvvedpiaKTJs iroXirtias, 
[I perhaps inferred too much from this passage, which relates to the diffi 
culties which the Macedonians felt in adapting themselves to the constitutions 
of the four commonwealths into which Macedonia was divided by the Romans 
after the fall of Perseus. We do not know exactly what the constitutions of 



230 GREECE DURING THE [ESSAY 

witnesses that the personal agency of the King- himself was 
the primary moving power of everything,* contrasting Mace 
donia on this point with the republican governments of Greece. 
Still the Macedonians were clearly anything but slaves like 
the Asiatics ; though political liberty may have had no 
settled being, there were certain barriers of civil liberty 
which the King could not venture to overpass. There was 
evidently something answering to trial by jury ; Alexander, in 
the height of his conquests, did not venture to put a free 
Macedonian to death in the way of public justice, till he had 
been brought before the judgement of his peers. Again, the 
Asiatic pomp, both of Alexander himself and afterwards of 
Demetrios, is expressly said to have offended a people who 
were used to very different treatment at the hands of their 
rulers. The mere existence of a Macedonian monarchy is in 
itself a remarkable phenomenon, as no other civilized Euro 
pean state, save the neighbouring land of Epeiros, so long kept 
on the ancient kingship. Macedonia, and Epeiros also, till a 
democratic revolution cut off the line of Pyrrhos, look like 
continuations, on a larger scale, of the old heroic monarchies 
which in Greece and Italy were done away with at a much 
earlier time. 

We see then that, even in a political point of view, Mace 
donia is far from being an utterly barren subject, while, when 
looked at as a matter of ethnology, it is of the very highest 
interest. We will not however now enter on the question of 
the exact amount of national kindred between Greeks and 
Macedonians, a subject which involves the whole Pelasgian 
controversy, and which cannot be settled without a full exami- 

tliese four states were, but their citizens may well have been puzzled how to 
supply the loss of the old familiar kingship. As for the Macedonian Assemblies 
in earlier times, we are of course not to suppose that they met as regularly 
as the Assemblies of Athens or Achaia, and they were doubtless far less 
orderly when they did meet. But it is plain that they were called together 
on occasion both for judicial and other purposes. Of course in such a state 
of society the army was the Assembly and the Assembly was the army, just 
as it was in the heroic days of Greece, the institutions of which went on 
in Macedonia after they had died away in Greece itself.] 
* Phil. iii. 59, 60. 



VI.] MA CE DON I AN PERIOD. 331 

nation of all the ethnological phsenomena of Greece, Italy, 
and Lesser Asia. We will at present only express our belief 
that the Macedonians were a branch of that great Pelasgian 
family using the word in what we take to be Niebuhr s 
sense of it which spread over all those countries. * That bar 
barian, especially Illyrian, elements were largely intermingled 
in the Macedonian nationality is perfectly clear ; but it is to 
our mind no less clear that the predominant aspect of the 
Macedonian people is, like that of the Sikels, the Epeirots, 
even of the Lykians and Karians, one of a quasi-Greek cha 
racter. Their language was not Greek ; therefore in the Greek 
sense it was barbarous ; but it was clearly akin to Greek,f in the 
same way as the different Teutonic tongues are akin to one 
another. The whole region which we have spoken of is clearly 
marked by the recurrence of similar local names in widely 
different districts, by a similar style of primaeval architecture, J 
and by the singular ease with which all its inhabitants adopted 
the fully developed Hellenic language and civilization. 

The only other Greek state of any note during the Mace 
donian period was Sparta. The later history of this once 
ruling city is highly important in a political point of view, 
and it is interesting, far beyond that of any contemporary 
state, in the pictures which it gives us of personal cha 
racter and adventure. Macedonia, after Alexander, gives 
us, unless we may venture to put in a word for Demetrios, 
no character which really calls forth our interest; Antigonos 
Doson was certainly a good King, but we know compara 
tively little about him, and there is nothing specially attrac 
tive in what we do know. Even the chiefs of the League 

* [The Pelasgians are better left untouched. But I fully believe in the 
close connexion of all these nations with the Greeks. The researches of Curtius 
and Hahn have made it probable that we must draw a wider circle again, 
and take in Thracians, Illyrians, and Phrygians, as more distant kinsmen.] 

t See Muller s Dorians, i. 3, 486. 

J [Since the preaching of Mr. Tylor s science, whatever it is to be called, 
this argument does not prove very much, but it is none the less curious to 
trace the various strivings after the arch both in Greece and in Italy.] 



232 GREECE DURING THE [ESSAY 

are not men to awaken much enthusiasm on their behalf. 
The character of Aratos was always stained by many weak 
nesses, and towards the close of his life it assumed a deeper 
dye ; of the gallant Lydiadas we know less than we could 
desire; even the brave, prudent, and honest Philopoimen 
is, after all, a hero of a somewhat dull order. But far 
different is the case when we have to tell how the gallant, 
unselfish, enthusiastic, Agis won the glory of the martyr in 
the noblest but most hopeless of causes, and how his mantle 
fell upon an abler, though a less pure, successor. Here, for 
once, we may turn with pleasure from the prejudiced nar 
rative of Polybios to the picture given us by Plutarch of 
the happy union of kingly virtues with every amiable quality 
of domestic life. Nowhere either in Grecian or in any other 
history can we find a character more fitted to call forth our 
sympathies than the heroic wife of the two last Herakleids ; 
nowhere are more touching scenes recorded than the martyr 
dom of Agesistrata by the side of her slaughtered son, or the 
parting of Kleomenes from his mother in the temple of Posei 
don, parent and child alike ready to sacrifice all for the 
good of Sparta. There can be no doubt but that the designs 
of Kleomenes would have borne lasting fruit, but for the 
envious treason with which Aratos stained the glory of his 
earlier exploits. Agis perished because he undertook the 
hopeless task of restoring a state of things which had for 
ever passed away ; Kleomenes, a keener and less scrupulous 
statesman, adapted himself to the circumstances of the time. 
The Dorian element was dying out in Sparta, just as the Nor 
man and Frankish elements died out in England and France."* 
Sparta was again Achaian, as France again became Celtic, 
and England again became Teutonic. The only difference 
was that at Sparta formal barriers had to be got rid of, 
while in the other cases the silent working of time has been 
enough. Kleomenes, a Herakleid prince of the old Achaian 
blood, had no sympathy with Dorian oligarchs. He became 

* [That is in Francia Latina in the strict sense. South of the Loire there 
were no Frankish, though there may have been Gothic, elements to die out.] 



VI.] MACEDONIAN PERIOD. 233 

the true leader of the people. He swept away, by his un 
scrupulous energy, distinctions which had outlived their pur 
pose, and set up again the throne of Tyndareos rather than 
the throne of Agesilaos. That Aratos could not bear the 
glory of such a rival ; that, rather than submit to a cordial 
and equal alliance with the Spartan King, he chose to undo 
his own work, and to hand over the Greece that he had freed 
to the grasp of a Macedonian ruler, is one of the most pain 
ful instances on record of the follies and crimes of otherwise 
illustrious men. Sparta and the League cordially allied, an 
union closer than alliance they could hardly have made, 
might have braved the power of Antigonos and Philip, and 
might perhaps have put off for some generations the fated 
absorption of all in the vast ocean of Roman conquest. 

But time would fail us to tell of Laconian heroism and 
Achaian treason, of Roman diplomacy and ^Etolian rashness. 
We must forbear to speak of the days when, at Kynoskephale 
and Pydna, the shield and the sarissa which had borne 
the literature and civilization of Greece into the wilds of 
Scythia and the burning plains of Hindostan were them 
selves doomed to fall before the mightier onslaught of 

the good weapons 
That keep the war-God s land. 

We have yet to see the successor of Philip and Alexander 
toiling his weary way, as a dishonoured captive, along the 
bellowing forum and the suppliant s grove; we have yet 
to witness the last throes of Grecian freedom, disgraced as 
they were by the rashness and selfishness of a Diaios and a 
Kritolaos, but still calling on us to let fall a tear over the 
last day of plundered and burning Corinth. But we stop, how 
ever much against our will, throwing ourselves in full con 
fidence upon the judgement of our readers, and looking for 
their favourable verdict in the cause which we have striven to 
maintain that of the high interest and value of Grecian 
history in all its stages, even down to the latest and saddest 
days of all. 



VII. 
MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME.* 

Romische Gesc/iichte, von THEODOR MOMMSEN. Three volumes. 
Leipzig and Berlin, 1854-6. 

THE history of Rome is the greatest of all historical subjects, 
for this simple reason, that the history of Rome is in truth 
the same as the history of the world. If history be read, 
not as a mere chronicle of events, recorded as a form and 
remembered as a lesson, but as the living science of causes 
and effects, it will be found that, if we would rightly under 
stand the destiny of what is truly called the Eternal City, 
our researches must be carried up to the very beginnings of 
history and tradition, and must be carried on without break 
to the present hour. Palestine, Greece, Italy, are the three 
lands whose history contains the history of man. From 
Palestine we draw our religion, from Greece comes art and 
literature, and, in a manner, law and freedom. But the 
influence of Palestine and Greece is, to a large extent, an in 
fluence of mere example and analogy ; even where it is a real 
influence of cause and effect, it is at best an indirect influence, 
an influence working through the tongues and the arms of 
strangers. The history of civilized man goes on in one un 
broken tale from Theseus to our own day ;f but the drama 

* [This article represents my first impressions, drawn mainly from its 
earlier parts, of what, with all its faults, is undoubtedly a great work. As an 
Appendix I have added a later notice, which was written when Mommsen s 
book was plainly beginning to have an effect in England, which it had not had 
time to have when the earlier article was written. Perhaps I was also myself 
only then beginning to shake off the spell with which we in our island are 
apt to be affected by the last German work on any subject.] 

t [ I of course did not mean to pledge myself to the personal existence of 
Theseus, but we may fairly take his name as representing the vvoiftioi$ of 
Attica. See above, p. 119.] 



MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME. 235 

shifts its scenes and changes its actors ; Greece can reach us 
only by way of Italy ; the Athenian speaks to modern Europe 
almost wholly through a Roman interpreter. We profess a 
religion of Hebrew birth ; but the oracles of that religion 
speak the tongue of Greece, and they reached us only through 
the agency of Rome. Among the old states of the world, 
the history of Carthage and of Palestine merges itself for ever 
in that of Rome. Greece, like one of her own underground 
rivers, merges herself also for a while; she shrouds herself 
under the guise and title of her conqueror, and at last she 
shows herself again at such a distance that some refuse to 
know her for herself. To understand Roman history aright, 
we must know the history of the Semitic and Hellenic races 
which Rome swallowed up, and the history of those races of the 
further East which Rome herself never could overcome. We 
must go yet further back : we must, by the aid of philological 
research, grope warily beyond the domain of history or legend. 
We must go back to unrecorded days, when Greek and Italian 
were one people ; and to days more ancient still, when Greek, 
Italian, Celt, Teuton, Slave, Hindoo, and Persian, were as yet 
members of one undivided brotherhood. And, if the historian 
of Rome is bound to look back, still more is he bound to look 
onwards. He has but to cast his eye upon the world around 
him to see that Rome is still a living and abiding power. 
The tongue of Rome is the groundwork of the living speech 
of south-western Europe ; it shares our own vocabulary with 
the tongue of our Teutonic fathers. * The tongue of Rome is 
still the ecclesiastical language of half Christendom ; the days 

* [I should hardly have written this sentence now, because, though literally 
true, it is misleading. In an English dictionary, even after striking out mere 
technical terms and mere pieces of vulgar affectation, there will most likely 
be as many Romance as Teutonic words. Many of these Romance words 
are thoroughly naturalized, and may now rank on a level with native 
English words. Still, even words of this class, which it needs philological 
knowledge to distinguish from real Teutonic words please, pay, money, have 
nothing on the face of them to distinguish them from tease, say, honey are a 
mere infusion, and not a co-ordinate element. We may make sentence after 
sentence out of Teutonic words only ; we cannot make a single full sentence 
out of Romance words only.] 



236 MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME. [ESSAY 

are hardly past when it was the common speech of science 
and learning. The Law of Rome is still quoted in our courts 
and taught in our Universities ; in other lands it forms the 
source and groundwork of their whole jurisprudence. Little 
more than half a century has passed since an Emperor of 
the Romans, tracing his unhroken descent from Constan- 
tine and Augustus, still held his place among European 
sovereigns, and, as Emperor of the Romans, still claimed 
precedence over every meaner potentate. And the title of a 
Roman office, the surname of a Roman family, is still the 
highest object of human ambition, still clutched at alike by 
worn-out dynasties and by successful usurpers. Go eastward, 
and the whole diplomatic skill of Europe is taxed to settle the 
affairs of a Roman colony, which, cut off alike by time and 
distance, still clings to its Roman language and glories in 
its Roman name.* We made war but yesterday upon a 
power whose badge is the Roman eagle, on behalf of one 
whose capital has not yet lost the official title of New Rome. 
Look below the surface, and the Christian subjects of the Porte 
are found called and calling themselves Romans; go beyond 
the Tigris, and their master himself is known to the votary 
of Ali simply as the Roman Caesar. Even facts like these, 
which hardly rise above the level of antiquarian curiosities, 
still bear witness to an abiding power such as no other 
city or kingdom ever knew. And, far above them all, in deep 
and vast significance, towers the yet living phenomenon of 
the Roman Church and the Roman Pontiff. The city of the 
Ca3sars has for ages been, it still is, and, as far as man can 
judge, it will still for ages be, the religious centre, the holy 
place, the sacred hearth and home, of the faith and worship of 
millions on each side of the Atlantic. The successor of the 
Fisherman still in very truth sits on the throne of Nero, 
and wields the sceptre of Diocletian. It is indeed a throne 
rocked by storms ; Gaul and German may do battle for its 

* [The Rouraan Principalities on the Danube were, when this was written, 
as indeed they have often been since, one of the standing difficulties of Euro 
pean politics.] 



VII.] MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME. 237 

advocacy ; they have done so in ages past, and they may do 
so for ages to come ; but the power which has lived through 
the friendship and the enmity of Justinian and Liudprand, 
of Charles and Otto, of the Henries and the Fredericks, of 
Charles of Austria and Buonaparte of France, may well live 
to behold the extinction, however distant it may be, of both 
the rival lines of Corsica and Habsburg.* Look back to the 
first dim traditions of the European continent, and we look 
not too far back for the beginnings of Roman history. Ask 
for the last despatch and the last telegram, and it will tell 
us that the history of Rome has not yet reached its 
end. It is in Rome that all ancient history loses itself; 
it is out of Rome that all modern history takes its source. 
Her native laws and language, her foreign but naturalized 
creed ; still form one of the foremost elements in the intel 
lectual life of every European nation ; and, in a large portion 
of the European continent, they not only form a foremost 
element, but are the very groundwork of all. 

The history of Rome dies away so gradually into the 
general history of the middle ages, that it is hard to say at 
what point a special Roman history should end. Arnold 
proposed to carry on his History to the coronation of Charles 
the Great. Something may doubtless be said for this point, 
and something also for other points, both earlier and later.f The 
Roman history gradually changes from the history of a city 

* [The Papacy has now seen the extinction, as Italian powers, of both the 
foreign oppressors of Italy. One has lost the power to do evil, the other has 
lost both the power and the will. The extinction of the temporal power of the 
Papacy itself has indeed followed, but any one who remembers the deathbed 
of Gregory the Seventh may doubt whether the real power of the spiritual 
Rome is not strengthened by its seeming loss.] 

t [I now feel that Arnold was right, and that the coronation of Charles is 
the proper ending for a strictly Roman history. Before that point it is impossible 
to draw any line. The vulgar boundary of A.D. 476 would shut out Theodoric 
the Patrician and Belisarius the Consul. But when the Koman Empire prac 
tically becomes an appendage to a German kingdom, the old life of Rome is 
gone. The old memories still go on influencing history in a thousand ways, 
but the government of Charles was not Roman in the same sense as the 
government of Theodoric.] 



238 MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME. [ESSAY 

into the history of an Empire. The history of the Republic is 
the history of a municipality which bore sway over an ever- 
increasing subject territory; it differed only in its scale from 
the earlier dominion of Athens and Carthage, from the later 
dominion of Bern and Venice. Under the Empire this 
municipal character died away; the Roman citizen and the 
provincial became alike the subjects of Csesar ; in process of 
time the rights, such as they then were, of the Roman citizen 
were extended to all the subjects of the Roman monarchy. 
During the middle ages the strange sight was seen of a 
Greek and a German disputing over the title of Roman 
Emperor, while Rome itself was foreign ground to both alike. 
But this was only the full developement of a state of things 
which had begun to arise, which indeed could not fail to 
arise, long before the period commonly given as the end of 
the true Roman Empire. The importance of the capital, 
even under the Emperors, was far greater than that of the 
capital of a modern state. But it was no longer what it 
had been under the Republic. When from the Ocean to 
the Euphrates all alike were Romans, the common sovereign of 
all ceased to be bound to Rome itself by the same tie as the 
old Consuls and Dictators. Rome gradually ceased to be an 
Imperial dwelling-place. The truth of the case is clouded 
over when we are told that Constantine translated the seat of 
Empire from Rome to Byzantion. What Constantine did was 
to fix at Byzantion a throne which had already left Rome, but 
which had as yet found no other lasting resting-place. The 
predecessors of Constantine had reigned at Milan and Niko- 
medeia ; his successors reigned at Ravenna and at what now 
had become Constantinople. Constantius and Honorius did 
but visit Rome now and then ; they came more peacefully 
than the Ottos and Henries of a later age, but they came quite 
as truly as passing strangers. And when the seat of govern 
ment always for a large part, sometimes for the whole 
of the Roman Empire was for ever transferred to Con 
stantinople, it is wonderful to see how truly that city became, 
as it was called, the New Rome. Greece indeed in the end 



VII.] MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME. 239 

won back her rights over the old Megarian city ; the Byzan 
tine Empire gradually changed from a Roman to a Greek 
state ; but at what moment the change was fully wrought 
it is impossible to say. Up to the coronation of Charles, the 
Byzantine Emperor was at least nominal lord of the Old as 
well as of the New Rome. With Charles begin the various 
dynasties of German Ca3sars, which kept up more of local 
connexion with Old Rome, but much less of the true Roman 
tradition, than their rivals at Byzantion. There is at least 
thus much to be said for the point chosen by Arnold, that, 
down to the coronation of Charles, there was still one Roman 
Empire and one undisputed Roman Emperor. Heraclius and 
Leo ruled Italy from Constantinople, as Diocletian had ruled 
it from Nikomedeia. After the year 800 East and West are 
formally divided ; there are two Roman Empires, two Roman 
Emperors. Of these, the one is fast tending to become de 
finitively German, the other to become definitively Greek. 

We know not to what point the author of the History 
before us means to carry on his work. As yet he has carried 
it up to the practical establishment of a practical monarchy 
under the first Csesar. He shows how one Italian city con 
trived to conquer the whole Mediterranean world, and how 
unfit the municipal government of that city proved itself to 
be for the task of ruling the whole Mediterranean world. 
This is indeed a subject, and a very great subject, by itself; 
it is one of the greatest of political lessons ; it is, in fact, the 
whole history of the City of Rome as the conquering and 
governing municipality ; what follows is the history of the 
Empire, which took its name from the city, but which was 
gradually divorced from it. The point which Mommsen has 
now reached might almost be the end of a Gescliiclite von 
Rom; but his work calls itself a Homiscke GesckicJite, and 
it may therefore be fairly carried to almost any point which 
the historian may choose. 

The Roman History of Mommsen is, beyond all doubt, to be 
ranked among those really great historical works which do so 



240 MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME. [ESSAY 

much honour to our own day. We can have little doubt as to 
calling it the best complete Roman History that we have. For 
a complete History, as we have just shown, we may call it, even 
as it now stands ; it is not a mere fragment, like the works of 
Niebuhr and Arnold. And even the ages with which Niebuhr 
and Arnold have dealt may be studied again with great ad 
vantage under Mommsen s guidance. And the important 
time between the end of Arnold s third volume and the 
opening of Dr. Merivale s History Mommsen has pretty well 
to himself among writers who have any claim to be looked 
on as his peers. In short, we have now, for the first time, 
the whole history of the Roman Republic really written in a 
way worthy of the greatness of the subject. Mommsen is 
a real historian ; his powers of research and judgement are 
of a high order ; he is skilful in the grasp of his whole sub 
ject, and vigorous and independent in his way of dealing 
with particular parts. At the same time, there are certain 
inherent disadvantages in the form and scale of the work. 
Mommsen s History, like Bishop Thirlwall s, is one of a series. 
Most readers of Bishop Thirlwall must have marked that the 
fact of writing for a series, and a popular series, threw certain 
trammels around him during the early part of his work, from 
which he gradually freed himself as he went on. Momm 
sen s work is the first of a series, the aim of which seems to 
be to popularize we do not use the word as one of depreci 
ation the study of classical antiquity among the general 
German public.* Such a purpose does not allow of much 
citation of authorities, or of much minute discussion of contro 
verted points. The writer everywhere speaks as a master to 
an audience whose business it is to accept and not to dispute 
his teaching. But this mode of writing has its disadvantages, 
when it is applied by a bold and independent writer like 
Mommsen to a period of the peculiar character which belongs 
to the early history of Rome. That history, we need not say, 

* Eswird damit eine Reihe von Handbiichern eroffnet, deren Zweck 1st, 
das lebendigere Verstandniss des classichen Alterthums in weitere Kreise zu 
bringen. 



VII] MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME. 241 

is one which does not rest on contemporary authority. That 
Rome was taken by the Gauls seems to be the one event 
in the annals of several centuries which we can be absolutely 
sure was recorded by a writer who lived at the time.* Yet of 
these ages Dionysios and Livy give us a history as detailed as 
Thucydides can give of the Peloponnesian War or Eginhard 
of the campaigns of Charles the Great. Till the time of 
Niebuhr, all save a solitary sceptic here and there were ready 
to give to the first decade of Livy as full a belief as they 
could have given to Thucydides or Eginhard. And the few 
sceptics that there were commonly carried their unbelief to so 
unreasonable a length as rather to favour the cause of a still 
more unreasonable credulity. Till Arnold wrote, Hooke s was 
the standard English History of Rome ; and Hooke no more 
thought of doubting the existence of Romulus than he thought 
of doubting the existence of Caesar. Then came the wonder 
ful work of Niebuhr, which overthrew one creed and set up 
another. The tale which our fathers had believed on the 
authority of Livy sank to the level of a myth, the invention 
of a poet, the exaggeration of a family panegyrist ; but in its 
stead we were, in our own youth, called upon to accept another 
tale, told with almost equal minuteness, on the personal au 
thority of a German doctor who had only just passed away 
from among men. Niebuhr s theory in fact acted like a spell ; 
it was not to argument or evidence that it appealed ; his fol 
lowers avowedly claimed for him a kind of power of divi 
nation. Since that time there has been, both in Germany and 
in England, a reaction against Niebuhr s authority. The in 
surrection has taken different forms : one party seem to have 
quietly fallen back into the unreasoning faith of our fathers. f 
Others are content to adopt Niebuhr s general mode of 

* See the latter part of the twelfth chapter of Sir G. C. Lewis s Credibility of 
Early Roman History. It seems clear that Greek contemporary writers did re 
cord the Gaulish invasion ; possibly the account of Polybios may fairly represent 
their version of the event. 

f Sir George Lewis quotes, as taking this line, Die Geschichte der Romer, 
von F. D. Gerlach und J. J. Bacbofen, of which we can boast of no further 
knowledge. [The same line has since been taken up in England by Dr. Dyer.] 

B, 



242 MOMMSBN S HISTORY OF ROME. [ESSAY 

inquiry, and merely to reverse his judgement on particular 
points. This is the case with the able but as yet fragmentary 
work of Dr. Inne.* Lastly, there comes the party of absolute 
unbelief, whose champion is no less a person than the late 
Chancellor of the Exchequer, t Beneath the Thor s hammer 
of Sir George Cornewall Lewis the edifice of Titus Livius 
and the edifice of Barthold Niebuhr fall to the ground side 
by side. Myths may be very pretty, divinations may be very 
ingenious, but the Right Honourable member for the Radnor 
boroughs will stand nothing but evidence which would be 
enough to hang a man. Almost every child has wept over the 
tale of Virginia, if not in Livy, at least in Goldsmith. Niebuhr 
and Arnold connect the tragic story with deep historical and 
political lessons; but Sir George Lewis coldly asks, Who saw 
her die? and as nobody is ready to make the same answer as 
the fly in the nursery legend, as Virginius and Icilius did 
not write the story down on a parchment roll, or carve it on 
a table of brass, he will have nothing to say to any of them. 
That the basis of the decem viral story is real, need not 
be doubted. J But that is all ; how much is real basis, how 
much is imaginary superstructure, Sir George Lewis cannot 
undertake to settle. 

To that large body of English scholars who have been 
brought up at the feet of Niebuhr, but who have since learned 
in some measure to throw aside his authority, there will be 
found something unsatisfactory, or perhaps more truly some 
thing disappointing, in Mommsen s way of dealing with the 

* Researches into the History of the Roman Constitution. By W. Ihne, 
Ph. D. London, 1853. [Dr. Ihne s complete History has since appeared 
both in German and English.] 

f [It will be remembered that this was written during the life-time of Sir 
George Lewis. I still believe that that great scholar went too far in his un 
belief, owing to his looking too exclusively to mere documentary evidence and 
passing by equally important evidence of other kinds. Nothing can be more 
thorough than Sir George Lewis s overthrow of many of Niebuhr s particular 
notions. But I still believe that Niebuhr s general method, if it were only 
more judiciously carried out, is the right one. Mr. Tylor s new science would 
be our best guide to many of the facts in early Roman History.] 

J Credibility of Early Roman History, vol. ii. p. 292. 



VII.] MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME. 243 

Kings and the early Republic. The spell of Niebuhr s fascina 
tion is one which is not easily broken : it is, in fact, much more 
than a spell ; the faith with which we looked up to him in our 
youth was exaggerated, but it was not wholly misplaced. Sir 
George Lewis has, beyond all doubt, done a lasting service to 
historical truth by convicting Niebuhr of a vast amount of 
error in detail of inaccuracies, inconsistencies, hasty induc 
tions, instances of arrogant dogmatism ; but we cannot think 
that he has shown Niebuhr s general system to be a wrong 
one. Niebuhr s method, at once destructive and constructive, 
is surely essentially sound. His doctrine that the current state 
ment, probably far removed from the literal truth, still con 
tains a basis of truth, Sir George Lewis himself does not 
venture wholly to deny. That a process, not indeed of divi 
nation, but of laborious examination and sober reflexion, may 
in many cases distinguish the truth from the falsehood, does 
not seem in itself unreasonable. Our own belief is that 
Niebuhr s arrogant and self-sufficient dogmatism did but 
damage a cause which was essentially sound. Sir George 
Lewis, while successfully demolishing the outworks, has made, 
in our judgement, no impression upon Niebuhr s main fortress. 
In such a state of mind, we cannot help looking at every 
page of the early Roman history as essentially matter of con 
troversy ; every step must be taken warily ; no assertion must 
either be lightly accepted or lightly rejected, and no decision 
must be come to without weighing the arguments on one side 
and on the other. It is therefore somewhat disappointing, not 
to say provoking, when in Mommsen s History of this period 
we find difficulties passed over without a word, when we find 
statements made, which sometimes command our assent, which 
sometimes arouse our incredulity, but of which, in either case, 
we never heard before, and which make us eager to know 
Mommsen s grounds for adopting them. It is easy to see 
that Mommsen is quite capable of holding his own ground 
against either Niebuhr or Sir George Lewis. We feel sure 
that he has gone carefully through every point of controversy 
in his own mind ; we only wish that we ourselves might be 

B, 2 



244 MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME. [ESSAY 

admitted to witness the process as well as the result. We in 
no way blame Mommsen for a defect which springs at once 
from the scale and nature of his work. To have treated the 
whole subject controversially, to have examined every state 
ment at length and cited every authority in full, would have 
swelled the book to an extent which would have been quite 
unfitted for the classes of readers for which it was in the first 
instance meant. But the lack of reasons and references makes 
this part of the book less valuable to the professed scholar 
than either that which goes before or that which follows it. 
Mommsen shines most in one part in which he himself exer 
cises a * divination as ingenious and more sound than that of 
Niebuhr, and in another part in which the whole business of 
the historian is to narrate and to comment upon facts whose 
general truth has never been called in question. The two 
subjects in dealing with which Mommsen has been most 
successful are the prse-historic age of the Italian nations, 
and the steps, military and diplomatic, by which a single 
city of one of them rose to universal empire. It is greatly 
to his credit that he should have achieved such striking 
success in two subjects which call for such different modes 
of treatment. 

The prse -historic chapters of Mommsen s book form one of 
the best applications that we have ever seen of the growing 
science of Comparative Philology.* They show how much 
we may learn, from evidence which cannot deceive, of the 
history of nations for ages before a single event was set 
down in writing. We are thus enabled to go back to days 
earlier even than those which are, in a manner, chronicled by 
poetry and tradition. In the Homeric poems we have our 
first written record of the Greek people.f But Comparative 

* [It must be remembered here, as in some other parts of these Essays, that 
Comparative Philology was only just beginning to make its way in England 
when they were written. I have struck out a good deal which was new when 
I wrote it, but which has now become a thrice-told tale.] 

t [I have here again cut short my argument as being practically the same as 
what I have said in my Essay on Mr. Gladstone s book. See above, p. 58.] 



VII.] MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME. 245 

Philology goes far beyond the tale of Troy, far beyond the 
settlement of the Hellenes in the land of the many islands 
and of all Argos. And its evidence is the surest evidence of 
all, evidence thoroughly unconscious. Comparative Philology 
and prehistoric archaeology do for man what geology does for 
his dwelling-place. Their mode of inquiry is the same. There 
may be indeed minds to which it would fail to carry con 
viction. The phenomena of human language and the phe 
nomena of the earth s strata may be alleged to be the result 
of accident. Different strata may not really represent different 
periods; the whole may be the work of one act of creation, 
on which the Creator may have impressed such appearances 
from its birth. So the likeness between Greek, Teutonic, and 
Sanscrit may be said to be no likeness at all ; it may be said to 
be an accident ; it may be said to prove, if anything, only the 
confusion of tongues at Babel. Certainly neither geology nor 
Comparative Philology can bring strict mathematical proof to 
bear upon the mind of a determined objector. Possibly indeed 
they might retort that geometry itself has its postulates. When 
the geologist or the philologer demands a certain amount 
of blind submission, he hardly does more than Euclid himself 
does, when he assumes, without proving, certain positions 
about parallels and angles which, though undoubtedly true, 
are certainly not self-evident. Geology has made its way ; it 
has become popular; hardly any one seriously disputes its con 
clusions. Comparative Philology is still struggling; and its 
attendant, Comparative Mythology, is only just beginning to 
be heard of. The fact is, that to the uneducated mind the 
first principles of etymology are a great mystery. The real 
likenesses of words need a certain education to make them 
familiar ; people catch at purely accidental likenesses, and fail 
to grasp those which are essential. We have no doubt that 
many of those who learn both French and German believe 
French to be the language more nearly akin to English. 
Comparative Philology only asks for a little faith at the 
beginning : the believer soon begins to see with his own eyes, 
and he shortly makes discoveries of his own, which he in turn 



246 MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME. [ESSAY 

finds the outer world slow to put any faith in. And we are 
not sure that perverted ingenuity does not sometimes do even 
more harm than unbelieving 1 ignorance. We once came across a 
book, whose name we have forgotten, which undertook to prove 
the kindred between the early inhabitants of Gaul and Britain 
by the likeness between the modern Bret -Welsh and French 
languages. Now it would be hard to find any two descen 
dants of the original Aryan stock which have less to do with 
one another than the speech of the modern Cymrian and the 
speech of the modern Frenchman. But a few traces of primitive 
kindred may still be seen. And, while Latin of course forms 
the whole groundwork of French, a few Latin words have, 
naturally enough, strayed into Welsh. Between these two 
classes our writer gathered together a rather large stock of 
Welsh words which are very like the words which translate 
them in French. Cefl was undoubtedly akin to cheval ; eglwys 
was still more clearly akin to eglise. Whether our philologer 
got so far as to see that gosper and vepres were also akin, 
we do not remember. But, at any rate, his collections quite 
satisfied him that the Celt of Gaul and the Celt of Britain 
were closely akin ; a proposition which nothing could lead 
any one to doubt except the fact that it had been supported 
by such a wonderful argument. 

We need hardly say that the Comparative Philology of 
Mommsen is not exactly of the same kind as that of our 
Celtic searcher after truth. Starting from the doctrine of the 
common origin of the Aryan nations, a comparison of their 
several languages, and of the amount of cultivation which 
language shows each branch to have reached before it finally 
parted asunder, enables him to put together something like 
a map of their wanderings, by which he gradually comes down 
to his own theme of the history of Italy. After the Asiatic 
Aryans had parted off to the East, the European Aryans still 
formed a single people. A step further still shows that the 
Italians and the Hellenes remained one people after Celt and 
Teuton and Slave had parted from them, and that they had 
made considerable advances in cultivation before they again 



VII.] MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME. 247 

parted asunder, each to occupy its own peninsula, and to meet 
again in each, through colonization and conquest, in after times. 
With regard to the earliest inhabitants of Italy Mommsen s 
general conclusions are these : Ancient Italy contained three 
distinct races first, the lapygians in the south ; secondly, 
those whom Mommsen distinctively calls Italians in the 
middle ; thirdly, the Etruscans in the north and north-west. 
Their geographical position would seem to show that this was 
the order in which the three nations entered the peninsula. 
Of the lapygians we know but little ; history shows them to 
us only in a decaying state, and all that we know of their 
language comes from certain inscriptions which are as yet 
uninterpreted. This evidence however tends to show that 
their language was Aryan, distinct from the Italian,* and 
possessing certain affinities with the Greek. With this also falls 
in the fact that in historic times they adopted Greek civiliza 
tion with unusual ease. The Italians of Mommsen s nomencla 
ture are the historical inhabitants of the greater portion of 
the peninsula. This is the nation the history of whose tongue 
and government becomes one with the history of civil 
ized man ; for of their language the most finished type is the 
Latin, and of their cities the greatest was Rome. The Etrus 
cans Mommsen holds to be wholly alien from the Italian 
nations ; their language is most likely Aryan, but that is all 
that can be said. He rejects the story of their Lydian origin, 
and seems inclined to look upon Raetia as the cradle of their 
race.f He makes two periods of the Etruscan language, of 
which the former one is to be found in those inscriptions 
on vases at Ca3re or Agylla, which Mr. Francis Newman J 

* We are here merely setting forth Mommsen s views, without binding our 
selves either to accept or to refute them. We think however that he should 
at least have noticed the seeming identity of the names lapyges, Apuli, Opici, 
which, so far as it goes, tells against him. 

t [The latest results of prehistoric research in this case quite as important 
as any documentary evidence on Etruscan matters will be found in the article 
on the Present Phase of Prsehistoric Archaeology, in the British Quarterly 
He view for October, 1870, p. 470 et seqq.] 

j Regal Rome, p. 7. It is certainly hard to see how this sort of language 
can, as Mommsen supposes, have developed into the later Etruscan. 



248 MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME. [ESSAY 

quotes as Pelasgian. Into the endless Pelasgian controversy 
Mommsen hardly enters at all. For that controversy turns 
almost wholly on points of leg-end or tradition, hardly at all 
on Comparative Philology. On the other hand, he passes by 
in yet more utter silence some theories the evidence for 
which is wholly of a philological kind. We mean the theory 
supported by Mr. Newman and others,* which sees a Celtic, 
and specially a Gaelic, element in the old Italian population 
and that which supposes a race of Basque or Iberian abori 
gines to have occupied Italy before the entrance of its his 
torical inhabitants, f 

The Italians, in Mommsen s special sense, were then a 
people closely allied to the Hellenes, and they had made no 
small advances in cultivation before the two stocks parted 
asunder. The Italian stock again divides itself into two, the 
Latin and the Umbro-Samnite, the difference between which 
he compares to that between Ionic and Doric Greek. The 
Umbro-Samnite branch again divides itself into the Oscan 
and the Umbrian, analogous, according to our author, to the 
Doric of Sicily and the Doric of Sparta. Rome is a city 
purely Latin, and the head of Latium. The Tiber was at 
once the boundary of Latium against the Etruscan stranger, 
and the natural highway for the primitive commerce of the 
early Latins. The site of Rome thus marks it out as at once 
the commercial capital of Latium and the great bulwark of 
the land against the Etruscan. Such was the earliest mission 
of Rome. It may have been merely by a happy accident 
that one of the Latin cities was placed on a site which 
enabled it to take such a mission on itself; it may have 
been founded expressly to discharge it, either by the com 
mon will of the Latin confederacy, or by the wisdom of some 
clear-sighted founder of unrecorded times. Rome may have 



* Regal Rome, pp. 17 et seqq. 

t [The Basque occupation of Italy, and of large regions besides Italy, seems 
to have all probability in its favour; but I suspect that Mr. Newman s Gaelic 
element proves nothing more than the original Aryan kindred of Latin and 
Celtic.] 



VII.] MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME. 249 

been either the eldest or the youngest of Latin cities. But 
the chances seem greatly in favour of her being* rather the 
child than the parent of the League. All tradition calls 
Rome an Alban, that is a Latin, colony. As soon as we get 
anything like a glimpse of real history, we find Rome essen 
tially a Latin city, we find her unmistakeably the chief among 
the cities of Latium. But Rome is not only far greater than 
any other Latin city ; she appears as something in a manner 
outside the League; we find her in the very position, in short, 
which was likely to be taken by a younger city which had out 
stripped its elders. She is a Latin city, she is closely bound to 
the other Latin cities ; but she is hardly an integral member 
of their confederacy ; in the times of her greatest recorded 
weakness she treats with the League as an equal ; the single 
city of Rome is placed on an equal footing with the whole 
body of the other thirty. And, through the advantage which a 
single powerful state always has over a confederacy of smaller 
states, the equal alliance between Rome and Latium grew into 
a practical supremacy of Rome over Latium. Rome clearly 
held this power under her Kings, and, if she lost it by her 
revolution, she gained it again by the League of Spurius 
Cassius. Rome and Latium were in form equal allies; the 
Hernicans were united in the League on the same terms ; 
but it is impossible to doubt that Rome was the soul of the 
confederacy during the whole time that it lasted. The 
^quian and Volscian invasions again fell far more heavily 
upon the Latin allies than upon Rome herself. Many Latin 
cities were wholly lost, others were greatly weakened. All 
this would of course greatly increase the proportionate 
importance of Rome ; the Latins would be led to look more 
and more to Rome as the natural head of their nation, and 
to seek, not for independence, but for union on closer and 
juster terms. The demands of the Latin allies at the out 
break of the great Latin War are the best comment on the 
relations between Rome and Latium. Their feeling to 
wards Rome was clearly that of excluded citizens under an 
oligarchy, rather than that of an oppressed nation under 



250 MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME. [ESSAY 

a foreign government. They do not ask to shake off the 
Roman yoke or to forsake the Roman alliance ; what they 
ask is to become wholly Roman themselves. They are ready 
to wipe out the Latin name and the separate being of the 
Latin League. Their demands are almost the same as the 

o 

demands of the plebeians in Rome itself hardly a generation 
earlier. As the Licinian laws ordained that one Consul should 
be a plebeian, the Latins now asked that one Consul should be 
a Latin. The Senate was to be half Latin ; the Latin cities 
would probably have been reckoned each one as a Roman tribe. 
Terms like these Rome held it beneath her dignity to grant ; 
but, after the conquest of Latium, the mass of the Latin nation 
did gradually gain Roman citizenship in one way or another. 
This is, in short, the constantly repeated history of Rome and 
her allies, from the earliest to the latest period. Men seek to 
get rid of their bondage to Rome, but they do not seek to get 
rid of it by setting up wholly for themselves ; what they seek 
is to become Romans, and, as Romans, to help to rule both 
themselves and others. The first recorded struggle, that between 
patrician and plebeian, was in its beginning much more truly 
a struggle between distinct nations than a struggle between 
different orders in the same nation. But the demand of the 
plebeians was, not to overthrow the patrician government, but 
to win a share in it for themselves. It was only in some des 
perate moment, when every demand was refused, that they 
resorted to the extreme measure of a secession ; that is, they 
threatened to leave Rome, and to found a new city for them 
selves. On the struggle between patrician and plebeian fol 
lowed the struggle between Roman and Latin ; but the Latin 
was driven into a war against Rome only when he could not 
obtain his desire of incorporation with Rome. The Samnite 
wars, and the wars with the Etruscan, Gaulish, and Epeirot 
allies of Samnium, brought the whole of Italy into the state 
of dependent alliance with Rome. Italy was now latinized 
step by step; but at the same time the yoke of Rome was 
found to be no light one. Still no signs are seen of any wish 
to throw it off, except in such strange exceptional cases as the 



VII.] MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME. 251 

solitary revolts of Falerii and Fregella3. The Italians gradually 
put on the feelings of Romans ; like the plebeians, like the 
Latins, they sought not independence, but full incorporation. 
The claims of the Italian Allies formed the most important 
political question of the seventh century of the city. The 
rights of the Italians, admitted by the best men both of the 
senatorial and of the democratic party, were opposed to the 
vulgar prejudices of Senate and People alike. When each 
party alike had failed them, then the Allies took arms, not for 
Samnite or Marsian independence, but for a New Rome of 
their own, a premature republican Constantinople, the city 
Italy. This New Rome, like the Old, had its Senate, its 
Consuls, its PraBtors, its citizenship shared by every member 
of the allied commonwealths. Like the Latins of the fifth 
century, the Italians of the seventh were at last admitted 
piecemeal to the rights for which they strove. Every Italian 
was now a Roman ; save where Hellenic influence had taken 
lasting root, all Italy was now latinized. But by this time 
vast regions out of Italy had begun to be latinized also. 
Latin civilization spic. \ over Spain, Gaul, and Africa; the 
policy of the Emperors tended to break down the distinction 
between citizen and provincial, and at last the franchise of 
the Roman city was extended to all the subjects of the Roman 
Empire. Western Europe became thoroughly romanized ; 
even the Greek and his eastern proselytes became Roman in 
political feeling, and learned to glory in that Roman name to 
which some of them still cleave. In Syria and Egypt alone 
did the old national feelings abide. Elsewhere, save some wild 
tribe here and there, the Mediterranean world was wholly 
Roman. Its unity was constantly rent by civil wars, by the 
claims of rival Emperors, by peaceful division between Im 
perial colleagues. But from the Ocean to Mount Taurus no 
Roman citizen thought of laying aside his Roman character. 
Emperors reigned, in Gaul and Britain ; but they were not 
Gaulish or British sovereigns ; they were still Roman Caesars, 
holding a part of the Roman Empire, and striving after the 
possession of the whole. During the whole history of Rome, 



252 MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME. [ESSAY 

both Old and New, from the first mythical King to the last 
phantom Emperor, it would be hard to find a city or a pro 
vince which, when it had been once thoroughly welded 
into the Roman system, willingly threw aside its Roman 
allegiance. Provinces might helplessly submit to foreign con 
querors, but they never asserted their own national inde 
pendence.* Till Monophysite Egypt welcomed a deliverer in 
the Mussulman Arab, it does not appear that barbarian in 
vaders ever met with actual help from the provincials any 
where within the Roman territory. Italy indeed, in the seventh 
century of our {era, revolted against the Eastern Emperor and 
gave herself of her own free will to a Frankish master. But 
her Frankish master himself came as a Roman Patrician, a 
Roman Caesar, to assert the rights of the Old Rome against 
the usurpation of the New. Through the whole of this long 
series of centuries, all who come in contact with the original 
Romulean city, the plebeian, the Latin, the Italian, at last 
the inhabitants of the whole Mediterranean world, all, one 
by one, obtained the Roman name ; and none of them willingly 
forsook it. 

The workings of a law which went on in full force for 
above two thousand years have carried us far away from 
Mommsen s immediate subject. And yet we have perhaps not 
spoken of the earliest instance of its working. Rome, as we 
have said, is in Mommsen s view strictly a Latin city. He 
casts aside with scorn the notion of the Romans being a 
mongrel race, ein Mischvolk, an union of elements from the 
three great races of Italy. Of the three old patrician tribes, 
the Titienses were indeed most likely of Sabine origin ; but 
they were Sabines who had been thoroughly latinized, who at 
most, as other incorporated nations did in later times, brought 
some Sabine rites into the Roman religion. The really Latin 



* Whether the so-called revolt of Britain and Armorica in the fifth century 
is to be reckoned as a solitary exception depends on two very difficult ques 
tions : First, How far had Britain and Armorica really become Roman ? 
Secondly, What is the meaning of the not very intelligible narrative in the 
last book of Zdsimos ? 



VIL] MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME. 253 

character of Rome was no more touched by them than when, 
under the early Republic, the Sabine Attus Clausus, with his 
clan and following , were changed into the Claudian gens and 
tribe. Here then in days totally unrecorded, before the strug 
gles of Latin or of plebeian, we find the first instance of that 
inherent power of assimilation or incorporation on the part of 
the Roman commonwealth, which went on alike under Kings, 
Consuls, and Ca?sars. The legend of Romulus is, in Mommsen s 
view, a comparatively late one, as is shown by the name of 
the eponymous hero being formed from the later form of the 
name of the city and people. The oldest form is not Romani, 
but Ramnes, that of the first patrician tribe ; and that form 
points to the name of the Eternal City as having had in 
the first days the same meaning as our own Woottons and 
Bushburies. * 

The other strong point of Mommsen, besides his treatment 
of the primaeval archaeology, is his treatment of what we may 
call the diplomatic history of Rome. In Rome s gradual march 
to universal empire two great stages are marked, the com 
plete subjugation of Italy, and the conquest of Macedonia at 
the battle of Pydna. Mommsen wholly throws aside the notion 
that the Roman Senate and People acted through successive 
centuries on any deliberate and systematic scheme of universal 
dominion. War and conquest were undoubtedly as agreeable 
to them as they have commonly been to most other nations ; 
but their distant conquests were in some cases almost forced 
upon them, and they often drifted into foreign wars as much 
through the result of circumstances as from any deliberate 
intent. It certainly seems to have been so throughout the 
time of Rome s greatest glory. Rome was at the true 
height of her greatness, within and without, in the fifth and 
sixth centuries of her history. The days of her early civil 
strife were over, the days of her later civil strife had not yet 



* So dass der Name Roma oder Rama vielleicht urspriinglich die Wald- 
oder Buschstadt bezeichnet. 



254 MOMM SEN S HISTORY OF ROME. [ESSAY 

come. The old political struggle between patrician and 
plebeian had become a thing- of the past, and the far more 
fearful struggle between rich and poor was still a thing of the 
future. The Romans of those ages not only knew how to win 
victories, they had learned the far harder lesson how to bear 
defeat. The victories of Pyrrhos and Hannibal would have 
broken the spirit of almost every other nation of any age. 
But the endurance of Rome was never shaken; she could 
dare to proclaim publicly in her forum, We have been 
overcome in a great battle, and her Senators could go forth 
to thank the defeated demagogue* who had not despaired 
of the Republic. Her political constitution may seem an 
anomaly ; the sovereign Senate side by side with the no less 
sovereign popular Assembly, the Consul all-powerful to act, 
the Tribune all-powerful to forbid, may seem inconsistent, im 
practicable, unable to be worked. But the proof of the Roman 
system is seen in two centuries stained by nothing worthy 
to be called civil strife ; it is seen in the conquest of Italy, 
in the driving back of Pyrrhos and of Hannibal, in tribu 
tary Carthage and tributary Macedonia. What the Roman 
system in these ages really was is shown by the men whom 
it brought forth ; men always great enough, and never 
too great ; men ready to serve their country, but never 
dreaming of enslaving it. What the true Roman national 
being was is shown to us in the hereditary virtues of the 
Decii and the Fabii, in the long-descended Scipio and in 
the lowly-born Curius and Regulus ; we see it allied with 
Grecian culture in Titus Quinctius Flamininus and standing 
forth in old Italian simplicity in Marcus Porcius Cato. 
Rome in these ages bore her full crop of statesmen and 
soldiers, magistrates and orators, ready to be the rulers of one 
year and the subjects of the next. But as yet she brought 
forth neither a traitor nor a tyrant, nor, in any but the older 
and nobler sense, a demagogue. To this splendid period 
Mommsen is far from doing full justice ; he understands, but he 

* Mommsen seems to us unduly harsh on M. Terentius Varro, as well as 
on C. Flaminius. Arnold does them far more justice. 



VII.] MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME. 255 

does not always feel; his narrative constantly seems cold and 
tame after that of Arnold. We miss the brilliant picture of 
the great men of the fifth century;* we miss the awful vision 
of Hannibal ;f we miss the pictures of Gracchus and his en 
franchised slaves and of Nero s march to the fateful stream 
of the Metaurus. Both tell us how the old Marcellus died by 
a snare which a youth might have avoided; but in how 
different a strain ! Mommsen gives us indeed the facts with 
all truth and clearness : 

Bei einer unbedeutenden Recognoscirung wurden beide Consuln von einer 
Abtheilung africanischer Reiter iiberfallen ; Marcellus, schon ein Sechziger, 
fochte tapfer den ungleichen Kampf, bis er sterbend vom Pferde sank; Cris- 
pinus eiitkara, starb aber an den im Gefecht empfimgenden Wunden. J 

Turn we now to Arnold : 

Crispinus and the young Marcellus rode in covered with blood and fol 
lowed by the scattered survivors of the party ; but Marcellus, six times consul, 
the bravest and stoutest of soldiers, who had dedicated the spoils of the Gaulish 
king, slain by his own hand, to Jupiter Feretrius in the Capitol, was lying 
dead on a nameless hill ; and his arms and body were Hannibal s. 

The policy of Rome during these two glorious ages had, 
according to Mommsen, for its primary object, first to win, 
and then to hold, a firm dominion in Italy. Its dealings with 
the provinces and with foreign states were simply means to 
secure this primary end. Italy was won ; its various states 
were brought to the condition of dependent allies. This con 
dition deprived them of all practical sovereignty, and made 
them in all their external relations the passive subjects of 
Rome. But they kept their own local governments ; they 
served Rome with men, not with money ; and Rome s con 
stant wars gave their individual citizens many chances of 
winning both wealth and honour. Doubtless, as they had 
constantly more and more to do with distant nations, they 
began to feel a wider Italian patriotism, and to glory in the 
triumphs which they had helped to win for the greatest of 
Italian cities. This feeling on the one hand, and on the other 

* Arnold, ii. 272. f Ibid, iii. 70. 

J Mommsen, i. 464. Arnold, iii. 354. 



256 MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME. [ESSAY 

hand the occasional excesses of Roman officers in more degene 
rate times, combined to bring about that yearning after full 
Roman citizenship which we have so often spoken of already. 
The old Latin League was no longer in being ; some of its 
states had vanished from the earth, others had been incor 
porated with Rome. But its place was in a manner filled by 
those Latin colonies, those children of Rome, on which, for 
some not very apparent reason, the Latin, and not the full 
Roman, franchise was bestowed. These were, in fact, Roman 
garrisons, scattered over the peninsula, serving to watch over 
the allied states, and to keep them in due dependence. Such 
was the state of things from the Rubico to the Strait of 
Messina. But for the full and safe possession of Italy some 
thing more was needed. Italy had no natural frontier nearer 
than the Alps ; Cisalpine Gaul was therefore to be conquered. 
And, looking beyond the Hadriatic and the Libyan Sea, Rome 
had to settle her relations with the Carthaginian republic and 
the Macedonian kingdom. The balance of power was in those 
days an idea altogether unknown. To a modern statesman, could 
he have been carried into the third century before Christ, the 
great problem would have been to keep up such a balance be 
tween Rome, Carthage, and Macedonia. No rational English, 
French, or Russian diplomatist wishes to make any one of the 
other countries subject or tributary to his own ; his object is 
not positively to weaken the rival state, but merely to keep 
down any undue encroachment.* But, from a Roman point of 
view, for Rome to be strong it was needful that Carthage 
and Macedonia should be positively weak. It may perhaps 
be doubted whether the modern system does not bring about 
just as many material evils as the other ; but the two theories 
are quite different. A war between Rome and Carthage could 
end only in the overthrow, or at least the deep humiliation, of 
one or other of the contending powers. But let France and 

* [We had not then heard the thoroughly Roman doctrine that France 
could not be safe unless Germany and Italy were divided, and that, because 
Prussia had made conquests not at the expense of France therefore France 
must needs get a compensation for the losses of other people.] 



VII.] MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME. 257 

Austria go to war to-morrow, and the result will not be that 
either Paris or Vienna will cease to be the capital of a power 
ful and independent state ;* those who pay the price will 
be the unhappy scapegoats of Lombardy or Wallachia.f 
But, in the view of a Roman statesman, Italy could not be 
strong save at the direct cost of Carthage and Macedonia. A 
first war with Rome, like a modern war, led at most only to a 
payment in money or to the loss of some distant dependency; 
but a second led to the loss of political independence; 
a third led to utter overthrow. Thus the first Punic War 
cost Carthage Sicily and Sardinia, the second made Carthage 
a dependent state, the third swept her away from the face of 
the earth. The results of the first Macedonian War were 
almost wholly diplomatic ; the second brought Macedonia 
down to the dependent relation ; the third swept away the 
kingdom and cut it up into four separate commonwealths ; 
the fourth, if it deserves the name, made Macedonia a Roman 
province. The difference in the processes of the two conquests 
is a good commentary on Mommsen s theory. The problem 
was for Rome to preserve a direct and unshaken dominion 
over Italy ; everything beyond that was only means to an end. 
But Sicily and Sardinia were natural appendages of Italy; 
their possession by a state of equal rank might be directly 
dangerous. Rome therefore called on Carthage to give them 
up, Sicily by the terms of peace with Carthage, Sardinia 
as the price of its continuance a few years after. Their pos 
session was almost as necessary as the possession of Cisalpine 
Gaul. But Macedonia had no such threatening colonies. 
The first treaty with Philip was concluded nearly on equal 

* [This was written shortly before the famous time when France made 
war on behalf of an idea, and ended by betraying Verona and Venice to 
Austria. I was therefore by no means a false prophet. But it is worth mark 
ing how in those days the rivalry seemed still to lie between France and 
Austria, not between France and either Prussia or Germany as a whole.] 

+ [Lombardy is now safe ; Wallachia and Moldavia I cannot but think 
would be better off under the rule of Hungary perhaps even as Hungary 
now stands ; certainly when Austria is reunited to Germany, and when Hungary 
stands forth in her proper place as the central state of south-eastern 
Christendom.] 

S 



258 MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME. [ESSAY 

terms ; the Macedonian frontier was simply rectified by the 
loss of some points and the addition of others. Macedonia 
too had to pass through a more gradual descent than Car 
thage. Even the third war, the war of Pydna, did not in 
volve destruction, or even formal incorporation with the 
Roman dominion ; for Macedonia had sent no Hannibal to 
Cannae, and her total humiliation was not so clearly an Italian 
necessity as the humiliation of Carthage. 

The original Roman system then was to maintain direct 
rule in Italy ; to endure no equal power, but to weaken all 
neighbouring states, to reduce them to what Mommsen calls 
the condition of clientage. But it is evident that this system 
could not fail to lead Rome more and more into the whirl 
pool of distant conquest. It is just like our own dominion in 
India, where we have our immediate provinces and our client 
princes answering exactly to those of Rome. In either case, 
when intermeddling has once begun, there is no way to stop 
it. Policy, or even sheer self-defence, leads to one conquest ; 
that conquest leads to another ; till at last annexation is loved 
for its own sake, the independent state becomes a dependency, 
and the dependency becomes a province. The Roman policy 
of surrounding Italy with a circle of weak states did not 
answer ; it laid her open all the sooner to the necessity of a 
struggle with the powerful states which still remained behind. 
Macedonia was made, first a dependency and then a province ; 
this only made it needful as the next stage to do the like by 
Syria. The like was done Syria ; that only made it needful to 
try to do the like by Parthia, with which the like could not be 
done. In this last particular case, Mommsen shows very clearly 
that the result of the Roman policy was hurtful alike to the 
immediate interests of Rome and to the general interests of 
the world. The monarchy of the Seleukids, the truest heirs 
of Alexander s empire, whatever else it was, was at least, then 
and there, champion of European cultivation. It was the 
bulwark of the West against the East, the follower of Mil- 
tiades and Agesilaos, the forerunner of Leo the Isaurian and 
Don John of Austria. Now the policy of Rome brought the 



VII.] MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME. 259 

Syrian monarchy to precisely that point in which the King 
of Antioch could no longer defend his own eastern borders, 
and in which it was not as yet either the clear duty or the 
clear interest of Rome to defend them for him. The effect of 
this is pointed out by Mommsen in a brilliant passage, 
which shows how well he understands the relation of his own 
immediate subject to the general history of the world. 

Diese Umwandlung der Volkerverhaltnisse im inneren Asien ist der 
Wendepunct in der Geschichte des Alterthums. Statt der Volkerfluth, die 
bisher von Westen nach Osten sich ergossen und in dem grossen Alexander 
ihren letzten und hochsten Ausdruck gefunden hatte, beginnt die Ebbe. Seit 
der Partherstaat besteht, ist nicht bloss verloren, was in Baktrien und am 
Indus etwa noch von hellenischen Elementen sich erhalten haben mochte, 
sondern auch das westliche Iran weicht wieder zuriick in das seit Jahrhun- 
derten verlassene, aber noch nicht verwischte Geleise. Der romische Senat 
opfert das erste wesentliche Ergebniss der Politik Alexanders und leitet damit 
jene riicklaufige Bewegung ein, deren letzten Auslaufer im Alhambra von 
Granada and in der grossen Moschee von Constantinopel endigen. So lange 
noch das Land von Eagae und Persepolis bis zum Mittelmeer dem Konig von 
Antiocheia gehorchte, erstreckte auch Roms Macht sich bis an die Grenze der 
grossen Wtiste ; der Partherstaat, nicht weil er so gar machtig war, sondern 
weil er fern von der Kiiste, im inneren Asien seinen Schwerpunct land, konnte 
niemals eintreten in die Clientel des Mittelmeerreiches. Seit Alexander hatte 
die Welt den Occidentalen allein gehort und der Orient shien fur diese nur 
zu sein was spater Amerika und Australien fur die Europaer wurden ; mit 
Mithradates trat er wieder ein in den Kreis der politischen Bewegung. Die 
Welt hatte wieder zwei Herren. * 

But mixed up with much of the policy of Rome s Eastern 
dealings there was undoubtedly a large amount of what would 
nowadays be called philhellenic feeling. That the Roman 
Senate, as Bishop Thirlwall says, surpassed all recorded govern 
ments in diplomatic skill, we can readily admit ; and yet we 
need not attribute all their doings to some unfathomably 
subtle line of policy. To hold that Rome acted, through a 
long series of years, on a deliberate plan of gradual conquest 

* Vol. ii. p. 59. We are not quite sure however that Mommsen has not 
too closely identified the Parthian dominion with the native Persian race and 
religion. The rise of Parthia was, as he describes it, a great reaction of the 
East against the West. But the Parthians seem to have been not quite 
beyond the influence either of Greek cultivation or of Christianity. The final 
blow was struck when a really national Persian state arose again in the third 
century A.D. 

S 3 



260 MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME. [ESSAY 

that she systematically made use of her allies, and cast them 
off when they were done with that she formed a league with 
a state with the settled purpose of reducing it to a dependency 
in the next generation, and to a province in the generation 
after that,, to think all this is really to clothe what is after 
all an abstraction with rather too much of the attributes of a 
living and breathing man. The characteristics both of the 
Roman nation and of particular Roman families have so 
strong a tendency to pass on from father to son that Rome 
does seem clothed with something more like a personal being 
than almost any other state. Venice and Bern are the two 
nearest parallels in later times. But the policy even of Rome 
or Venice still, after all, means the policy of the men who at 
any given time took the lead in the Roman or Venetian 
commonwealth. Even in those grave Senates everything 
was not so much matter of precedent and tradition that no 
fluctuating circumstances, no individual passions, could ever 
affect their counsels. States, like individuals for the de 
cisions of states are really the decisions of individuals 
commonly act from mixed motives ; and, as most men would 
feel no small difficulty in analysing their own motives, we 
may feel still more difficulty in analysing those of the Roman 
Senate. So much generosity as to shut out all thought for 
self, so much selfishness as to shut out all thought for others, 
are both of them the exception in human affairs. To act 
generously, provided it does no great harm to yourself, is, 
we fancy, the commonest rule both with rulers and with 
private men. There is no need to think that, when Fla- 
mininus proclaimed the freedom of Greece, it was mere 
hypocrisy on the part either of him or of his government. 
But we cannot think that either Flamininus or the Roman 
Senate would knowingly have sacrificed a jot of Rome s real 
power or real interest to any dream of philhellenic generosity. 
It is easy however to see that a strong philhellenic feeling 
did really exist in the mind of Flamininus and of many other 
Romans of his day. Greece was then newly opened to Roman 
inquirers ; Greek civilization and literature were beginning to 



VII.] MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME. 261 

make a deep impression upon the Roman mind, both for good 
and for evil. The famous cities of Greece had already become 
places of intellectual pilgrimage. The natural result was that, 
for at least a generation, both Greek allies and Greek enemies 
received better treatment than allies or enemies of any other 
race. Achaia and Athens were favoured and, as it were, 
humoured to the highest degree that was not clearly incon 
sistent with Roman interests. But the tide must have turned 
not a little before Mummius destroyed Corinth, even before 
Lucius JEmilius Paullus was forced, against his will, to destroy 
the Epeirot cities. The phenomenon may well have been 
analogous to one of our own days with regard to the same 
land. A generation back men looked for results from the 
emancipation of Greece which were utterly extravagant and 
chimerical. The fashion now is to decry everything to do 
with independent Greece, and to deny the real progress she 
has made, because impossible expectations have not come 
to pass. A generation of Mummii has, in short, succeeded 
to a generation of Flaminini. Mommsen, we should remark, 
by no means shares or approves of the philhellenism of the 
victor of Kynoskephale.* He has throughout a way of deal 
ing more freely with established heroes, of casting about 
censure with a more unsparing hand, than is altogether 
consistent with the sort of vague and half superstitious 
reverence with which one cannot help looking on the 
men of old. Indeed, he sometimes passes from criticism 
and censure into the regions of sarcasm, almost of mockery ; 
he deliberately quizzes Plutarch s men with as little com 
punction as Punch quizzes the men of our own time. Con 
temporary events have brought this home very strongly to 
our mind. While reading Mommsen s account of what we 
may call the Lord High Commissionership of Titus Quinctius 
Flamininus, we could more than once have fancied that we 
were reading an attack in some English paper on him whom 



* [Against Mommsen s treatment of these matters I was stirred up to make 
a protest in iny History of Federal Government, i. 640.] 



262 MO MM SEN S HISTORY OF ROME. [ESSAY 

modern Hellas delights to honour as 6 7re/H(?]/^os KOL 



Mommsen, following Poly bios, makes the battle of Pydna 
one great stage in his history. Rome s work of conquest was 
now practically over ; there was now little left to do but to 
gather in the spoil. She had yet many battles to fight, many 
provinces to win, but there was no longer any Mediterranean 
power able to contend with her on equal terms for the lord 
ship of the Mediterranean world. And now she began to 
show how little fitted her constitution was to administer an 
universal empire. Men commonly look to this period of 
Roman history for arguments for or against monarchy, aris 
tocracy, or democracy. Possibly all such may be found ; but 
the most truly instructive lesson which it teaches is one into 
which those questions do not immediately enter. That lesson 
is one which, to the nineteenth century, has become almost 
matter of curiosity ; but it was a practical lesson as long as 
Venice ruled over Corfu and Kephallenia, as long as Vaud 
obeyed the mandates of the oligarchy of Bern. That lesson 
is this, one well set forth by Mommsen in several passages, 
that a municipal government is unfitted to discharge imperial 
functions. Such a municipal government may be either aris 
tocratic or democratic; but in either case it governs solely 
in the interest of the ruling city. It need not be tyrannical 
Bern was far from being so; but the subject states, the 
provinces or dependencies, have no share in their own 
government, and their interest is not the object of those who 
rule them. This warning will of course apply to all states 
which hold colonies or dependencies ; but the cause is not the 
same. The Roman Government, with its Senate, its popular 
Assembly, its annually elected magistrates, was a government 
essentially municipal ; it was fitted only for the government 
of a single city. It had indeed, as if its founders had foreseen 
the danger, something of a representative element from the 
beginning. The ruling principle of the ancient city govern- 

* [This was of course written when Mr. Gladstone s mission to the Ionian 
Islands was fresh in men s minds.] 



VII.] MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME. 263 

ments, aristocratic and democratic alike, was, we need hardly 
say, that every member of the ruling body, be that body the 
widest democracy or the narrowest oligarchy, should have his 
personal share in the government, that he should give his 
direct vote in the sovereign Assembly. But the territory of 
the Roman city spread, at a very early time, over a region 
far too wide to allow every Roman citizen to appear habitually 
in the comitia. Had the voting gone by heads, the dwellers 
in the city would have had it all their own way. This 
was hindered by the tribe system. Each of the thirty-five 
tribes had one vote. On the day fixed for an election or 
for voting on a law, half a dozen citizens from a distant 
tribe had the same voice as the hundreds or thousands of a 
nearer one. In fact, as Niebuhr suggests, those half-dozen 
rural voters might really be the chosen delegates of the 
hundreds or thousands of their neighbours. Hence the 
importance of the legislation of Appius Claudius and of the 
counter-legislation of Fabius and Decius. Appius divided the 
freedmen, the turbo, forensis, the Lambeth and Tower Hamlets 
of Rome, among all the then existing tribes ; that is, he put 
the votes of all the tribes into their hands. Fabius and Decius 
removed them all into the four city tribes, so that they could 
command four votes only. But, even with this modification, 
the Roman popular Assembly became, what the Ekklesia 
never became at Athens, a body utterly unmanageable, which 
could only cry Yea, yea, to the proposals of the magistrates, 
and in which debate was out of the question. And, after all, 
Senate and Assembly alike represented purely Roman in 
terests; the Allies, still less the provinces, had no voice in 
either body. It was as if the liverymen of London were to pass 
laws and appoint to offices for the whole United Kingdom. 
Under the municipal system of Rome there was no help. 
Had Italy and the world been received into the old tribes,, or 
mapped out into new tribes, it would only have made the 
Assembly yet more unwieldy than it was already. A repre 
sentative or a federal system would have solved the problem 
without any sacrifice of freedom. But a representative system 



264 MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME. [ESSAY 

the ancient world never knew; though the Achaian, the 
Lykian, though, as we have seen, the Roman system itself, 
hovered on the verge of it. Federalism was indeed at work 
in its most perfect form in Lykia and Achaia ; but it would 
have been vain to ask Roman pride to allow conquered nations 
to set up Senates and Assemblies of equal rank with those of 
Rome herself. The monarchy of the Caesars cut the knot in 
another way : the provincial could not be raised to the level 
of the citizen, but the citizen could be dragged down to the 
level of the provincial. Both now found a common master. 
The provincials no doubt gained by the change. It is indeed 
true that the municipal origin of the Roman Empire, and the 
covert way in which monarchy gradually crept in under re 
publican forms, caused the capital always to keep an undue 
importance, and made, first Rome and then Constantinople, 
to flourish at the cost of the provinces. But the evil was far 
less under the Empire than it had been under the Republic. 
The best Emperors did what they could to rule in the interest 
of the whole Empire, and the worst Emperors were most 
dangerous to those to whom they were nearest. The overthrow 
of the Roman Republic, the establishment of the Csesarean 
despotism, was the overthrow of the very life of the Roman 
city ; but to the Roman Empire it was a bitter remedy for a 
yet more bitter disease. It proves nothing whatever in favour 
of despotism against liberty ; it establishes no law that de 
mocracy must lead to military monarchy. Athens and 
Schwyz had to bend to foreign invaders; but no Prytanis 
or Landammann ever wrought a coup-d? etat. What the later 
history of Rome does prove is that a single city cannot 
govern an empire; that for a subject province one master .is 
less to be dreaded than seven hundred thousand. Those seven 
hundred thousand citizens were, among themselves, a frantic 
mob rather than an orderly democracy : as against the millions 
of Roman subjects from the Ocean to the Euphrates, they 
were an oligarchy as narrow and exclusive as if they had all 
been written in the Golden Book of Venice. The experience 
of the last age of Roman history proves nothing against any 



VII.] MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME. 265 

form of freedom, be it Athenian democracy, English monarchy, 
or Swiss or Achaian federalism. If it has any immediate 
practical warning- for our own time, it is a warning against 
the claims of overgrown capitals. It has lately become the 
fashion to call the seat of government the ( metropolis, and 
the rest of the kingdom the provinces ; names unknown 
to English law, and foreign to all English feeling. If we 
begin to give eight members to the Tower Hamlets, the words 
may perhaps begin to have a meaning; and Manchester and 
Arundel, Caithness and Tipperary, may alike have to look out 
for a Fabius and a Decius to deliver them from the turba 
forensis of a single overgrown city.* 

* [Since this was written we have had another Reform Bill, which, though it 
has increased the number of metropolitan members, has not done so to any 
frightful extent. It has always struck me that, though members should not be 
given or refused to places in the haphazard way in which they still are, even 
after the last changes, it would none the less be a mistake to allot members in 
exact proportion to numbers. I could never agree to jumble together towns and 
counties, large towns and small towns, without regard to their distinct feelings 
and interests. And the greater a constituency is, the fewer members it needs 
in proportion to its numbers, because it has greater means of influencing 
Parliament and the country in other ways. In the case of London this reaches 
its height ; every member of Parliament is in some sort member for London ; 
his mind is open to London feelings and influences in a way in which it is not 
open to influences from Cornwall, Gal way, or Orkney. The money of the people 
of Galway and Orkney is very likely to be spent on objects which concern only 
the people of London ; the money of the people of London is not at all likely 
to be spent on objects which concern only the people of Galway or Orkney. 
The interests of the smaller constituencies need therefore to be protected 
in the House by giving them a proportionately larger number of members. 
But this object is not fairly reached by giving, as at present, members purely 
at random to certain towns, while other towns of the same class are without 
any. The true solvent is the grouping of the smaller towns for electoral pur 
poses. In strictness of speech, London, though the capital of England and of the 
United Kingdom, is the metropolis of nothing except its own colony London 
derry. The parliamentary and vulgar use of the word metropolis most likely 
comes from the fact that, while London would in legal language mean 
nothing but the City of London, a word was wanted to express that great col 
lection of houses which forms London in the popular and practical sense. 
As for provinces, the application of the name to any part of Great Britain, 
except in an ecclesiastical sense, is simply insulting. A province is a subject 
state ruled by a Proconsul, Satrap, or Viceroy. The word has no meaning in 
an island every corner of which has equal rights. How far Ireland, as long as 
she cleaves to the obsolete pageant of a nominal Satrap, may not be looked on 
as sinking to the level of a province of her own free will, is another question.] 



266 MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME. [ESSAY 



MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME.* 

FIVE-AND-TWENTY years ago the Roman History of Niebuhr was dominant 
at Oxford. An examination in Livy was practically an examination in 
Niebuhr. If any shrank from the task of getting up Niebuhr himself in the 
crib few in those days ventured on the High-Dutch text to such Arnold 
acted as the prophet of Niebuhr. Men whom oceans now separate took in 
those days sweet counsel together, in college gardens or by the banks of 
canals, strengthening each other s memory in the wars of the ^Equians and 
Volscians as mapped out by the great authority. But an University is, beyond 
all others, the place of change, the place where the wisdom of forefathers, 
and even of elder brothers, is least regarded. Since those days, generation 
after generation has passed through the world of Oxford, each knowing less of 
Niebuhr than the one before it. The fall of Niebuhr was, we believe, followed 
by a period shall we call it a period of anarchy or of tyranny ? when no in 
spired modern interpreter was recognized, but when men fell back on the text 
of Livy himself. The Commonwealth, in short, was without a master ; Sulla 
had gone, and Caesar had not yet appeared. Dr. Liddell s attempt at grasping 
the vacant post came hardly to more than the attempt of Marcus Lepidus. At 
last Momrnsen arose, and, at the time of our last advices, Mommsen ruled in 
the University without a competitor. We speak cautiously, because of the 
swift inarch of all Oxford doings. We never have any certainty whether the 
brilliant discovery of last term may not be a sign of old fogyism this term. The 
statutes passed by acclamation a year back are by this time dragged through 
the dirt like the images of Sejanus. So we do not affirm positively that Momm 
sen is at this moment the supreme authority on Roman History at Oxford. 
We only say that he was so the last time that we heard any news upon 
the subject. 

We half regret, but we are not in the least surprised at the position which 
Mommsen s work has won. It is a position which in many respects is fully 
deserved. Mommsen has many of the highest qualities of an historian. First 
of all, he has the qualification which is the groundwork of all others ; he is a 
thorough, a consummate, scholar. We stand aghast at some of his statements 
and inferences, but we never catch him in a blunder. On the contrary he is 
thoroughly master master in a way of which few men ever have been of the 
history, the antiquities, the language and philology, of the people of whom he 
writes. He has worthily won the right to be heard on any point on which he 
speaks, and the corresponding right, whenever we think him wrong, to be 
answered. If we hold him, as we do, to be in many ways an untrustworthy 
guide, it is on grounds poles asunder from any charge of ignorance, careless 
ness, or inaccuracy. 

To this sterling merit Mommsen adds another merit equally sterling. He 
always tells his story clearly ; he often tells it with extraordinary force. We 



* [This is printed nearly as it was written, merely leaving out one or two 
sentences whose point was only temporary.] 



VII.] MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME. 267 

quarrel with much both in his matter and in his manner, but his book con 
tains many passages of the highest historic power. To take instances from 
the parts which, coming last, we have last read, it would be very hard to sur 
pass Mommsen s description of the state of Gaul at the time of Caesar s in 
vasion, of the warfare of the Parthians against Crassus, and, above all, of the 
whole career, especially the legislation, of Caesar. We are here fairly carried 
away in spite of ourselves. We think of another historian of Caesar, and we 
try to measure the gap, not by stadia but by parasangs. 

In this last quality Mommsen is the exact opposite of Niebuhr. Niebuhr 
could not tell a story ; he could hardly make an intelligible statement. His 
setting forth of his own opinions is so jumbled up with his citations and his 
arguments that it is no slight work to know what his opinions are. He pours 
forth as it were the whole workings of his own mind upon the subject, and we 
cannot always tell the last stage from the first. Mommsen, on the other 
hand, without troubling us with the process, gives us the results in the clearest 
shape. We should very often like to ask him his reason or authority for 
saying this or that. We never feel any need to ask him, as we should very 
often like to ask Niebuhr, what it is that he means to say. 

Here then are merits real and great, enough of themselves to account for 
Mommsen s having many and zealous disciples. And, though we have a long 
bill of indictment to bring against him, most of our charges are charges of 
faults which have somewhat of the nature of merits, or which at any rate may 
easily be mistaken for merits. Mommsen has faults, but we cannot say that he 
has failings. His errors are never on the side of weakness or defect. They 
are errors on a grand scale. If Mommsen made history instead of writing it, 
we could fancy him committing a great crime ; we could not fancy him 
playing a shabby trick. He might level a city with the ground ; he might be 
head four thousand prisoners in a day ; but he would not vex an unlucky news 
paper editor with the small shot of a Correctional Police. There is nothing 
weak or petty about him from beginning to end. His faults are all of them 
of a striking, of what to many people is a taking kind. Foremost among 
these faults we reckon his daring dogmatism the way in which he requires 
us to believe, on his sole ipse dixit, without the shadow either of argument or of 
authority, things which we have never before heard of, as if they were things 
which no man had ever thought of doubting. But we have no doubt that 
to many people this very daring is attractive. We can fancy its being especi 
ally attractive to the present generation of young Oxford men. It gratifies 
the love of novelty and paradox, and it gratifies it in a grand sort of way. 
There is a special temptation blindly to follow a man who clearly is not a fool, 
who no doubt could, if he chose, give a reason for everything that he says, 
but who deals with things too much in the grand style to stoop to give any 
reasons. Niebuhr gives you elaborate theories about the early history of 
Rome, but he also gives you, though in a somewhat clumsy way, his reasons 
for forming those thoories. In this there is a certain confession of weakness. 
But when Mommsen gives you theories equally startling in a calm way as if 
there never had been, and never could be, any doubt about them, fcis very con 
fidence in himself is apt to breed confidence in a certain class of readers. 
Mommsen and Niebuhr, in short, remind us of the story of the general who, 
when appointed to the governorship of a West India island, found that he had 



268 MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME. [ESSAY 

also to act as a judge. As long as he did not give his reasons, his judgements 
gave universal satisfaction ; but when, fancying himself a great lawyer, he ven 
tured to give his reasons, his judgement was at once appealed against. So we 
suspect that there is a class of readers who never think of appealing from 
Mommsen, while they would at once appeal from Niebuhr. On ourselves we 
confess that the effect is different. We see that what Mommsen says is always 
very clear and very taking; we think it very likely that he has good reasons 
for what he says ; but we certainly should be better pleased if he gave us his 
reasons and quoted his authorities. 

We can fancy again that many tastes are pleased, though our own are dis 
tinctly offended, at the way in which Mommsen deals with various matters, 
and especially with various persons whom other writers have taught us to 
reverence. Mommsen can be grave and earnest when he chooses, but he too 
often chooses to treat things and persons in a vein of low sarcasm which we 
must look upon as altogether unworthy of his subject. Whatever and whoever 
displeases Mommsen is sure to be set upon by him with a torrent of what we 
can call nothing but vulgar slang. All sorts of queer compounds, of strange 
and low allusions, are hurled at the heads of men for whom we are old- 
fashioned enough to confess a certain respect. Why are Pompeius and Cato 
always to be called names ? Though to be sure, as to Cato Mommsen does 
not keep on to the end exactly as he begins. At first he does nothing but 
mock at him ; but towards the end of his tale ^Mommsen seems for once to be 
impressed with the real grandeur of an honest man. And worse still is his 
treatment of Cicero. The weaknesses of Cicero s character are manifest, and 
no honest historian will try to hide them. But surely he is not a man whom 
it is right or decent to make a mere mark for contemptuous jeers, for his name 
never to be uttered without some epithet of scorn. This kind of thing seems 
to us to be bad in every way. It is bad in point of taste and art, and it is 
thoroughly unfair as a matter of history. 

This last point is closely connected with another fault. We mean Momm- 
sen s custom of using strange words, and common words in strange senses 
words and senses which often seem still stranger in the English than they do 
in the German. We believe that it is just allowable in German to call Sulla 
a Regent ; it certainly is not allowable in English. Here, it may be said, the 
fault lies directly, not with Mommsen, but with his English translator. We do 
not think so. Mommsen has a way of using words like this Regent, words 
which would pass unnoticed if they came only casually, as if they were technical 
terms. In fact Mommsen confers titles on his characters out of his own head. If 
we find Sulla and others systematically called Regent, even in German, much 
more in English, it is hard for the reader to avoid the notion that Regent was 
a real description used at the time. It is still worse when Mommsen constantly 
speaks of Caesar as Monarch and even as King. We see what he means ; 
it is meant as a forcible way of saying that Coesar s power was really kingly, 
that the commonwealth had become a practical monarchy. We suspect also 
that he means to contrast the despotism of the first CaBsar certainly the more 
openly avowed of the two with the more carefully veiled despotism of the 
second. Still we cannot think that it is a right way of expressing the truth 
to call Csesar, not in a bit of passing rhetoric, but frequently and deliberately, 
Monarch and even King. It cannot fail to convey a false idea to the reader. 



VII.] MOMMSEN S HISTORY OF ROME. 269 

Mommsen too is not free from the fashionable way of personifying this and 
that, Revolution and Reaction and so forth, though he does not carry the 
fashion so far as many French writers. And he has throughout a way of using 
words of his own making or choosing in this sort of technical fashion of which 
we cannot approve. The Regency of Sulla and the Monarchy of Caesar are only 
two cases among many. This tendency can hardly he separated from views of 
facts which we cannot but look upon as erroneous. Mommsen, with the rise 
of the coming Empire in his head, goes back as far as the Gracchi, and thinks 
that Caius contemplated, or at least dreamed of, something like kingship. For 
this we cannot see a shadow of evidence. 

Mommsen s style, strictly so called, is a matter rather for German than for 
English critics ; yet the interest which we take in a noble and kindred tongue, 
a tongue whose European importance is daily growing, compels us to say a few 
words. We are doubtless behind the age when we pronounce Momrnsen to be 
one of the worst corrupters of our common Teutonic speech. High-Dutch, 
like English, is just now exposed to an inroad of Latin, or rather French, 
words, which it seems to be looked on as high-polite to prefer to the tongue of 
our common fathers. And there is a difference between the two cases which 
makes the fault on the part of our continental brethren still more unpardon 
able than it is among ourselves. An Englishman cannot speak perfectly pure 
Teutonic, if he wishes ; a High-Dutchman may. First of all, owing to early 
events in our history, there is a certain class of Romance words which have 
been naturalized in English for ages, and against which no one wishes to say 
anything. Secondly, our language seems to have to a great degree lost its 
flexibility and power of throwing off new words, so that the stoutest Teutonic 
purist cannot forbid the use of Romance words to express ideas which are at 
all technical or abstract. We are of course using them freely as we now 
write. But neither of these necessities is laid on the High-Dutchman. There 
is nothing in his tongue answering to what we may call the Norman, as op 
posed to the Latin or French, infusion into our language, and the number of 
the purely Latin words introduced at an earlier date is not very large. And 
as for new words, the High-Dutch tongue, unlike our own, can make them as 
readily now as it could a thousand years back. If a German wants a new 
word for a new thought, he has nothing to do but to make it in his own 
tongue. Yet, in defiance of all this, the German language is being flooded 
with every kind of absurd French invention, orientiren, bornirt, nobody knows 
what ; we look for a speedy day when manglren and diren will supplant essen 
and sagen. No one is a greater sinner in this way than Mommsen ; he seems 
to take a distinct delight in corrupting the speech of his fathers to the ex- 
tremest point. Why talk about Insurgenten and Concurrenten and 
Proclamationen and Patrouillen ? why give us such foul compounds as 
Coteriewesen and Rabulistenart ? We have not come across any German 
writer of the same pretension as Mommsen who is in this respect so guilty as 
Mommsen. His fellow- worker in the series in which his history is published, 
Ernst Curtius, the historian of Greece, writes a language which, though per 
haps not quite the language of a hundred years past, is at any rate Dutch and 
not Welsh. Lond uns tiitsch blyben, said the old Swabian ; die walsch Zung 
ist untrii. But Mommsen at least acts on quite another principle. 

At the same time we must add in fairness that Mommsen s style, allowing 



270 MO MM SEN S HISTORY OF ROME. 

for his strange words and strange uses of words, is singularly clear, and often 
forcible. One has not with him, as with some German writers, to wander up 
and down a sentence in hopeless ignorance where one is, and to seek for the 
verb among thickets and quagmires miles away from its nominative case. But 
then this is equally true of Curtius, without the sad drawback of Mommsen s 
language. Dr. Dickson s translation, as far as we have compared it with the 
original, which we have done through many pages, is carefully and accurately 
done. He very seldom mistakes his author s meaning, and he commonly 
expresses it with all clearness. His fault is rather that he sticks so closely 
to the words of his author that his own sentences are rather German than 
English. This makes the English translation a little unpleasant to read. 

But there is a fault in Mommsen s work, far graver than any of which we 
have spoken, and one which we think is of itself enough to make the book 
unfit for the position which it now holds at Oxford. It is not too much to say 
that Mommsen has no notion whatever of right and wrong, It is not so much 
that he applauds wrong actions, as that he does not seem to know that right 
and wrong have anything to do with the matter. No one has set forth more 
clearly than Mommsen the various stages of the process by which Rome 
gradually reduced the States round the Mediterranean to a state of dependence 
what he, by one of the quasi-technicalities of which we complain, calls a 
state of clientship. It is, for clear insight into the matter, one of the best 
parts of the book. But almost every page is disfigured by the writer s un 
blushing idolatry of mere force. He cannot understand that a small state can 
have any rights against a great one, or that a patriot in such a state can be 
anything but a fool. Every patriotic Greek, every Roman philhellen, is 
accordingly brought upon the stage to be jeered at only less brutally than 
Cicero himself. His treatment of Caesar is also characteristic in this way. 
Caesar s still more famous biographer gives himself great trouble to justify 
every action of his hero, to prove that Caesar was throughout a perfect patriot, 
unswayed by any motive save the purest zeal for the public good. All this is 
ridiculous enough ; still it is, after all, a certain homage paid to virtue. Momm 
sen is intellectually above any such folly ; at any rate he never trifles with 
facts, and it seems perfectly indifferent to him whether Caesar, or anybody else, 
was morally right or wrong. It is enough for him that Caesar was a man of 
surpassing genius, who laid his plans skilfully and carried them out success 
fully. The only subject on which Mommsen ever seems to be stirred up to 
anything like moral indignation is one not very closely connected with his 
immediate subject, namely American slavery. It is however some comfort 
that he does not, like Mr. Beesly, go in for Catilina. 

We need not review in detail a book which every one who cares for its 
subject is likely to have read already. We admire Mommsen s genius, his 
research, his accuracy, as warmly as any of his followers can. We hold that his 
book is most valuable for advanced scholars to compare with other books, to 
weigh his separate statements, and to come to their own conclusions. But a 
book which gives no references, which puts forth new theories as confidently 
as if they were facts which had never been doubted above all, a book which 
seems perfectly indifferent to all considerations of right and wrong, seems to 
us, when put alone into the hands of those who are still learners, to be 
thoroughly dangerous and misleading. 



VIII. 



LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA.* 

IN a former Essay we touched slightly on some of the political 
phenomena of the last age of the Roman Commonwealth, but 
without going into any details, and without examining in 
dividual characters at any length. We now propose to work 
out rather more fully some of the points which were there 
casually brought in, especially as they are illustrated by the 
life and character of the most wonderful man of his genera 
tion, the Dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla. 

Among the many writers by whom the time of Marius 
and Sulla has been treated in our own times,, it is not needful 
to speak here of more than two. Mommsen has dealt with it 
at great length, and with all his usual power. Of Sulla him 
self he has drawn one of his most elaborate pictures, traced 
with that vigorous hand every touch of which is striking 
and instructive, whether it commands assent in every detail 
or not. Here, as elsewhere, Mommsen errs on the side of 
being wise above that which is written ; a few strokes here 
and there are plainly due to the imagination of the painter. 
But when any one has, by careful study of his authorities, 
gained such an idea of a man or a period as those authorities 
can give him, it is pardonable, and indeed unavoidable, to fill 

* [This Essay, in its original state, had as its heading the names of several 
works, German and English. But as the part of the Article which was given 
to the criticism of those works could easily be separated from the general 
historical matter, I have cut out all the critical part, save a reference here and 
there, as being of merely temporary interest. But, for those who may remem 
ber the article as it stood in the National Eeview, I think it right to add that 
there is not a word in those criticisms, any more than in those which were 
contained in the article quoted in page 47, which I see any reason to with 
draw or regret on its own account.] 



272 LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. [ESSAY 

up an outline which cannot fail to be imperfect with a few 
conjectural strokes of his own. It is a great matter to know 
clearly what kind of idea of Sulla, or of any other man, is 
conveyed to the mind of a judge like Mommsen by the 
writings on which we have to depend. Even when there 
are points on which we claim to ourselves the right utterly 
to dissent, the result is very different from the blunders of 
men who do not read their books with care, or from the 
solemn emptiness of men who read with all their might, but 
whom nature has forbidden to understand. 

Long before Mommsen, in a time indeed which is now per 
haps wholly forgotten, Dr. Arnold wrote for the Encyclopaedia 
Metropolitan that sketch of the later Roman History which 
has since been republished as a continuation of his imperfect 
History of Rome. It was a comparatively youthful produc 
tion, and it certainly does not show that full maturity of power 
which comes out in the matchless narrative of the Hannibalian 
War. But it was the worthy beginning of a great work ; 
and it is quite in its place as the best, though doubtless an 
imperfect, substitute for what Arnold would have given us 
had he been longer spared. It already shows that clear con 
ception of the politics of the time which shines forth so 
conspicuously in Arnold s finished History ; and, in the part 
with which we are now concerned, he displays less of that 
partizan feeling which comes out, perhaps too strongly, in 
his narrative of the wars of Caesar and Pompeius. And, above 
all, Arnold showed then, as ever, that pure and lofty morality, 
that unflinching determination to apply the eternal laws of 
right and wrong to his estimate of men of every age and 
country, which distinguishes him above every other writer of 
history. Perhaps he sets up too high a standard ; perhaps he 
is now and then hard upon men who may fairly claim to be 
judged according to their own light. But it is something to 
have history written by one who does not worship success; 
by one who never accepts intellectual acuteness, literary power, 
or firmness of purpose, as any substitute for real moral worth ; 
by one who never swerves from the doctrine that the same 



VIII.] LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. 273 

moral law must judge of dealings between commonwealth and 
commonwealth, between party and party, which judges of deal 
ings between man and man. Never did Arnold rise to a higher 
pitch of moral grandeur than in his character of Sulla himself. 
He refuses to accept Sulla s taste for elegant literature as the 
slightest set-off against his crimes; he tells us plainly that 
the indulgence of intellectual tastes is as much a personal 
gratification as the indulgence of sensual tastes, and that the 
one is not in itself, apart from the ends to which it is used, 
entitled to one jot more of moral approbation than the other. 

We will now turn to our ancient authorities. We have for 
the age of Sulla, as for so many other important periods of 
history, no one consecutive contemporary narrative. This is to 
be the more regretted, as the contemporary materials must have 
been specially rich. The age of Sulla was an age of memoir- 
writing at Rome, just like the seventeenth and eighteenth 
centuries in France. Sulla himself left an autobiography, and 
so did many other eminent men of the age. But all their 
writings have perished ; for the age of Marius and Sulla we have 
no such contemporary stores as we have in abundance for the 
age of Caesar and Pompeius. Of that age too we have no com 
plete contemporary narrative ; but then we have the countless 
letters and orations of Cicero for the whole time, and we have 
the narratives of Caesar and his officers for a part of it. Of 
Sulla s Memoirs we have not so much as fragments ; we have 
no letters and very few speeches; the earliest orations of 
Cicero belong to the last days of Sulla. As for writers not 
contemporary, among formal writers of history Sallust comes 
nearest to the time, and next to him Livy. We have also 
Appian s History of the Civil War, and Plutarch s Lives of 
Marius and Sulla; there are also numerous allusions to events 
of the Sullan age both in Cicero and in later and inferior 
writers.* 

* [There is also the account given in the sketch of Eoman History Written by 
Velleius in the early days of the reign of Tiberius, and the fragments of the 
great work of Dion Cassius. Velleius is of special importance, as he writes 
in some sort from the point of view of the Italian Allies. He gives some 

T 



274 LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. [ESSAY 

When we say that Sallust was not a contemporary writer, 
we mean that he could not write from actual personal know 
ledge. He was born in B.C. 86, the year of the death of 
Marius, and eight years before the death of Sulla. Still the 
events of Sulla s dictatorship were such as must have made 
some impression on an intelligent child ; he had plenty of op 
portunities of conversing with spectators and actors ; and he 
had access to the documents, speeches, and memoirs of the 
time while they were still in their freshness. Sallust there 
fore, if we had his guidance throughout, would be an authority 
all but contemporary. But unluckily the work in which he 
treated of the Social and Civil Wars has perished. In his 
Jugurthine War however we have the narrative of the earliest 
important exploits of the two rivals. We have characters of 
both drawn by a master s hand ; and we have a speech, whose 
substance at least is probably genuine, from Caius Marius 
himself. Among the fragments of Sallust we have also a 
speech against Sulla from the Consul Marcus .ZEmilius Lepidus, 
and a speech against Lepidus by Lucius Marcius Philippus, 
both belonging to the year of Sulla s death. 

Of Livy s History of this age we have only the Epitomes, 
but these Epitomes form a complete, though, of course, far 
from a detailed narrative. They sometimes help us to facts, 
at all events to statements, which are not found elsewhere. 
Thus it is only in the Epitome of Livy that we are dis 
tinctly told that Marius and Cinna entered on the consul 
ship in B.C. 86 simply by their own will and pleasure, with 
out even the form of an election. What we have lost in these 



important details of the war, and his characters of Marius and Sulpicius 
are specially striking. Dion, a Senator and Consul under the Emperors from 
Pertinax to Alexander Severus, is in point of date the latest of our authorities, 
but his thorough knowledge of the Roman history and constitution, and his 
access to and use of official documents, make him practically nearer to the 
time than Plutarch or Appian. But of Dion s History at this time we have 
nothing but a few scraps, till we get to Sulla s proscription, which an extant 
fragment describes in some detail. Both Velleius and Dion seem to believe in 
a sudden change in Sulla s character, which strikes me as neither historical 
nor philosophical.] 



VIII.] LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. 275 

books of Livy can hardly be guessed at. The carelessness and 
ignorance which disfigure his treatment of early times would 
not have affected his narrative of days so near to his own ; the 
charm of his style would have been joined with real knowledge 
of his subject, and, we have every reason to believe, with as 
fair a judgement of men and things as we have any right 
ever to expect. 

Our main authorities then, after all, are the later Greek 
writers, Plutarch and Appian. Plutarch, living under the 
Emperors from Nero to Hadrian, is about as far removed from 
the age of Marius and Sulla as we are now from the last half 
of the seventeenth century. Appian comes a generation later ; 
Marius and Sulla were to him as Charles the First and his 
adversaries are to us. They therefore could write of the age of 
Sulla only as we can write of it ourselves, by examining and 
judging of such materials as they had at hand. They are 
therefore merely authorities at secondhand. Had we any con 
temporary writers, we should doubtless cast Appian aside as 
utterly as w T e cast aside Diodoros when we can get Thucy- 
dides ; the charm of Plutarch s delightful biographies would 
probably save him in any case. As it is, we are thankful to 
them for preserving to us much of the substance of those 
original writers which they had before them, but which we 
have not. But in using them we exercise our own judge 
ment in a degree which we do not venture to do when we 
read Thucydides, or when we read those parts of Polybios 
where he writes from his own knowledge. Here, as in the 
days of Aratos and Kleomenes, we have to stop and think 
whence our informants got their matter, and how far the 
narratives which they read were tinged with the passions of 
the time. Aratos and Sulla left autobiographies ; there were 
no autobiographies of Lydiadas or of Marius. Plutarch, 
though his sound moral sense utterly abhorred Sulla s 
atrocities, clearly writes on the whole from the Sullan side. 
Doubtless Sulla s autobiography was one of his chief sources. 
Hence he is perhaps unfair to Marius ; we may say, almost 
with certainty, that he is unfair to the Tribune Sulpicius, 

T 2 



276 LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. [ESSAY 

whose character is certainly one of the hardest problems of the 
age. One German critic of these times* rules that Appian is 
to be preferred as an authority to Plutarch. We are inclined to 
agree with him, on the condition that no censure of Plutarch is 
implied. Plutarch writes with a special object^ Appian with 
a general object. Plutarch tells us plainly that he does not 
write history ; he writes the lives of great men with a moral 
purpose ; he uses their actions only to throw light on their 
characters ; he tells us that men^s behaviour in small matters 
often throws more light on their character than their behaviour 
in great matters; therefore he dwells as much or more upon 
small anecdotes and sharp sayings as upon the gravest matters 
of politics. He might perhaps even have gone on to say that 
an apocryphal anecdote often throws as much light on a man s 
character as an authentic one. Current stories about people 
are often, perhaps generally, exaggerated ; but the peculiar 
qualities which are picked out for exaggeration are pretty sure 
to show what a man s character really is. All this doubtless 
lessens Plutarch s direct value as an historical witness, but it 
does not at all lessen the merit of his work from his own 
point of view. Appian, a writer in every way inferior to 
Plutarch, does attempt, perhaps not very successfully _, but still 
to the best of his power, to write a political history. We are 
perhaps unduly set against Appian by his narrative of the 
Hannibalian War, where we can compare him with first-rate 
historians, ancient and modern. In that narrative he un 
doubtedly falls as far below Livy as Livy himself falls below 
Polybios. -But his narrative of the Civil War is evidently a 
more careful composition ; he doubtless had more and better 
authorities before him, and he was better able to understand such 
authorities as he had. He at least tries to master the politics 
of the time, and we owe to him several pieces of information 
which are of great importance in illustrating them. Thus it is 
from him alone that we hear of the marked separation between 
the urban and the rural citizens during the tribuneship of 

* [Lucius Cornelius Sulla : eine Biografie. Von Dr. Thaddoeus Lau. 
Hamburg, 1855.] 



VIII] LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. 277 

Saturninus, and of the strange temporary alliance between the 
aristocracy and the mob of the Forum. On the whole, Appian 
seldom contradicts Plutarch, though he often explains his 
difficulties and fills up his blanks. On the other hand, we 
must add that in the European part of the Mithridatic War 
Plutarch had an advantage of local knowledge above all 
writers of any age. Sulla s two great battles, Chaironeia and 
Orchomenos, were both fought in Plutarch s native province, 
and one of them close to his native town. 

Such are the authorities, partly fragmentary, partly second 
hand, from which we have to gather up our knowledge of this 
remarkable period, and of the two remarkable men who were 
the leading actors in it. We may fairly wish that we had 
fuller and more thoroughly trustworthy accounts ; but, com 
pared with our knowledge of some other ages, we have reason 
to be thankful for what we have. There is quite enough, we 
think, if it be carefully and critically weighed, to enable us to 
put together a fairly accurate picture both of Marius and Sulla 
personally, and of the age in which they lived. 

In a former Essay a general sketch was given of the relations 
which existed between the Roman Commonwealth and the states 
which stood to her in various degrees of subjection or dependent 
alliance. We there left Rome, after the victory of Pydna, still 
far from possessing the universal empire of after days, but 
already without a rival on equal terms in the lands round 
the Mediterranean. In the sixty years between the battle of 
Pydna and the first appearance in history of Marius and Sulla, 
the Roman dominion had been greatly extended, but it may be 
doubted whether the real power of Rome had been at all 
increased in proportion. We left Carthage still a nourishing 
city, internally free, if externally dependent on Rome ; we left 
Achaia still a free confederation, whose dependence was in 
theory even slighter than that of Carthage. Now those free 
states have sunk into the Roman provinces of Africa and 
Achaia, and the great cities of Carthage and Corinth have 
vanished in one year from the face of the earth. Pergamos, 



278 LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. [ESSAY 

then a powerful kingdom, a cherished ally of Rome, is now 
the Roman province of Asia. Macedonia, which, on the over 
throw of her King 1 , had received a mockery of freedom, is now 
a province also. The Roman power was now fast advancing 
in Gaul, and Roman colonies were beginning to be planted 
beyond the Alps. Numidia still kept her Kings, but after 
Massinissa they were the vassals rather than the allies of 
Rome. Syria, Egypt, Mauritania, were the only Mediter 
ranean kingdoms which still kept any share of independ 
ence. Republican freedom lived on only in the Lykian 
Confederation and in a few outlying Greek islands and cities. 
But each of Rome s territorial acquisitions gave her a new 
frontier to defend, and new enemies to defend it against. 
Rome was no longer threatened by Gaulish invaders, but 
Roman Gaul had to be defended against independent Gauls 
and wandering Germans. Macedonia was no longer the 
oppressor of Greece and the rival of Rome ; but Rome had 
now to do Macedonia s old duty of guarding the civilized 
world against the Barbarians of Thrace and Moesia. Rome 
had now firmly planted her foot on the Asiatic mainland; 
but she now had to do for herself what Pergamos had once 
done for her, to keep in check the rising and reviving powers 
of the further East. The municipal system of Rome, admir 
able as it was as the goverment of a single city and its 
immediate territory, was wholly unfit either to administer so 
vast a dominion, or to carry on the wars which its possession 
constantly brought with it. The conduct of a war fell, by 
Roman law, to one of the Consuls of the year. Now, to say 
nothing of the not uncommon case of actual corruption or 
cowardice, it clearly would often happen that a Consul who 
was quite fit to be the civil chief of the commonwealth, who 
was quite fit to carry on a war of the old local Italian kind, 
would utterly break down when sent to carry on war in 
distant lands against unknown and adventurous enemies. 
Hence a Roman war of this period commonly begins with 
two or three years of defeat and disgrace, followed by com 
plete victory as soon as the right man, Flamininus or Scipio 



VIII.] LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. 279 

or Metellus or Marius, is sent to retrieve the blunders or the 
treachery of his predecessors. The cause is plain enough. 
The People of Rome, till they became open to bribes, were 
quite fit to choose ordinary magistrates for their own com 
monwealth ; they were not fit to choose generals and adminis 
trators for the whole civilized world. 

Within the commonwealth matters were worse still. The 
old distinctions of patrician and plebeian distinctions whose 
historical and religious origin did something to lessen their 
bitterness had utterly passed away. The glorious age of 
harmony and victory which followed their abolition had now 
passed away also. Instead of patricians and plebeians, we 
now see the nobles and the people, the rich and the poor. 
The nobles were fast shrinking up into a corrupt and selfish 
oligarchy. The people were fast sinking into a venal and 
brutal mob. The old plebeian yeomanry, the truest glory of 
Rome, were fast dying out ; their little farms were swallowed 
up in vast estates tilled by slaves ; and the Consul or Tribune 
who spoke to the Quirites in the Forum now commonly spoke 
to a mongrel rabble of naturalized strangers and enfranchised 
bondsmen. The Italian Allies, who had done so much for 
Rome s greatness, were still legally free, but they were exposed 
to all kinds of irregular oppression. Now indeed they were 
beginning to ask for Roman citizenship, and to see their 
righteous claims turned into a means to help on the schemes of 
political parties at Rome. The two Gracchi had done what 
they could to bring back a better state of things. Both of 
them had perished, and the blood of Tiberius was the first- 
fruits of the long civil wars and massacres of Rome. Step by 
step, the little that Caius had really done was undone by an 
encroaching oligarchy, by a thoughtless and ungrateful people. 
The old constitution was thoroughly worn out ; the theoretical 
sovereignty of the People was used only to seal its own 
bondage and degradation ; the wrongs of the Allies were 
making themselves heard more and more loudly. Subjection 
to the true Roman People, to the descendants of their con 
querors, might perhaps have been borne : but subjection to 



280 LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. [ESSAY 

the vile populace who now filled the Roman Forum was a 
bondage too galling" for the countrymen of Lars Porsena and 
Caius Pontius. Still the Italians could at least make their 
complaints heard ; but the provincials had to suffer in silence, 
or to seek a mockery of justice from courts where the oppressor 
was judged by the partners of his guilt. Such was the state 
of the Roman commonwealth at the beginning of the memor 
able war with Jugurtha. It may be that, as Niebuhr says, we 
attribute an undue importance to that war. It may be that 
it was really only one of many like struggles, and that it 
only looks greater because it alone happens to have been 
chosen for a monograph by a great historian. Yet it is hard 
to believe tbat many of the barbarian chiefs with whom Rome 
had to strive on her vast frontier could have rivalled Jugurtha, 
either in his crimes, in his undoubted natural powers, or in 
the advantages of his half-Roman education. And however 
this may be, the Jugurthine war must ever be memorable as 
the first field on which Caius Marius and Lucius Sulla showed 
themselves to the eyes of after ages. 

These two men, of whom each alike may be called at once the 
preserver and the destroyer of his country, were born in widely 
different ranks, but both were men who rose wholly by their 
own powers. Marius was by birth a man of the people in the 
best sense ; he sprang neither from the proud nobility nor yet 
from the low populace of the Forum. He was a yeoman s son* 

* This seems, on the whole, pretty well to express the position of the family 
of Marius. Mommsen surely goes too far in making him the son of a poor 
labourer (eines armen Tagelohner s Sohn). Marius married a Julia ; he most likely 
married her late in life, when he had already risen to distinction : still one can 
hardly fancy a Julia sinking, in any case, so low as the son of a day-labourer. 
There is moreover no sign of his ever being in difficulties for want of money. 
That quickly vanishing class among ourselves, intermediate between the 
higher farmers and the smaller gentry, would perhaps, better than any other, 
answer to his real position. Such a man may have even reached the equestrian 
census, natus equestri loco, says Velleius, which it is dangerous to change 
into agresti, and yet have been looked down on by the nobles for his rustic 
breeding and utter want of family honours. 

[The whole portrait of Marius given by Velleius (ii. il) is very striking. 
C. Marius, natus equestri loco, hirtus atque horridus, mtaqiie sanctus, 



VIII.] LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. 281 

in the territory of the Volscian town of Arpinum, whose citi 
zens had been admitted to the full Roman franchise only thirty 
years before his birth. Family honours he had none, liberal 
education he had none ; his temper was rude and coarse, and 
on provocation brutally ferocious ; he had little eloquence or 
skill in civil affairs, but he was not without a certain cunning 1 , 
with which he tried to supply their place. On the other hand, 
he was a good soldier, a good officer, and we see no reason why 
we should not add, a good general. He rose from the ranks to 
his six consulships mainly, if not wholly, by his own merit. 
And to his new rank he carried with him many of the virtues 
of the state of life from which he rose : his morals were pure ; 
he was a stern punisher of vice in others,* and the determined 
foe of luxury and excess of every kind. Above all, his sym 
pathies lay wholly with the best element which was still left 
among the inhabitants of Italy. The villager of Arpinum, whose 
grandfather had not been a full citizen, felt with the remnant 
of the old rural plebeians ; still more strongly perhaps did he feel 
with the unenfranchised Allies. If the daring plebeian bearded 
the nobles to their faces, the stout yeoman looked with no favour 
on the law w T hich distributed corn among* the idle populace of 
the city. The one act of his life which looks like truckling to 
the mere mob is capable of another meaning. Hitherto no one 
had served in the Roman army who had not some stake in the 
Roman state ; Caius Marius was the first to enlist everybody 
who came. To him we may well believe that fighting and 
ploughing seemed the only callings worthy of a citizen; to 
turn lazzaroni into soldiers might seem a charitable work ; if 
they died, the commonwealth was well rid of them ; if they 
lived through the campaign, he had turned useless citizens 
into useful ones. The language of satire is not always the 
language of truth, but certainly no saying was ever truer 
than the noble lines of Juvenal, which set forth the glory and 



quantum bello optiraus, tantum pace pessimus, imnrodicus gloriae, insatiabilis, 
impotens, semperque inquietus. ] 

* See the story of Trebonius and Lusius in Plutarch, Marius 14. 



282 LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. [ESSAY 

happiness of Marius, had he never shown himself on any stage 
but his own element, the field of battle.* 

We will now turn to his rival. Lucius Cornelius Sulla had 
in his veins some of the oldest and proudest blood of Rome, and 
yet he owed almost as little to hereditary descent as Marius 
himself. He was a patrician of the patricians, a member of 
that great Cornelian Gens which gave Rome her Cossi and her 
Scipios, but his immediate forefathers were obscure, and his 
inherited wealth was probably smaller than that of the Volscian 
yeoman. Men might almost have looked to see him take the 
popular side, as that which was more natural to his position than 
the side of the nobles. But he was twenty years younger than 
Marius; his rival was committed to the one party, and he could 
become great only as the chief of the other. But neither rivalry 
with Marius nor the desire of personal greatness was at all the 
ruling passion in the heart of Sulla. If any man ever was a 
born aristocrat, he was one. Amidst all his vices and crimes, 
we cannot help yielding a certain admiration to the sincere, we 
might almost say disinterested, steadiness with which he clave 
to the political party which he had chosen. Sulla was not 
exactly ambitious, at least he at all times loved pleasure better 
than power; he utterly looked down on his fellow-creatures, and 
could not stoop to the ordinary arts of the demagogue. Had 
it been otherwise, he might no doubt have risen to sovereign 
power by the same course as Dionysios and Caesar. His 
genius both for war and for politics was consummate ; but he 
loved ease and luxury better than either ; he took to public 
life as it were by fits and starts, and he at least professed to 
have been driven into the Civil War without any choice of his 
own. But, when he was once fairly on the scene, he carried out 
his object without flinching. That object was the restoration 
of what he held to be the old, uncorrupted, aristocratic govern- 

* Juvenal, x. 298. 

Quid illo cive tulisset 

Natura in terris, quid Roma beatius umquam, 
Si circumdiicto captivorum agmine, et omni 
Bellorum pompzt, animam exhalasset opimam, 
Quum de Teutonico vellet descendere curru ? 



VIIL] LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. 283 

ment of Rome. To bring- that about, neither law nor con 
science stood in his way. He was not cruel in the sense of 
delighting- in human suffering; his natural character indeed 
is said to have been eminently the reverse. He was easily 
moved to pity ; he was capable of love, perhaps of friendship, 
in a high degree. But he stuck at no sort of crime which 
could, even indirectly, tend to compass his ends. Stone dead 
hath no fellow; so he got rid of his prisoners and his political 
opponents by the most fearful massacres in European history. 
And more than this ; as long as it suited his purpose, he 
winked at crimes of every kind in those whom he thought 
likely to be won by such licence to be useful tools for his 
purpose. An unscrupulous partizan was worth having ; for 
the sake of such an one he would add names to the pro 
scription-list which his own political ends would not have 
placed there. We may believe that Marius thoroughly 
enjoyed a massacre of his enemies, but that he would have 
shrunk from the wanton murder of any man who was not 
his enemy, Sulla took no pleasure in bloodshed,* but he 
would shed any amount of blood, guilty or innocent, which 
was likely to serve his ends. When his object was once 
gained, his cruelties came to an end. There is nothing in the 
rule of Sulla like the frantic tyranny of some of the Emperors, 
or of some Italian tyrants of later days. Nero lighted up 
Rome with burning Christians ; Gian-Maria Visconti amused 
himself with hunting his subjects through the streets with 
bloodhounds. Sulla was never guilty of crimes of so foolish 
a kind. He did not kill people for mere sport, neither did he 
put them to death by torture, f To be sure, even when the 

* Another German biographer of Sulla says : Aber es ist ein Unterschied 
zu machen, zwischen jener muthwilligen Grausamkeit, welche sich ihrer 
Unthaten erfreut, oder aus Rachsucht oder zur Befriedigung einer andern 
kleinichen Leidenschaft mordet, und zwischen der Grausamkeit, welche, um 
einen grossen, an gich oder in den Augen des Handelnden, loblichen Zweck 
zu erreichen, kein Opfer fur zu gross halt. (Zacnaria, Lucius Cornelius Sulla, 
177 ; Mannheim, 1850.) The words are tinged with the author s spirit of 
apology for the crimes of Sulla, bxit they contain much truth. 

f Marcus Marius Gratidianus was put to death in a horrible way during 
the proscription, but this was the private brutality of Catilina. That it was 



284 LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. [ESSAY 

proscription was over, he ever and anon reminded the People 
that they had given him power of life and death. When 
Ofella, one of his best officers, sued for the consulship in an 
illegal manner, Sulla had him cut down before all men in 
the Forum. By a more unjustifiable stretch of power, after 
he had laid down his dictatorship, he caused Granius of 
Puteoli to be strangled before his eyes for attempting to 
shirk or embezzle the local contribution to the rebuilding of 
the Capitol.* Of these two acts, the latter was a mere murder 
done by a private man, but it was a murder with a purpose, 
and that a public purpose. Through the whole of Sulla s 
tyranny there is nothing passionate ; it is not so much cruelty 
as recklessness of human life ; it is the cold, deliberate, ex 
terminating, policy of a man who has an object to fulfil, and 
who will let nothing stand in the way of that object. We do 
not say this in justification, or even in palliation. The cold 
blooded, politic, massacres of Sulla seem to us to imply a 
lower moral state than the ferocious revenge of Marius. or even 
than the bloody madness of Caius or Nero. In these latter 
cases indeed the very greatness of the crime becomes its own 
protection. Its doers seem to be removed out of the class of 
responsible human beings into the class of madmen or of wild 
beasts. But the massacres of Sulla were the deliberate acts 
of a man whose genius as scholar, statesman, and general 
altogether bars him from the poor excuse of those tyrants 
whom we charitably believe to have lost their senses. That 
such a man should have done such deeds puts human nature 
in a far more fearful light than it is put by the frantic crimes 



done by Sulla s order is not to be inferred from the few words of Livy s 
Epitomator. 

* The story of Ofella is given most fully by Appian (i. 101), who supplies 
the legal objection to Ofella s candidature, which is passed by in Plutarch 
and in the Epitome of Livy. One of Sulla s laws required that men should 
rise to the offices of the state in regular order : the Prsetor must have served 
as ^Edile, and the Consul must have served as Prsetor. Quintus Ofella sued for 
the consulship per saltum, without having been Prsetor or ^Edile. Sulla bade 
him desist ; and when he continued his- canvass, he ordered a centurion to kill 
him. 



VIII.] LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. 285 

of silly youths whose heads were turned by the possession of 
absolute power. 

It is a very paltry and superficial view to attribute the acts 
of Sulla to passion and fury, and to hold that his end 
throughout was merely his own self-indulgence. Those who 
talk in this way must have read history carelessly indeed. 
That Sulla loved pleasure better than power we have already 
said ; but, when once roused to political life, he had a political 
object which he followed out unflinchingly. His old patrician 
blood forbade him alike to aspire to be a King and to sink 
to be a demagogue. He would win back for the Roman 
aristocracy all its ancient pride and power. He would have 
no more turbulent mobs, no more factious Tribunes ; he would 
have no more discontented Allies claiming to intrude them 
selves into the Roman Senate or the Roman Forum. The 
Senate of Rome should again rule Italy and the world. Etru- 
ria, Samnium, Lucania, dared to set themselves in array against 
the majesty of the Roman commonwealth. The strong arm 
of the Dictator came down on the rebels with the heaviest 
vengeance. Prisoners of war were slaughtered by thousands ; 
cities were swept away and whole districts were wasted ; the 
revolted nations were, as far as nations can be, swept from 
the face of the earth. Their annihilation secured Rome s 
supremacy, and their lands stood ready to reward the faithful 
soldiers of Rome and her Dictator. Inside the walls of Rome 
he followed out as vigorous a policy to secure the power of 
the Senate as he followed outside them to secure the power 
of Rome over Italy. Every tradition of the past was bound 
up in the honoured formula of the Senate and People. To 
have taken away all power from the People, to have made 
Rome like a narrow Greek oligarchy, would have been the act, 
not of a restorer but a revolutionist. But Sulla could lessen 
the power of the popular element by every restriction which 
savoured of antiquity, and he could do much to make the 
people degraded and subservient. At one blow he enfran 
chised ten thousand slaves whom his proscription had set free 
from their masters. They bore his name, they owed to him 



286 LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. [ESSAY 

their political being; ten thousand citizens, ten thousand 
Cornelii, were at once called into being 1 to guard his person 
and to vote as he bade them. A Fabius or a Scipio would 
have shrunk with horror from tainting- the Roman People 
with such a plague-spot. But Sulla was an aristocrat of the 
school of the old Claudii ; he acted in the spirit of the Censor 
Appius when he scattered the freedmen through all the tribes. 
A degraded and mongrel people would be more subservient 
than the genuine, high-spirited plebeians of old. What Sulla 
least wished to see was a Commons of the old type, strong in 
the assertion of their own rights, but reverencing law and order ; 
acting under the guidance of worthy leaders, but not prepared 
to be the satellites and bravos of any man. All his political 
legislation tended at once to degrade the popular character 
and to lessen the popular power. Legislation was transferred 
from the Assembly of the Tribes to that of the Centuries, where 
property had more weight than numbers ; and even this more 
trustworthy body was allowed to vote only on such proposals 
as were laid before it by the Senate. The tribuneship was 
too old an institution to be swept away, but it might be 
made harmless. No man could now be Tribune who had not 
been at least Quaestor ; the Tribune could no longer summon 
assemblies and propose laws ; he who had been Tribune could 
not aspire to the loftier offices of Praetor and Consul. Men 
could henceforth only rise to the higher magistracies by regu 
larly passing through the lower, with fixed intervals between 
each. The six successive consulships of the elder Marius, the 
consulship of the younger at the age of twenty, were thus 
wholly shut out. In everything, in the spirit if not in the 
letter, Rome was to go back to what she was before the Lici- 
nian Laws, almost to what she was before the Decemvirate. 

In all this Sulla acted strictly #s an aristocratic leader. 
He did not aspire to kingship, or even to tyranny. He 
founded no dynasty. He had children and kinsmen ; but he 
did nothing to secure for them any superiority above other 
Roman nobles. He did not even keep his own power for his 
lifetime. Created Dictator, with absolute authority for an 



VIII.] LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. 287 

unlimited time, he wielded his boundless powers with terrible 
effect till he looked on his work as done. He then laid down 
his office ; he offered to account to all the world for his 
actions ; and he withdrew to enjoy those pleasures, intellectual 
and sensual, which he loved better than governing the world. 
His crimes were greater in degree than those of either Ca3sar 
or of either Buonaparte ; but there is something in all this 
which sets him above any of the four. To say that Sulla had 
a conscience, to say that he followed any object because he 
thought it right, might be going too far; but he had an 
object before him which was not wholly selfish ; he was above 
the vulgar ambition of becoming a King and the father of 
Kings. When the man who had killed the reckoning is 
Appian s fifteen Consulars, ninety Senators, two thousand six 
hundred knights, who had confiscated their goods and declared 
their children incapable of office, who had moreover wasted 
whole cities and lands, and had slaughtered a hundred thou 
sand Romans and Italians either in his battles or in massacres 
after his battles, when the man who had done all this offered 
to explain to any one his reasons for doing it, and walked home 
without a single lictor, there was something in all this of 
mockery, something of utter contempt for mankind ; but there 
was also something of a feeling that he had not been working 
and sinning only for his own gain or his own vanity ; there 
was a kind of patriotism in the man, perverted and horrible 
as was the form which it took. 

The private life of Sulla was as wide a contrast as can be 
thought of to the private life of Marius. Everything we hear 
of Marius leads us to believe that his household was an old 
Roman household of the best kind. But he was utterly with 
out intellectual tastes or acquirements of any sort. Sulla, on 
the other hand, was a man of taste, a man of learning ; he 
studied both Greek and Latin authors; he busied himself in 
writing the history of his own times down to the day of his 
death. He was a sensual and intellectual voluptuary ; he was 
well pleased to unbend, to leave public affairs behind him ; 
he loved sportive and merry conversation ; he loved the com- 



288 LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. [ESSAY 

pany of actors and artists of all kinds, from men of high 
character like the great Quintus Roscius down to the lowest 
instruments, male and female, of his pleasures and his amuse 
ments. He indulged, seemingly through his whole life, in 
every form of sensual vice. And yet even his domestic life is 
not without its redeeming features. How far he was capable 
of friendship, as distinguished from political partizanship, we 
can hardly judge. Certainly towards his partizans, Pom- 
peius, Crassus, and the viler Catilina, his error was on the 
side of indulgence. But the strangest part of his character 
in this way is shown in his relations to his successive wives. 
For an unfaithful hushand to be also an affectionate husband is 
no very strange phenomenon ; the annals of royal houses will 
supply examples enough. But Sulla was something much 
more than an unfaithful husband, he was a man given up to 
every kind of foul and unnatural debauchery, and yet he 
evidently both loved and was loved by those of his wives of 
whom we have any account. He married five times. Of his 
two first wives we know nothing but the names ; the third, 
Celia, he divorced on pretence of barrenness, in order to marry 
Csecilia Metella. Metella plays no unimportant part in his 
history, and the relations of the pair were throughout those 
of confidence and affection. If he divorced her on her very 
death-bed, it was from a motive of religion, and by the order 
of the chiefs of the national worship ; he was holding a solemn 
feast, and his house might not at such a time be defiled by 
mourning. But he made what amends he could by giving 
her a magnificent funeral, in defiance of one of his own laws. 
He ended by a strange love-match with a Valeria, the details 
of which, as given by Plutarch, remind us of a cause which has 
lately exercised the ingenuity of Irish and Scottish lawyers."* 



* She sat next him at a show of gladiators and drew the hem of his toga 
over her, to share in his good luck. Then follows a whole story of courtship, 
a curious episode in such a life as that of Sulla. (Plut. Sulla 35.) 

[The story is also told in a fragment of Dion, i. 146 of Dindorf s edition* 
Both Plutarch and Dion call this Valeria a sister of the great orator Hortensius, 
which can hardly be. See Drumann, Geschichte Boms, ii. 508.} 



VIII.] LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. 289 

He had children by three of his wives. His only surviving son 
was of tender age when he died ; but he left also a brother 
and a nephew, fuller materials for a Cornelian dynasty than 
Caesar left for a Julian dynasty. But son, daughter, brother, 
nephew, were all left in their native rank of Roman patricians, 
to win such honours as the Roman People might give them. 

The religion or superstition of Sulla is a curious subject, 
which Dr. Merivale, alone among the English historians of 
the time, has set forth as it deserves. Caius Marius, we have 
no doubt, sincerely and honestly, like a good citizen, said his 
prayers and offered his sacrifices to Jupiter of the Capitol and 
to Mars the father of Rome. If he carried about with him a 
Syrian perhaps a Jewish prophetess named Martha, we 
must remember that Jupiter and Mars were tolerant deities, 
who, as long as they were duly worshipped themselves, had 
nothing to say against strange Gods being worshipped also. 
Sulla s creed was more remarkable and personal. He was 
certainly not an Epicurean in the sense of shutting out the 
Gods from all care for human affairs. He had the deepest 
belief in fortune, in his own good luck ; but that good luck 
did not come to him by blind chance, it was his portion as 
the special favourite of the Gods. But Sulla s religion was 
rather Greek than Roman. He was the favourite of Aphro 
dite : she gave him victories of all kinds ; through her grace 
women yielded to him their favours, and his enemies yielded 
to him trophies and triumphs. He gave himself the title of 
Felix ; he called his children by the hitherto unknown names 
of Faustus and Fausta; but his own Greek translation of 
Felix was Epaphroditos, the darling, not of blind chance, but 
of Aphrodite. He carried also, reminding one of Lewis the 
Eleventh, an image of the Delphian Apollo in his bosom, 
which he drew forth and addressed in fervent prayer in the 
heat of his great battle by the Colline Gate. In the 
height of his power, he dedicated a tenth of his substance to 
Hercules,* and it was in the midst of this festival that the 

* [Mommsen makes the Latin Hercules to be an original Italian Her- 
culus or Hcrclus. Preller (Romisch Mythologie, 640) rejects this. At any 

U 



290 LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. [ESSAY 

priests made him divorce Metella. He paid strict heed to 
dreams and omens, he set them down in his Memoirs, and 
he bade his lieutenant Lucullus to attend above all things to 
the warnings which were thus given him by the Gods.* He 
put faith in Chaldaean soothsayers, who, in the midst of his 
greatness, dared to tell him when it was time for him to 
die. He believed in another world, and looked for a place in 
some paradise of his own, of whose nature one would like to 
hear more. Shortly before his death, our authority is Sulla 
himself, his young son Lucius, the deceased child of Metella, 
appeared to him in a dream, and bade him come and live 
with his mother in a land of rest and freedom from care. He 
had then, blood-stained and debauched as he was, some dream 
of a better state of things to which the Gods would admit 
their favourite, where wars and tumults were to be at an end, 
where the chaste love of Metella would still be in its place, 
but from which we may deem that Marius and Sulpicius, 
Nikopolis and Metrobios, would all alike be shut out. It is 
wonderful indeed thus to see the author of the Proscription 
going out of the world with hopes for the future such as 
almost have cheered the death- bed of a Christian 



o 

saint. 



We have thus tried to draw the characters of these two 
mighty men, and we have drawn that of Sulla, as by far the 
more remarkable study of human nature, at much greater 
length than that of his rival. In so doing we have of course 
forestalled the mention of many particular actions of both. 
It is now time to see their characters more fully at work in a 
summary, however short, of the main events of their lives. 
The ancient writers delight in contrasts between the earlier 
and the later character both of Marius and of Sulla. The 
deliverer from the Cimbri and the deliverer from Mithridates 
form a fine subject for rhetorical opposition to the party- 

rate, by Sulla s time Hercules and the Greek Herakles were thoroughly 
confounded.] 

* Plutarch, Sulla, 6. 



VIII.] LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. 291 

leaders who deluged Italy with the blood of citizens. Now 
we have no doubt that Marius and Sulla, like so many other 
men, lived to do deeds of which they would once have believed 
themselves to be incapable. The young officer whom Scipio 
^Emilianus marked out for honour at Numantia, the young- 
Quaestor who found out his marvellous diplomatic powers at 
the court of Bocchus, most surely neither of them looked for 
ward to the day when each would lead hostile armies to the 
gates of Rome. But we do not believe in sudden changes in 
men s characters. Men s dispositions are born with them ; 
their special developement is due to education, to after cir 
cumstances in really wise and virtuous men, to diligent 
training of themselves. The deliverer of Rome was, in each 
case, not another man from her tyrant, but essentially the same 
man under different circumstances. Neither Marius nor Sulla 
did any great crime till comparatively late in life ; had Sulla 
died at the age of fifty, and Marius at sixty, they would have 
filled a much smaller place in history than they do ; but such 
place as they would fill would be in the character of faithful 
and useful servants of their country. But we do not believe 
in any sudden corruption. Each found himself in his later 
years .placed under circumstances and laid open to tempta 
tions from which his youth had been free. The later man was 
something very different from the earlier, but the difference 
was one which was wholly brought about by the calling into 
full play of qualities which had hitherto slumbered or had 
been only feebly called forth. 

Marius was more than fifty years old when he is brought 
before us by Sallust in the Jugurthine War. But he had 
already distinguished himself as an officer; he had won the 
marked approval of the younger Scipio ; he had been Tribune 
of the Commons, and, as such, he had acted the by no means 
demagogic part of opposing the distribution of corn to the 
people. But he had won the hatred of the nobility by carry 
ing a measure the object of which was, by some mechanical 
means, to give more freedom to the popular vote. He had 
filled the office of Pra3tor, and had administered a province 

U 2, 



292 LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. [ESSAY 

with credit. He had thus risen to curule rank, and would 
hand down some small share of nobility to his descendants. 
But he had won the bitter hatred of the class into which he had 
thus partially thrust himself. The new man at least should 
not be Consul. The new man himself was making ready 
by every means to compass his own elevation to the highest 
place in the state. Some of his arts, as recorded by Sallust, 
seem rather paltry ; but, even among ourselves, men say 
things on the hustings which they would not say anywhere 
else. Metellus, his commander in Africa, a man otherwise of 
pure and noble character, deemed it his duty to throw every 
hindrance in his way. For a Marius to be Consul seemed then 
as monstrous to a Metellus as, two hundred and fifty years 
before, the like elevation of a Metellus would have seemed 
to Appius Claudius. A foolish insult on the part of Metellus 
brought matters to a head. Marius might stand for the 
consulship some day when the young Metellus was of age to 
be his colleague that is, Marius might stand, if he pleased, 
when he was drawing near the age of eighty. Marius became 
Consul, Proconsul ; he subdued Numidia ; he led Jugurtha in 
triumph through the streets of Rome. 1 * He was chosen, 
contrary to all law and custom, Consul for a second, a third, 
a fourth, a fifth time, in successive years, as the one man who 
could save Rome from the great Northern invasion. Save her 
he did, and that thoroughly ; the hosts of the Cimbrians and 
Teutones were utterly cut off ; the Massaliots fenced in their 
vineyards with the bones of the slaughtered Northmen. 
Marius was ranked with Romulus and Camillus as the Third 
Founder of Rome ; men poured out drink-offerings to him 

* The horrible death of Jugurtha, struggling for six days with cold and hun 
ger in a Roman dungeon, is not the less horrible because of the fearful crimes 
of which he had been guilty. But why was he not simply beheaded, like 
Caius Pontius, like Vercingetorix, like the many other noble victims whom 
Rome led in bonds through her streets and murdered in cold blood ? One 
cannot help suspecting that there was some superstitious motive which forbade 
the shedding of blood in this particular case. Perseus of Macedonia, accord 
ing to one very doubtful story, was worried to death by being kept from sleep. 
If this be true, the superstition is intelligible, for Perseus had surrendered, and 
his slaughter would have been a breach of faith. 



VIIL] LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. 293 

together with the Gods the first beginning 1 , it may be, of 
that impious flattery which Rome, a hundred years later, 
lavished as a matter of course upon all her tyrants. That 
the great salvation of Aquae Sextia? was due to Marius no 
man ever doubted; that he had but a small share in the 
crowning mercy of Vercellse is told us indeed by his biographer, 
but it is told us on the authority of Sulla. His country 
hearkened to no such whispers ; she hailed the yeoman of 
Arpinum, and not the noble Catulus, as her true deliverer; 
she honoured in him the union of modesty and valour, when 
he declined a triumph over the Teutones in which his armv 
could not share, and while the host of the Cimbrians had yet 
to be overcome. Well indeed had it been for his fame had he 
died as he came down from his Teutonic chariot.* 

Thus far had the career of Marius been great and glorious, 

O O 

because the baser side of his character had had as yet but 
small opportunity to display itself. He had raised himself, 
by sheer good service to his country, from a humble Volscian 
farm to a place alongside of heroes and demigods. He had 
shown all the virtues of the old Roman plebeian ; if he had 
shown too something of the rougher side of that character, 
so had men no less venerated by later ages than Fabricius, 
than Manius Curius, than Marcus Porcius Cato. He had won 
victories at home and abroad ; he had won the consulship, in 
his own words, from the nobles, like spoils from a vanquished 
enemy ; he had, new man as he was, shown the moral courage 
to withstand the licentiousness of the low rabble of the Forum; 
he had led a dreaded King in triumph ; he had saved Rome 
from a foe more fearful than Hannibal himself. But amid all 
this glory we can see the germs of his future crimes. We can 
see in him the beginnings of personal vanity and of incapacity 
to bear a rival. He envies Metellus, he envies Catulus ; 
above all, he envies Sulla. The fierce conqueror, untutored 
and unrefined, half grudged, half despised, the wonderful 
diplomatic powers of his patrician lieutenant. It was Sulla, 
after all, who, by winning over Bocchus to the side of Rome, 
* [See my former volume of Essays, p. 398.] 



294 LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. [EssAY 

at last brought about what the arms of Metellus and Marius 
had failed to bring" about, the final capture of Jugurtha. Both 
in the Jugurthine and the Teutonic wars, Sulla served under 
Marius in high but still subordinate offices, such as became a 
rising man twenty years younger than his chief. In those 
offices he had won fame enough to make men foretell his 
future greatness, but not so much fame that a man who had 
been five times Consul, who had won two triumphs and de 
clined a third, had any real need to envy him. Scipio ^Emi- 
lianus had nobly and generously pointed out Marius as the 
man who might one day fill his own place. Marius had no 
such feeling towards his own brilliant young officer. Sulla 
was young, noble, gifted with powers in which Marius knew 
that he himself had no part. Marius hated him from the day 
when he engraved the capture of Jugurtha on his ring. But 
years had to pass before Rome was to feel the full effects of 
the hatred of the plebeian against the patrician, of the mere 
soldier against the man who was soldier, scholar, and lawgiver 
in one. 

After his triumph, Marius was again chosen to a sixth 
consulship. For this breach of all established rule there was 
no longer any pretext : the Northern invaders were destroyed ; 
there was no war of any moment elsewhere ; the deepest political 
questions were indeed ready to arise at any moment, but Rome 
had many citizens to whom she could intrust the care of her 
welfare in days of civil danger far more safely than to Caius 
Marius. But Marius had tasted the sweets of power, and he 
would not willingly come down again from his height. To 
shut out Metellus from the consulship, he did not scruple to ally 
himself with the most infamous of men. He became the partner 
of Saturninus and Glaucia ; of Saturninus, who, when he failed 
in a legal contest for the tribuneship, murdered his successful 
competitor, and seized his place by virtue of a sham election. 
In this disgraceful year (B.C. 100) the reputation of Marius 
was damaged for ever ; yet many of the measures which he 
supported were thoroughly good in themselves, if they had 
only been proposed by more reputable men, and in a more 



VIII.] LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. 295 

lawful manner. Marius and his allies were the friends of the 
agricultural plebeians and of the Italian allies ; that is, they 
were the friends of the best elements which Italy still con 
tained ; the mob of the Forum was in alliance with the aristo 
crats against them. Marius had already, without any legal 
right, bestowed citizenship on a whole division of the Italians 
who had distinguished themselves in his wars. Amid the din of 
arms, he could not hear the voice of the laws. To give grants 
of land to the deliverers of Italy was no more than the fit 
reward of merit ; it was a course suggested by the precedents of 
the best days of Rome ; it was a measure which, of all others, 
would do most to preserve the rapidly lessening class to whom 
Rome owed her greatness. Unluckily, thanks to the encroach 
ments of the nobles and the thoughtlessness of the people, 
there were no more lands which could be honestly divided. 
The materials for the grant were to be found in a foul abuse 
of the rights of conquest. Cisalpine Gaul had been conquered 
from the provincials by the Cimbrians ; the Roman People 
had conquered it again from the conquerors ; it had thus, it 
was argued, ceased to be the property of the provincials, and 
had become the prize, first of the Cimbrians, and then of the 
Roman People. The Roman and Italian veterans were thus 
to be provided for at the expense of Roman subjects who had 
already undergone all the horrors of a barbarian invasion. On 
the other hand, to satisfy the mere mob, who would have no 
share in the division of land, a new law was brought in for 
distributions of corn, which this time Marius did not with 
stand. But the populace valued their own corn less than they 
envied the lands of the veterans. Honest men of all parties 
were indignant at the proposed robbery of the provincials ; 
the mere oligarchs opposed anything which was proposed by 
Saturninus and supported by Marius. The Consul had thus 
brought three classes of enemies into alliance against him ; 
the year was passed in strife and conflict, which at last grew 
into open rebellion. The agricultural plebeians, when their 
blood was once up, were no more sparing of violence than the 
populace ; and the conduct of Marius himself was a disgraceful 



296 LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. [ESSAY 

mixture of low cunning- and moral weakness. He neither 
stood by his friends nor yet by the commonwealth. He had 
the poor satisfaction of causing- the exile of Metellus ; but 
he had soon to go out of the way to avoid beholding his 
triumphant recall."* 

Marius had now utterly fallen in public esteem, but his 
ambition was as insatiable as ever. He had found that the 
Forum and the Senate-house were theatres where he was 
likely to win no glory. But a day might come when Rome 
should again call for the sword of her Third Founder. A new 
Jugurtha, a new Teutobochus, might again make it needful 
that the command of the armies of the commonwealth should 
be intrusted to no weaker hands than those of Caius Marius. 
Perhaps such a happy day might even be hastened. Mithri- 
dates was rising to power in the far East : a war with him 
might lead to richer spoils and more stately triumphs than 
could be won at the cost of Numidians and Teuton es. The 
restless Marius, under a religious pretext, actually went into 
Asia to do what he could to stir up strife between the Pontic 
King and his count ly. 

Meanwhile Sulla was rising into eminence slowly but surely. 
He despised the office of ^3idile, and stood at once for the 
prsetorship. He failed from a cause which is worth remark. 
Sulla was the friend of King Bocchus; King Bocchus was 
lord of the land of lions ; the friend of Bocchus should have 
been ^Edile in regular course, and, as ^Edile, he should have 
got lions from his friend to be butchered in such a Roman 
holiday as no ^Edile before him had ever made. We in 
England do not ask for lions from our candidates ; but time 
was when some boroughs looked to their members to supply 
the materials of an annual bull-bait, and the members plate 



* [It is however only fair to quote the judgement of Velleius (ii. 12) on this 
consulship. Sextus consulatus ei veluti prsemium ei meritorum datus. Noil 
tamen hujus consulatus fraudetuv gloria, quo 8ervilii Glaucise, Saturninique 
Apuleii furorem, continuatis honoribus rempublicam lacerantium et gladiis 
quoque et csede comitia discutientium consul armis compescuit hominesque 
exitiabiles in Hostilia curia morte inulctavit. ] 



VIIL] LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. 297 

at the local races is not left off even in our age of humanity 
and purity of election. Next year Sulla got his prsetorship, 
but he got it by being liberal of money before the election, 
and of lions after it. He then visited Asia as well as Marios, 
but he went in the legal character of Propraetor, to restore to 
his throne one of the friendly Kings whom Mithri dates had 
driven out. He succeeded in his object, and he had the hon 
our of being the first Roman who had any dealings with the 
distant and mighty power of Parthia. Sulla received a Par 
thian ambassador, and he received him in a style which, in 
Roman ideas, was but keeping up the dignity of the common 
wealth, but which carried with it such degradation in Eastern 
eyes that the envoy was put to death by his sovereign for sub 
mitting to it. 

Were we writing the history of Rome, and not commenting 
on the lives and characters of two particular Romans, there is 
no part of the history of those times on which we should be 
more tempted to dwell than on the tribuneship of the younger 
Marcus Livius Drusus. But neither Marius nor Sulla is 
mentioned in any direct connexion with the career of that 
remarkable and perplexing statesman. If not at the same 
moment, at any rate within a very short time, Drusus played 
the part of Marius and of Sulla in one. He restored to the 
Senate a share in the administration of justice; but he was 
also a founder of colonies, a distributor of corn, a promoter of 
the claim of the Italians to the franchise, He was murdered, 
and his laws died with him. But his tribuneship forms the 
turning-point in the struggle. The failure of his schemes 
drove the Italians to take up arms, and the Civil War of 
Marius and Sulla was essentially a continuation of the Social 
War with the Italians."* 

The rivalry between Marius and Sulla was meanwhile 
growing more and more deadly. Both chiefs had gone into 
Asia; but Marius had gone only as a private man ; Sulla had 

* So erscheint er [der Biirgerkrieg] als eine Folge von dem Kriege mit den 
Bundesgenossen, ja in der That nur als die Fortsetzung dieses Krieges. 
(Zacharia, i. 96.) 



298 LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. [ESSAY 

gone as a public officer. He had succeeded in the errand on 
which he was sent, and, if he had not extended the bounds 
of the Roman dominion, he had brought a new land within 
the terror of the Roman name. Marcus Marcius Censorinus, 
a strong partizan of Marius, brought a charge against Sulla, 
but he found it wiser to withdraw it before trial, a sort of 
bootless attack which is sure only to strengthen the party 
assailed. King Bocchus too made an offering in the Capitol, 
a group of golden figures which represented himself giving 
up Jugurtha, not to the Consul Marius, but to his lieutenant 
Sulla. By all these things we are told that the wrath of 
Marius was kindled. But we must again remember that our 
main authority for these events is the history of Sulla himself, 
and that, if Marius had had Sulla s gift of memoir- writing, 
he might perhaps have told a different story. 

And now came the Social War ; a war on whose character 
and objects we made some remarks in a former Essay.* 
Both the disease and the remedy arose from causes inherent 
in that system of purely municipal government which was the 
only form of freedom known to the ancient world. To a single 
city indeed that system gave the highest form of freedom ; but 
to a large territory it carried with it a bondage worse than that 
of despotism. Rome was felt to be a proud and cruel mistress 
to her Allies; but the remedy sought for was, not to throw 
off her yoke not to set up either a federal union or a repre 
sentative system but to get the franchise of the Roman city 
for all the people of Italy. The cause of the Allies was taken 
up, as it suited their purposes, by the noblest and by the vilest 
of the Romans, by Saturninus and Glaucia no less than by 
Caius Gracchus and Marcus Drusus. To Sulla and the high 
oligarchs no cause could be more hateful ; it was a lowering 



* [Velleius (ii. 15) says of the cause of the allies, quorum ut fortuna atrox, 
ita caussa fuit justissima. Petebant enim earn civitatem cujus imperium 
armis tuebantur ; per omnes annos atque omnia bella duplici numero se 
militum equitumque fungi, neque in ejus civitatis jus recipi, quae per eos in 
id ipsum pervenisset fastigium, per quod homines ejusdem et gentis et san- 
guinis, ut externos alienosque fastidire posset. ] 



VIII.] LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. 299 

of the dignity of Rome, and it was something which touched 
themselves yet more deeply. To the Roman populace the 
enfranchisement of the Allies was hateful on low selfish 
grounds, as an infringement of their monopoly of power. To 
the oligarchs it was hateful on a ground no less low and 
selfish. It would be a real strengthening of the people. They 
were willing enough to degrade the people by the wholesale 
enfranchisement of slaves and strangers, Sulla s Cornelii and 
the like ; but to raise the people by the enfranchisement of 
honest yeomen and gallant soldiers from the Marsian and 
Samnite lands would be to make it more worthy of its 
constitutional functions, and therefore less subservient to 
their will. Then too the allied commonwealths contained 
nobles as proud and ancient as any of Rome s own patricians, 
Etruscan Lucumos and Samnite Imperators. Make these 
men Roman citizens, and the existing nobles must either be 
content to divide with them their monopoly of high office, 
or else they must stand by and see them pass into the most 
dangerous leaders of a regenerated Roman People. It was, in 
fact, the old struggle between patrician and plebeian over 
again. The Italian Allies were now what the plebeians had 
been in earlier days; * the union between the high aristocracy 
and the low populace had its parallel in the days when 
Appius Claudius allied himself with the mere populace against 
such patricians as Quintus Fabius and such plebeians as 
Publius Decius. The war broke out ; the Allies, denied the 
Roman franchise, set up, as we before said, a counter Rome of 
their own. Rome had now to struggle, not with Epeirots and 
Macedonians, champions of a rival military discipline, not with 
northern or southern Barbarians, dreaded only for their num 
bers and brute force, but with men of her own race, schooled 
in her own wars, using her own weapons, skilled in her own 
tactics, led on by chiefs whom her system confined to inferior 
commands, but whom a more generous policy would have 
made her own Praetors and Consuls. In the new war success 

* [See the speech of Claudius in Tacitus, Annals, xi. 24, Plebei magistrates 
post patricios : Latini post plebeios ; ceterarum Italise gentium post Latinos.] 



300 LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. [ESSAY 

was very varied ; but Rome had the advantage of her unity ; 
she kept Etruria from revolting ; she won back one by one the 
states which did revolt, by the grant of that franchise which 
might have been granted before. The grant was, as the Allies 
soon found, given in such a shape as to be little better than a 
cheat ; but the offer was enough to do its work at the time. 
One by one the allied states came in, save only Samnium and 
Lucania, where the war still smouldered, ready, when the time 
came, to break forth again yet more fiercely. The neighbouring 
nations more nearly akin in language and habits, more easy 
of access to the capital, gladly became Romans ; among the 
countrymen of Caius Pontius, the old hate, which had doubtless 
never wholly died away, now sprang up again to renewed life. 
Their wish, as we shall soon see, was not to become Romans, 
but to destroy Rome. 

In this war both Marius and Sulla served ; Sulla increased 
his reputation, Marius tarnished his. Some plead for him age 
and illness ; some say that he was able to triumph over Bar 
barians, but not to contend with skilful generals and civilized 
armies. Our belief is that the key to this contrast between 
the two rivals is to be mainly found in their several feelings 
and positions. Marius went forth against the allies, as he had 
in civil strife gone forth against Saturninus, with only half a 
heart. Sulla went forth in all the concentrated energy of his 
mighty powers. The Roman patrician, the proud Cornelius, 
went forth to fight for Rome, to spare none who disobeyed her 
bidding or dared to parody her majesty. But the heart of the 
Volscian yeoman had at least half its sympathies in the camp 
of the enemy. He was not a traitor to betray the cause in 
which he armed, but he was a lukewarm supporter, who could 
not bring himself to fight against Marsians and Samnites 
as he had fought against Cimbrians and Numidians. His 
weakness, his want of success, lowered him still further in 
public esteem ; perhaps the consciousness of his further 
fall made him pant yet more eagerly for a field where he 
could again display the powers which he felt were still within 
him. 



VIII.] LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. 301 

And now came the struggle with Mithridates. The Pontic 
King had occupied all Asia ; he had massacred every Roman 
and Italian to be found there ; his armies had passed into 
Greece, and Greece had welcomed them as deliverers. He had 
been, and still was, in league with the rebellious Samnites. 
Such a foe was one very different from the Numidian who 
kept within his own continent ; he was almost more dangerous 
than the Cimbrian or the Teutonic invader. Rome needed 
her foremost chief to win back her lost provinces and to defend 
what was left to her. But who was that foremost chief? 
Consuls were to be chosen, Consuls to wage the war with 
Mithridates. Twelve years before, every tribe would have 
voted for Caius Marius and for whatever colleague Caius 
Marius chose to name. Now the choice of the Roman People 
fell on Quintus Pompeius Rufus and Lucius Cornelius Sulla. 

We have now reached the famous tribuneship of Publius 
Sulpicius. On this puzzling matter we think that much light 
has been thrown by Sulla s German biographer, Lau.* It 
has always been a problem how such a man as Sulpicius, the 
first orator of his time, an aristocrat by birth and politics, 
a man whose general character up to this time had stood as 
high as that of any man in Rome, suddenly turned into a 
fierce and violent Tribune like Saturninus. It has been usual 
to look on Sulpicius as a mere tool of Marius, to look on the un 
just and unconstitutional proposal of transferring the command 
from Sulla to Marius as the main object of their union, and 
on the bill for bettering the condition of the new citizens by 
distributing them through all the tribes as a mere means for 
getting that measure through the Assembly. But we must 

* [Lucius Cornelius Sulla, 187 et seqq. The account given by Velleius (ii. 18) 
brings strongly out the supposed incomprehensible change in the character of 
Sulpicius. P. Sulpicius tribunus plebis, disertus, acer, opibus, gratia, ami- 
citiis, vigore ingenii atque animi celeberrimus, quum antea rectissinia voluntate 
apud populum maximam quassisset dignitatem, quasi pigeret eum virtutum 
suarum et bene consulta ei male cederent, subito pravus et prseceps, C. Mario 
post Ixx. annum omnia imperia et omnes provincias concupiscenti addixit, 
legemque ad populum tulit, qua Sulise imperium abrogaretur, C. Mario bellurn 
decerneretur Mithridiaticum, aliasque leges perniciosas et exitiabiles, neque 
tolerandas liberse civitati tulit. ] 



302 LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. [ESSAY 

again remember that the version which we have of these 
things is the Sullan version. The Sulpician Reform-Bill was 
a bill for giving to the new citizens, instead of a franchise 
which was a mere mockery, a weight in the commonwealth 
proportioned to their numbers and character. It would, if it 
had stood by itself, have won the approval of all, and history 
would have set it before us as one of the best measures of one 
of Rome s best men. Lau looks on it as really being so. The 
bill for transferring the Mithridatic war from Sulla to Marius 
he looks on as a mere afterthought, a stroke of defence on 
the side of Sulpicius after Sulla and Pompeius had violently, 
and indeed illegal ly, thrown hindrances in the way of his 
constitutional reforms. On this again turns the question, 
Who began the Civil War ? That Sulla struck the first blow 
no man doubts; but he who begins a war is not always he 
who strikes the first blow, but he who makes the striking of 
that blow unavoidable. On the common view of the Sulpician 
Law, Sulla had at least that excuse; he, the Consul, with 
stood a base and unconstitutional conspiracy to deprive him 
of his constitutional powers. But the case is altered if we 
hold that the first blow was really struck when Sulla placed 
illegal hindrances in the way of a good and wholesome law of 
Sulpicius, and that the bill for depriving him of his command 
was merely a punishment for so doing, or rather a measure of 
self-defence against him. We see nothing in the facts of the 
case to contradict this view, which altogether gets rid of the 
inconsistent light in which Sulpicius otherwise appears. 
That, when he was violently opposed, he grew violent also 
is not very wonderful ; but again we must remember that we 
have no memoir from Marius or Sulpicius.* The Civil War 
may now be said to begin ; it is worth notice that the first 
and last act of generosity which was shown in its course 

* The savage abuse of Sulpicius in Plutarch (Sulla, 8) must come from Sulla 
himself. Among other things, he is said to have gone about surrounded by a 
band of youths of equestrian rank, who were ready for anything, and whom he 
called his Anti-Senate (avTtffvyK\r)Tos). One would have thought it incredible 
that any mortal man could have confused so plain a story, and have said that 
Sulpicius called them his Senate. 



VIII.] LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. 303 

comes from the side of Marius. Sulla, in one of the tumults 
caused by the first Sulpician Law, sought shelter in the house 
of Marius. His rival let him go free. Sulla spared no man, 
because his cruelty was a cold, determined, adaptation of means 
to an end. The cruelties of Marius were cruelties of passion ; 
before passion had reached its height, there was room for 
more generous feelings now and then to share the dominion 
of his heart. 

We must not seek to follow the rivals through the details 
of the Mithridatic and the Civil Wars, and we think that we 
have said enough to bring out forcibly the characters of the 
two men. The first slaughter and pursuit of illustrious victims 
came from Sulla; Marius repaid them tenfold; Sulla repaid 
them tenfold again. Sulla was the first to lead a Roman army 
against Rome, but it was only the Marian party that allied 
itself with Rome s enemies. At the last moment of the war, 
when the younger Marius was besieged in Prseneste, the old 
spirit of Sam mum again sprang to life. Another Pontius, a 
descendant it may be of the hero who spared Rome s army 
and whom Rome led in chains and beheaded, burst forth to 
strike greater fear into Roman hearts than had been struck 
by Hannibal himself. He came to deliver Prseneste, to deliver 
Marius, but he came too to root up the wood which sheltered 
the wolves who so long had ravaged Italy."* Rome had now 
to do, what in Hannibal s time she never had to do, to fight a 
pitched battle for her very being close to her own gates. 
Sulla had saved the Roman power at Chaironeia and Orcho- 

* [The character of this stage of the war is brought out with wonderful 
vigour by the Italian memories of Velleius (ii. 27). Pontius Telesinus dux 
Samnitium, vir domi bellique fortissimus penitusque Romano nomini infes- 
tissimus, contractis circiter quadraginta millibus fortissimse pertinacissimaeque 
in retinendis armis juventutis, Carbone ac Mario consulibus, abhinc annos cxi, 
Kal. Novembribus ita ad portam Collinam cum Sullam dimicavit ut ad summum 
discrimen et eum et rempublicam perduceret. Quse non majus periculum 
adiit Hannibalis intra tertium milliarium castra conspicata, quam eo die quo 
circumvolans ordines exercitus sui Telesinus, dictitansque adesse Romanis 
ultimum diem, vociferabatur eruendam delendamque urbem, adjiciens num- 
quam defuturos raptores Italicse libertatis lupos ; nisi silva, in quam refugere 
solerent, esset excisa. ] 



304 LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. [ESSAY 

inenos; he now saved Rome herself when he overcome 
Pontius before the Colline Gate. But the salvation of Rome 
was the destruction of Samnium and Etruria. Whatever 
work the hand of Sulla found to do, he did it with all his 
might. 

At first sight Sulla seems to have lived wholly in vain. To 
restore the power of the Roman aristocracy was a scheme 
vainer than the scheme of the Gracchi for regenerating the 
Roman People. This part of Sulla s work was soon swept away ; 
but, because part, even the chief part, of a man s work comes 
to nothing, it does not follow that he leaves no lasting results 
behind him. Charles the Great himself seems to many to have 
lived in vain, because Gaul and Germany have not, for nearly 
a thousand years, obeyed a single ruler. Those who thus 
speak do not see that the whole later history of Germany and 
Italy bears the impress of his hand for good and for evil. So 
the political work of Sulla soon perished ; but as the codifier 
of the Roman criminal law, he ranks as a forerunner of Theo- 
dosius and Justinian, and in another way his work is still 
living at this day. It was Sulla who first made Rome truly 
the head of Italy. He crushed every other nationality within 
the peninsula ; he plucked down and he built up till he made 
all Italy Roman. His harrying of Samnium still abides in its 
fruit ; southern Italy never recovered from it ; that Apulia 
and Calabria are not now what Lombardy and Tuscany are is 
mainly the work of Sulla. But that every Italian heart now 
looks to Rome as the natural centre of Italy is the work of 
Sulla too. From his day to ours, Rome, republican, Impe 
rial, or Papal, has kept a supremacy without a rival. 
When Italy was most divided in the middle ages, Rome was 
still the object of a vague reverence which no other city could 
share with her. And now Italy is felt to be cut short till she 
can win back what every Italian looks on as her capital. Had 
Pontius carried out his threat, had he won, as once he seemed 
likely to win, in that most fearful of battles by the Colline 
Gate, had he and Mithridates together so much as seriously 



VIIL] LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. 305 

weakened the Roman power, the fate of Italy and the world 
must have been far different from what it has been. The 
first King of Italy who enters Rome may indeed sit on the 
throne of Caesar, but he will reign in a city preserved for him 
by Sulla.* 

Why is it that those two names, Sulla and Caesar, call up 
such different feelings? Of the two Dictators, one is never 
spoken of without abhorrence, the other is never spoken of 
without some degree at least of admiration. Yet there is 
much likeness in the two men, and there are points in which 
Sulla has the advantage. Sulla and Caesar alike were at once 
generals, statesmen, scholars, and profligates. On the military 
details of their campaigns military men must decide ; but the 
results of the warfare of Sulla were assuredly not less than the 
results of the warfare of Caesar. If Caesar conquered Gaul, 
Sulla reconquered Greece and Asia ; if Caesar overthrew Pom- 
peius, Sulla overthrew Pontius Telesinus. The political career 
of Sulla is far more honourable and consistent than that of 
Caesar. Both led armies against their country ; both gave out 
that they were driven to do so only by the intrigues of their 
enemies. Sulla struggled, we might say for a principle, at 
any rate for a party, at any rate for something beyond him 
self; he scorned the gewgaws of royalty ; he aspired not to 
keep perpetual dominion for himself, still less to found a 
dynasty of Kings or Dictators in his own house. Caesar s 
career was purely selfish ; it may be that the sway of one was 
at the moment the best thing for Rome and the world; it 
may be that Caesar knew and felt this; still his career was a 
selfish one. He sought his own advancement; he sank even 
to the low ambition of titles and ornaments ; he wanted to be 
called a King, and to wear a diadem. As private men, there is 
little to choose between the two ; both were steeped in every 
vice refined, accomplished, scholar-like, debauchees. Why 
then do we hate Sulla, and in a manner love Caesar? Success 
may have something to do with it; Sulla s aristocracy passed 

* [Italy lias again won back her capital ; whether the man who saved Rome 
was remembered at the moment may be doubted.] 

X 



306 LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA. 

away ; Caesar s Empire fell for a moment, but it had strength 
enough to rise again under his adopted son, and to live on, we 
may almost say, till the present hour. The other Dictator has 
left no such memorials before our eyes and ears; no month is 
called Cornelius, no modern potentate calls himself Sulla as 
his proudest title. But this is not all : the real difference 
lies much deeper. Caesar, with all his crimes and vices, had a 
heart. He was a man of battles, but not a man of proscrip 
tions. He was a warm friend and a generous enemy. * In 
one point of view, Sulla s was the wiser policy. Sulla never 
spared or forgave, and he died in his bed ; Caesar forgave, and 
he died by the daggers of those whom he had forgiven. Most 
men indeed would choose the bloody death of Caesar a death 
which admirers might call martyrdom rather than the foul 
and lingering disease of Sulla. But there is the fact ; the 
merciful conqueror died by violence, the wholesale murderer 
went unmolested to his grave. Sulla really had in him more 
of principle than Caesar ; but Caesar was a man, Sulla was 
like a destroying angel. Caesar one might have loved, at Sulla 
one could only shudder ; perhaps one might have shuddered 
most of all at the careless and mirthful hours of the author of 
the proscription. Great he was in every natural gift ; great, 
one might almost say, in his vices ; great in his craft of 
soldier and ruler, great in his unbending will, great in the 
crimes which human wickedness never can outdo. In his 
strange superstition, the most ruthless of men deemed himself 
the special favourite of the softest of the idols with which his 
heaven was peopled. We too can acknowledge the heaven-sent 
luck of Sulla, but in another sense. If Providence ever sends 
human instruments to chastise a guilty world, we may see in 
the all-accomplished Roman aristocrat, no less than in the 
Scythian savage, one who was, beyond all his fellow-men, 
emphatically the Scourge of God. 

* [To Roman enemies certainly ; but Vercingetorix must not be forgotten. 
No captives were slain at the triumph of Pompeius.] 



IX. 



THE FLAVIAN CAESARS. 

A History of the Romans under the Empire. By CHARLES 
MERIVALE, B. D. * Vols. VI. and VII. London, 1858-62. 

WE are sorry that Mr. Merivale has made up his mind to 
bring his work to an end at a point earlier than that which he 
first fixed upon. His first purpose was to carry on his his 
tory to the time of Constantine ; he has now ended it with the 
death of Marcus Aurelius. Each of these points makes a good 
ending for the book, because each marks the end of a distinct 
period in the annals of the Empire. We should have better 
liked the later date, partly because it marks the completion 
of a still more marked change than the other, partly because 
it would have given us the advantage of Mr. Merivale s 
companionship over a longer space. By leaving off where he 
has left off, Mr. Merivale indeed avoids any show of rivalry 
with Gibbon. He now leaves off where Gibbon begins, and 
the two may be read as a consecutive history. But we do 
not think that Mr. Merivale, or any scholar of Mr. Meri 
vale s powers, need be frightened off any portion of the wide 
field between Commodus and the last Constantine, simply 
through dread of seeming rivalry with Gibbon. That 
Gibbon should ever be displaced seems impossible. That 
wonderful man monopolized, so to speak, the historical genius 
and the historical learning of a whole generation, and left 
little indeed of either for any of his contemporaries. He 
remains the one historian of the eighteenth century whom 
modern research has neither set aside nor threatened to set 



* [Now D.D. and Dean of Ely.] 
X 2, 



308 THE FLAVIAN C^SARS. [ESSAY 

aside. We may correct and improve in detail from the 
stores which have been opened since Gibbon s time ; we may 
write again large parts of his story from other, and often 
truer and more wholesome, points of view. But the work of 
Gibbon, as a whole, as the encyclopaedic history of thirteen 
hundred years, as the grandest of historical designs carried 
out alike with wonderful power and with wonderful accuracy, 
must ever keep its place. Whatever else is read, Gibbon 
must be read too. But, for that very reason, the scholar who 
reproduces any particular part of Gibbon s History, Dean 
Milman or Mr. Finlay, we wish we could add Mr. Merivale, 
does not really enter into any rivalry with his great pre 
decessor. The two things are different in kind, and each may 
be equally good in its own way. We do not think of com 
paring the man who deals with the whole of a vast subject 
with the man who deals necessarily at far greater detail 
with one particular part of it. And, after all, we hardly 
feel that we have reached Gibbon s proper and distinctive 
field, till we have reached a later period than that which he 
and Mr. Merivale would have had in common. Gibbon is 
before all things the historian of the transition from the Roman 
world to the world of modern Europe. But that transition 
can hardly be said to have openly begun till we reach the 
point which Mr. Merivale at first set before him as the goal 
of his labours. 

Still, as it is, Mr. Merivale has the advantage of occupying, 
absolutely without a rival in his own tongue, the period of 
history which he has chosen for himself. It is only in his 
opening volumes that he comes into competition with Arnold, 
and there only with Arnold before he had reached the fulness 
of his powers. The history of the Emperors he has, among 
writers of his own class, wholly to himself. Yet it must ncl 
be thought that he owes his vantage-ground solely to the 
lack of competition. His history is a great work in itself, 
and it must be a very great work indeed which can outdo it 
within its own range. In days of licensed blundering like 
ours, it is delightful indeed to come across the sound and 



IX.] THE FLAVIAN CJSSARS. 309 

finished scholarship, the unwearied and unfailing accuracy, of 
Mr. Merivale. It is something to find, for once, a modern 
writer whom one can trust, and the margin of whose book 
one has not to crowd with corrections of his mistakes. On 
some points we hold that Mr. Merivale s views are open to 
dispute ; but it is always his views, never his statements. 
With Mr. Merivale we may often have to controvert opinions 
which are fair matters of controversy ; we never have to cor 
rect blunders or to point out misrepresentations. We have 
somewhat of a battle to fight with him, so far as he is in 
some sort an advocate of Imperialism ; but it is all fair fighting 
with a fair and moderate advocate. Compared with Arnold s 
noble third volume, Mr. Merivale s narrative seems heavy, 
and his style is cumbered with needless Latinisms, savouring, 
sometimes of English newspapers, sometimes of French histo 
rians and politicians. Still he always writes with weight and 
clearness, often with real vigour and eloquence. That he is 
lacking in the moral grandeur of Arnold, his burning zeal for 
right, his unquenchable hatred of wrong, is almost implied in 
the choice of his subject and the aspect in which he views it. 
But the gift of rising to the dignity of a prophet without 
falling into the formal tediousness of a preacher is something 
which Arnold had almost wholly to himself. And even that 
gift had its disadvantages. Arnold could have written the 
history of the Empire only in the spirit of a partizan. Arnold 
was never unfair, but the very keenness of his moral sense 
sometimes made him unjust. He was apt to judge men by 
too high a standard. Mr. Merivale s calmer temper has 
some advantages. If he does not smite down sin like Arnold, 
he lets us see more clearly the extenuating circumstances and 
temptations of the sinner. He has, as we think, somewhat of 
a love of paradox, but it is kept fairly in check by a really 
sound and critical judgement. While we cannot help setting 
down Mr. Merivale as, in some degree, an apologist of Im 
perial tyranny, we are never sorry to see any cause in the 
hands of an apologist so competent and so candid. Indeed, 
when we compare his history with the fanatical advocacy of 



310 THE FLAVIAN CAESARS. [ESSAY 

Mr. Congreve, we hardly feel that we have any right to call 
him an apologist at all. * 

We said that both the point at which Mr. Merivale first 
intended to stop, and that at which he has actually laid down 
his pen, each marked the close of a distinct period in the 
Imperial history. The history of the Roman Empire is the 
history of two tendencies, working side by side, and greatly 
influencing one another. The one is the gradual change from 
the commonwealth to the avowed monarchy ; the other is the 
gradual extension of the name and character of Romans over 
the inhabitants of the whole empire. Of the former the be 
ginnings may be seen for some time before the usurpation of 
either CaBsar ; of the latter we may trace the beginnings up to 
the very foundation of the Roman city. The age of Constan 
tine, the point first chosen by Mr. Merivale, marks the final 
and complete triumph of both these tendencies ; it is also 
marked by the first appearance, as really visible and dominant 
influences,, of the two great elements of modern life the 
Christian and the Teutonic element. The mere beginnings 
of both of course come far earlier, but it was in the third 
century that they began directly and visibly to influence the 
course of Roman affairs. When the Christian Emperor reigns 
at Constantinople, when all purely pagan and all local Roman 
ideas have become the merest shadows, when CaBsar presides 
in the Councils of the Church and has to defend his Em 
pire against Goths and Vandals, we feel that the purely 
classical period is over, that the middle ages have in truth 
begun. The last Constantine hardly differs so much from 
the first as the first does from the first Augustus. Here 
then is the most important stopping-point of all. But the 
tendencies which reached their height under Constantine 
had been working all along. It was Diocletian rather than 
Constantine who really forsook the Old Rome; what Con- 

* [Mr. Congreve s Lectures on the Roman Empire of the West are perhaps 
best remembered through the crushing review by Mr. Goldwin Smith in the 
Oxford Essays.] 



IX.] THE FLAVIAN CAESARS. 311 

stantine did was to find a better and more lasting place for 
the New. * From Diocletian onwards, Rome never won back 
her place as an Imperial dwelling-place. This forsaking of 
the local Rome was indeed the consummation of the ten 
dency whose first beginning we see in the mythical history 
of Romulus and Titus Tatius. Quirites, Latins, Italians, 
Provincials,, had all become equally Romans. The common 
master of all might dwell, as the needs of his Empire bade 
him, at Nikomedeia or at Byzantium, at Milan or at York, 
anywhere rather than in the true Roman city itself. On 
the other hand, this forsaking of Rome had a most impor 
tant influence on the future history of the world. When 
Caesar definitely changed from a republican magistrate into 
an avowed despot, he forsook the scene of the old republican 
memories. Those memories were therefore able to keep on a 
certain vague and fitful life down to our own age ; and, what 
proved of greater moment still, the departure of the Emperor 
left room for the developement of the Pope. Had the successor 
of Augustus and the successor of St. Peter gone on dwelling 
within the same walls, the Patriarch of the Old Rome might 
never have reached any greater height than the Patriarch of 
the New. The age of Constantino then is, above all others, 
the point where old tendencies find their consummation, and 
where new tendencies find their beginning. We should be 
well pleased if Mr. Merivale would, even now, think over his 
decision, and carry his history at least down to this most 
important sera of transition. 

Here then is the great turning-point, at the change begun by 
Diocletian, and completed by Constantine. But, in the course 
of the three hundred years which divide them from Augustus, 
we may make several convenient resting-places. One of these 
is to be found at the extinction of the first Csesarean line 
in Nero. The founder of the Empire himself was a Julius, or 
a patrician at all, only by adoption ; but both he and his suc 
cessors, down to Nero, were Caesars according to that familiar 
legal fiction, and both Augustus himself and all his successors 

* [See above, p. 238.] 



312 THE FLAVIAN C&SARS. [ESSAY 

but one had real Julian blood in them by the female line.* 
But with Nero the family succession, even as a matter of legal 
fiction, came wholly to an end. Whatever family sentiment 
might cleave to the divine race, to the heirs and kinsmen, 
if not the literal offspring, of the deified Dictator, came to 
an end with the last and vilest of the stock. The line of 
-^Eneas and Aphrodite was at an end ; their place was now 
open to every Roman, a name which w r as soon to take in 
every free inhabitant of the Roman Empire. Here then is 
one marked point of change. The Caesar Augustus who 
owed his power purely to the vote of the Senate or to the 
acclamation of the soldiers was something different from the 
Cffisar Augustus around whom lingered a kind of religious 
reverence as the representative of Gods and heroes. On the 
fall of the Julii, after a short period of anarchy, followed 
the Flavii. Vespasian came nearer to founding a real here 
ditary dynasty than any Emperor before him, or indeed than 
any that came after him, till we reach the second Flavian 
dynasty, the house of Constantine. Vespasian was followed 
by his two sons, his only offspring, in peaceful succession. On 
the death of Domitian, Nerva was peacefully chosen, and from 
him the Empire passed, by a series of adoptions, to Marcus 
Aurelius and his son Commodus. At the extinction of this 
artificial house of the Antonines we may place, with Mr. Meri- 
vale, another great break. We have now lost anything like a 
dynasty; the last traces of the hereditary feeling are seen in 
the attempt of Severus to connect himself with the Antonines, 
and in the further attempt to connect the Syrian youths 
Elagabalus and Alexander with Severus. But the unbroken 
line of adopted Emperors, which begins with Nerva, ends with 
Commodus. Here is the real break. Mr. Merivale should, in 

* The grandmother of Augustus was a Julia, a sister of the Dictator. 
Caius was the grandson, and Nero the great-grandson, of Julia, the daughter 
of Augustus, through their mothers, the elder and younger Agrippina. 
Claudius, though not a descendant of Augustus, was a grandson of his sister 
Octavia, and therefore had as much Caesarean blood in him as Augustus 
himself. Tiberius alone was a purely artificial Csesar, a complete stranger in 
blood to the Julian house. 



IX.] THE FLAVIAN CAESARS. 313 

consistency,, have at least taken in Commodus in his history 
as well as his father. But it is with Commodus that Gibbon 
begins, and Marcus makes a more impressive and honourable 
ending for his Imperial series. 

The period dealt with in Mr. Merivale s last volume, the 
period from Vespasian to Marcus Aurelius, is distinguished 
in many ways, both from the days of the Julian dynasty which 
went before it and from the days of military anarchy which 
came after it. In most respects it contrasts very favourably 
with both periods. From the accession of Vespasian in 
A.D. 69 to the death of Commodus in A.D. 193, the Empire 
was under a really settled government. Of nine Emperors 
seven were good rulers, and those seven died we were going 
to say, in their beds, only the first of them, as all the world 
knows, died standing. Two only, the tyrants Domitian and 
Commodus, died by violence, and they died, not by military 
insurrection, but by private conspiracy. In both cases a vir 
tuous successor was at once found. The death of Commodus 
and the accession of Pertinax read like a repetition of the 
death of Domitian and the accession of Nerva. But the 
military element was now too strong ; Emperors were for the 
future to be set up and put down at the will of the army ; 
most of them were murdered by their soldiers or by their 
successors; till Rome, under her Imperial High Pontiff, became 
like the grove of Juno at Aricia in old times : 

Those trees in whose deep shadow 

The ghastly priest doth reign, 
The priest who slew the slayer, 
And shall himself be slain. 

In fact, with a few short exceptions, the whole period of 
ninety-two years, from Pertinax to Diocletian, seems little more 
than an expansion on a gigantic scale of the year of anarchy 
between Nero and Vespasian. With the organized despotism 
of Diocletian an approach to settled order begins again, a 
very imperfect approach as compared with the time* of the 
Flavii and the Antonines, but still a vast improvement on 
the fearful century which went before it. 



314 THE FLAVIAN CAESARS. [ESSAY 

We thus get three great settled periods the Julian dynasty, 
the Flavian and Antonine period, and the period of Diocletian 
and Constantine ; the first being divided from the second by 
a short, and the second from the third by a long, interval of 
military anarchy. Three sets of princes, whose names, order, 
and actions it is easy to remember, are divided by groups of 
others, who flit by, one after another, like a procession of 
ghastly shadows. This sort of alternation goes on down to 
the last days of the Byzantine Empire. The groups and 
dynasties of Emperors which we remember, the houses of 
Theodosius, Justin, Heraclius, Leo, Basil, Komnenos, Angelos, 
and Palaiologos, are divided from one another by groups of 
ephemeral princes, who rise, fall, and are forgotten. And 
something analogous, though of course not owing to the same 
cause, may be seen in the succession of the Popes as well as 
of the CaBsars. A group of Pontiffs of some mark, each of 
whom reigned for some years and whose actions live in the 
memory, is divided from another group of the same kind by 
a herd of momentary Popes, pressing on one another with 
puzzling haste, and who seem to have come into being only in 
order to add to the number of Johns, Gregories, or Leos. 
But perhaps no group in the whole line, either of Popes or 
of Emperors, is so clearly marked out as that of which, and 
especially of its first three members, we are about to treat 
somewhat more at length. This is the series of nine Caesars 
which begins with Vespasian and ends with Commodus, 
among whom we mean more especially to dwell on the three 
Flavii, Vespasian himself and his two sons. 

The nature and origin of the Imperial sovereignty has been 
well explained by Mr. Merivale in one of his earlier volumes. 
The causes which made it a kind of necessity we have our 
selves spoken of in a former essay. * The constitution of the 
Roman Commonwealth, which had worked so well as the con 
stitution of a single city, broke down when it was applied 
to the government of an Empire W 7 hich took in all the nations 

* See above, p. 264, 



IX.] THE FLAVIAN CAESARS. 315 

around the Mediterranean. A federal or a representative form 
might have done something to lessen the evil ; but both of 
them were practically out of the question. As long therefore 
as the Commonwealth lasted, the essentially municipal govern 
ment of a single city held absolute sway over the whole Roman 
dominion. The only way by which the subject races, the 
Latins, Italians, and Provincials, could be admitted to any 
share in the general government was by clothing them 
sometimes as individuals, sometimes as whole communities 
with the local franchise of the Roman city, a franchise which 
could be exercised nowhere but in the Roman city itself. It 
was not till the votes of the people had ceased to be of any 
importance that Augustus devised a plan by which the votes 
of non-resident citizens might be collected in their own towns. 
Such a system was too unnatural to last. The Empire itself 
was a relief. If, instead of our representative constitution, 
the supreme power over the whole of the British dominions 
were vested in a primary Assembly of the citizens of London, 
even though every inhabitant of Great Britain received the 
local franchise, we should most likely welcome any Ca3sar 
or Buonaparte who would deliver us from such a state of 
things. This tendency towards monarchy may be traced back 
at least to the days of Marius and Sulla, even, according to 
Mommsen, as far back as those of Caius Gracchus. The usur 
pation of Cinna, the dictatorship of Sulla, the extraordinary 
commands and the sole consulship of Pompeius, the dictator 
ship of the first Caesar, were all steps in the same direction. 
Caesar indeed dared to clutch at actual kingship, but popular 
feeling was too strong for him ; and a thousand years had to 
pass before any man ventured to call himself King of the 
Romans. The second Ca3sar took warning, and established a 
virtual despotism on a purely republican groundwork. The 
form of the Roman monarchy may be best described as an extra 
ordinary commission which went on for ever. The republic 
was not abolished ; Senate, People, Magistrates, retained their 
old rights; but certain powers were specially vested in one 
particular magistrate, which practically cut down all the rest 



316 THE FLAVIAN CAESARS. [ESSAY 

to shadows. A single citizen was at once Imperator of the 
army, Prince of the Senate, and High Pontiff of the national 
religion. If he was not actually Consul, one vote clothed 
him with the active powers of the consulship ; if he was not 
actually Tribune, another vote clothed him with the negative 
powers of the tribuneship.* At once Consul and Tribune 
within the city, he held the authority of Proconsul in every 
province of the Commonwealth. A Magistrate clothed with 
such accumulated powers, one who held all at once the various 
offices which were meant to act as checks upon one another, 
one who could at once command as Consul and forbid as 
Tribune, was practically as absolute a ruler as any King or 
Tyrant. Still, in form he was not a King, but a Magistrate ; 
the various powers and titles which together made up sove 
reignty had to be specially conferred on each succeeding 
Emperor; they were not always conferred by a single vote, 
nor always accepted at once by the prince on whom they were 
pressed. Augustus indeed would not even accept his special 
powers for life ; he had them renewed to him over and over 
again for periods of five or ten years. The Ca?sar was thus 
in truth an absolute monarch, and his Greek subjects, from 
the very beginning, did not scruple to give him the kingly 
title, f But in theory he was only a citizen, a senator, a 
magistrate the first of citizens, the first of senators, the first 
of magistrates. Doubtless there was something of solemn 
hypocrisy in all this ; but the peculiar hidden nature of the 
Imperial power had some very practical results. As compared 

* Each Emperor commonly assumed the actual consulship at least once, 
often much offcener. Augustus could not assume the actual tribuneship, be 
cause, though a plebeian by birth, he had been adopted into the patrician 
house of the Julii. Hence both he and succeeding Emperors obtained the 
grant of the tribunitian power without holding the office, and it was in this 
particular tribunitian power, more than in anything else, that their sovereignty 
was felt really to dwell. 

[ The formal equivalent of Imperator is of course avroKparajp ; but it is 
clear from the New Testament, to go no further, that the provincials freely 
spoke of even the Julian Caesars as ficunXfvs. It is curious to trace how, in 
the progress of the Empire, @aai\evs obtained the special sense of Emperor, 
while mere Kings were only p 



IX.] THE FLAVIAN C^SARS. 317 

with acknowledged kingship, we shall hardly be wrong in 
saying that it made the rule of a good Emperor better, and 
the rule of a bad Emperor worse. 

The Ca?sar then and his family had no court, no position 
wholly distinct from that of other Roman nobles. The very 
fact that the Roman Empire took in the whole civilized 
world of itself hindered the growth of any royal caste. 
There were no foreign princesses for the Emperor to marry ; 
there was no privileged order out of whom candidates were to 
be chosen for the vacant throne. Any man of Roman birth 
might, by election, adoption, or force, become Ca?sar and 
Augustus ; no man of other than Roman birth could dream 
of such a post for a moment. Any woman of Roman birth 
might become the wife and mother of Ca?sars and Augusti ; 
but the thought of a foreign Queen, the daughter of Ptolemy 
or the daughter of Herod, was something from which every 
Roman shrank as an abomination. And the citizen who was 
thus raised to the first rank among citizens was not placed in 
any position outwardly to lord it over his brethren. Practically 
they were his slaves, but no court-etiquette reminded them of 
their slavery. The Emperor gave his vote in the Senate like 
another Senator ; as Prince of the Senate he gave the first 
vote ; but it was open either to patriots or to subtle flatterers 
to vote another way. His household was like that of any other 
Roman noble ; he mixed with other Roman nobles on terms 
of social equality ; he had no crowns and sceptres, no bend- 
ings of the knee, no titles of Majesty or Highness. The 
master of the world was addressed by his subjects by the 
simple name of Caesar, half his hereditary surname, half his 
official title. No Chief Butlers or High Falconers or Lord 
Stewards swelled the pomp of an Augustus ; no Cornelia or 
Emilia waited as Maid of Honour or Lady in Waiting upon 
the bidding of the proudest Augusta. Such personal services 
as the first of citizens needed were done for him, as for all 
other citizens, by the hands of his own slaves and freedmen. 
No Roman would have felt himself honoured by tying the 
Imperial shoe-latchet or serving at the Imperial table. It 



318 THE FLAVIAN CJ&SAR8. [ESSAY 

was unusual to appoint any but freedmen even to really 
honourable offices in the Imperial service."* The children and 
kinsfolk of the monarch were not Princes and Princesses; 
they were magistrates, Senators, or simple citizens, according 
to the rank which they might personally reach. f We might 
perhaps say, that under the best Emperors the Senate filled 
the place of a constitutional King, while the Emperor was its 
inevitable and irremovable Prime Minister. His position was 
that of a virtually absolute monarch ; but he was a monarch 
who reigned without a particle of royal show, who consulted 
the Senate on all matters, and respected the formal functions of 
other magistrates. And surely such a position has something 
in common with the position of the private peer or commoner, 
undistinguishable from other peers or commoners, who prac 
tically commands the sovereign who is his formal master, whose 
word can create the Dukes, Archbishops, and high officers of 
the state, after whom, when he has created them, he humbly 
walks, as many degrees their inferior in formal rank. J 

It is evident that this lack of what we may call personal 
royalty had, in the hands of the better Emperors, the effect of 
greatly lightening the yoke of their practical despotism. The 
Romans were slaves, but the badges of their slavery were not 
ostentatiously thrust in their faces. The will of Ca?sar had 
practically as much effect as the will of a barbarian King; but 
it was exercised in such a way that the Romans could, with 

* Spartiamis (Hadr. 22) says that Hadrian was the first to employ Roman 
knights, even in what we should think the honourable office of private secretary. 
Ab epistolis et libellis primus equites Romanes habuit. But according to 
Tacitus (Hist. i. 58), Vitellius had long before employed knights in all the 
offices usually filled by freedmen. Ministeria principatus, per libertos agi 
solita, in equites Romanes disponit. Probably the innovation of Vitellius was 
not followed by his successors, and had therefore been forgotten in the time of 
Hadrian. 

*t* Claudius Caesar, for instance, held no office at all till his nephew Caius 
made him Consul. Till then, he seems not to have been a Senator, therefore 
he was only a knight. 

[This comparison was of course meant to apply only to the relations 
of the Prime Minister to the King, as compared with those of the Emperor 
to the Senate, not at all to the relation of the Prime Minister to Parliament 
or to the nation.] 



IX.] THE FLAVIAN CAESARS. 319 

just pride, compare the dominion of Law under which they lived 
with the arbitrary rule of the Parthian despot. The good side 
of this civil sovereignty is never so clearly shown as during 
the Flavian and Antonine reigns. Under such princes the 
forms of the Commonwealth had a practical good effect. They 
allowed greater scope for the good intentions of the ruler, and 
they removed him from many of the temptations of an acknow 
ledged monarch. The good Emperors were men of various 
personal dispositions, but they all agreed in the general cha 
racter of their rule. Trajan the new Romulus and Anto 
ninus the new Numa, the homely plebeian Vespasian and the 
meek philosopher Marcus, all agreed in the strictly legal nature 
of their government, in their deference to the Senate, in their 
respect for the old traditions of the Commonwealth. The forms 
of modern royalty would have altogether hindered the simple 
and genial mode of life which, in the persons of the good 
Emperors, veiled and lightened the reality of their absolute 
power. 

But, if the peculiar nature of the Imperial power gave a 
wider field to the goodness of the good Emperors, there can 
be no doubt that it heightened the wickedness of the bad. 
It is plain that the deeds of some of the worst Caesars are 
wholly without parallel in the annals of European royalty in 
any age. Both the Macedonian kingdoms of old and the 
kingdoms of modern Europe have been disgraced by many 
cruel, foolish, and profligate monarchs ; but it would be hard 
to find the like of Caius or Nero or Elagabalus. A perfect 
parallel, we suspect, could hardly be found even in the worst 
Oriental despotism. So far as there ever was any approach 
to it in Europe, it must be looked for, not among the lawful 
Kings of any age, but among some of the worst of the Tyrants 
of old Greece and of mediaeval Italy. But even the worst of 
these and bad enough they were indeed hardly supply any 
real parallel to the frantic excesses of combined lust and 
cruelty which we see in the vilest of the Emperors. Several 
of them, we may believe, had, in some sort, lost their senses. 
Caius, it is clear, at last became a mere madman. But if 



320 THE FLAVIAN C^SARS. [ESSAY 

they lost their senses, it was through the practice of unre 
strained wickedness that they lost them. And here comes in 
the seeming paradox that the Caesar, the first citizen, the 
Consul, the High Pontiff, the social equal of other patricians, 
had really, because he was all this, more means given him for 
the practice of unrestrained wickedness than even an Eastern 
despot, The formal etiquette of royalty, the traditional re 
straints and trammels which check the personal action even of 
an absolute monarch, if they cut him off from much good, cut 
him off also from much evil. The position of a King exposes 
him to many temptations, but it also provides him with 
some safeguards. The worst King commonly retains some re 
gard for the dignity of his person and office ; even a Sultan 
finds his caprices checked by various conventional forms which 
it is not easy for him to escape from. A King who cannot 
set foot in public without being surrounded by a certain degree 
of ceremony cannot play off before the world the utterly mad 
freaks of the worst of the Roman Caasars. He may be cruel, 
he may be lustful ; but the very necessity of his position 
drives him in some degree to moderate, or at any rate to 
veil, both his cruelty and his lust. The influence of Chris 
tianity and of modern European civilization has doubtless 
largely helped towards this happy result, but it is not the 
whole cause; the excesses of the Roman Csesars stand, as we 
have said, alone, even in the ancient and heathen world. 
If we find a feeble approach to Imperial cruelty in a few 
Sicilian Tyrants, it is precisely because they were Tyrants, 
and therefore were not under the same restraints, either of 
shame or of usage, as a lawful King. The will of the Roman 
Ca3sar was practically unrestrained ; and, precisely because he 
was merely Ca3sar and not King, he was set free from the moral 
restraints of royalty. That lack of court- etiquette which en 
abled Vespasian and Antoninus to live on terms of equality 
with virtuous Senators no less enabled Nero and Commodus 
to live in a partnership of unutterable vice with the very vilest 
of mankind. The pride of the Roman citizen, which looked 
on personal service to the sovereign as the duty of slaves and 



IX.] THE FLAVIAN C^SARS. 321 

freedmen, handed over a weak or viciously disposed Emperor 
to the unrestrained influence of the basest and most rapacious 
of flatterers. The corrupting influence of the Imperial position 
on a mind at all predisposed to evil is clearly shown by the fact 
that nearly all the worst Emperors began well. The reigns 
of even absolute princes under other forms of administration 
do not often show the utter contrast which we see between 
the first and the last days of Cains or Nero or Domitian. 

The unacknowledged character of the Imperial power had 
also another evil effect, and that one which is most strongly 
marked in the reigns of the good Emperors. The only 
advantage or palliation of the Imperial despotism was that 
it allowed, better than the Commonwealth could allow, of the 
fusion together of all races within the Empire, and of the ex 
tension of equal rights to all the subjects of a common master. 
The boon was, after all, a very poor substitute either for 
national independence or for full federal or municipal freedom ; 
still it was better than the absolute bondage of the whole 
world to the Senate and People of a single city. But the 
republican forms which were kept on under the Empire tended 
greatly to check this result. The Empire had its local habi 
tation in the one city just as much as the republic had."* As 
Consul, Tribune, High Pontiff, and Prince of the Senate, the 
Ciesar was nowhere fully at home but in the capital ; even in 
the provinces he appeared as the Imperator of the Roman 
army, as the Proconsul of the ruling city. All this tended to 
keep the provinces in a state of greater inferiority than if their 
ruler had been an avowed King, who held equal powers over 
all his dominions, and who was equally at home in every part 
of them. Every period of reform, while the old constitution 
kept any shadow of life, took the shape of a reaction, of 
a falling back upon old Roman traditions. New those tradi 
tions were of course wholly founded on the one principle of the 
greatness of the local Rome ; they taught the wide difference 

* [I was of course thinking mainly of the Julian, Flavian and Antonine 
periods ; at all events of the times before the changes represented by Diocletian 
and Constantine.] 

Y 



322 THE FLAVIAN CAESARS. [ESSAY 

between the citizen, the stranger, and the slave ; their whole 
object was Roman conquest and Roman dominion 1 . The 
Dictator Caesar seems, more than any one either before or 
after him, to have risen above these local prejudices ; but they 
reigned in full force from Sulla to Trajan. Caesar wished to 
be King over the subjects of Rome, doubtless as a step to 
being King over Rome herself. He filled the Senate with 
Gauls, and gave away the Roman franchise broadcast. But 
when his successor found that the dream of avowed royalty 
was hopeless, he necessarily fell back upon the traditions of 
republican exclusiveness. Augustus crucified, or sent back 
into slavery, the enfranchised slaves who had fought under 
Sextus Pompeius. His legislation threw hindrances in the 
way of any large manumission of that wretched class. Such 
legislation was a sin against the rights of mankind, but it 
was absolutely necessary if the Roman people was to keep 
up any kind of purity as a dominant race. Claudius whom, 
as far as intention goes, we may fairly rank among the better 
Emperors did something for the slave class, but he most 
likely thought himself a new Scipio or ^Emilius when he 
destroyed the freedom which Lykia had kept down to his 
time. The Imperial antiquary doubtless rejoiced in adding 
a province to the Empire at each end. Nero, on the other 
hand, had no Roman feelings at all; he hated the Senate 
which was the resting-place of Roman traditions, while he 
sought after a certain popularity both among the provincials 
and among the mixed multitude which called itself the People 
of Rome. But even he did nothing really to break down the 
middle wall of partition ; all that he could do for his favourite 
Greeks was to set himself up as a kind of mock Flamininus, 
and to give back to them a local freedom which they had lost 
all power of using. In Nero the series of strictly Roman Em 
perors ends ; the Flavii are Italians ; with Nerva begins the 
series of provincial rulers.* But Italians and provincials alike 

* See two remarkable passages of Aurelius Victor, De Csesaribus xi. 13 : 
Hactenus E-omae, seu per Italiam orti imperium rexere, hinc advenae ; nescio 
quoque an, ut in Frisco Tarquinio, longe meliores. Ac mihi quidem audienti 



IX.] THE FLAVIAN C^SARS. 323 

fall back for some while upon old Roman precedents. The 
Sabine Vespasian gathered in the last gleanings of Greek 
freedom. Rhodes, Byzantium, and other outlying Hellenic 
commonwealths had never been conquered by Rome ; they 
had kept their independence for two hundred years after the 
conquest of Macedonia and Achaia. Vespasian, without any 
assigned reason, incorporated them in the Empire by whose 
provinces they had long been surrounded. The Spaniard 
Trajan fought and conquered as thoroughly in the interest 
and for the glory of the local Rome as any Camillus or Fabius 
of old time. It was Hadrian, as Mr. Merivale points out, 
who first really ruled in the interest of the whole Empire. He 
was the first to look on his dominions in general as some 
thing more than mere farms for the enrichment of the Prince 
and the People of a single town. Nero s visit to Greece 
was the freak of a madman ; but Hadrian passed through all 
parts of his Empire in the spirit of a master anxious for the 
welfare of all alike. Through the whole period there is no 
doubt some truth in the remark which Tacitus puts into the 
mouth of Cerialis,* that the whole Empire reaped the advan 
tage of the virtues of a good prince, while the wickedness of a 
bad one was most felt by those who were nearest to him. A 
good prince doubtless did what he could to reform the adminis 
tration of the provinces as well as that of the city. But as the 
virtues of a good prince commonly took the form of a falling 
back upon antique Roman models, it followed that the better 
princes were commonly those who did least to break down the 
barriers which divided the different classes of their subjects. 
It is for exactly the same reason that we find so many of the 
best Emperors persecuting the Christians, while some of the 
worst showed them more favour. The better Emperors 
were striving to keep up the old traditions of the Common- 

multa legentique, plane compertum, urbem Eomanam externorum virtute, 
atque insitivis artibus, prsecipue crevisse. In the Epitome, xi. 15, the last two 
paragraphs are : Uncle compertum est, urbem Romam externorum virtuto 
crevisse. Quid enim Nerva prudentius aut moderatius ? quid Trajano divinius ? 
quid prsestantius Hadriano ? 
* Tac. Hist. iv. 74. 

Y % 



324 THE FLAVIAN CJ^SARS. [ESSAY 

wealth, and at those traditions Christianity aimed the dead 
liest of all hlows. To put the citizen and the provincial on a 
level, to tolerate a sect which refused the worship that every 
Roman owed to the Roman Jupiter, were both of them sins 
against the traditions of the ancient commonwealth, sins 
which might well be expected to bring down the wrath of 
the patron Gods of Rome upon the Prince and People who 
endured such iniquity among them. 

The Flavian age was a period of reaction for the most 
part, of wholesome reaction in every way. The Julian 
reigns had, at least from the death of Tiberius, been a 
period of licensed madness, not only of cruelty, but of folly 
and caprice of every kind. Claudius, well-disposed pedant as 
he was, always needed to be cajoled and bullied into crime 
by his wives and freedmen ; but the crimes were done, though 
Caesar hardly knew of them. Under Nero Imperial wickedness 
reached its height ; every Roman tradition was trampled on, 
and the only steadfast principle of the tyrant was an abiding 
hatred of the Senate. Then came the fearful year of the civil 
war, a year full of events which must have shocked every 
Roman feeling as bitterly as either the murders or the fiddlings 
of Nero. A real national feeling was thoroughly aroused. 
When Vitellius led his army of Gauls and Germans into Italy, 
things seemed to have gone back to the days when the 
younger Marius allied himself with the last Samnite Pontius, 
or when Antonius led the forces of his Egyptian * paramour 
against the Commonwealth and the Gods of Rome. When the 
Capitol was stormed and burned by the barbarian legions, 
men felt that Rome had undergone a greater blow than ever 
Porsena or Brennus had dealt against her.f The homely 
Sabine burgher came to restore Rome after what was really 

* We employ Roman language to express Roman feelings ; but to con 
found the Macedonian Queen, the daughter of all the Ptolemies, with her 
Egyptian subjects, was pretty much to use an illustration of Lord Macaulay s 
as if one were to paint Washington as a Red Indian brandishing a 
tomahawk. 

f See the emphatic lament of Tacitus, Hist. iii. 72. 



IX.] THE FLAVIAN CAESARS. 325 

occupation at the hands of a foreign enemy, a foretaste of 
future barbarian conquests, from Alaric down to our own day.* 
Vespasian restored the dominion of Law at least, if not of 
liberty, and reigned in Rome as a Roman, the Prince of the 
Roman Senate, the Tribune of the Roman People. He was 
indeed the choice, not of the Senate or People, but of an 
army quartered far from Rome ; but it was an army warring 
for Rome s greatness in the hardest of her later struggles, 
an army which was certainly not an army of Jews and 
Syrians in the same way that the Vitellian host was prac 
tically an army of Gauls and Germans. But there was one 
thing which the new ruler needed. Rome, and the rest of 
the world, had long looked for something of divinity in its 
rulers. The lord of men must be himself something more than 
man. We have elsewhere spoken of the divine homage which 
was paid to Philip and Alexander, and, long before their day, 
to the Spartan Lysandros. The successors of Alexander had 
received, and seemingly delighted in, the same impious flat 
tery. The Athenian People had quartered Demetrios and his 
harem in the temple of his virgin sister Athene, and a 
General of the Achaian League had sung paeans in honour 
of the Macedonian whom he brought to overthrow the free 
dom of Peloponnesos.f So each successive Caesar, who at 
Rome was only a magistrate of the Commonwealth, had re 
ceived divine worship at the hands of the provincials. Rome 
herself was gradually taught to see something more than 
human in the Julian house, the descendants of Rome s divine 
ancestress ; Augustus himself, simple citizen as he demeaned 
himself, did not quarrel with the belief which made him 
the son of Apollo ; J he took it kindly if men held down 
their eyes before the divine brightness of his countenance. 

* [This was of course written while Rome was still under the yoke of her 
last Gaulish invaders.] 

t [See History of Federal Government, i. 492.] 

J It must be remembered that, as the connexion of Aiigustus with the 
Julian house was wholly through the female line, to give him a divine father 
did not throw the same slur on his human legitimacy which it did in the case 
of Alexander and others. 



326 THE FLA VI AN CAESARS. [ESSAY 

But it was hopeless to clothe Vespasian, a man with as 
little divinity as might be either in his countenance or in his 
pedigree, with any kind of godhead, either hereditary or per 
sonal. His strong good sense cast aside the flatteries of 
genealogists, who invented for him a descent from heroes 
and demi-gods. In his last illness he mocked at the usual 
practice of canonizing deceased Emperors ; when his mortal 
strength was failing, he felt himself beginning to be a God. 
But a Roman Emperor, above all one whose rise was so re 
markable as that of Vespasian, could not be left without a 
sanctity about him of some kind or other. The sanctity of Ves 
pasian took a form which was characteristic of the Eastern lands 
in which he rose to greatness, and which was utterly unlike 
anything which we find in any form of Greek or Roman 
religion. Earlier Kings and Emperors had received divine 
worship, but they seem never to have exercised any divine 
power. But Vespasian works miracles, exactly after the like 
ness of the miracles in the Christian Scriptures. The blind 
and the lame pray him to touch them with his sacred foot, 
or to anoint them with his sacred spittle. For some time 
he withstands their importunity, but at last he goes through 
the needful ceremony, * and, as the story runs, works the 
needful cure. These tales are not to be taken as mockeries 
or imitations of the Christian miracles. The Old and New 
Testaments of themselves clearly show that miracles of heal 
ing, hardly heard of in Western religions, were, by the Jews 
and the neighbouring nations, looked for from all who either 
themselves professed to be, or were acknowledged by others as 
being, clothed with any special function as prophets, teachers, 
or reformers. Vespasian laid no claim to the prophetic office, 
but Eastern admirers might naturally clothe him with it. He 
was eminently a political reformer, and we are apt to forget 
how thoroughly the idea of political reformation was implied 
in the mission of a Hebrew prophet. In an age when a vague 
expectation seemed to be everywhere spread that some great 

* [Compare the unwillingness of William the Third to touch for the evil. 
Macaulay, iii. 478.] 



IX.] THE FLAVIAN CAESARS. 327 

ruler and deliverer was coming from the East, the chief who 
was called from a Syrian command to the Empire of the world 
might well, in Eastern eyes, put on somewhat of the character 
of a Messiah. The religious halo thus spread about Vespasian 
was one of a purely Eastern kind ; but as soon as he had put 
on a mysterious and miraculous character of any kind, the sub 
stitute had at once been found for that earlier type of divinity 
which had died out with the Julian name and blood. Men s 
minds were better disposed to receive a prince who was thus 
clearly marked out as a favourite of the Gods ; and the cure 
of the Alexandrian beggars, whether an instance of cringing 
imposture or of genuine superstition, may not have been 
without its share in enabling Vespasian to form what, after 
the ephemeral reigns of Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, might well 
be called a lasting dynasty. 

One chief object of Mr. Merivale s present volume is to 
claim for the Flavian period a share in that admiration which 
is commonly confined to the five reigns beginning with Nerva. 
In his view, the accession of Nerva marks indeed an epoch, 
but it is an epoch, so to speak, within another. The Flavian 
and Antonine periods together form a whole, as distinguished 
from the periods before and after them. Undoubtedly the 
change from Italian to provincial Emperors was a real change, 
as is pointed out in the passages of Victor which we have 
already quoted. In this way, the accession of Nerva is a 
marked point in the Imperial history. But the cause which 
generally tempts us to make the fall of Domitian a point of 
greater moment than it really was is very different, and is 
indeed somewhat ludicrous. Suetonius happened to stop in 
his series of Imperial biographies with the life of the twelfth 
Caesar. The work of Suetonius was the popular source of 
knowledge on the subject; the full number of twelve was a 
taking one ; and thus arose the popular notion of the Twelve 
Caesars, as if there were some wider gap between the twelfth 
Csesar and the thirteenth than there was between any two of 
the first twelve. But, in truth, as we have already seen, the 



328 THE FLA VIAN C^SARS. [ESSAY 

widest gap of all comes between the sixth and the tenth, be 
tween Nero and Vespasian. We do not meet with such another 
marked change till we come to the point which marks off the 
legal government of the Antonines from the alternate military 
despotism and military anarchy which succeeded it. The dif 
ficulty of classing the Flavian and Antonine princes together 
chiefly arises from the tyranny of Domitian and his violent 
end, coming, as they do, in the midst of a period which is 
otherwise one of unbroken good government and peaceful suc 
cession. But, after all, the fall of Domitian was simply the pri 
vate assassination of a single tyrant : the praetorians grumbled, 
but there was no civil war, no general disturbance of any kind. 
And again, the tyranny of Domitian must not altogether be 
confounded with the tyranny of some of those who went 
before him and of some of those who came after him. The 
character of this strange prince has been very carefully worked 
out by Mr. Merivale, and we think that his view bears a 
greater impress of truth than is the case with some of his 
Imperial portraits. We must never forget, among the many 
merits of Mr. Merivale, that he is still, in some degree, an 
apologist for the Csesarean despotism, and that it is a kind of 
duty in his eyes to make out as good a case as he can for any 
particular Caesar. In some of the earlier reigns, we cannot 
think that his success was very great. He has indeed rescued 
Claudius from a good deal of unmerited popular contempt ; 
but no fair person ever could confound the weak, well-mean 
ing, hen-pecked, antiquary with a madman like Caius or a 
monster like Nero. As for the others, Mr. Merivale is doubt 
less quite justified in his general cautions as to the nature of 
our materials. We have, as he says, no contemporary history 
of the earlier Emperors. Our authorities Suetonius, Tacitus, 
Dion all wrote long after the time. Suetonius is a mere 
collector of anecdotes ; Dion loves to find fault with every 
body ; Tacitus writes the history of the Empire by the light 
of senatorial and republican traditions. Undoubtedly, in read 
ing narratives of this sort, we must allow for a certain amount 
of hostile colouring. But, after making every allowance on 



IX.] THE FLAVIAN C^SARS. 329 

this score that can fairly be made, the undoubted facts, which 
Mr. Merivale does not dispute for a moment, are enough to 
stamp the Claudian Ca?sars, as a whole, as a succession of some 
of the vilest of mankind. This or that particular story maybe 
false ; the general picture which we draw from the whole mass of 
stories may be exaggerated ; but even scandal generally pays 
some regard to probability; it exaggerates real faults, but 
it seldom invents qualities which have no being at all. Pos 
sibly Nero may not have been quite so bad, nor Antoninus 
Pius quite so good, as popular belief makes them out ; 
but there is quite evidence enough to show that Nero was 
very bad and Antoninus very good. After making every pos 
sible allowance, the lusts and cruelties of the early Csesars still 
far surpass the average of the lusts and cruelties even of the 
worst tyrants. And their cruelty is a loathsome, capricious, 
purposeless cruelty ; even Nero s abiding hatred to the Senate 
is quite unworthy of the name of principle, or even of party- 
feeling. With Domitian the case is different ; he was a tyrant 
of a very remarkable kind ; and Mr. Merivale has, as it seems 
to us, given a very successful and probable portrait of him 
and his government. 

Tyrants may perhaps be divided into three classes. There 
are some whose cruelty is simply military or judicial severity 
carried too far, whose blows smite men who really deserve to 
be smitten, only not with so heavy a stroke. A tyranny of* 
this kind is not inconsistent with many personal virtues, and 
it of itself implies a real zeal for the public good. Again, there 
are some tyrants whose cruelty has a definite object, who strike 
in order to destroy or to weaken some hostile party, who are 
ready to inflict any amount of suffering which suits their own 
ends, but who take no pleasure in oppression, and who are 
capable of becoming mild and beneficent rulers as soon as oppo 
sition ends. Such were the authors of both the first and the 
second proscription. Sulla and Augustus alike shed blood with 
out mercy as long as anything was to be gained by shedding 
it ; but neither of them had any appetite for slaughter and con 
fiscation when the need for them had passed by. Lastly, there 



330 THE FLA VI AN CAESARS. [ESSAY 

are tyrants whose tyranny is utterly reckless and capricious, and 
in whom the frequent practice of cruelty seems at last to create 
a sort of enjoyment in cruelty for its own sake. Such was the 
cruelty of Caius and Nero. The second and third classes are 
distinguished from each other by the fact that tyrants of the 
second class commonly get better, while tyrants of the third 
class commonly get worse. The horrors of the second proscrip 
tion were followed in due course by the long paternal reign of 
Augustus. On the other hand, both Caius and Nero began 
with a professed hatred to cruelty of every kind, which we 
have no right to assume was mere acting. The one form of 
tyranny is the cruelty of statesmen, reckless as to the means 
by which an end is to be compassed ; the other is the cruelty 
of men in whom weakness and frivolity are united with a 
childish delight in the mere exercise of power. But the 
tyranny of Domitian was something which stands quite by 
itself. He may be said to have begun with a tyranny of the 
first type, which gradually changed into one of the third. 
Without being a man of any real power of mind, Domitian was 
neither a madman like Cams, nor a mere pedant like Claudius, 
nor a monster of vice and emptiness like Nero. He began as 
a reformer, as a restorer of old Roman manners and of the 
old Roman faith. He assumed, unlike earlier Emperors, a 
perpetual censorship, and, as Censor, he made war upon the 
\ices and luxury of the age. There is no reason to doubt his 
sincerity. Everything seems to show that he started as a 
conscientious worshipper of the Gods of Rome, full of an 
honest wish to bring back Roman life to its ancient purity, 
and fully determined to carry on the duties of the pontificate, 
the censorship, and every other magistracy which he held, 
with the most exemplary and unsparing righteousness. The 
seeming inconsistency of all this reforming zeal, civil and re 
ligious, in a man of Domitian s personally depraved life, is well 
explained by Mr. Merivale. Neither the Gods of Rome nor the 
laws of Rome asked for moral purity in their votaries. They 
may have done so in the early ages of the Republic, but the 
idea of personal morality had, in Domitian s age, long been 



IX.] THE FLAVIAN CJSSARS, 331 

divorced from the ideas of religious and political duty. Par 
ticular forms of vice were censured by Law, not as morally 
wrong, but as hurtful to the welfare of the state, or as de 
grading to the dignity of a Roman citizen. In so doing, the 
Roman Law did in truth keep within the proper limits of 
human legislation. The business of an earthly lawgiver is 
certainly not to punish sins or vices as such, but to hinder, 
and with that end to punish, crimes against society. The 
difference between Roman and modern ideas on this subject 
consists in the difference which the Roman Law drew 
between Roman citizens and other persons. The adultery 
of a Roman citizen and a Roman matron was a crime 
against the state and against the Gods. It led to the 
confusion of family rights and family worship ; it checked 
the succession of the lawful race of Rome s citizens ; it was a 
personal affront to the Gods to whom the marriage-bed was 
sacred. Other yet worse forms of vice were equally forbidden, 
as degrading to the lofty character of a citizen of Rome. But 
beyond these limits, neither the State nor the Gods cared for 
any man s private vices. Domitian, himself a man of infamous 
life, punished as High Pontiff the frailty of the erring Vestals, 
as Censor he put in force the Julian and Scant! nian Laws, 
without any inconsistency in his own eyes or those of others. 
Excesses of which only strangers were the instruments did not 
violate the sanctity of either character. He did not scruple 
so we are universally told to live in incest with his own 
niece ; but he had shrunk in horror from the proposal of marry 
ing her. No doubt the one crime was a less glaring breach of 
formal enactments than the other. * In everything Domitian 
proclaimed himself as a strict and righteous minister of the 
ancient laws. But, when a man with no real moral principle, 
with no real force of character, sets himself up as the severe 
reformer of a corrupt age, he is almost sure to bring in worse 
evils than any that he takes away. The merciless exercise 

* [So for several centuries of ecclesiastical history the concubinage of the 
Clergy was looked on as a less evil than their marriage.] 



332 THE FLA VIAN CAESARS. [ESSAY 

of a merely formal justice will very easily sink into capri 
cious and indiscriminate cruelty. So it proved with Domitian. 
The strict reformer and unbending judge gradually sank into a 
tyrant, never perhaps quite so contemptible, but fully as hateful 
and bloodthirsty, as the vilest of those who went before him. He 
began by chastising real crimes, and he probably never ceased to 
do so in his worst days. He has at least the credit of swiftly 
punishing any deeds of wrong done by his governors in the 
provinces. But, in his zeal to spare no offender, he encour 
aged the vile brood of informers ; and thus the innocent were 
often condemned, while one class at least of the worst offenders 
was openly favoured. At last he became utterly hardened 
in cruelty; after the revolt of Antonius had thoroughly fright 
ened him, he began to live in constant fear of rebellions and 
conspiracies, and at last his reign became, as Mr. Merivale 
truly calls it, emphatically a reign of terror. And it would 
almost seem that the possession, and the habitually harsh exer 
cise, of absolute power had in some measure turned his brain. 
Otherwise, it is certainly strange that a political and religious 
reformer, such as Domitian began by being, should have 
plunged into excesses of insolent and impious tyranny almost 
beyond any of the oppressors who went before him. Since the 
frantic Caius, no one had so openly indulged in the fancy for 
deification ; Rome s human inhabitants and her divine protec 
tors were alike insulted, when the modest style of the first 
Caesars was exchanged for the frightful formula of " our Lord 
and God."* Mr. Merivale remarks that this assumption of 
divinity may possibly have been connected with the fact that 
he stood in a closer relation to deified predecessors than any 
earlier Caesar. His own father, his own brother, were enrolled 
among the Gods ; he may have learned to think that the god 
head of the Flavian house was not confined to its deceased 

* Dominus et Deus noster, Suet. Dom. 13. Dominus in this formula must 
not be confounded with the Christian use of the word. The impiety lies 
wholly in the Deus. But dominus, implying a master of slaves, was a title 
which no magistrate under the Republic, and seemingly till now none under 
the Empire, had ever ventured to claim. 

[See Growth of the English Constitution, p. 169.] 



IX.] THE FLAVIAN CAESARS. 333 

members, but had become incarnate in the person of its only 
living representative. Other freaks of moody, and generally 
gloomy, caprice marked the latter years of his reign, which 
seem to show that his intellect was at least weakened, if it 
had not wholly given way, Altogether, the sanctimonious 
pretences with which he began only served to make his 
tyranny more frightful in itself, and more hateful from its 
inconsistency. Few, if any, of the long line of Roman tyrants 
went out of the world as the object of a more universal 
hatred ; the memory of none has been the subject of more 
universal and unalleviated condemnation. 

We have closely followed Mr. Merivale in his masterly por 
trait of the last Flavian Emperor, the only Flavian tyrant. It 
is a portrait which we think may fairly be drawn from our 
scanty notices. In this case Mr. Merivale neither throws doubt 
on his authorities, nor does he say anything which can be fairly 
called an apology for crime. The utmost that he does is to hint 
that the evidence against Domitian is suspiciously harmo 
nious. and to give an admonitory caution about the frightful 
temptations of his position. But, when we find him the only 
thoroughly bad prince in a series of eight, we really cannot 
see so much excuse for him on the ground of temptations which 
the others contrived, more or less successfully, to overcome. 
We do not quarrel with Mr. Merivale s admonitory caution, 
as we do not find that it at all leads him to try to evade the 
overwhelming testimony of the facts. His account of Domitian 
explains, without at all excusing, a sort of wickedness which 
took a very peculiar form. In fact, Domitian properly takes 
his place in the series from Vespasian to Marcus. He was 
indeed bad, while the others may, on the whole, be called 
good ; still, he was a prince whose government aimed at the 
same general objects ; his crimes were the excess and corrup 
tion of their virtues, not something utterly different and con 
tradictory. He fairly takes his place in the series of reactionary 
or reforming Emperors ; he became in truth as bad as Nero 
himself, yet his reign may be truly reckoned as part of the 
period of revulsion which the excesses of Nero called forth. 



334 THE FLA VI AN CAESARS. [ESSAY 

We have spoken throughout of the Flavian and Antonine 
Csesars in that language of respect which, on the whole, they 
deserve. The men themselves deserve far more praise than 
blame. Doubtless all had their faults ; those certainly had of 
whose actions we possess any detailed account. Few of them 
wholly escaped from the degrading vices of the age. Few re 
mained wholly uncorrupted by the temptations of unrestrained 
power. But, on the whole,, all, save Domitian, played their 
part well. Their faults, whether as men or as rulers, are alto 
gether outshone by their merits. It would be easy to charge 
Vespasian with inflicting on his country the miseries of a civil 
war. But, in a moment of anarchy, when there was no legiti 
mate or universally acknowledged Emperor, we cannot fairly 
blame the man best worthy to rule for obeying the call of his 
troops to put in his claims among others. For the special horrors 
of the war, for the fearful sack of Cremona, for the arbitrary 
and cruel acts of Mucianus and Antonius Primus, Vespasian 
can hardly be made personally responsible. So, when we 
come to Trajan, though the giving up of so many of his con 
quests by his successor is the best comment on their real 
value, we can hardly blame a Roman soldier and reformer 
for treading in the steps of all the most famous worthies of 
the Commonwealth. And, transient as were his Eastern 
victories, one of Trajan s conquests had results which have 
lasted to this day, and which take their turn among the 
other questions which occupy the busy pens of ambassadors 
and foreign ministers. The Rouman provinces, attached 
to the Old Rome by their language, as they are to the 
New Rome by their creed, bear witness to the strong hand 
with which Trajan founded his new dominion north of the 
Danube. The government of Hadrian was not free from faults ; 
but the first prince who really cared for the provinces is entitled 
to lasting honour. Altogether, the Emperors of this period 
formed a succession of wise and good rulers, to which it would 
not be easy to find a parallel. We may well look with admira 
tion on so long a period of comparative good government, when 
we think of what went before, and of what followed. But, while 



IX.] THE FLA VIAN C&SARS. 335 

we do every justice to men who did all that could be done in 
their position, we must riot be blinded to the utterly unrighteous 
nature of that position itself. We must not forget, in the 
splendours of the Empire, in the virtues of many of its rulers, 
the inherent wickedness of the Empire itself. On this head it 
is well, after the extravagant advocacy of Mr. Congreve, even 
after the more measured apology of Mr. Merivale, to turn to 
the voice of truth and righteousness speaking through the 
mouth of Mr. Gold win Smith. His vigorous setting forth of 
the essential unrighteousness of the Roman Empire is one of 
those utterances where simple truth of itself becomes the 
highest eloquence. The Roman Empire did its work in the 
scheme of Providence ; it paved the way for the religion and 
civilization of modern Europe : but this is simply one of the 
countless cases in which good has been brought out of evil. 
The Empire may have been a necessary evil; it may have been 
the lesser evil in a choice of evils ; but it was in itself a 
thing of evil all the same. It showed, with tenfold aggrava 
tion, all that we look upon with loathing in the modern despot 
isms of Austria* and Russia. The worst of modern despots is 
placed under some restraint by the general public opinion of the 
world, by the religion which he professes, by the civilization in 
which all Europe shares, by the existence of powerful free states 
side by side with despotisms, by the very jealousies and rivalries 
of the despotic powers themselves. But the Roman Empire stood 
alone in the world ; there was no influence or opinion beyond it. 
Its subjects, even in the worst times, would hardly have gained 
by flying to the wilds of independent Germany, or by exchang 
ing the civilized despotism of Rome for the barbarian despotism 
of Parthia. But, whatever were its causes, whatever were its 
results, however necessary it was in its own time, it was in 
itself a wicked thing, which, for so many ages, crushed all 
national, and nearly all intellectual, life in the fairest regions of 
three continents. There is life as long as old Greece keeps the 

* [Austria as it then was ; not the ( Oesterreichisch-ungarische Monarchic 
that is now.] 



336 THE FLAVIAN CAESARS. [ESSAY 

least relic of her freedom ; there is life again as soon as we reach 
the first germ of Christian and Teutonic Europe ; nay, life 
shows itself again in the Empire itself, when its place and its 
object are changed, when it has taken up the championship of 
Christianity against fire-worship and Islam, and when it has in 
the end become coextensive with that artificial nation Greek 
in one aspect and Roman in another which for so many ages 
boasted of the Roman name. But, from Mummius to Augustus, 
the Roman city stands as the living mistress of a dead world ; 
and, from Augustus to Theodoric, the mistress becomes as life 
less as her subjects. For the truest life of man, for the political 
life of Perikles and Aratos, of Licinius and the Gracchi, the 
world had now no scope ; the Empire allowed but one field for 
the exercise of man s higher faculties, when the righteous soul 
of a Tacitus or a Juvenal was stirred up to brand the evil deeds 
of the Empire itself. The bane did, in some slight degree, 
prove its own antidote, when such stern preachers of truth 
were called forth to take the place of the courtly elegance of 
the hired poets of Augustus. Of the great legacy of Rome 
to later times, the legacy of the Roman Law, the best 
parts were simply inherited by the Empire from the days 
of the Republic. The Republic may indeed have ceased 
to be possible; but we may remember that, under the Re 
public, the virtues of Titus and Trajan would have found a 
field for their exercise, while there was no field for the crimes 
of Caius or Nero or Domitian. The Verres of a single pro 
vince sank before the majesty of the Law and the righteous 
eloquence of his accuser : against the Verres of the world 
there was no defence except in the dagger of the assassin. 
A chain is of the strength of its weakest link, and a system 
of this kind may fairly be judged by the worst princes that 
it produces. A system under which a Nero and a Commodus 
are possible and not uncommon is truly a system of Neros 
and Commodi, though they may be relieved by a whole 
series of Trajans and Antonines. For the Trajans and the 
Antonines have their parallels elsewhere; their virtues were 
not the result of the Imperial system; they simply existed 



IX.] THE FLAVIAN CAESARS. 337 

in spite of it. But the crimes of Nero and Commodus are 
without parallels elsewhere ; they are the direct and distinctive 
product of the system itself, when left to its own developement. 
In a free state Caius would have found his way to Bedlam, 
and Nero to Tyburn ; Domitian, under the checks of the re 
publican system, might perhaps have made as useful a Censor 
as Cato. We cannot end a view of even the best period of 
the Eoman monarchy without echoing the fervent wish of the 
Oxford Professor that the world may never see its like again. 

We have one more remark to make on Mr. Merivale s way 
of looking at the establishment of the Empire. He is fond of 
speaking of both the elder and the younger Caesar as the chiefs 
of a popular party, who set up their dominion on the ruins 
of an oligarchy. This is of course true in a sense ; the mob 
of Rome were favourable to Csesar, and his party historically 
represented the party of his uncle Marius. But we need not 
take long to show what is the real nature of a pseudo-demo 
cratic despotism. It is a device which neither Csesar had all 
to himself. There were Dionysii before their time, and 
there have been Buonapartes since. It is undoubtedly true 
that, in one sense, the party of Csesar was a popular party, 
and that the party of the Republic was an aristocratic party ; 
but they were not popular and aristocratic parties in any 
sense which would make us sympathize with the popular 
party against the aristocratic party. As long as there was a 
real Roman People, capable and worthy of political rights, we 
go along with all its struggles against the domination of any 
exclusive caste. But sympathy with a people against an olig 
archy does not carry us on to sympathize with a mob against 
a Senate. Great as were the faults of the Roman Senate in 
the last stage of its freedom, it was at least the only body left 
where free discussion was possible ; it was the only assembly 
where two opinions could be expressed, where the arguments 
for both of them were fairly hearkened to, and a free vote 
taken between them. As such it was the salt of the earth, 
the last abiding-place of freedom. And we must not carry on 

z 



338 THE FLAVIAN CJESARS. [ESSAY 

into those days ideas which belong only to the older struggle 
between the orders. Many of the most illustrious nobles were 
technically plebeians ; every Licinius and Csecilius and Luta- 
tius, the Great Pompeius, the Triumvir Antonius and the 
tyrannicide Brutus, Cato and Milo and Hortensius and the 
second Caesar himself, all belonged to the order which the 
old Appii had striven to shut out from the fasces and the 
senate-house. And the doors of the senate-house were not 
open only to those who were indeed formally plebeians, but 
who were practically as much members of a noble class as 
any Cornelius or ^Emilius in Rome. A new man at Rome, 
as everywhere else, lay under disadvantages; but his dis 
advantages might be overcome, and it rested wholly with 
the People itself whether they should be overcome or not. 
That government cannot be called a mere oligarchy in which 
the Tribes still chose Pra3tors, Consuls, Censors, and High 
Pontiffs ; where the highest places in the commonwealth were 
not refused to Caius Marius and Marcus Tullius Cicero. 
Any deliberative body where two sides can be fairly heard, 
whether it take the form of a democratic Assembly or of an 
aristocratic Senate, is essentially a safeguard of freedom, a 
.check on the will either of a mob or of a despot. Even in 
the days of the Empire, the Senate, the last shadow of the 
free state, still kept life enough for the good Emperors to 
respect it and for the bad Emperors to hate it. It is then 
with the Senate that the sympathies of the real lover of 
freedom lie in the last age of the Republic, rather than with 
the frantic mob which disgraced the once glorious name 
of the Roman Commons. No assembly that ever was devised 
was less fitted to undertake the championship of freedom 
than the old Parliament of Paris ; but, \vhen the Par 
liament of Paris was the one representative of right against 
might left in all France, when the feeble opposition of the 
magistracy was the sole check upon a despot s arbitrary will, 
our sympathies lie wholly with the Parliament in all its strug 
gles with the royal power. It is something when even a 
Sultan has to ask a Sheikh-ul-Islam whether his wishes are in 



IX.] THE FLAVIAN CAESARS. 339 

agreement with the Law of the Prophet. He may indeed, like 
our James the Second, depose a too unbending expounder of the 
Law, and may supply his place with one who will know no 
law but the prince s will ; but the mere formality is some 
thing ; the mere delay is something ; it is something when a 
despot has to ask a question to which the answer may perhaps 
run counter to his wish. And so, as the last check on the 
despotism at once of the mob of the Forum and of the Caesar 
on the Palatine, we still hold that the Senate where Cicero 
denounced Catilina and Antonius, where the last dying notes 
of freedom were heard from the lips of Thrasea and Helvidius, 
was an assembly which well deserves the grateful remem 
brance of mankind. 

On many points then, and those points the most important 
of all, we look on the history of the Ca3sars with widely 
different eyes from those of their last historian. But, on 
the very ground which makes us differ from him, we can 
never regret a difference from an advocate at once so candid 
and so competent. Mr. Merivale is a real scholar, in an age 
when real scholars are not so common that we can afford to 
lose or to undervalue a single one of the order. In all the 
highest qualities of a historian, there are few living men 
who surpass him. We look with sadness on his seventh volume, 
when we hear that his seventh volume is to be his last. If 
our words can have any influence with him, and he may 
receive them as the words, not of flatterers, but in some degree 
of antagonists, he will even now change a purpose which 
all scholars must have heard with sorrow, and will carry on 
his great work down at least to the limit which he first set 
before him as its close. 



THE END. 



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