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ligion. · That the colonics of these nations, led forth for predatory purposes, not overwhelming in numbers, and maintaining little subsequent communication with the mother country, could have preserved more than a faint memory of the civilisation of the parent states, is highly improbable; and the supposition is contradicted by the wide di. vergence of the Grecian institutes, from their original models : the admixture, however, of a foreign people with the primitive stock seems to have exerted a most powerful and enduring influence on the character of their common descendants.
But whatever may have been the causes, the fabulous dream of times called heroic had scarcely given place to the realities of history, when the Grecians are discovered in possession of a civilisation, unknown to the more ancient and polished nations of the East; and, living under forms of government, which, by exciting the sensibility of man, and rousing his best energies, gave supremacy to moral over physical force. By the means of this supremacy, they fixed the destiny of Europe, in spite of the rudest shocks of fortune, preserving it, under every vicissitude, in advance of all the other portions of the inhabited globe.
The history of oriental antiquity had been but one dark record of human suffering. Its religion was, for the most part, a ritual of pain and privation ; its political institutions degraded the many, to exalt the few; and both combined to generate social habits, which stifled all noble sentiment, fostered individual selfishness, and established, as an irrevocable law, the mastery of one, and the subjection of millions.
The vices and the crimes thus nurtured had reached their maximum, and were already resolving society into its primitive elements, when Greece threw out her barrier of freedom and philosophy, to stem the torrent of slavery and superstition. Sending forth her band of patriots, to prostrate the Persian and his slavish hordes on the plains of Marathon, of Platea, and of Thermopylæ, she afforded an imperishable example of the value of a national sentiment: but by supplying mankind with the new power of analyzing dogma, she did more ;-she gave a blow to consecrated authority, from which it has never since recovered, and she thus cleared a highway to truth and to liberty through free inquiry, for every nation which in all future ages should dare to tread it.
Until Greece existed, humanity was scarcely human; but the constitutional sensibility of her populations, at variance with the institutions founded by the first military colonists, throwing off domestic tyranny,* gave birth to her small but brilliant municipal communities, which rose like stars on the political firmament, and first legalized those “ rights of man" which, though often overpowered and obscured, have never since been wholly quenched. Sparta, alone, of all the Grecian states, retained the semblance of a king; but she, too, in her conservatism, fur. nished her quota of improvement, by establishing the possibility of submitting sovereign authority to the control of the people : she thus gave the first rudiments of a form of government, which, under the name of constitutional monarchy, seems destined to exert an extended and durable influence on the fortunes of the species.
If the cause of this unexampled order of things was the moral and intellectual organization of the Greeks, its reaction contributed largely to the peculiar manifestations of mind, which still brighten, while they fix the interests of society. If Greece, in the times of Hippias and Hipparchus, had her exquisite poets, her Anacreon, and her Simonides, the high priests of the gentler passions, it was the republics which produced those master minds, Pythagoras, Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Anaxagoras, Democritus, Epicurus, with their long and luminous train of disciples, whose writings have first divested truth of its allegorical garb, and exposed it to the popular gaze, preserved its fires through ages of darkness and suffering, and finally guided a re-awakened race of inquirers from the chaos of ignorance and superstition, to the light of religious and philosophical independence.
To the excitements and the responsibilities of a citizen life, the world also is indebted for the historians and the
* About the period when the Roman3 (a scion of the same stock) es. pelled their Tarquins.
orators of Greece; and, above all, for those gigantic and master spirits, her tragedians, from whose verses alone might be extracted every principle of high morality, and every lofty and ennobling sentiment, necessary to purify and exalt the species, should all the formal codes and systematic treatises on ethical science, of modern lawgivers, and of school divines, be lost for ever and forgotten.
The sensibility of the Greek temperament discarded, from the mythology of the East, its fierce and gloomy doctrines, and substituted a religion of poetry and of senti. ment for a fanaticism of self-denial and of terror. The human sacrifice, introduced in the earliest times of Asiatic barbarity, was replaced by offerings less revolting to humanity, and more flattering to the imagination. To the disgusting scenes of Anthropomancy* (practised before the age of Homer) succeeded divinations of a less brutal. izing character. A flower, a bird, a sunbeam, or a cloud, served the purpose of a credulous curiosity; and extorted the smile of the philosopher, if it moved not the phlegm of the priest who pronounced the omen.
The rites of the most fanciful of all religions made life one feast of thanksgiving; and it was proverbially boasted that “each day of the year is a festival in Athens.” The temple raised to wisdom was the noblest work of art, when art, no longer used as the symbol of abstraction, became a reflection of nature, and approached, in its harmony, beauty, and simplicity, to the glorious works of the Creator; while the shrine most universal throughout the cities of Greece was graced with the images of maternal beauty and of infant love; a symbol presented by Nature to the religious of all nations.T
But there had always been a celestial as well as a terrestial Venus; and the Greek, like the Egyptian mythology, admitted two Loves: the cradle of the one was rocked on earth, that of the other was placed in heaven. The Greeks had been told by Hesiod, the earliest of their poets, that Love was the soul and creator of the universe; and Plato, the most spiritual of their philosophers, had defined “ true love to be the union of pure and virtuous minds.” In Athens the statue of this divinity was placed in the temple of Minerva ;* and Love and the Muses, by a charming fiction, were thus worshipped together.
* Divination, by the inspection of human sacrifice, the offering of fear and ignorance to evil, has been perpetrated under the name of re. ligion, by almost all nations in their early and barbarous state, or under the influence of religious fanaticism. This horrid worship was found to exist in India (at Cati), in Africa among the Negroes, in America among the Mexicans, and in Europe among the Druids. Somc traces of it may be found in the middle ages, in the auto da fe of Catholic countries, and in the Smithfield fires of Protestant England.
† Mythologie comparée.
If the Greeks had many vices incidental to their origin and institutes, they could be reproached with the fewest crimes; and of all nations, they were the least cruel. I The first altar consecrated to Pity rose in Athens; and when an attempt was made to introduce the barbarous games of Rome, (the murder of man for the amusement of man) the popular feeling revolted, and philosophy exclaimed :—“ First raze the altars you have erected to Mercy.” It was the same wisdom of an exquisite sensibility that pronounced the then customary trophies raised over a fallen foe, to be “ monuments of discord;" and ordained that such memorials should only be made of wood, as the most perishable material of which they could be constructed. These mild sympathies, these generous instincts, of the most intellectual race which the world had till then produced, brought forth an external harmony of form that has become the standard of modern art, the type of grace, and the mould of beauty.
That expression of divine serenity, which always characterizes happy humanity (the poetry of physiognomy, justifying the epithet of the “ human face divine”) and
* With an inscription, which originated that of Jean de Mean, and which Voltaire has so beautifully turned, in his well-known lines under the statue of Cupid :-" Qui que tu sois voilà ton Maitre,” &c.—See also, Galerie de Florence, pierres gravées.
+ The festival of Love and the Muses” was celebrated at the foot of Mount Helicon, with great pomp by the Thespians. “Je ne vois” (says Montaigne; “ Je ne vois aucunes Déités qui s'adviennent mieux, ni qui s'entredoivent plus: qui ôtera aux Mûses les imaginations amoureuses, leur derobera le plus bel entretien qu'elles aient, et la plus noble matière de leurs ouvrages.”
The massacre of the inhabitants of Melos by the Athenians during the Peloponnesian war, was but an exception. If such exceptions were taken into the account, what nation, however polished or civilized, could hope to escape censure ?
which particularly characterizes the portrait-statues of classical antiquity, is but an index of the happy physiology of a race habitually undisturbed by ferocious passions, and undeformed by uneasy sensations. dern virtuoso, in the indulgence of his refined tastes, as he moves among the godlike images of the Vatican, or of the Capitol (the precious plunder of Athens and of Corinth), forgets that the deities he gazes on are but the representations of living men and women-models furnished from nature by a free and intellectual people, to that sublime genius, which their own temperaments and habits had fostered into perfection.
When the works of Phidias and of Praxiteles are compared with the equally faithful transcripts of the sovereigns of the Roman empire, no clearer evidence can be desired of the inherent difference of races, and of the reactive influence of the institutes, which these develope. The expression of countenances deficient in sensibility is marked, like that of the animals of prey, by fear and by cruelty; and the vulture and the tiger may be traced in the features of the Caligulas and the Claudiuses, the Neros and the Domitians, as in those of the savages of all re
The same expression, too, may be seen in the polished man of the most highly civilized populations, whenever egotism has extinguished sympathy,—when, by giving preponderance to the animal impulses, it has brought back humanity to the brutal hardness it exhibited ere it had first known a touch of pity, or acknowledged that feeling which respects itself in the person of others.
Among the Greeks, whose lives were manifestations of the highest passions, whose religion was poetry, whose
* The horrible countenance of Caligula is noted by Suetonius in his life of that emperor.
“ Staturâ fuit eminenti, pallido colore, corpore enormi, gracilitate maximâ cervicis et crurum, et oculis et temporibus concavis, fronte latâ et torvâ capillo raro ac circa verticem nullo hirsutus cætera.”—Lib. iv. And though the same writer is less severe on the stultified ugliness of Claudius (whom all writers describe as singularly hideous), still he describes the countenance of his passions as fearful and disgusting, and his anger and his laughter to have been equally idiotic and ferocious But the portrait-coins and busts of all those monstermasters of the world, have left a record of the impress made upon the external forms of humanity by the indulgence of brutal and ungoverned passions. VOL. I.