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Hippias, defeated of his hopes, retired into Asia to Artaphernes, governor of Sardis for the king of Persia, whom he endeavoured by every method to engage in a war against Athens; representing to him, that the taking of so rich and powerful a city would render him master of all Greece. Artaphernes hereupon required of the Athenians that they would reinstate Hippias in the government; to which they made no other answer, than by a downright and absolute refusal. This was the original ground and occasion of the wars between the Persians and the Greeks, which will be the subject of the following volumes.
Illustrious men who distinguished themselves in the arts and sciences. I begin with the poets, as the most ancient. HOMER, the most celebrated and illustrious of all the poets, is he of whom we have the least knowledge, either with respect to the country where he was born, or the time in which he lived. Among the seven cities of Greece that contended for the honour of having given him birth, Smyrna, seems to have the best title to that glorious distinction.
Herodotus tells us,* that Homer wrote 400 years Ant. J. C. 844. before his time, that is, 340 years after the taking of Troy; for Herodotus flourished 740 years after that expedition.
Some authors bave pretended that he was called Homer, because he was born blind. Velleius Paterculus rejects this story with contempt. If any man,t says he, believes that Homer was born blind, he must be so himself, and even have lost all his senses. Indeed, according to the observation of Cicero,f Homer's works are rather pictures than poems, so perfectly does he paint to the life, and set the images of every thing he undertakes to describe before the eyes of the reader; and he seems to have been intent upon introducing all the most delightful and agreeable objects that nature affords into his writings, and making them in a manner pass in review before his readers.
What is most astonishing in this poet is, that being the first, at least of those that are known, who applied himself to that kind of poetry which is the most sublime and difficult of all, he should however soarso high and with such rapidity, as to carry it at once to the utmost perfection; which seldom or never happens in other arts, but by slow degrees, and after a long series of years.
* Lib. ii. c. 53.
Quem si quis cæcum genitum putat, omnibus sensibus orbus est. Paterc. I. 1. c. 5. Tuscul. Quæst. l. y. n. 114.
Clarissimum deinde Homeri illuxit ingenium, sine exemplo, maximum: qui magnitudine operis, et fulgore carminum, solus appellari Poëta meruit. In quo hoc maximum est, quod nêque ante illum quem ille imitaretur; neque post illum, qui imitari eum possit, inventus est: neque quenquam alium, cujus operis primus auctor fuerit, in eo perfectissimum, præter Homerum et Archilochum reperiemus." Vell. Paterc. l. 1. c. 5
The kind of poetry we are speaking of is the Epic Poem so, called from the Greek word izos; because it is an action related by the poet. The subject of this poern must be great, instructive, serious. containing only one principal event, to which all the rest must refer and be subordinate; and this principal action must have passed in a certain space of time, which must not exceed a year at most.
Homer has composed two poems of this kind, the Illiad and the Odyssey; the subject of the first is the anger of Achilles, so pernicious to the Greeks, when they besieged Ilion, or Troy; and that of the second is the voyages and adventures of Ulysses, after the taking of that city.
It is remarkable, that no nation in the world, however learned and ingenious, has ever produced any poems comparable to his; and that whoever have attempted any works of that kind, have all taken their plans and ideas from Homer, borrowed all their rules from him, made him their model, and have only succeeded in proportion to their success in copying him. The truth is, Homer was an original genius, and fit for others to be formed upon: Fons ingeniorum Homerus.*
All the greatest men, and the most exalted geniuses that have appeared for these two thousand and five or six hundred years in Greece, Italy, and elsewhere; those whose writings we are still forced to admire; who are still our masters, and who teach us to think, to reason, to speak, and to write; all these, says Madame Dacier,t acknowledge Homer to be the greatest of poets, and look upon his poems as the model on which all succeeding poets should form their taste and judgment. After all this, can there be any man so con- ' ceited of his own talents, be they never so great, as reasonably to presume, that his decisions should prevail against such a universal concurrence of judgment in persons of the most distinguished abilities and characters?
So many testimonies, so ancient, so uniform, and so universal, entirely justify Alexander the Great’s favourable judgment of the works of Homer, which he looked upon as the most excellent and valuable production of the human mind; pretiosissimum humani animi opus. f
Quintilian, after having made a magnificent encomium upon Homer, gives us a just idea of his character and manner of writing in these few words: Hunc nemo in magnis sublimitate, in parvis proprietate, superaverit. Idem lætus ac pressus, jucundus et gravis, tum copiâ tum brevitate mirabilis. In great things, what a sublimity of expression; and in little, what a justness and propriety! Diffufusive and concise, pleasant and grave, equally admirable both for his copiousness and his brevity.
HESIOD. The most common opinion is, that he was contemporary
* Plin. l. xvii. c. 5.
In Homer's life which is prefixod to her translation of the Iliad Plin. I. vii. c. 29.
D Quin. l. x. cap. 1
with Homer. It is said, he was born at Cumæ, a town in Æolis, but that he was brought up at Ascra, a little town in Beotia, which has since passed for his native country. Thus Virgil calls him
the old man of Ascra.* We know little or nothing of this poet, but by the few remaining poerns which he has left, all in hexameter verse; which are, 1st, The Works and Days; 2dly, The Theogony, or the genealogy of the gods; 3dly, The Shield of Hercules; of which last some doubt whether it was written by Hesiod.
1. In the first of these poems, entitled, The Works and Days, Hesiod treats of agriculture, which requires, besides a great dea] of labour, a due observation of times, seasons, and days. This poem is full of excellent sentences and maxims for the conduct of life. He begins it with a short, but lively description of two sorts of disputes; the one fatal to mankind, the source of quarrels, discords, and wars; and the other infinitely useful and beneficial to men, as it sharpens their wits, excites a noble and generous emulation among them, and prepares the way for the invention and im provement of arts and sciences. He then makes an admirable description of the four different ages of the world; the golden, the silver, the brazen, and the iron age. The persons who lived in the golden age are those whom Jupiter after their death turned into so many Genii or spirits,f and then appointed them as guardians over mankind, giving them a commission to go up and down the earth, invisible to the sight of men, and to observe all their good and evil actions.
This poem was Virgil's model in composing his Georgics, as he himself acknowledges in this verse :
Ascræumque cano Romana per oppida carmen.
And sing the Ascrean verse to Roman swains. The choice made by these two illustrious poets of this subject for the exercise of their muse, shows in what honour the ancients held agriculture, and the feeding of cattle, the two innocent sources of the wealth and plenty of a country. It is much to be deplored, that in after ages a taste so agreeable to nature, and so well adapted to the preservation of innocence of manners, should have gone to decay. Avarice and luxury have entirely depressed it. Nimirum alii subiere ritus, circaque alia mentes hominum detinentur, et avaritiæ tantùm artes coluntur.
2. The Theogony of Hesiod, and the poems of Homer, may be looked upon as the surest and most authentic archives and monuments of the theology of the ancients, and of the opinion they had of their gods. For we are not to suppose, that these poets were the inventors of the fables which we read in their writings. They önly collected and transmitted to posterity the traces of the religion
• Eclog vi. v. 70.
1 Geor. l.ii. v, 176.
Plin. in Proæm. L. xiv
A. M. 3280.
whi-:r they found established, and which prevailed in their time and counts you
3. The Shield of Hercules is a separate fragment of a poem, wherein it is pretended that Hesiod celebrated the most illustrious heroines of antiquity: and it bears that title, because it contains, among other things, a long description of the shield of Hercules, concerning whom the same poem relates a particular adventure.
The poetry of Hesiod, in those places that are susceptible of ornament, is very elegant and delightful, but not so sublime and lofty as that of Homer. Quintilian* reckons him the chief in the middle manner of writing. Datur er palma in illo medio dicendi genere.
ARCHILOCHUS. The poet Archilochus, born in Ant. J. C. 724. Paros, inventor of the Iambic verse, lived in the time of Candules, king of Lydia. He has this advantage in common with Homer, according to Vellius Paterculus, that he carried at once that kind of poetry which he invented to a very great perfection. The feet which gave their name to these verses, and which at first were the only sort used, are composed of one short and one long syllable. The lambic verse, such as it was invented by Archilochus, seems very proper for a vehement and energetic style: accordingly we see, that Horace, speaking of this poet, says, that it was his anger, or rather his rage, that armed him with his lambics, for the exercising and exerting of his Vengeance.
Archilochum proprio rabi es armavit lambo. And Quintilian says, he had an uncommon force of expression, was full of bold thoughts, and of those strokes that are concise, but keen and piercing; in a word, his style was strong and nervous. The longest of his poems were said to be the best. The world have passed the same judgment upon the orations of Demosthenes and Cicero; the latter of whom says the same of his friend Atticus's letters.
The verses of Archilochus were extremely biting and licentious;ll witness those he writ against Lycambes, his father-in-law, which drove him to despair. For this double reason, T his poetry, how ex.. cellent soever it was reckoned in other respects, was banished out of Sparta, as being more likely to corrupt the hearts and morals of young people, than to be useful in cultivating their understanding. We have only some very short fragments remaining of this poet.
* Lib. i. c.5.
† Art. Poët. Summa in hoc vis elocutionis, cùm validæ tum breves vibrantesque sententiæ, pluri mum sanguinis atque nervorum. Quin. l. x. c. 1.
Ut Aristophani Archilochi iambus, sic epistola longissima quæque optima videtur Cic. Epist. xi. 1. 16. ad Atticum. || Hor. Epod. Od. vi. et Epist. xix. I. i.
" Lacedæmonii libros Archilochi è civitate suâ exportári jusserunt, quòd eorum parim verecundam ac pudicam lectionem arbitrabantur. Noluerunt enim eå liberorum suorum animos imbui, ne plùs moribus noceret, quàm ingeniis prodesset. Itaque maximum poë tam, aut certè summo proximum, quia domum sibi invisium obscenis maledictis lacerave rai. carminum exilio mulctârunt. Vel. Pat. I. vi. c. 3
Such a niceness in a heathen people, with regard to the quai:ty of the books which they thought young persons should be permitted to read, is highly worth our notice, and will rise up in condemnation against many Christians.
HIPPONAX. This Poet was of Ephesus, and signalized himself some years after Archilochus, in the same kind of poetry, and with the same force and vehemence. He was ugly, little, an, and slender.* Two celebrated sculptors, who were brothers, Bupalus and Athenis (some call the latter Anthermus,) diverted themselves at his expense, and represented him in a ridiculous form. It is dangerous to attack satiric poets. Hipponax retorted their pleasantry with such keen strokes of satire, that they hanged themselves out of mortification: others say they only quitted the city of Ephesus, where Hipponax lived. His malignant pen did not spare even those to whom he owed his life. How monstrous was this! Horace joins Hipponax with Archliochus, and represents them as two poets equally dangerous. In the Anthologia there are three or four epigrams, which describe Hipponax as terrible even after his death. They admonish travellers to avoid his tomb, as a place from whence a dreadful hail perpetually pours, Φεύγε τον χαλαζοπή τάφον, τον φρικτόν Fuge grandinantem tumulum, horrendum.
It is thought he invented the Scazon verse, in which the Spondee is used instead of the Iambus in the sixth foot of the verse that bears
STESICHORUS. He was of Himera, a city in Sicily, and excelled in Lyric poetry, as did those other poets of whom we are going to speak. Lyric poetry is that, the verses of which, digested into odes and stanzas, were sung to the Lyre, or to other such like instruments. Stesichorus flourished betwixt the 37th and 47th Olympiads.
Pausanias, after many other fables, relates, that Stesichorus having been punished with the loss of sight for his satirical verses against Helen, did not recover it till he had retracted his invectives, by writing another ode contrary to the first; which latter kind of ode is since called Palinodia. Quintilian says, that he sang of wars and illustrious heroes, and that he supported upon the lyre all the dignity and majesty of epic poetry.
ALCMAN. He was of Lacedæmon, or, as some will have it, of Sardis, in Lydia, and lived much about the same time as Stesichorus. Some make him the first author of amorous verses.
* Hipponacti notabilis vultûs fæditase rat; quamobrem imaginem ejus lascivią jocorum ii proposuere ridentium circulis. Quod Hipponax indignatus amaritudinem carminum distrinxit in tantum, ut credatur aliquibus ad laqueum eos impulisse; quod falsum est. Plin 1 xxxvi. c. 5.
| In malos asperrimus
Aut acer hostis Bupalo. Epod. vi. i Anthol. I. iii.
Paus. in Lacon. p. 200. i Stesichorum quàm sit ingenio validus, materiæ quoque ostendunt, maxima bolla et ourissimos canentem duces, et epici carminis onera lyrà sustinentem. L.x. a 1.