Page images

why Lycurgus, instead of leaving his ordinances in writing, endeavoured to imprint and enforce them by practice and example.

He looked upon the education of youth as the greatest and most important object of a legislator's care. His grand principle was, that children belonged more to the state than to their parents; and therefore he would not have them brought up according to their humours and caprice, but would have the state entrusted with the care of their education, in order to have them formed upon fixed and uniform principles, which might inspire them betimes with the love of their country and of virtue.

As soon as a boy was born, the elders of each tribe visited him ;* and if they found him well made, strong, and vigorous, they ordered him to be brought up, and assigned him one of the 9000 portions of land for his inheritance;t if, on the contrary, they found him to be deformed, tender, and weakly, so that they could not expect that he would ever have a strong and healthful constitution, they condemned him to perish, and caused the infant to be exposed.

Children were early accustomed not to be nice or difficult in their eating; not to be afraid in the dark, or when they were left alone: not to give themselves up to peevishness and ill humour, to crying and bawling; to walk barefoot, that they might be inured to fatigue; to lie hard at nights; to wear the same clothes winter and summer, in order to harden them against cold and heat.

At the age of seven years they were put into the classes, / where they were brought up all together under the same discipline. Their education, properly speaking, was only an apprenticeship of obedience: the legislator having rightly considered, that the surest way to have citizens submissive to the law and to the magistrates, in which the good order and happiness of a state chiefly consists, was to teach children early, and to accustom them from their tender years, to be perfectly obedient to their masters and superiors.

While they were at table, If it was usual for the masters to instruct the boys by proposing them questions. They would ask them, for example, who is the most worthy man in the town? What do you think of such or such an action? The boys were obliged to give a quick or ready answer, which was also to be accompanied with a reason and a proof, both couched in few words: for they were accustomed betimes to the laconic style, that is, to a close and concise

way of speaking and writing. Lycurgus was for having the money bulky, heavy, and of little value, and their language, on the contrary, very pithy and short; and a great deal of sense comprised in few words.

* Plut. vit. 'yc. p. 49.

f I do not comprehend how they could assign to every one of these children one of the 9000 portions, appropriated to the city, for his inheritance. Was the number of citizens always the same? Did it never exceed 9000? It is not said in this case, as in the division of the holy land, that the portions allotted to a family always continued in it, and could not be entirely alienated. | Xen. de Lac. rep. p. 677.

$ Plut. in Lyc. p. 50. Ο “Ωστά την παιδείαν είναι μελέτην ευπειθείας. . 1 Plut in Lyc. p. 51

As for literature * they only learned as much as was necessary All the sciences were banished out of their country; their study tended only to know how to obey, to bear hardship and fatigue, and to conquer in battle. The superintendent of their education was one of the most honourable men of the city, and of the first rank and condition, who appointed over every class of boys masters of the most approved wisdom and probity:

There was one kind of theft only (and that too' more a nominal than a real one) which the boys were allowed, and even ordered, to practise. They were taught to slip, as cunningly and cleverly as they could, into the gardens and public halls, in order to steal away herbs or meat: and if they were caught in the fact, they were punished for their want of dexterity. We are told that one of them, having stolen a young fox, hid it under his robe, and suffered, without uttering a complaint, the animal to gnaw into his belly, and tear out his very bowels, till he fell dead upon the spot. This kind of theft, as I have said, was but nominal, and not properly a robbery; since it was authorised by the law and the consent of the citizens. The intent of the legislator in allowing it, was to inspire the Spartan youth, who were all designed for war, with greater boldness, subtilty, and address; to inure them betimes to the life of a soldier; to teach them to live upon a little, and to be able to shift for themselves. But I have already treated this matter more at large elsewhere. I

The patience and constancy of the Spartan youth most conspicuously appeared in a certain festival,i celebrated in honour of Diana, surnamed Orthia, where the children before the eyes of their parents, and in presence of the whole city,|| suffered themselves to be whipped till the blood ran down upon the altar of this cruel goddess, where sometimes they expired under the strokes, and all this without uttering the least cry, or so much as a groan or a sigh; and even their own fathers, when they saw them covered with blood and wounds, and ready to expire, exhorted them to persevere to the end with constancy and resolution. Plutarch assures us, that he had seen with his own eyes a great many children lose their lives at the celebration of these cruel rites. Hence it is, that Horace gives the epithet of patient to the city of Lacedæmon, Patiens Lacedæmon; and another author makes a man who had received three strokes of a stick without complaining, say, Tres plagas Spartanà nobilitate concoxi. .

The most usual occupation of the Lacedæmonians was hunting, ** and other bodily exercises. They were forbidden to exercise any mechanic art. The Elote, who were a sort of slaves, tilled their land for them, and paid them a certain proportion of the produce.

Plut. in Lyc. p. 52. † Plut. vit. Lyc. p. 50. Idem in Institut. Lacon. p. 237 of the method of teaching and studying the Belles Lettres, &c. vol. iii. p. 471.

Plut. p. 51. ll Cic. Tusc. Quæst. lib. ii. n. 34. i Ode vii. lib. 1 ** Plut. in vit. Lycurg. p. 54.

Lycurgus was willing that his citizens should enjoy a great deal of leisure :* they had large common-halls, where the people used to meet to converse together: and though their discourses chiefly turned upon grave and serious topics, yet they seasoned them with a mixture of wit and facetious humour, both agreeable and instructive. They passed little of their time alone, being accustomed to live like bees, always together, always about their chiefs and leaders. The love of their country and of the public good was their predominant passion : they did not imagine they belonged to themselves, but to their country. Pædaretus, having missed the honour of being chosen one of the 300 who had a certain rank of distinction in the city, went home extremely pleased and satisfied, saying, He was overjoyed there were 300 men in Sparta more worthy than himself,

At Sparta every thing tended to inspire the love of virtue and the hatred of vice ;t the actions of the citizens, their conversations, and even their public monuments and inscriptions. It was hard for men, brought up in the midst of so many living precepts and examples, not to become virtuous, as far as heathens were capable of virtue. It was to preserve these happy dispositions, that Lycurgus did not allow all sorts of persons to travel, lest they should bring home foreign manners, and return infected with the licentious customs of other countries, which would necessarily create in a little time an aversion for the mode of life and maxims of Lacedæmon. Neither would he suffer any strangers to remain in the city, who did not come thither to some useful or profitable end, but out of mere curiosity; being afraid they should bring along with them the defects and vices of their own countries; and being persuaded, at the same tine, that it was more important and necessary to shut the gates of a city against depraved and corrupt manners, thần against infectious distempers. Properly speaking, the very trade and business of the Lacedæmonians was war; every thing with them tended that way: arms were their only exercise and employment ; their life was much less hard and austere in the camp than in the city; and they were the only people in the world, to whom the time of war was a time of ease and refreshment; because then the reins of that strict and severe discipline which prevailed at Sparta, were somewhat relaxed, and the men were indulged in a little more liberty. With them the first and most inviolable law of war,f as Demaratus told Xerxer, was, never to fly, or turn their backs, whatever superiority of numbers the enemy's army might consist of; never to quit their posts; never to deliver up their arms; in a word, either to conquer or to die. This maxim was so important and essential in their opinion, that when the poet Archilochus came to Sparta, they obliged him to leave their city immediately; because they understood, that in one of his poems he had said, It was better for a man to throw down his arms, than to expose himself to be killed. * Ibid. p. 55. | Ibid. p. 56.

llerod. I. vii. cap. 104.

Plut. in Vol. 11. Y

Lacon. institut.



Hence it is,* that a mother recommended to her son, who was going to make a campaign, that he should return either with or upon his shield; and that another, hearing that her son was killed in fighting for his country, answered very coldly, I brought him into the world for no other end. This temper of mind was general among the Lacedæmonians. After the famous battle of Leuctra, which was so fatal to the Spartans, the parents of those that died in the action, congratulated one another upon it, and went to the temples to thank the gods that their children had done their duty; whereas the relations of those who survived the defeat, were inconsolable. If any of the Spartans fled in battle, they were dishonoured and disgraced for ever. They were not only excluded from all posts and employments in the state, from all assemblies and public diversions; but it was reckoned scandalous to make any alliances with them by marriage: and a thousand affronts and insults were publicly offered them with impunity.

The Spartans never went to fight without first imploring the help of the gods by public sacrifices and prayers;ť and when that was done they marched against the enemy with a perfect confidence and expectation of success, as being assured of the divine protection ; and, to make use of Plutarch's expressions, As if God were present with, and fought for them, us Toll Osoll ovu traportos.

When they had broken and routed the enemy's fi ces, they never pursued them farther than was necessary to make themselves sure of the victory; after which they retired, as thinking it neither glo rious nor worthy of Greece, to cut in pieces and destroy an enemy that yielded and fled. And this proved as useful as it was honourable to the Spartans; for their enemies, knowing all who resisted them were put to the sword, and that they spared none but those that fled, generally chose rather to fly than to resist.

When the first institutions of Lycurgus were received and confirmed by practice, and the form of government he had established seemed strong and vigorous enough to support itself; as Plato says of God, that after he had finished the creation of the world, he rejoiced, when he saw it revolve and perform its first motions with so much justness and harmony; so the Spartan legislator, pleased with the greatness and beauty of its laws, felt his joy and satisfaction redouble, when he saw them, as it were, walk alone, and go forward so happily.

But desiring, as far as depended on human prudence, to render them immortal and unchangeable, he signified co the people, that

* "Αλλά προσαναδιδούσα το παιδί την ασπίδα, και παρακελευομένη: Τέκpor (ion) å tay éri Tas. Plut. Lacon. apophthegm. p. 241. Sometimes they tha: were slain were brought home upon their shields.

Cic. lib. i. Tusc. Quæst. n. 102. Plut. in vit. Ages. p. 612.
Plut. in vit. Lycurg. p. 53.

Ibid. p. 54. || Ibid. p. 57. This passage of Plato is in his Timæus, and gives us reason to believe that this philo sopher had read what Moses said of God when he created the world ; Vidit Deus cuncta quæ fecerat, et erant valde bona. Gen. j. 31.


there was still one point remaining to be performed, the most essential and important of all, about which he would go and consult the oracle of Apollo; and in the mean time he made them all take an oath, that till his return they would inviolably maintain the form of government which he had established. When he was arrived at Delphi, he consulted the god, to know whether the laws he had made were good and sufficient to render the Lacedæmonians happy and virtuous. The priestess answered, that nothing was wanting to his laws; and that, as long as Sparta observed them, she would be the most glorious and happy city in the world. Lycurgus sent this answer to Sparta; and then, thinking he had fulfilled his ministry, he voluntarily died at Dephi, by abstaining from all manner of suste:

Šis notion was, that even the death of great persons and statesmen should not be useless and unprofitable to the state, but a kind of supplement to their ministry, and one of their most important actions, which ought to do them as much or more honour than all the rest. He therefore thought, that in dying thus he should crown and complete all the services which he had rendered his fellowcitizens during his life; since his death would engage them to & perpetual observation of his institutions, which they had sworn to observe inviolably till his return.

Although I represent Lycurgus's sentiments upon his own death in the light wherein Plutarch has transmitted them to us, I am very far from approving them; and I make the same declaration with respect to several other facts of the like nature, which I sometimes relate without making any reflections upon them, though I think them very unworthy of approbation. The pretended wise men among the heathens had, as well concerning this article as several others, but very faint and imperfect notions; or to speak more properly, remained in great darkness and error. They laid down this admirable principle, which we meet with in many of their writings, that man,* placed in the world as in a certain post by his general, cannot abandon it without the express command of him upon whom he depends, that is, of God himself. At other times, they looked upon man as a criminal condemned to a melancholy prison, from whence indeed he might desire to be released, but could not lawfully attempt to be so, but by the course of justice, and the order of the magistrate; and not by breaking his chains, and forcing the gates of his prison. These notions are beautiful, because they are true; but the application they made of them was wrong; by taking that for an express order of the Deity, which was the pure effect

* Vetat Pythagoras, injussu imperatoris, id est Dei, de præsidio et statione vitæ decedere. Cic. de senect. n. 73.

Cato sic abiit è vitâ, ut causam moriendi nactum se esse gauderet. Vetat enim dominans ille in nobis Deus injussu hinc nos suo demigrare. Cùm verò causam justam Deus ipse dederit, ut tunc Socrati, nunc Catoni, sæpe multis ; næ ille, medius fidius, vir sapiens, lætus 'ex tuis tenebris in lucem illam excesserit. Nec tamen illa vincula carceris ruperit; leges enim vetant: sed, tanquam à magistratu aut ab aliquâ potestate legitima, sic à Deo ovocatus atque emissus exierit. Id. l. Tusc. Quest. a. 74.

« PreviousContinue »