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so low, as to make them submit to conditions of peace, as shameful to the conquered, as glorious for the conquerors.
Among the cities of Greece, there were two that particularly distinguished themselves, and acquired an authority and a kind of superiority over the rest, solely by their merit and conduct : these two were Lacedæmon and Athens. As these cities make a considerable figure, and act an illustrious part in the ensuing history, before I enter upon particulars, I think I ought first to give the reader some idea of the genius, character, manners, and government, of their respective inhabitants. Plutarch, in the lives of Lycurgus and Solon, will furnish me with the greatest part of what I have to say upon this head.
The Spartan government. Laws established by Lycurgus. There is perhaps nothing in profane history better attested, and at the same time more incredible, than what relates to the government of Sparta, and the discipline established in it by Lycurgus. This legislator was the son of Eunomus,* one f the two kings who reigned together in Sparta. It would have been easy for Lycurgus to have ascended the throne after the death of his eldest brother, who left no son behind him; and in fact he was king for some days. But, as soon as his sister-in-law was found to be with child, he declared that the crown belonged to her son, if she had one; and from thenceforth he governed the kingdom only as his guardian. In the mean time, the widow gave him secretly to understand, that if he would promise to marry her when he was king, she would destroy the fruit of her womb. So detestable a proposal struck Lycurgus with horror; however, he concealed his indignation, and amusing the woman with different pretences, so managed it, that she went her full time, and was delivered. As soon as the child was born, he proclaimed him king, and took care to have him brought up and educated in a proper manner. This prince, on account of the joy which the people testified at his birth, was named Charilaus.
The state was at this time in great disorder if the authority, both of the kings and the laws, being absolutely despised and disregarded. No curb was strong enough to restrain the audaciousness of the people, which every day increased more and more.
Lycurgus formed the bold design of making a thorough reformation in the Spartan government; and to be the more capable of making wise regulations, he thought fit to travel into several countries, in order to acquaint himself with the different manners of other nations, and to consult the most able and experienced persons in the art of government. He began with the island of Crete, whose harsh and austere laws are very famous; from thence he passed into
Plut. in vit. Lyc. p. 40.
| Ibid. 41.
Asia, where quite different customs prevailed; and, last of all, he went into Egypt, which was then the seat of science, wisdom, and good counsels.
His long absence only made his country the more desirous of his return;* and the kings themselves importuned him to that purpose, being sensible how much they stood in need of his authority to keep the people within bounds, and in some degree of subjection and order. When he came back to Sparta, he undertook to change the whole form of their government, being persuaded, that a few particular laws would produce no great effect.
But before he put this design in execution, he went to Delphi, to consult the oracle of Apollo: where after having offered his sacrifice, he received that famous answer, in which the priestess called him a friend of the gods, and rather a god than a man. And as for the favour he desired of being able to frame a set of good laws for his country, she told him, the god had heard his prayers, and that the commonwealth he was going to establish would be the most ex: cellent state in the world.
On his return to Sparta, the first thing he did was to bring over to his designs the leading men of the city, whom he made acquainted with his views; and when he was assured of their approbation and concurrence, he went into the public market-place, accompanied with a number of armed men, in order to astonish and intimidate those who might desire to oppose his undertaking:
The new form of government which he introduced into Sparta, may be reduced to three principal institutions.
FIRST INSTITUTION. The Senate. Of all the new regulations or institutions made by Lycurgus,f the greatest and most considerable was that of the senate; which, by tempering and balancing, as Plato observes, the too absolute power of the kings, by an authority of equal weight and influence with theirs, became the principal support and preservation of that state. For whereas before, it was ever unsteady, and tending one while towards tyranný, by the violent proceeding of the kings; at other times towards democracy, by the excessive power of the people ; the senate served as a kind of counterpoise to both, which kept the state in a due equilibrium, and preserved it in a firm and steady situation ; the twenty-eight senators,f of which it consisted, siding with the kings, when the people were grasping at too much power; and on the other hand espousing the interests of the people, whenever the kings attempted to carry their authority too far.
Lycurgus having thus tempered the government, those that came after him thought the power of the thirty, that composed the senate, still too strong and absolute; and therefore, as a check upón * Plut. in vit. Lyc. p. 42.
| Ibid. This council consisted of thirty persons, including the two kings.
them, they devised the anthority of the Ephori,* about 130 years after Lycurgus. The Ephori were five in number, and remained but one year in office. They were all chosen out of the people; and in that respect considerably resembled the tribunes of the people among the Romans. Their authority extended to the arresting and imprisoning the persons of their kings, as it happened in the case of Pausanias. The institution of the Ephori began in the reign of Theopompus, whose wife reproaching him, that he would leave to his children the regal authority in a worse condition than he had received it: on the contrary, said he, I shall leave it to them in a much better condition, as it will be more permanent and lastile.
The Spartan government then was not purely monarchical. The nobility had a great share in it, and the people were not excluded. Each part of this body politic, in proportion as it contributed to the public good, found in it their advantage; so that in spite of the natural restlessness and inconstancy of man's heart, which is always thirsting after novelty and change, and is never cured of its disgust to uniformity, Lacedæmon persevered for many ages in the exact observance of her laws.
SECOND INSTITUTION. The Division of the Lands, and the Pro
hibition of Gold and Silver Money. The second and the boldest institution of Lycurgus,f was the division of the lands, which he looked upon as absolutely necessary for establishing peace and good order in the commonwealth. The greater part of the people were so poor, that they had not one inch of land of their own, whilst a small number of individuals were possessed of all the lands and wealth of the country; in order therefore to banish insolence, envy, fraud, luxury, and two other distempers of the state, still greater and more ancient than those, I mean extreme poverty and excessive wealth, he persuaded the citizens to give up all their lands to the commonwealth, and to make a new division of them, that they might all live together in a perfect equality, and that no pre-eminence or honours should be given but to virtue and merit alone.
This scheme, extraordinary as it was, was immediately executed. Lycurgus divided the lands of Laconia into 30,000 parts, which he distributed among the inhabitants of the country; and the territories of Sparta into 9000 parts, which he distributed among an equal number of citizens. It is said, that some years after, as Lycurgus was returning from a long journey, and passing through the lands of Laconia in the time of harvest, and observing, as he went along, the perfect equality of the sheaves of reaped corn, he turned towards those that were with him, and said smiling, Does not Laconia look
• The word signifies comptroller or inspector
† Plut. in vit Lyc. p. 44.
like the possessions of several brothers, who have just been dividing their inheritance amongst them?
After having divided their immoveables, he undertook likewise to make the same equal division of all their moveable goods and chattels, that he might utterly banish from among them all manner of inequality. But perceiving that this would meet with more opposition if he went openly about it, he endeavoured to effect it by sapping the very foundations of avarice. For first he cried down all gold and silver money, and ordained that no other should be current than that of iron, which he made so very heavy, and fixed at so low a rate, that a cart and two oxen were necessary to carry home a sum of ten minæ,* and a whole chamber to keep it in.
The next thing he did was to banish all useless and superfluous arts from Sparta. But if he had not done this, most of them would have sunk of themselves, and disappeared with the gold and silver money ; because the tradesmen and artificers would have found no vent for their commodities; and this iron money had no currency among any other of the Grecian states, who were so far from esteeming it, that it became the subject of their banter and ridicule.
THIRD INSTITUTION. The Public Meals. LYCURGUS, being desirous to make war still more vigorously upon effeminacy and luxury, and utterly to extirpate the love of riches, made a third regulation, which was that of public meals. That he might entirely suppress all the magnificence and extravagance of expensive tables,t he ordained, that all the citizens should eat together of the same common victuals, which were prescribed by law, and expressly forbade all private eating at their own houses.
By this institution of public and common meals, and this frugality and simplicity in eating, it may be said, that he made riches in some measure change their very nature, by putting them out of a condition of being desired or stolen,f or of enriching their possessors; for there was no way left for a man to use or enjoy his opulence, or even to make any show of it; since the poor and the rich ate together in the same place, and none were allowed to appear at the public eating-rooms, after having taken care to fill themselves with other diet; because every body present took particular notice of any one that did not eat or drink, and the whole company were sure to reproach him with
the delicacy and intemperance that made him despise the common food and public table.
The rich were extremely enraged at this regulation; and it was upon this occasion, that in a tumult of the people, a young man, named Alcander, struck out one of Lycurgus's eyes. The people, provoked at such an outrage, delivered the young man into Lycur. gus's hands, who knew how to revenge himself in a proper manner, * Five hundred livres French, about 201. English. † Plut. in vit. Lyc. p. 45. : Τον πλούτον άσυλον, μάλλον δε άζηλον, και άπλευτον άπειργάσατο. Ρlut.
for, by the extraordinary kindness and gentleness with which he treated hiin, he made the violent and hot-headed youth in a little time become very moderate and wise.
The tables consisted of about fifteen persons each; where none could be admitted without the consent of the whole company. Each person furnished every month a bushel of flour, eight measures of wine, five pounds of cheese, two pounds and a half of figs, and a small sum of money for preparing and cooking the victuals. Every one, without exception of persons, was obliged to be at the common meal: and a long time after the making of these regulations, king Agis, at his return from a glorious expedition, having taken the liberty to dispense with that law, in order to eat with the queen his wife, was reprimanded and punished.
The very children were present at these public tables, and were carried thither as to a school of wisdom and temperence. There they were sure to hear grave discourses upon government, and to see nothing but what tended to their instruction and improvement. The conversation was often enlivened with ingenious and sprightly raillery; but never intermixed with any thing vulgar or disgusting; and if their jesting seemed to make any person uneasy, they never proceeded any farther. Here their children were likewise trained up and accustomed to great secrecy: as soon as a young man came into the dining-room, the oldest person of the company used to say to him, pointing to the door, Nothing spoken here, must ever go out there.
The most exquisite of all their dishes was what they called their black broth ;* and the old men preferred it to every thing that was set upon the table. Dionysius the tyrant, when he was at one of these meals, was not of the same opinion; and what was a ragout to them, was to him very insipid :- I do not wonder at it, said the cook, for the seasoning is wanting;—What seasoning? replied the tyrant.-Running, sweating, fatigue, hunger, and thirst; these are the ingredients, says the cook, with which we season all our food.
When I speak of the ordinances of Lycurgus,t I do not mean written laws; he thought proper to leave very few of that kind, being persuaded, that the most powerful and effectual means of rendering communities happy, and people virtuous, is by the good example, and the impression made on the mind by the manners and practice of the citizens: for the principles thus implanted by education remain firm and immoveable, as they are rooted in the will, which is always a stronger and more durable tie than the yoke of necessity; and the youth that have been thus nurtured and educated, become laws and legislators to themselves. These are the reasons
• Cic. Tusc. Quæst. lib. v. n. 98.
| Plut. vit. Lyc. p. 47.