Front Page Titles (by Subject) COMPARISON OF NUMA WITH LYCURGUS. - Plutarch's Lives (Dryden trans.) vol. 1
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COMPARISON OF NUMA WITH LYCURGUS. - Plutarch, Plutarch’s Lives (Dryden trans.) vol. 1 
Plutarch’s Lives. The Translation called Dryden’s. Corrected from the Greek and Revised by A.H. Clough, in 5 volumes (Boston: Little Brown and Co., 1906).
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COMPARISON OF NUMA WITH LYCURGUS.
Having thus finished the lives of Lycurgus and Numa, we shall now, though the work be difficult, put together their points of difference as they lie here before our view. Their points of likeness are obvious; their moderation, their religion, their capacity of government and discipline, their both deriving their laws and constitutions from the gods. Yet in their common glories there are circumstances of diversity; for, first, Numa accepted and Lycurgus resigned a kingdom; Numa received without desiring it, Lycurgus had it and gave it up; the one from a private person and a stranger was raised by others to be their king, the other from the condition of a prince voluntarily descended to the state of privacy. It was glorious to acquire a throne by justice, yet more glorious to prefer justice before a throne; the same virtue which made the one appear worthy of regal power exalted the other to the disregard of it. Lastly, as musicians tune their harps, so the one let down the high-flown spirits of the people at Rome to a lower key, as the other screwed them up at Sparta to a higher note, when they were sunken low by dissoluteness and riot. The harder task was that of Lycurgus; for it was not so much his business to persuade his citizens to put off their armor or ungird their swords, as to cast away their gold or silver, and abandon costly furniture and rich tables; nor was it necessary to preach to them, that, laying aside their arms, they should observe the festivals, and sacrifice to the gods, but rather, that, giving up feasting and drinking, they should employ their time in laborious and martial exercises; so that while the one effected all by persuasions and his people’s love for him, the other, with danger and hazard of his person, scarcely in the end succeeded. Numa’s muse was a gentle and loving inspiration, fitting him well to turn and soothe his people into peace and justice out of their violent and fiery tempers; whereas, if we must admit the treatment of the Helots to be a part of Lycurgus’s legislation, a most cruel and iniquitous proceeding, we must own that Numa was by a great deal the more humane and Greek-like legislator, granting even to actual slaves a license to sit at meat with their masters at the feast of Saturn, that they, also, might have some taste and relish of the sweets of liberty. For this custom, too, is ascribed to Numa, whose wish was, they conceive, to give a place in the enjoyment of the yearly fruits of the soil to those who had helped to produce them. Others will have it to be in remembrance of the age of Saturn, when there was no distinction between master and slave, but all lived as brothers and as equals in a condition of equality.
In general, it seems that both aimed at the same design and intent, which was to bring their people to moderation and frugality; but, of other virtues, the one set his affection most on fortitude, and the other on justice; unless we will attribute their different ways to the different habits and temperaments which they had to work upon by their enactments; for Numa did not out of cowardice or fear affect peace, but because he would not be guilty of injustice; nor did Lycurgus promote a spirit of war in his people that they might do injustice to others, but that they might protect themselves by it.
In bringing the habits they formed in their people to a just and happy mean, mitigating them where they exceeded, and strengthening them where they were deficient, both were compelled to make great innovations. The frame of government which Numa formed was democratic and popular to the last extreme, goldsmiths and flute-players and shoemakers constituting his promiscuous, many-colored commonalty. Lycurgus was rigid and aristocratical, banishing all the base and mechanic arts to the company of servants and strangers, and allowing the true citizens no implements but the spear and shield, the trade of war only, and the service of Mars, and no other knowledge or study but that of obedience to their commanding officers, and victory over their enemies. Every sort of money-making was forbid them as freemen; and to make them thoroughly so and to keep them so through their whole lives, every conceivable concern with money was handed over, with the cooking and the waiting at table, to slaves and helots. But Numa made none of these distinctions; he only suppressed military rapacity, allowing free scope to every other means of obtaining wealth; nor did he endeavor to do away with inequality in this respect, but permitted riches to be amassed to any extent, and paid no attention to the gradual and continual augmentation and influx of poverty; which it was his business at the outset, whilst there was as yet no great disparity in the estates of men, and whilst people still lived much in one manner, to obviate, as Lycurgus did, and take measures of precaution against the mischiefs of avarice, mischiefs not of small importance, but the real seed and first beginning of all the great and extensive evils of after times. The re-division of estates, Lycurgus is not, it seems to me, to be blamed for making, nor Numa for omitting; this equality was the basis and foundation of the one commonwealth; but at Rome, where the lands had been Page 163 lately divided, there was nothing to urge any re-division or any disturbance of the first arrangement, which was probably still in existence.
With respect to wives and children, and that community which both, with a sound policy, appointed, to prevent all jealousy, their methods, however, were different. For when a Roman thought himself to have a sufficient number of children, in case his neighbor who had none should come and request his wife of him, he had a lawful power to give her up to him who desired her, either for a certain time, or for good. The Lacedæmonian husband, on the other hand, might allow the use of his wife to any other that desired to have children by her, and yet still keep her in his house, the original marriage obligation still subsisting as at first. Nay, many husbands, as we have said, would invite men whom they thought likely to procure them fine and good-looking children into their houses. What is the difference, then, between the two customs? Shall we say that the Lacedæmonian system is one of an extreme and entire unconcern about their wives, and would cause most people endless disquiet and annoyance with pangs and jealousies? the Roman course wears an air of a more delicate acquiescence, draws the veil of a new contract over the change, and concedes the general insupportableness of mere community? Numa’s directions, too, for the care of young women are better adapted to the female sex and to propriety; Lycurgus’s are altogether unreserved and unfeminine, and have given a great handle to the poets, who call them (Ibycus, for example) Phœnomerides, bare-thighed; and give them the character (as does Euripides) of being wild after husbands;
For in fact the skirts of the frock worn by unmarried girls were not sewn together at the lower part, but used to fly back and show the whole thigh bare as they walked. The thing is most distinctly given by Sophocles.
And so their women, it is said, were bold and masculine, overbearing to their husbands in the first place, absolute mistresses in their houses, giving their opinions about public matters freely, and speaking openly even on the most important subjects. But the matrons, under the government of Numa, still indeed received from their husbands all that high respect and honor which had been paid them under Romulus as a sort of atonement for the violence done to them; nevertheless, great modesty was enjoined upon them; all busy intermeddling forbidden, sobriety insisted on, and silence made habitual. Wine they were not to touch at all, nor to speak, except in their husband’s company, even on the most ordinary subjects. So that once when a woman had the confidence to plead her own cause in a court of judicature, the senate, it is said, sent to inquire of the oracle what the prodigy did portend; and, indeed, their general good behavior and submissiveness is justly proved by the record of those that were otherwise; for as the Greek historians record in their annals the names of those who first unsheathed the sword of civil war, or murdered their brothers, or were parricides, or killed their mothers, so the Roman writers report it as the first example, that Spurius Carvilius divorced his wife, being a case that never before happened, in the space of two hundred and thirty years from the foundation of the city; and that one Thalæa, the wife of Pinarius, had a quarrel (the first instance of the kind) with her mother-in-law, Gegania, in the reign of Tarquinius Superbus; so successful was the legislator in securing order and good conduct in the marriage relation. Their respective regulations for marrying the young women are in accordance with those for their education. Lycurgus made them brides when they were of full age and inclination for it. Intercourse, where nature was thus consulted, would produce, he thought, love and tenderness, instead of the dislike and fear attending an unnatural compulsion; and their bodies, also, would be better able to bear the trials of breeding and of bearing children, in his judgment the one end of marriage.
The Romans, on the other hand, gave their daughters in marriage as early as twelve years old, or even under; thus they thought their bodies alike and minds would be delivered to the future husband pure and undefiled. The way of Lycurgus seems the more natural with a view to the birth of children; the other, looking to a life to be spent together, is more moral. However, the rules which Lycurgus drew up for superintendence of children, their collection into companies, their discipline and association, as also his exact regulations for their meals, exercises, and sports, argue Numa no more than an ordinary lawgiver. Numa left the whole matter simply to be decided by the parent’s wishes or necessities; he might, if he pleased, make his son a husbandman or carpenter, coppersmith or musician; as if it were of no importance for them to be directed and trained up from the beginning to one and the same common end, or as though it would do for them to be like passengers on shipboard, brought thither each for his own ends and by his own choice, uniting to act for the common good only in time of danger upon occasion of their private fears, in general looking simply to their own interest.
We may forbear, indeed, to blame common legislators, who may be deficient in power or knowledge. But when a wise man like Numa had received the sovereignty over a new and docile people, was there any thing that would better deserve his attention than the education of children, and the training up of the young, not to contrariety and discordance of character, but to the unity of the common model of virtue, to which from their cradle they should have been formed and moulded? One benefit among many that Lycurgus obtained by his course was the permanence which it secured to his laws. The obligation of oaths to preserve them would have availed but little, if he had not, by discipline and education, infused them into the children’s characters, and imbued their whole early life with a love of his government. The result was that the main points and fundamentals of his legislation continued for above five hundred years, like some deep and thoroughly ingrained tincture, retaining their hold upon the nation. But Numa’s whole design and aim, the continuance of peace and good-will, on his death vanished with him; no sooner did he expire his last breath than the gates of Janus’s temple flew wide open, and, as if war had, indeed, been kept and caged up within those walls, it rushed forth to fill all Italy with blood and slaughter; and thus that best and justest fabric of things was of no long continuance, because it wanted that cement which should have kept all together, education. What, then, some may say, has not Rome been advanced and bettered by her wars? A question that will need a long answer, if it is to be one to satisfy men who take the better to consist in riches, luxury, and dominion, rather than in security, gentleness, and that independence which is accompanied by justice. However, it makes much for Lycurgus, that, after the Romans deserted the doctrine and discipline of Numa, their empire grew and their power increased so much; whereas so soon as the Lacedæmonians fell from the institutions of Lycurgus, they sank from the highest to the lowest state, and, after forfeiting their supremacy over the rest of Greece, were themselves in danger of absolute extirpation. Thus much, meantime, was peculiarly signal and almost divine in the circumstances of Numa, that he was an alien, and yet courted to come and accept a kingdom, the frame of which though he entirely altered, yet he performed it by mere persuasion, and ruled a city that as yet had scarce become one city, without recurring to arms or any violence (such as Lycurgus used, supporting himself by the aid of the nobler citizens against the commonalty), but, by mere force of wisdom and justice, established union and harmony amongst all.
Didymus, the grammarian, in his answer to Asclepiades concerning Solon’s Tables of Law, mentions a passage of one Philocles, who states that Solon’s father’s name was Euphorion, contrary to the opinion of all others who have written concerning him; for they generally agree that he was the son of Execestides, a man of moderate wealth and power in the city, but of a most noble stock, being descended from Codrus; his mother, as Heraclides Ponticus affirms, was cousin to Pisistratus’s mother, and the two at first were great friends, partly because they were akin, and partly because of Pisistratus’s noble qualities and beauty. And they say Solon loved him; and that is the reason, I suppose, that when afterwards they differed about the government, their enmity never produced any hot and violent passion, they remembered their old kindnesses, and retained —
Still in its embers living the strong fire
of their love and dear affection. For that Solon was not proof against beauty, nor of courage to stand up to passion and meet it,
Hand to hand as in the ring —
we may conjecture by his poems, and one of his laws, in which there are practices forbidden to slaves, which he would appear, therefore, to recommend to freemen. Pisistratus, it is stated, was similarly attached to one Charmus; he it was who dedicated the figure of Love in the Academy, where the runners in the sacred torchrace light their torches. Solon, as Hermippus writes, when his father had ruined his estate in doing benefits and kindnesses to other men, though he had friends enough that were willing to contribute to his relief, yet was ashamed to be beholden to others, since he was descended from a family who were accustomed to do kindnesses rather than receive them; and therefore applied himself to merchandise in his youth; though others assure us that he travelled rather to get learning and experience than to make money. It is certain that he was a lover of knowledge, for when he was old he would say, that he
Each day grew older, and learnt something new;
and yet no admirer of riches, esteeming as equally wealthy the man, —
and in another place, —
And it is perfectly possible for a good man and a statesman, without being solicitous for superfluities, to show some concern for competent necessaries. In his time, as Page 170 Hesiod says, — “Work was a shame to none,” nor was any distinction made with respect to trade, but merchandise was a noble calling, which brought home the good things which the barbarous nations enjoyed, was the occasion of friendship with their kings, and a great source of experience. Some merchants have built great cities, as Protis, the founder of Massilia, to whom the Gauls near the Rhone were much attached. Some report also that Thales and Hippocrates the mathematician traded; and that Plato defrayed the charges of his travels by selling oil in Egypt. Solon’s softness and profuseness, his popular rather than philosophical tone about pleasure in his poems, have been ascribed to his trading life; for, having suffered a thousand dangers, it was natural they should be recompensed with some gratifications and enjoyments; but that he accounted himself rather poor than rich is evident from the lines,
At first he used his poetry only in trifles, not for any serious purpose, but simply to pass away his idle hours; but afterwards he introduced moral sentences and state matters, which he did, not to record them merely as an historian, but to justify his own actions, and sometimes to correct, chastise, and stir up the Athenians to noble performances. Some report that he designed to put his laws into heroic verse, and that they began thus, —
In philosophy, as most of the wise men then, he chiefly esteemed the political part of morals; in physics, he was very plain and antiquated, as appears by this, —
And, indeed, it is probable that at that time Thales alone had raised philosophy above mere practice into speculation; and the rest of the wise men were so called from prudence in political concerns. It is said, that they had an interview at Delphi, and another at Corinth, by the procurement of Periander, who made a meeting for them, and a supper. But their reputation was chiefly raised by sending the tripod to them all, by their modest refusal, and complaisant yielding to one another. For, as the story goes, some of the Coans fishing with a net, some strangers, Milesians, bought the draught at a venture; the net brought up a golden tripod, which, they say, Helen, at her return from Troy, upon the remembrance of an old prophecy, threw in there. Now, the strangers at first contesting with the fishers about the tripod, and the cities espousing the quarrel so far as to engage themselves in a war, Apollo decided the controversy by commanding to present it to the wisest man; and first it was sent to Miletus to Thales, the Coans freely presenting him with that for which they fought against the whole body of the Milesians; but, Thales declaring Bias the wiser person, it was sent to him; from him to another; and so, going round them all, it came to Thales a second time; and, at last, being carried from Miletus to Thebes, was there dedicated to Apollo Ismenius. Theophrastus writes that it was first presented to Bias at Priene; and next to Thales at Miletus, and so through all it returned to Bias, and was afterwards sent to Delphi. This is the general report, only some, instead of a tripod, say this present was a cup sent by Crœsus; others, a piece of plate that one Bathycles had left. It is stated, that Anacharsis and Solon, and Solon and Thales, were familiarly acquainted, and some have delivered parts of their discourse; for, they say, Anacharsis, coming to Athens, knocked at Solon’s door, and told him, that he, being a stranger, was come to be his guest, and contract a friendship with him; and Solon replying, “It is better to make friends at home,” Anacharsis replied, “Then you that are at home make friendship with me.” Solon, somewhat surprised at the readiness of the repartee, received him kindly, and kept him some time with him, being already engaged in public business and the compilation of his laws; which when Anacharsis understood, he laughed at him for imagining the dishonesty and covetousness of his countrymen could be restrained by written laws, which were like spiders’ webs, and would catch, it is true, the weak and poor, but easily be broken by the mighty and rich. To this Solon rejoined that men keep their promises when neither side can get any thing by the breaking of them; and he would so fit his laws to the citizens, that all should understand it was more eligible to be just than to break the laws But the event rather agreed with the conjecture of Anacharsis than Solon’s hope. Anacharsis, being once at the assembly, expressed his wonder at the fact that in Greece wise men spoke and fools decided.
Solon went, they say, to Thales at Miletus, and wondered that Thales took no care to get him a wife and children. To this, Thales made no answer for the present; but, a few days after, procured a stranger to pretend that he had left Athens ten days ago; and Solon inquiring what news there, the man, according to his instructions, replied, “None but a young man’s funeral, which the whole city attended; for he was the son, they said, of an honorable man, the most virtuous of the citizens, who was not then at home, but had been travelling a long time.” Solon replied, “What a miserable man is he! But what was his name?” “I have heard it,” says the man, “but have now forgotten it, only there was great talk of his wisdom and his justice.” Thus Solon was drawn on by every answer, and his fears heightened, till at last, being extremely concerned, he mentioned his own name, and asked the stranger if that young man was called Solon’s son; and the stranger assenting, he began to beat his head, and to do and say all that is usual with men in transports of grief. But Thales took his hand, and, with a smile, said, “These things, Solon, keep me from marriage and rearing children, which are too great for even your constancy to support; however, be not concerned at the report, for it is a fiction.” This Hermippus relates, from Patæcus, who boasted that he had Æsop’s soul.
However, it is irrational and poor-spirited not to seek conveniences for fear of losing them, for upon the same account we should not allow ourselves to like wealth, glory, or wisdom, since we may fear to be deprived of all these; nay, even virtue itself, than which there is no greater nor more desirable possession, is often suspended by sickness or drugs. Now Thales, though unmarried, could not be free from solicitude, unless he likewise felt no care for his friends, his kinsmen, or his country; yet we are told he adopted Cybisthus, his sister’s son. For the soul, having a principle of kindness in itself, and being born to love, as well as perceive, think, or remember, inclines and fixes upon some stranger, when a man has none of his own to embrace. And alien or illegitimate objects insinuate themselves into his affections, as into some estate that lacks lawful heirs; and with affection come anxiety and care; insomuch that you may see men that use the strongest language against the marriage-bed and the fruit of it, when some servant’s or concubine’s child is sick or dies, almost killed with grief, and abjectly lamenting. Some have given way to shameful and desperate sorrow at the loss of a dog or horse; others have borne the deaths of virtuous children without any extravagant or unbecoming grief, have passed the rest of their lives like men, and according to the principles of reason. It is not affection, it is weakness, that brings men, unarmed against fortune by reason, into these endless pains and terrors; and they indeed have not even the present enjoyment of what they doat upon, the possibility of the future loss causing them continual pangs, tremors, and distresses. We must not provide against the loss of wealth by poverty, or of friends by refusing all acquaintance, or of children by having none, but by morality and reason. But of this too much.
Now, when the Athenians were tired with a tedious and difficult war that they conducted against the Megarians for the island Salamis, and made a law that it should be death for any man, by writing or speaking, to assert that the city ought to endeavor to recover it, Solon, vexed at the disgrace, and perceiving thousands of the youth wished for somebody to begin, but did not dare to stir first for fear of the law, counterfeited a distraction, and by his own family it was spread about the city that he was mad. He then secretly composed some elegiac verses, and getting them by heart, that it might seem extempore, ran out into the market-place with a cap upon his head, and, the people gathering about him, got upon the herald’s stand, and sang that elegy which begins thus: —
The poem is called Salamis, it contains an hundred verses, very elegantly written; when it had been sung, his friends commended it, and especially Pisistratus exhorted the citizens to obey his directions; insomuch that they recalled the law, and renewed the war under Solon’s conduct. The popular tale is, that with Pisistratus he sailed to Colias, and, finding the women, according to the custom of the country there, sacrificing to Ceres, he sent a trusty friend to Salamis, who should pretend himself a renegade, and advise them, if they desired to seize the chief Athenian women, to come with him at once to Colias; the Megarians presently sent off men in the vessel with him; and Solon, seeing it put off from the island, commanded the women to be gone, and some beardless youths, dressed in their clothes, their shoes, and caps, and privately armed with daggers, to dance and play near the shore till the enemies had landed and the vessel was in their power. Things being thus ordered, the Megarians were allured with the appearance, and, coming to the shore, jumped out, eager who should first seize a prize, so that not one of them escaped; and the Athenians set sail for the island and took it.
Others say that it was not taken this way, but that he first received this oracle from Delphi:
and that Solon, sailing by night to the island, sacrificed to the heroes Periphemus and Cychreus, and then, taking five hundred Athenian volunteers (a law having passed that those that took the island should be highest in the government), with a number of fisher-boats and one thirty-oared ship, anchored in a bay of Salamis that looks towards Nisæa; and the Megarians that were then in the island, hearing only an uncertain report, hurried to their arms, and sent a ship to reconnoitre the enemies. This ship Solon took, and, securing the Megarians, manned it with Athenians, and gave them orders to sail to the island with as much privacy as possible; meantime he, with the other soldiers, marched against the Megarians by land, and whilst they were fighting, those from the ship took the city. And this narrative is confirmed by the following solemnity, that was afterwards observed: an Athenian ship used to sail silently at first to the island, then, with noise and a great shout, one leapt out armed, and with a loud cry ran to the promontory Sciradium to meet those that approached upon the land. And just by there stands a temple which Solon dedicated to Mars. For he beat the Megarians, and as many as were not killed in the battle he sent away upon conditions.
The Megarians, however, still contending, and both sides having received considerable losses, they chose the Spartans for arbitrators. Now, many affirm that Homer’s authority did Solon a considerable kindness, and that, introducing a line into the Catalogue of Ships, when the matter was to be determined, he read the passage as follows:
The Athenians, however, call this but an idle story, and report, that Solon made it appear to the judges, that Philæus and Eurysaces, the sons of Ajax, being made citizens of Athens, gave them the island, and that one of them dwelt at Brauron in Attica, the other at Melite; and they have a township of Philaidæ, to which Pisistratus belonged, deriving its name from this Philæus. Solon took a farther argument against the Megarians from the dead bodies, which, he said, were not buried after their fashion, but according to the Athenian; for the Megarians turn the corpse to the east, the Athenians to the west. But Hereas the Megarian denies this, and affirms that they likewise turn the body to the west, and also that the Athenians have a separate tomb for everybody, but the Megarians put two or three into one. However, some of Apollo’s oracles, where he calls Salamis Ionian, made much for Solon. This matter was determined by five Spartans, Critolaidas, Amompharetus, Hypsechidas, Anaxilas, and Cleomenes.
For this, Solon grew famed and powerful; but his advice in favor of defending the oracle at Delphi, to give aid, and not to suffer the Cirrhæans to profane it, but to maintain the honor of the god, got him most repute among the Greeks: for upon his persuasion the Amphictyons undertook the war, as, amongst others, Aristotle affirms, in his enumeration of the victors at the Pythian games, where he makes Solon the author of this counsel. Solon, however, was not general in that expedition, as Hermippus states, out of Evanthes the Samian; for Æschines the orator says no such thing, and, in the Delphian register, Alcmæon, not Solon, is named as commander of the Athenians.
Now the Cylonian pollution had a long while disturbed the commonwealth, ever since the time when Megacles the archon persuaded the conspirators with Cylon that took sanctuary in Minerva’s temple to come down and stand to a fair trial. And they, tying a thread to the image, and holding one end of it, went down to the tribunal; but when they came to the temple of the Furies, the thread broke of its own accord, upon which, as if the goddess had refused them protection, they were seized by Megacles and the other magistrates; as many as were without the temples were stoned, those that fled for sanctuary were butchered at the altar, and only those escaped who made supplication to the wives of the magistrater But they from that time were considered under pollution, and regarded with hatred. The remainder of the faction of Cylon grew strong again, and had continual quarrels with the family of Megacles; and now the quarrel being at its height, and the people divided, Solon, being in reputation, interposed with the chiefest of the Athenians, and by entreaty and admonition persuaded the polluted to submit to a trial and the decision of three hundred noble citizens. And Myron of Phlya being their accuser, they were found guilty, and as many as were then alive were banished, and the bodies of the dead were dug up, and scattered beyond the confines of the country. In the midst of these distractions, the Megarians falling upon them, they lost Nisæa and Salamis again; besides, the city was disturbed with superstitious fears and strange appearances, and the priests declared that the sacrifices intimated some villanies and pollutions that were to be expiated. Upon this, they sent for Epimenides the Phæstian from Crete, who is counted the seventh wise man by those that will not admit Periander into the number. He seems to have been thought a favorite of heaven, possessed of knowledge in all the supernatural and ritual parts of religion; and, therefore, the men of his age called him a new Cures,* and son of a nymph named Balte. When he came to Athens, and grew acquainted with Solon, he served him in many instances, and prepared the way for his legislation. He made them moderate in their forms of worship, and abated their mourning by ordering some sacrifices presently after the funeral, and taking off those severe and barbarous ceremonies which the women usually practised; but the greatest benefit was his purifying and sanctifying the city, by certain propitiatory and expiatory lustrations, and foundation of sacred buildings; Page 179 by that means making them more submissive to justice, and more inclined to harmony. It is reported that, looking upon Munychia, and considering a long while, he said to those that stood by, “How blind is man in future things! for did the Athenians foresee what mischief this would do their city, they would even eat it with their own teeth to be rid of it.” A similar anticipation is ascribed to Thales; they say he commanded his friends to bury him in an obscure and contemned quarter of the territory of Miletus, saying that it should some day be the marketplace of the Milesians. Epimenides, being much honored, and receiving from the city rich offers of large gifts and privileges, requested but one branch of the sacred olive, and, on that being granted, returned.
The Athenians, now the Cylonian sedition was over and the polluted gone into banishment, fell into their old quarrels about the government, there being as many different parties as there were diversities in the country.* The Hill quarter favored democracy, the Plain, oligarchy, and those that lived by the Sea-side stood for a mixed sort of government, and so hindered either of the other parties from prevailing. And the disparity of fortune between the rich and the poor, at that time, also reached its height; so that the city seemed to be in a truly dangerous condition, and no other means for freeing it from disturbances and settling it, to be possible but a despotic power. All the people were indebted to the rich; and either they tilled their land for their creditors, paying them a sixth part of the increase, and were, therefore, called Hectemorii and Thetes, or else they engaged their body for the debt, and might be seized, and either sent into slavery at home, or sold to strangers; some (for no law forbade it) were forced to sell their children, or fly their country to avoid the cruelty of their creditors; but the most part and the bravest of them began to combine together and encourage one another to stand to it, to choose a leader, to liberate the condemned debtors, divide the land, and change the government.
Then the wisest of the Athenians, perceiving Solon was of all men the only one not implicated in the troubles, that he had not joined in the exactions of the rich, and was not involved in the necessities of the poor, pressed him to succor the commonwealth and compose the differences. Though Phanias the Lesbian affirms, that Solon, to save his country, put a trick upon both parties, and privately promised the poor a division of the lands, and the rich, security for their debts. Solon, however, himself, says that it was reluctantly at first that he engaged in state affairs, being afraid of the pride of one party and the greediness of the other; he was chosen archon, however, after Philombrotus, and empowered to be an arbitrator and lawgiver; the rich consenting because he was wealthy, the poor because he was honest. There was a saying of his current before the election, that when things are even there never can be war, and this pleased both parties, the wealthy and the poor; the one conceiving him to mean, when all have their fair proportion; the others, when all are absolutely equal. Thus, there being great hopes on both sides, the chief men pressed Solon to take the government into his own hands, and, when he was once settled, manage the business freely and according to his pleasure; and many of the commons, perceiving it would be a difficult change to be effected by law and reason, were willing to have one wise and just man set over the affairs; and some say that Solon had this oracle from Apollo —
But chiefly his familiar friends chid him for disaffecting monarchy only because of the name, as if the virtue of the ruler could not make it a lawful form; Eubœa had made this experiment when it chose Tynnondas, and Mitylene, which had made Pittacus its prince; yet this could not shake Solon’s resolution; but, as they say, he replied to his friends, that it was true a tyranny was a very fair spot, but it had no way down from it; and in a copy of verses to Phocus he writes. —
From which it is manifest that he was a man of great reputation before he gave his laws. The several mocks that were put upon him for refusing the power, he records in these words, —
Thus he makes the many and the low people speak of him. Yet, though he refused the government, he was not too mild in the affair; he did not show himself mean and submissive to the powerful, nor make his laws to pleasure those that chose him. For where it was well before, he applied no remedy, nor altered any thing, for fear lest,
Overthrowing altogether and disordering the state,
he should be too weak to new-model and recompose it to a tolerable condition; but what he thought he could effect by persuasion upon the pliable, and by force upon the stubborn, this he did, as he himself says,
With force and justice working both in one.
And, therefore, when he was afterwards asked if he had left the Athenians the best laws that could be given, he replied, “The best they could receive.” The way which, the moderns say, the Athenians have of softening the badness of a thing, by ingeniously giving it some pretty and innocent appellation, calling harlots, for example, mistresses, tributes customs, a garrison a guard, and the jail the chamber, seems originally to have been Solon’s contrivance, who called cancelling debts Seisacthea, a relief, or disencumbrance. For the first thing which he settled was, that what debts remained should be forgiven, and no man, for the future, should engage the body of his debtor for security. Though some, as Androtion, affirm that the debts were not cancelled, but the interest only lessened, which sufficiently pleased the people; so that they named this benefit the Seisacthea, together with the enlarging their measures, and raising the value of their money; for he made a pound, which before passed* for seventy-three drachmas, go for a hundred; so that, though the number of pieces in the payment was equal, the value was less; which proved a considerable benefit to those that were to discharge great debts, and no loss to the creditors. But most agree that it was the taking off the debts that was called Seisacthea, which is confirmed by some places in his poem, where he takes honor to himself, that
that some who had been seized for their debts he had brought back from other countries, where
and some he had set at liberty, —
Who here in shameful servitude were held.
While he was designing this, a most vexatious thing happened; for when he had resolved to take off the debts, and was considering the proper form and fit beginning for it, he told some of his friends, Conon, Clinias, and Hipponicus, in whom he had a great deal of confidence, that he would not meddle with the lands, but only free the people from their debts; upon which, they, using their advantage, made haste and borrowed some considerable sums of money, and purchased some large farms; and when the law was enacted, they kept the possessions, and would not return the money; which brought Solon into great suspicion and dislike, as if he himself had not been abused, but was concerned in the contrivance. But he presently stopped this suspicion, by releasing his debtors of five talents (for he had lent so much), according to the law; others, as Polyzelus the Rhodian, say fifteen; his friends, however, were ever afterward called Chreocopidæ, repudiators.
In this he pleased neither party, for the rich were angry for their money, and the poor that the land was not divided, and, as Lycurgus ordered in his commonwealth, all men reduced to equality. He, it is true, being the eleventh from Hercules, and having reigned many years in Lacedæmon, had got a great reputation and friends and power, which he could use in modelling his state; and, applying force more than persuasion, insomuch that he lost his eye in the scuffle, was able to employ the most effectual means for the safety and harmony of a state, by not permitting any to be poor or rich in his commonwealth. Solon could not rise to that in his polity, being but a citizen of the middle classes; yet he acted fully up to the height of his power, having nothing but the good-will and good opinion of his citizens to rely on; and that he offended the most part, who looked for another result, he declares in the words,
And yet had any other man, he says, received the same power,
Soon, however, becoming sensible of the good that was done, they laid by their grudges, made a public sacrifice, calling it Seisacthea, and chose Solon to new-model and make laws for the commonwealth, giving him the entire power over every thing, their magistracies, their assem blies, courts, and councils; that he should appoint the number, times of meeting, and what estate they must have that could be capable of these, and dissolve or continue any of the present constitutions, according to his pleasure.
First, then, he repealed all Draco’s laws, except those concerning homicide, because they were too severe, and the punishments too great; for death was appointed for almost all offences, insomuch that those that were convicted of idleness were to die, and those that stole a cabbage or an apple to suffer even as villains that committed sacrilege or murder. So that Demades, in after time, was thought to have said very happily, that Draco’s laws were written not with ink, but blood; and he himself, being once asked why he made death the punishment of most offences, replied, “Small ones deserve that, and I have no higher for the greater crimes.”
Next, Solon, being willing to continue the magistracies in the hands of the rich men, and yet receive the people into the other part of the government, took an account of the citizens’ estates, and those that were worth five hundred measures of fruits, dry and liquid, he placed in the first rank, calling them Pentacosiomedimni; those that could keep an horse, or were worth three hundred measures, were named Hippada Teluntes, and made the second class; the Zeugitæ, that had two hundred measures, were in the third; and all the others were called Thetes, who were not admitted to any office, but could come to the assembly, and act as jurors; which at first seemed nothing, but afterwards was found an enormous privilege, as almost every matter of dispute came before them in this latter capacity. Even in the cases which he assigned to the archons’ cognizance, he allowed an appeal to the courts. Besides, it is said that he was obscure and ambiguous in the wording of his laws, on purpose to increase the honor of his courts; for since their differences could not be adjusted by the letter, they would have to bring all their causes to the judges, who thus were in a manner masters of the laws. Of this equalization he himself makes mention in this manner:
And for the greater security of the weak commons, he gave general liberty of indicting for an act of injury; if any one was beaten, maimed, or suffered any violence, any man that would and was able, might prosecute the wrongdoer; intending by this to accustom the citizens, like members of the same body, to resent and be sensible of one another’s injuries. And there is a saying of his agreeable to this law, for, being asked what city was best modelled, “That,” said he, “where those that are not injured try and punish the unjust as much as those that are.”
When he had constituted the Areopagus of those who had been yearly archons, of which he himself was a member therefore, observing that the people, now free from their debts, were unsettled and imperious, he formed another council of four hundred, a hundred out of each of the four tribes, which was to inspect all matters before they were propounded to the people, and to take care that nothing but what had been first examined should be brought before the general assembly. The upper council, or Areopagus, he made inspectors and keepers of the laws, conceiving that the commonwealth, held by these two councils, like anchors, would be less liable to be tossed by tumults, and the people be more at quiet. Such is the general statement, that Solon instituted the Areopagus; which seems to be confirmed, because Draco makes no mention of the Areopagites, but in all causes of blood refers to the Ephetæ; yet Solon’s thirteenth table contain the eighth law set down in these very words: “Whoever before Solon’s archonship were disfranchised, let them be restored, except those that, being condemned by the Areopagus, Ephetæ, or in the Prytaneum by the kings,* for homicide, murder, or designs against the government, were in banishment when this law was made;” and these words seem to show that the Areopagus existed before Solon’s laws, for who could be condemned by that council before his time, if he was the first that instituted the court? unless, which is probable, there is some ellipsis, or want of precision, in the language, and it should run thus, — “Those that are convicted of such offences as belong to the cognizance of the Areopagites, Ephetæ, or the Prytanes, when this law was made,” shall remain still in disgrace, whilst others are restored; of this the reader must judge.
Amongst his other laws, one is very peculiar and surprising, which disfranchises all who stand neuter in a sedition; for it seems he would not have any one remain insensible and regardless of the public good, and, securing his private affairs, glory that he has no feeling of the distempers of his country; but at once join with the good party and those that have the right upon their side, assist and venture with them, rather than keep out of harm’s way and watch who would get the better. It seems an absurd and foolish law which permits an heiress, if her lawful husband fail her, to take his nearest kinsman; yet some say this law was well contrived against those, who, conscious of their own unfitness, yet, for the sake of the portion, would match with heiresses, and make use of law to put a violence upon nature; for now, since she can quit him for whom she pleases, they would either abstain from such marriages, or continue them with disgrace, and suffer for their covetousness and designed affront; it is well done, moreover, to confine her to her husband’s nearest kinsman, that the children may be of the same family. Agreeable to this is the law that the bride and bridegroom shall be shut into a chamber, and eat a quince together; and that the husband of an heiress shall consort with her thrice a month; for though there be no children, yet it is an honor and due affection which an husband ought to pay to a virtuous, chaste wife; it takes off all petty differences, and will not permit their little quarrels to proceed to a rupture.
In all other marriages he forbade dowries to be given; Page 188 the wife was to have three suits of clothes, a little inconsiderable household stuff, and that was all; for he would not have marriages contracted for gain or an estate, but for pure love, kind affection, and birth of children. When the mother of Dionysius desired him to marry her to one of his citizens, “Indeed,” said he, “by my tyranny I have broken my country’s laws, but cannot put a violence upon those of nature by an unseasonable marriage.” Such disorder is never to be suffered in a commonwealth, nor such unseasonable and unloving and unperforming marriages, which attain no due end or fruit; any provident governor or lawgiver might say to an old man that takes a young wife what is said to Philoctetes in the tragedy, —
Truly, in a fit state thou to marry!
and if he finds a young man, with a rich and elderly wife, growing fat in his place, like the partridges, remove him to a young woman of proper age. And of this enough.
Another commendable law of Solon’s is that which forbids men to speak evil of the dead; for it is pious to think the deceased sacred, and just, not to meddle with those that are gone, and politic, to prevent the perpetuity of discord. He likewise forbade them to speak evil of the living in the temples, the courts of justice, the public offices, or at the games, or else to pay three drachmas to the person, and two to the public. For never to be able to control passion shows a weak nature and ill-breeding; and always to moderate it is very hard, and to some impossible. And laws must look to possibilities, if the maker designs to punish few in order to their amendment, and not many to no purpose.
He is likewise much commended for his law concerning wills; for before him none could be made, but all the wealth and estate of the deceased belonged to his family; but he, by permitting them, if they had no children, to bestow it on whom they pleased, showed that he esteemed friendship a stronger tie than kindred, and affection than necessity; and made every man’s estate truly his own. Yet he allowed not all sorts of legacies, but those only which were not extorted by the frenzy of a disease, charms, imprisonment, force, or the persuasions of a wife; with good reason thinking that being seduced into wrong was as bad as being forced, and that between deceit and necessity, flattery and compulsion, there was little difference, since both may equally suspend the exercise of reason.
He regulated the walks, feasts, and mourning of the women, and took away every thing that was either unbecoming or immodest; when they walked abroad, no more than three articles* of dress were allowed them; an obol’s worth of meat and drink; and no basket above a cubit high; and at night they were not to go about unless in a chariot with a torch before them. Mourners tearing themselves to raise pity, and set wailings, and at one man’s funeral to lament for another, he forbade. To offer an ox at the grave was not permitted, nor to bury above three pieces of dress with the body, or visit the tombs of any besides their own family, unless at the very funeral; most of which are likewise forbidden by our laws,† but this is further added in ours, that those that are convicted of extravagance in their mournings, are to be punished as soft and effeminate by the censors of women.
Observing the city to be filled with persons that flocked from all parts into Attica for security of living, and that most of the country was barren and unfruitful, and that traders at sea import nothing to those that could give them nothing in exchange, he turned his citizens to trade, and made a law that no son should be obliged to relieve a father who had not bred him up to any calling. It is true, Lycurgus, having a city free from all strangers, and land, according to Euripides,
Large for large hosts, for twice their number much,
and, above all, an abundance of laborers about Sparta, who should not be left idle, but be kept down with continual toil and work, did well to take off his citizens from laborious and mechanical occupations, and keep them to their arms, and teach them only the art of war. But Solon, fitting his laws to the state of things, and not making things to suit his laws, and finding the ground scarce rich enough to maintain the husbandmen, and altogether incapable of feeding an unoccupied and leisurely multitude, brought trades into credit, and ordered the Areopagites to examine how every man got his living, and chastise the idle. But that law was yet more rigid which, as Heraclides Ponticus delivers, declared the sons of unmarried mothers not obliged to relieve their fathers; for he that avoids the honorable form of union shows that he does not take a woman for children, but for pleasure, and thus gets his just reward, and has taken away from himself every title to upbraid his children, to whom he has made their very birth a scandal and reproach.
Solon’s laws in general about women are his strangest; for he permitted any one to kill an adulterer that found him in the act; but if any one forced a free woman, a hundred drachmas was the fine; if he enticed her, twenty; except those that sell themselves openly, that is, harlots, who go openly to those that hire them. He made it unlawful to sell a daughter or a sister, unless, being yet unmarried, she was found wanton. Now it is irrational to punish the same crime sometimes very severely and without remorse, and sometimes very lightly, and, as it were, in sport, with a trivial fine; unless, there being little money then in Athens, scarcity made those mulcts the more grievous punishment. In the valuation for sacrifices, a sheep and a bushel were both estimated at a drachma;* the victor in the Isthmian games was to have for reward an hundred drachmas; the conqueror in the Olympian, five hundred; he that brought a wolf, five drachmas; for a whelp, one; the former sum, as Demetrius the Phalerian asserts, was the value of an ox, the latter, of a sheep. The prices which Solon, in his sixteenth table, sets on choice victims, were naturally far greater; yet they, too, are very low in comparison of the present. The Athenians were, from the beginning, great enemies to wolves, their fields being better for pasture than corn. Some affirm their tribes did not take their names from the sons of Ion, but from the different sorts of occupation that they followed; the soldiers were called Hoplitæ, the craftsmen Ergades, and, of the remaining two, the farmers Gedeontes, and the shepherds and graziers Ægicores.
Since the country has but few rivers, lakes, or large springs, and many used wells which they had dug, there was a law made, that, where there was a public well within a hippicon, that is, four furlongs, all should draw at that; but, when it was farther off, they should try and procure a well of their own; and, if they had dug ten fathom deep and could find no water, they had liberty to fetch a pitcherful of four gallons and a half in a day from their neighbors’; for he thought it prudent to make provision against want, but not to supply laziness. He showed skill in his orders about planting, for any one that would plant another tree was not to set it within five feet of his neighbor’s field; but if a fig or an olive, not within nine; for their roots spread farther, nor can they be planted near all sorts of trees without damage, for they draw away the nourishment, and in some cases are noxious by their effluvia. He that would dig a pit or a ditch was to dig it at the distance of its own depth from his neighbor’s ground; and he that would raise stocks of bees was not to place them within three hundred feet of those which another had already raised.
He permitted only oil to be exported, and those that exported any other fruit, the archon was solemnly to curse, or else pay an hundred drachmas himself; and this law was written in his first table, and, therefore, let none think it incredible, as some affirm, that the exportation of figs was once unlawful, and the informer against the delinquents called a sycophant. He made a law, also, concerning hurts and injuries from beasts, in which he commands the master of any dog that bit a man to deliver him up with a log about his neck, four and a half feet long; a happy device for men’s security. The law concerning naturalizing strangers is of doubtful character; he permitted only those to be made free of Athens who were in perpetual exile from their own country, or came with their whole family to trade there; this he did, not to discourage strangers, but rather to invite them to a permanent participation in the privileges of the government; and, besides, he thought those would prove the more faithful citizens who had been forced from their own country, or voluntarily forsook it. The law of public entertainment (parasitein is his name for it) is, also, peculiarly Solon’s, for if any man came often, or if he that was invited refused, they were punished, for he concluded Page 193 that one was greedy, the other a contemner of the state.
All his laws he established for an hundred years, and wrote them on wooden tables or rollers, named axones, which might be turned round in oblong cases; some of their relics were in my time still to be seen in the Prytaneum, or common hall, at Athens. These, as Aristotle states, were called cyrbes, and there is a passage of Cratinus the comedian,
But some say those are properly cyrbes, which contain laws concerning sacrifices and the rites of religion, and all the others axones. The council all jointly swore to confirm the laws, and every one of the Thesmothetæ vowed for himself at the stone in the market-place, that, if he broke any of the statutes, he would dedicate a golden statue, as big as himself, at Delphi.
Observing the irregularity of the months, and that the moon does not always rise and set with the sun, but often in the same day overtakes and gets before him, he ordered the day should be named the Old and New,* attributing that part of it which was before the conjunction to the old moon, and the rest to the new, he being the first, it seems, that understood that verse of Homer,
The end and the beginning of the month,
and the following day he called the new moon. After the twentieth he did not count by addition, but, like the moon itself in its wane, by subtraction; thus up to the thirtieth.
Now when these laws were enacted, and some came to Solon every day, to commend or dispraise them, and to advise, if possible, to leave out, or put in something, and many criticized, and desired him to explain, and tell the meaning of such and such a passage, he, knowing that to do it was useless, and not to do it would get him ill-will, and desirous to bring himself out of all straits, and to escape all displeasure and exceptions, it being a hard thing, as he himself says,
In great affairs to satisfy all sides,
as an excuse for travelling, bought a trading vessel, and, having obtained leave for ten years’ absence, departed, hoping that by that time his laws would have become familiar.
His first voyage was for Egypt, and he lived, as he himself says,
Near Nilus’ mouth, by fair Canopus’ shore,
and spent some time in study with Psenophis of Heliopolis, and Sonchis the Saite, the most learned of all the priests; from whom, as Plato says, getting knowledge of the Atlantic story, he put it into a poem, and proposed to bring it to the knowledge of the Greeks. From thence he sailed to Cyprus, where he was made much of by Philocyprus, one of the kings there, who had a small city built by Demophon, Theseus’s son, near the river Clarius, in a strong situation, but incommodious and uneasy of access. Solon persuaded him, since there lay a fair plain below, to remove, and build there a pleasanter and more spacious city. And he stayed himself, and assisted in gathering inhabitants, and in fitting it both for defence and convenience of living; insomuch that many flocked to Philocyprus, and the other kings imitated the design; and, therefore, to honor Solon, he called the city Soli, which was formerly named Æpea. And Solon himself, in his Elegies, addressing Philocyprus, mentions this foundation in these words —
That Solon should discourse with Crœsus, some think not agreeable with chronology; but I cannot reject so famous and well-attested a narrative, and, what is more, so agreeable to Solon’s temper, and so worthy his wisdom and greatness of mind, because, forsooth, it does not agree with some chronological canons, which thousands have endeavored to regulate, and yet, to this day, could never bring their differing opinions to any agreement. They say, therefore, that Solon, coming to Crœsus at his request, was in the same condition as an inland man when first he goes to see the sea; for as he fancies every river he meets with to be the ocean, so Solon, as he passed through the court, and saw a great many nobles richly dressed, and proudly attended with a multitude of guards and footboys, thought every one had been the king, till he was brought to Crœsus, who was decked with every possible rarity and curiosity, in ornaments of jewels, purple, and gold, that could make a grand and gorgeous spectacle of him. Now when Solon came before him, and seemed not at all surprised, nor gave Crœsus those compliments he expected, but showed himself to all discerning eyes to be a man that despised the gaudiness and petty ostentation of it, he commanded them to open all his treasure houses, and carry him to see his sumptuous furniture and luxuries, though he did not wish it; Solon could judge of him well enough by the first sight of him; and, when he returned from viewing all, Crœsus asked him if ever he had known a happier man than he. And when Solon answered that he had known one Tellus, a fellow-citizen of his own, and told him that this Tellus had been an honest man, had had good children, a competent estate, and died bravely in battle for his country, Crœsus took him for an ill-bred fellow and a fool, for not measuring happiness by the abundance of gold and silver, and preferring the life and death of a private and mean man before so much power and empire. He asked him, however, again, if, besides Tellus, he knew any other man more happy. And Solon replying, Yes, Cleobis and Biton, who were loving brothers, and extremely dutiful sons to their mother, and, when the oxen delayed her, harnessed themselves to the wagon, and drew her to Juno’s temple, her neighbors all calling her happy, and she herself rejoicing; then, after sacrificing and feasting, they went to rest, and never rose again, but died in the midst of their honor a painless and tranquil death, “What,” said Crœsus, angrily, “and dost not thou reckon us amongst the happy men at all?” Solon, unwilling either to flatter or exasperate him more, replied, “The gods, O king, have given the Greeks all other gifts in moderate degree; and so our wisdom, too, is a cheerful and a homely, not a noble and kingly wisdom; and this, observing the numerous misfortunes that attend all conditions, forbids us to grow insolent upon our present enjoyments, or to admire any man’s happiness that may yet, in course of time, suffer change. For the uncertain future has yet to come, with every possible variety of fortune; and him only to whom the divinity has continued happiness unto the end, we call happy; to salute as happy one that is still in the midst of life and hazard, we think as little safe and conclusive as to crown and proclaim as victorious the wrestler that is yet in the ring.” After this, he was dismissed, having given Crœsus some pain, but no instruction.
Æsop, who wrote the fables, being then at Sardis upon Crœsus’s invitation, and very much esteemed, was concerned that Solon was so ill-received, and gave him this advice: “Solon, let your converse with kings be either short or seasonable.” “Nay, rather,” replied Solon, “either short or reasonable.” So at this time Crœsus despised Solon; but when he was overcome by Cyrus, had lost his city, was taken alive, condemned to be burnt, and laid bound upon the pile before all the Persians and Cyrus himself, he cried out as loud as possibly he could three times, “O Solon!” and Cyrus being surprised, and sending some to inquire what man or god this Solon was, whom alone he invoked in this extremity, Crœsus told him the whole story, saying, “He was one of the wise men of Greece, whom I sent for, not to be instructed, or to learn any thing that I wanted, but that he should see and be a witness of my happiness; the loss of which was, it seems, to be a greater evil than the enjoyment was a good; for when I had them they were goods only in opinion, but now the loss of them has brought upon me intolerable and real evils. And he, conjecturing from what then was, this that now is, bade me look to the end of my life, and not rely and grow proud upon uncertainties.” When this was told Cyrus, who was a wiser man than Crœsus, and saw in the present example Solon’s maxim confirmed, he not only freed Crœsus from punishment, but honored him as long as he lived; and Solon had the glory, by the same saying, to save one king and instruct another.
When Solon was gone, the citizens began to quarrel; Lycurgus headed the Plain; Megacles, the son of Alcmæon, those to the Sea-side; and Pisistratus the Hill-party, in which were the poorest people, the Thetes, and greatest enemies to the rich; insomuch that, though the city still used the new laws, yet all looked for and desired a change of government, hoping severally that the change would be better for them, and put them above the contrary faction. Affairs standing thus, Solon returned, and was reverenced by all, and honored; but his old age would not permit him to be as active, and to speak in public, as formerly; yet, by privately conferring with the heads of the factions, he endeavored to compose the differences, Pisistratus appearing the most tractable; for he was extremely smooth and engaging in his language, a great friend to the poor, and moderate in his resentments; and what nature had not given him, he had the skill to imitate; so that he was trusted more than the others, being accounted a prudent and orderly man, one that loved equality, and would be an enemy to any that moved against the present settlement. Thus he deceived the majority of people; but Solon quickly discovered his character, and found out his design before any one else; yet did not hate him upon this, but endeavored to humble him, and bring him off from his ambition, and often told him and others, that if any one could banish the passion for preëminence from his mind, and cure him of his desire of absolute power, none would make a more virtuous man or a more excellent citizen. Thespis, at this time, beginning to act tragedies, and the thing, because it was new, taking very much with the multitude, though it was not yet made a matter of competition, Solon, being by nature fond of hearing and learning something new, and now, in his old age, living idly, and enjoying himself, indeed, with music and with wine, went to see Thespis himself, as the ancient custom was, act; and after the play was done, he addressed him, and asked him if he was not ashamed to tell so many lies before such a number of people; and Thespis replying that it was no harm Page 199 to say or do so in play, Solon vehemently struck his staff against the ground: “Ay,” said he, “if we honor and commend such play as this, we shall find it some day in our business.”
Now when Pisistratus, having wounded himself, was brought into the market-place in a chariot, and stirred up the people, as if he had been thus treated by his opponents because of his political conduct, and a great many were enraged and cried out, Solon, coming close to him, said, “This, O son of Hippocrates, is a bad copy of Homer’s Ulysses; you do, to trick your countrymen, what he did to deceive his enemies.” After this, the people were eager to protect Pisistratus, and met in an assembly, where one Ariston making a motion that they should allow Pisistratus fifty clubmen for a guard to his person, Solon opposed it, and said, much to the same purport as what he has left us in his poems,
You doat upon his words and taking phrase;
and again, —
But observing the poor men bent to gratify Pisistratus, and tumultuous, and the rich fearful and getting out of harm’s way, he departed, saying he was wiser than some and stouter than others; wiser than those that did not understand the design, stouter than those that, though they understood it, were afraid to oppose the tyranny. Now, the people, having passed the law, were not nice with Pisistratus about the number of his clubmen, but took no notice of it, though he enlisted and kept as many as he would, until he seized the Acropolis. When that was done, and the city in an uproar, Megacles, with all his family, at once fled; but Solon, though he was now very old, and had none to back him, yet came into the market-place and made a speech to the citizens partly blaming their inadvertency and meanness of spirit, and in part urging and exhorting them not thus tamely to lose their liberty; and likewise then spoke that memorable saying, that, before, it was an easier task to stop the rising tyranny, but now the greater and more glorious action to destroy it, when it was begun already, and had gathered strength. But all being afraid to side with him, he returned home, and, taking his arms, he brought them out and laid them in the porch before his door, with these words: “I have done my part to maintain my country and my laws,” and then he busied himself no more. His friends advising him to fly, he refused, but wrote poems, and thus reproached the Athenians in them, —
And many telling him that the tyrant would take his life for this, and asking what he trusted to, that he ventured to speak so boldly, he replied, “To my old age.” But Pisistratus, having got the command, so extremely courted Solon, so honored him, obliged him, and sent to see him, that Solon gave him his advice, and approved many of his actions; for he retained most of Solon’s laws, observed them himself, and compelled his friends to obey. And he himself, though already absolute ruler, being accused of murder before the Areopagus, came quietly to clear himself; but his accuser did not appear. And he added other laws, one of which is that the maimed in the wars should be maintained at the public charge; this Heraclides Ponticus records, and that Pisistratus followed Page 201 Solon’s example in this, who had decreed it in the case of one Thersippus, that was maimed; and Theophrastus asserts that it was Pisistratus, not Solon, that made that law against laziness, which was the reason that the country was more productive, and the city tranquiller.
Now Solon, having begun the great work in verse, the history or fable of the Atlantic Island, which he had learned from the wise men in Sais, and thought convenient for the Athenians to know, abandoned it; not, as Plato says, by reason of want of time, but because of his age, and being discouraged at the greatness of the task; for that he had leisure enough, such verses testify, as
Each day grow older, and learn something new
and again, —
Plato, willing to improve the story of the Atlantic Island, as if it were a fair estate that wanted an heir and came with some title to him, formed, indeed, stately entrances, noble enclosures, large courts, such as never yet introduced any story, fable, or poetic fiction; but, beginning it late, ended his life before his work; and the reader’s regret for the unfinished part is the greater, as the satisfaction he takes in that which is complete is extraordinary. For as the city of Athens left only the temple of Jupiter Olympius unfinished, so Plato, amongst all his excellent works, left this only piece about the Atlantic Island imperfect. Solon lived after Pisistratus seized the government, as Heraclides Ponticus asserts, a long time; but Phanias the Eresian says not two full years; for Pisistratus began his tyranny when Comias was archon, and Phanias says Solon died under Hegestratus, who succeeded Comias. The story that his ashes were scattered about the island Salamis is too strange to be easily believed, or be thought any thing but a mere fable; and yet it is given, amongst other good authors, by Aristotle, the philosopher.
Such was Solon. To him we compare Poplicola, who received this later title from the Roman people for his merit, as a noble accession to his former name, Publius Valerius. He descended from Valerius, a man amongst the early citizens, reputed the principal reconciler of the differences betwixt the Romans and Sabines, and one that was most instrumental in persuading their kings to assent to peace and union. Thus descended, Publius Valerius, as it is said, whilst Rome remained under its kingly government, obtained as great a name from his eloquence as from his riches, charitably employing the one in liberal aid to the poor, the other with integrity and freedom in the service of justice; thereby giving assurance, that, should the government fall into a republic, he would become a chief man in the community. The illegal and wicked accession of Tarquinius Superbus to the crown, with his making it, instead of kingly rule, the instrument of insolence and tyranny, having inspired the people with a hatred to his reign, upon the death of Lucretia (she killing herself after violence had been done to her), they took an occasion of revolt; and Lucius Brutus, engaging in the change, came to Valerius before all others, and, with his zealous assistance, deposed the kings. And whilst the people inclined towards the electing one leader instead of their king, Valerius acquiesced, that to rule was rather Brutus’s due, as the author of the democracy. But when the name of monarchy was odious to the people, and a divided power appeared more grateful in the prospect, and two were chosen to hold it, Valerius, entertaining hopes that he might be elected consul with Brutus, was disappointed; for, instead of Valerius, notwithstanding the endeavors of Brutus, Tarquinius Collatinus was chosen, the husband of Lucretia, a man noways his superior in merit. But the nobles, dreading the return of their kings, who still used all endeavors abroad and solicitations at home, were resolved upon a chieftain of an intense hatred to them, and noways likely to yield.
Now Valerius was troubled, that his desire to serve his country should be doubted, because he had sustained no private injury from the insolence of the tyrants. He withdrew from the senate and practice of the bar, quitting all public concerns; which gave an occasion of discourse, and fear, too, lest his anger should reconcile him to the king’s side, and he should prove the ruin of the state, tottering as yet under the uncertainties of a change. But Brutus being doubtful of some others, and determining to give the test to the senate upon the altars, upon the day appointed Valerius came with cheerfulness into the forum, and was the first man that took the oath, in no way to submit or yield to Tarquin’s propositions, but rigorously to maintain liberty; which gave great satisfaction to the senate and assurance to the consuls, his actions soon after showing the sincerity of his oath. For ambassadors came from Tarquin, with popular and specious proposals, whereby they thought to seduce the people, as though the king had cast off all insolence, and made moderation the only measure of his desires. To this embassy the consuls thought fit to give public audience, but Valerius opposed it, and would not permit that the poorer people, who entertained more fear of war than of tyranny, should have any occasion offered them, or any temptations to new designs. Afterwards other ambassadors arrived, who declared their king would recede from his crown, and lay down his arms, only capitulating for a restitution to himself, his friends, and allies, of their moneys and estates to support them in their banishment. Now, several inclining to the request, and Collatinus in particular favoring it, Brutus, a man of vehement and unbending nature, rushed into the forum, there proclaiming his fellow-consul to be a traitor, in granting subsidies to tyranny, and supplies for a war to those to whom it was monstrous to allow so much as subsistence in exile. This caused an assembly of the citizens, amongst whom the first that spake was Caius Minucius, a private man, who advised Brutus, and urged the Romans, to keep the property, and employ it against the tyrants, rather than to remit it to the tyrants, to be used against themselves. The Romans, however, decided that whilst they enjoyed the liberty they had fought for, they should not sacrifice peace for the sake of money, but send out the tyrants’ property after them. This question, however, of his property, was the least part of Tarquin’s design; the demand sounded the feelings of the people, and was preparatory to a conspiracy which the ambassadors endeavored to excite, delaying their return, under pretence of selling some of the goods and reserving others to be sent away, till, in fine, they corrupted two of the most eminent families in Rome, the Aquillian, which had three, and the Vitellian, which had two senators. These all were, by the mother’s side, nephews to Collatinus; besides which Brutus had a special alliance to the Vitellii from his marriage with their sister, by whom he had several children; two of whom, of their own age, their near relations and daily companions, the Vitellii seduced to join in the plot, to ally themselves to the great house and royal hopes of the Tarquins, and gain emancipation from the violence and imbecility united of their father, whose austerity to offenders they termed violence, while the imbecility which he had long feigned, to protect himself from the tyrants, still, it appears, was, in name at least, ascribed to him. When upon these inducements the youths came to confer with the Aquillii, all thought it convenient to bind themselves in a solemn and dreadful oath, by tasting the blood of a murdered man, and touching his entrails. For which design they met at the house of the Aquillii. The building chosen for the transaction was, as was natural, dark and unfrequented, and a slave named Vindicius had, as it chanced, concealed himself there, not out of design or any intelligence of the affair, but, accidentally being within, seeing with how much haste and concern they came in, he was afraid to be discovered, and placed himself behind a chest, where he was able to observe their actions and overhear their debates. Their resolutions were to kill the consuls, and they wrote letters to Tarquin to this effect, and gave them to the ambassadors, who were lodging upon the spot with the Aquillii, and were present at the consultation.
Upon their departure, Vindicius secretly quitted the house, but was at a loss what to do in the matter, for to arraign the sons before the father Brutus, or the nephews before the uncle Collatinus, seemed equally (as indeed it was) shocking; yet he knew no private Roman to whom he could intrust secrets of such importance. Unable, however, to keep silence, and burdened with his knowledge, he went and addressed himself to Valerius, whose known freedom and kindness of temper were an inducement; as he was a person to whom the needy had easy access, and who never shut his gates against the petitions or indigences of humble people. But when Vindicius came and made a complete discovery to him, his brother Marcus and his own wife being present, Valerius was struck with amazement, and by no means would dismiss the discoverer, but confined him to the room, and placed his wife as a guard to the door, sending his brother in the interim to beset the king’s palace, and seize, if possible, the writings there, and secure the domestics, whilst he, with his constant attendance of clients and friends, and a great retinue of attendants, repaired to the house of the Aquillii, who were, as it chanced, absent from home; and so, forcing an entrance through the gates, they lit upon the letters then lying in the lodgings of the ambassadors. Meantime the Aquillii returned in all haste, and, coming to blows about the gate, endeavored a recovery of the letters. The other party made a resistance, and, throwing their gowns round their opponents’ necks, at last, after much struggling on both sides, made their way with their prisoners through the streets into the forum. The like engagement happened about the king’s palace, where Marcus seized some other letters which it was designed should be conveyed away in the goods, and, laying hands on such of the king’s people as he could find, dragged them also into the forum. When the consuls had quieted the tumult, Vindicius was brought out by the orders of Valerius, and the accusation stated, and the letters were opened, to which the traitors could make no plea. Most of the people standing mute and sorrowful, some only, out of kindness to Brutus, mentioning banishment, the tears of Collatinus, attended with Valerius’s silence, gave some hopes of mercy. But Brutus, calling his two sons by their names, “Canst not thou,” said he, “O Titus, or thou, Tiberius, make any defence against the indictment?” The question being thrice proposed, and no reply made, he turned himself to the lictors, and cried, “What remains is your duty.” They immediately seized the youths, and, stripping them of their clothes, bound their hands behind them, and scourged their bodies with their rods; too tragical a scene for others to look at; Brutus, however, is said not to have turned aside his face, nor allowed the least glance of pity to soften and smoothe his aspect of rigor and austerity, but sternly watched his children suffer, even till the lictors, extending them on the ground, cut off their heads with an axe; then departed, committing the rest to the judgment of his colleague. An action truly open alike to the highest commendation and the strongest censure; for either the greatness of his virtue raised him above the impressions of sorrow, or the extravagance of his misery took away all sense of it; but neither seemed common, or the result of humanity, but either divine or brutish. Yet it is more reasonable that our judgment should yield to his reputation, than that his merit should suffer detraction by the weakness of our judgment; in the Romans’ opinion, Brutus did a greater work in the establishment of the government than Romulus in the foundation of the city.
Upon Brutus’s departure out of the forum, consternation, horror, and silence for some time possessed all that reflected on what was done; the easiness and tardiness, however, of Collatinus, gave confidence to the Aquillii to request some time to answer their charge, and that Vindicius, their servant, should be remitted into their hands, and no longer harbored amongst their accusers. The consul seemed inclined to their proposal, and was proceeding to dissolve the assembly; but Valerius would not suffer Vindicius, who was surrounded by his people, to be surrendered, nor the meeting to withdraw without punishing the traitors; and at length laid violent hands upon the Aquillii, and, calling Brutus to his assistance, exclaimed against the unreasonable course of Collatinus, to impose upon his colleague the necessity of taking away the lives of his own sons, and yet have thoughts of gratifying some women with the lives of traitors and public enemies. Collatinus, displeased at this, and commanding Vindicius to be taken away, the lictors made their way through the crowd and seized their man, and struck all who endeavored a rescue. Valerius’s friends headed the resistance, and the people cried out for Brutus, who, returning, on silence being made, told them he had been competent to pass sentence by himself upon his own sons, but left the rest to the suffrages of the free citizens: “Let every man speak that wishes, and persuade whom he can.” But there was no need of oratory, for, it being referred to the vote, they were returned condemned by all the suffrages, and were accordingly beheaded.
Collatinus’s relationship to the kings had, indeed, already rendered him suspicious, and his second name, too, had made him obnoxious to the people, who were loth to hear the very sound of Tarquin; but after this had happened, perceiving himself an offence to every one, he relinquished his charge and departed from the city. At the new elections in his room, Valerius obtained, with high honor, the consulship, as a just reward of his zeal; of which he thought Vindicius deserved a share, whom he made, first of all freedmen, a citizen of Rome, and gave him the privilege of voting in what tribe soever he was pleased to be enrolled; other freedmen received the right of suffrage a long time after from Appius, who thus courted popularity; and from this Vindicius, a perfect manumission is called to this day vindicta. This done, the goods of the kings were exposed to plunder, and the palace to ruin.
The pleasantest part of the field of Mars, which Tarquin had owned, was devoted to the service of that god; but, it happening to be harvest season, and the sheaves yet being on the ground, they thought it not proper to commit them to the flail, or unsanctify them with any use; and, therefore, carrying them to the riverside, and trees withal that were cut down, they cast all into the water, dedicating the soil, free from all occupation, to the deity. Now, these thrown in, one upon another, and closing together, the stream did not bear them far, but where the first were carried down and came to a bottom, the remainder, finding no farther conveyance, were stopped and interwoven one with another; the stream working the mass into a firmness, and washing down fresh mud. This, settling there, became an accession of matter, as well as cement, to the rubbish, insomuch that the violence of the waters could not remove it, but forced and compressed it all together. Thus its bulk and solidity gained it new subsidies, which gave it extension enough to stop on its way most of what the stream brought down. This is now a sacred island, lying by the city, adorned with temples of the gods, and walks, and is called in the Latin tongue inter duos pontes. Though some say this did not happen at the dedication of Tarquin’s field, but in after-times, when Tarquinia, a vestal priestess, gave an adjacent field to the public, and obtained great honors in consequence, as, amongst the rest, that of all women her testimony alone should be received; she had also the liberty to marry, but refused it; thus some tell the story.
Tarquin, despairing of a return to his kingdom by the conspiracy, found a kind reception amongst the Tuscans, who, with a great army, proceeded to restore him. The consuls headed the Romans against them, and made their rendezvous in certain holy places, the one called the Arsian grove, the other the Æsuvian meadow. When they came into action, Aruns, the son of Tarquin, and Brutus, the Roman consul, not accidentally encountering each other, but out of hatred and rage, the one to avenge tyranny and enmity to his country, the other his banishment, set spurs to their horses, and, engaging with more fury than forethought, disregarding their own security, fell together in the combat. This dreadful onset hardly was followed by a more favorable end; both armies, doing and receiving equal damage, were separated by a storm. Valerius was much concerned, not knowing what the result of the day was, and seeing his men as well dismayed at the sight of their own dead, as rejoiced at the loss of the enemy; so apparently equal in the number was the slaughter on either side. Each party, however, felt surer of defeat from the actual sight of their own dead, than they could feel of victory from conjecture about those of their adversaries. The night being come (and such as one may presume must follow such a battle), and the armies laid to rest, they say that the grove shook, and uttered a voice, saying that the Tuscans had lost one man more than the Romans; clearly a divine announcement; and the Romans at once received it with shouts and expressions of joy; whilst the Tuscans, through fear and amazement, deserted their tents, and were for the most part dispersed. The Romans, falling upon the remainder, amounting to nearly five thousand, took them prisoners, and plundered the camp; when they numbered the dead, they found on the Tuscans’ side eleven thousand and three hundred, exceeding their own loss but by one man. This fight happened upon the last day of February, and Valerius triumphed in honor of it, being the first consul that drove in with a four-horse chariot; which sight both appeared magnificent, and was received with an admiration free from envy or offence (as some suggest) on the part of the spectators; it would not otherwise have been continued with so much eagerness and emulation through all the after ages. The people applauded likewise the honors he did to his colleague, in adding to his obsequies a funeral oration; which was so much liked by the Romans, and found so good a reception, that it became customary for the best men to celebrate the funerals of great citizens with speeches in their commendation; and their antiquity in Rome is affirmed to be greater than in Greece, unless, with the orator Anaximenes, we make Solon the first author.
Yet some part of Valerius’s behavior did give offence and disgust to the people, because Brutus, whom they esteemed the father of their liberty, had not presumed to rule without a colleague, but united one and then another to him in his commission; while Valerius, they said, centering all authority in himself, seemed not in any sense a successor to Brutus in the consulship, but to Tarquin in the tyranny; he might make verbal harangues to Brutus’s memory, yet, when he was attended with all the rods and axes, proceeding down from a house than which the king’s house that he had demolished had not been statelier, those actions showed him an imitator of Tarquin. For, indeed, his dwelling-house on the Velia was somewhat imposing in appearance, hanging over the forum, and overlooking all transactions there; the access to it was hard, and to see him far off coming down, a stately and royal spectacle. But Valerius showed how well it were for men in power and great offices to have ears that give admittance to truth before flattery; for upon his friends telling him that he displeased the people, he contended not, neither resented it, but while it was still night, sending for a number of workpeople, pulled down his house and levelled it with the ground; so that in the morning the people, seeing and flocking together, expressed their wonder and their respect for his magnanimity, and their sorrow, as though it had been a human being, for the large and beautiful house which was thus lost to them by an unfounded jealousy, while its owner, their consul, without a roof of his own, had to beg a lodging with his friends. For his friends received him, till a place the people gave him was furnished with a house, though less stately than his own, where now stands the temple, as it is called, of Vica Pota.
He resolved to render the government, as well as himself, instead of terrible, familiar and pleasant to the people, and parted the axes from the rods, and always, upon his entrance into the assembly, lowered these also to the people, to show, in the strongest way, the republican foundation of the government; and this the consuls observe to this day. But the humility of the man was but a means, not, as they thought, of lessening himself, but merely to abate their envy by this moderation; for whatever he detracted from his authority he added to his real power, the people still submitting with satisfaction, which they expressed by calling him Poplicola, or people-lover, which name had the preëminence of the rest, and, therefore, in the sequel of this narrative we shall use no other.
He gave free leave to any to sue for the consulship; but before the admittance of a colleague, mistrusting the chances, lest emulation or ignorance should cross his designs, by his sole authority enacted his best and most important measures. First, he supplied the vacancies of the senators, whom either Tarquin long before had put to death, or the war lately cut off; those that he enrolled, they write, amounted to a hundred and sixty-four; afterwards he made several laws which added much to the people’s liberty, in particular one granting offenders the liberty of appealing to the people from the judgment of the consuls; a second, that made it death to usurp any magistracy without the people’s consent; a third, for the relief of poor citizens, which, taking off their taxes, encouraged their labors; another, against disobedience to the consuls, which was no less popular than the rest, and rather to the benefit of the commonalty than to the advantage of the nobles, for it imposed upon disobedience the penalty of ten oxen and two sheep; the price of a sheep being ten obols, of an ox, an hundred. For the use of money was then infrequent amongst the Romans, but their wealth in cattle great; even now pieces of property are called peculia, from pecus, cattle; and they had stamped upon their most ancient money an ox, a sheep, or a hog; and surnamed their sons Suillii, Bubulci, Caprarii, and Porcii, from capræ, goats, and porci, hogs.
Amidst this mildness and moderation, for one excessive fault he instituted one excessive punishment; for he made it lawful without trial to take away any man’s life that aspired to a tyranny, and acquitted the slayer, if he produced evidence of the crime; for though it was not probable for a man, whose designs were so great, to escape all notice; yet because it was possible he might, although observed, by force anticipate judgment, which the usurpation itself would then preclude, he gave a license to any to anticipate the usurper. He was honored likewise for the law touching the treasury; for because it was necessary for the citizens to contribute out of their estates to the maintenance of wars, and he was unwilling himself to be concerned in the care of it, or to permit his friends, or indeed to let the public money pass into any private house, he allotted the temple of Saturn for the treasury, in which to this day they deposit the tributemoney, and granted the people the liberty of choosing two young men as quæstors, or treasurers. The first were Publius Veturius and Marcus Minucius; and a large sum was collected, for they assessed one hundred and thirty thousand, excusing orphans and widows from the payment. After these dispositions, he admitted Lucretius, the father of Lucretia, as his colleague, and gave him the precedence in the government, by resigning the fasces to him, as due to his years, which privilege of seniority continued to our time. But within a few days Lucretius died, and in a new election Marcus Horatius succeeded in that honor, and continued consul for the remainder of the year.
Now, whilst Tarquin was making preparations in Tuscany for a second war against the Romans, it is said a great portent occurred. When Tarquin was king, and had all but completed the buildings of the Capitol, designing, whether from oracular advice or his own pleasure, to erect an earthen chariot upon the top, he intrusted the workmanship to Tuscans of the city Veii, but soon after lost his kingdom. The work thus modelled, the Tuscans set in a furnace, but the clay showed not those passive qualities which usually attend its nature, to subside and be condensed upon the evaporation of the moisture, but rose and swelled out to that bulk, that, when solid and firm, notwithstanding the removal of the roof and opening the walls of the furnace, it could not be taken out without much difficulty. The soothsayers looked upon this as a divine prognostic of success and power to those that should possess it; and the Tuscans resolved not to deliver it to the Romans, who demanded it, but answered that it rather belonged to Tarquin than to those who had sent him into exile. A few days after, they had a horserace there, with the usual shows and solemnities, and as the charioteer, with his garland on his head, was quietly driving the victorious chariot out of the ring, the horses, upon no apparent occasion, taking fright, either by divine instigation or by accident, hurried away their driver at full speed to Rome; neither did his holding them in prevail, nor his voice, but he was forced along with violence till, coming to the Capitol, he was thrown out by the gate called Ratumena. This occurrence raised wonder and fear in the Veientines, who now permitted the delivery of the chariot.
The building of the temple of the Capitoline Jupiter had been vowed by Tarquin, the son of Demaratus, when warring with the Sabines; Tarquinius Superbus, his son or grandson, built, but could not dedicate it, because he lost his kingdom before it was quite finished. And now that it was completed with all its ornaments, Poplicola was ambitious to dedicate it; but the nobility envied him that honor, as, indeed, also, in some degree, those his prudence in making laws and conduct in wars entitled him to. Grudging him, at any rate, the addition of this, they urged Horatius to sue for the dedication, and, whilst Poplicola was engaged in some military expedition, voted it to Horatius, and conducted him to the Capitol, as though, were Poplicola present, they could not have carried it. Yet, some write, Poplicola was by lot destined against his will to the expedition, the other to the dedication; and what happened in the performance seems to intimate some ground for this conjecture; for, upon the Ides of September, which happens about the full moon of the month Metagitnion, the people having assembled at the Capitol and silence being enjoined, Horatius, after the performance of other ceremonies, holding the doors, according to custom, was proceeding to pronounce the words of dedication, when Marcus, the brother of Poplicola, who had got a place on purpose beforehand near the door, observing his opportunity, cried, “O consul, thy son lies dead in the camp;” which made a great impression upon all others who heard it, yet in nowise discomposed Horatius, who returned merely the reply, “Cast the dead out whither you please; I am not a mourner;” and so completed the dedication. The news was not true, but Marcus thought the lie might avert him from his performance; but it argues him a man of wonderful self-possession, whether he at once saw through the cheat, or, believing it as true, showed no discomposure.
The same fortune attended the dedication of the second temple; the first, as has been said, was built by Tarquin, and dedicated by Horatius; it was burnt down in the civil wars. The second, Sylla built, and, dying before the dedication, left that honor to Catulus; and when this was demolished in the Vitellian sedition, Vespasian, with the same success that attended him in other things, began a third, and lived to see it finished, but did not live to see it again destroyed, as it presently was; but was as fortunate in dying before its destruction, as Sylla was the reverse in dying before the dedication of his. For immediately after Vespasian’s death it was consumed by fire. The fourth, which now exists, was both built and dedicated by Domitian. It is said Tarquin expended forty thousand pounds of silver in the very foundations; but the whole wealth of the richest private man in Rome would not discharge the cost of the gilding of this temple in our days, it amounting to above twelve thousand talents; the pillars were cut out of Pentelican marble, of a length most happily proportioned to their thickness; these we saw at Athens; but when they were cut anew at Rome and polished, they did not gain so much in embellishment, as they lost in symmetry, being rendered too taper and slender. Should any one who wonders at the costliness of the Capitol visit any one gallery in Domitian’s palace, or hall, or bath, or the apartments of his concubines, Epicharmus’s remark upon the prodigal, that
would be in his mouth in application to Domitian. It is neither piety, he would say, nor magnificence, but, indeed, a mere disease of building, and a desire, like Midas, of converting every thing into gold or stone. And thus much for this matter.
Tarquin, after the great battle wherein he lost his son in combat with Brutus, fled to Clusium, and sought aid from Lars Porsenna, then one of the most powerful princes of Italy, and a man of worth and generosity; who assured him of assistance, immediately sending his commands to Rome that they should receive Tarquin as their king, and, upon the Romans’ refusal, proclaimed war, and, having signified the time and place where he intended his attack, approached with a great army. Poplicola was, in his absence, chosen consul a second time, and Titus Lucretius his colleague, and, returning to Rome, to show a spirit yet loftier than Porsenna’s, built the city Sigliuria* when Porsenna was already in the neighborhood; and, walling it at great expense, there placed a colony of seven hundred men, as being little concerned at the war. Nevertheless, Porsenna, making a sharp assault, obliged the defendants to retire to Rome, who had almost in their entrance admitted the enemy into the city with them; only Poplicola by sallying out at the gate prevented them, and, joining battle by Tiber side, opposed the enemy, that pressed on with their multitude, but at last, sinking under desperate wounds, was carried out of the fight. The same fortune fell upon Lucretius, so that the Romans, being dismayed, retreated into the city for their security, and Rome was in great hazard of being taken, the enemy forcing their way on to the wooden bridge, where Horatius Cocles, seconded by two of the first men in Rome, Herminius and Lartius, made head against them. Horatius obtained this name from the loss of one of his eyes in the wars, or, as others write, from the depressure of his nose, which, leaving nothing in the middle to separate them, made both eyes appear but as one; and hence, intending to say Cyclops, by a mispronunciation they called him Cocles. This Cocles kept the bridge, and held back the enemy, till his own party broke it down behind, and then with his armor dropped into the river, and swam to the hither side, with a wound in his hip from a Tuscan spear. Poplicola, admiring his courage, proposed at once that the Romans should every one make him a present of a day’s provisions, and afterwards gave him as much land as he could plough round in one day, and besides erected a brazen statue to his honor in the temple of Vulcan, as a requital for the lameness caused by his wound.
But Porsenna laying close siege to the city, and a famine raging amongst the Romans, also a new army of the Tuscans making incursions into the country, Poplicola, a third time chosen consul, designed to make, without sallying out, his defence against Porsenna, but, privately stealing forth against the new army of the Tuscans, put them to flight, and slew five thousand. The story of Mucius is variously given; we, like others, must follow the commonly received statement. He was a man endowed with every virtue, but most eminent in war; and, resolving to kill Porsenna, attired himself in the Tuscan habit, and, using the Tuscan language, came to the camp, and approaching the seat where the king sat amongst his nobles, but not certainly knowing the king, and fearful to inquire, drew out his sword, and stabbed one who he thought had most the appearance of king. Mucius was taken in the act, and whilst he was under examination, a pan of fire was brought to the king, who intended to sacrifice; Mucius thrust his right hand into the flame, and whilst it burnt stood looking at Porsenna with a steadfast and undaunted countenance; Porsenna at last in admiration dismissed him, and returned his sword, reaching it from his seat; Mucius received it in his left hand, which occasioned the name of Scævola, left-handed, and said, “I have overcome the terrors of Porsenna, yet am vanquished by his generosity, and gratitude obliges me to disclose what no punishment could extort;” and assured him then, that three hundred Romans, all of the same resolution, lurked about his camp, only waiting for an opportunity; he, by lot appointed to the enterprise, was not sorry that he had miscarried in it, because so brave and good a man deserved rather to be a friend to the Romans than an enemy. To this Porsenna gave credit, and thereupon expressed an inclination to a truce, not, I presume, so much out of fear of the three hundred Romans, as in admiration of the Roman courage. All other writers call this man Mucius Scævola, yet Athenodorus, son of Sandon, in a book addressed to Octavia, Cæsar’s sister, avers he was also called Postumus.
Poplicola, not so much esteeming Porsenna’s enmity dangerous to Rome as his friendship and alliance serviceable, was induced to refer the controversy with Tarquin to his arbitration, and several times undertook to prove Tarquin the worst of men, and justly deprived of his kingdom. But Tarquin proudly replied he would admit no judge, much less Porsenna, that had fallen away from his engagements; and Porsenna, resenting this answer, and mistrusting the equity of his cause, moved also by the solicitations of his son Aruns, who was earnest for the Roman interest, made a peace on these conditions, that they should resign the land they had taken from the Tuscans, and restore all prisoners and receive back their deserters. To confirm the peace, the Romans gave as hostages ten sons of patrician parents, and as many daughters, amongst whom was Valeria, the daughter of Poplicola.
Upon these assurances, Porsenna ceased from all acts of hostility, and the young girls went down to the river to bathe, at that part where the winding of the bank formed a bay and made the waters stiller and quieter; and, seeing no guard, nor any one coming or going over, they were encouraged to swim over, notwithstanding the depth and violence of the stream. Some affirm that one of them, by name Clœlia, passing over on horseback, persuaded the rest to swim after; but, upon their safe arrival, presenting themselves to Poplicola, he neither praised nor approved their return, but was concerned lest he should appear less faithful than Porsenna, and this boldness in the maidens should argue treachery in the Romans; so that, apprehending them, he sent them back to Porsenna. But Tarquin’s men, having intelligence of this, laid a strong ambuscade on the other side for those that conducted them; and while these were skirmishing together, Valeria, the daughter of Poplicola, rushed through the enemy and fled, and with the assistance of three of her attendants made good her escape, whilst the rest were dangerously hedged in by the soldiers; but Aruns, Porsenna’s son, upon tidings of it, hastened to their rescue, and, putting the enemy to flight, delivered the Romans. When Porsenna saw the maidens returned, demanding who was the author and adviser of the act, and understanding Clœlia to be the person, he looked on her with a cheerful and benignant countenance, and, commanding one of his horses to be brought, sumptuously adorned, made her a present of it. This is produced as evidence by those who affirm that only Clœlia passed the river on horseback; those who deny it call it only the honor the Tuscan did to her courage; a figure, however, on horseback stands in the Via Sacra, as you go to the Palatium, which some say is the statue of Clœlia, others of Valeria. Porsenna, thus reconciled to the Romans, gave them a fresh instance of his generosity, and commanded his soldiers to quit the camp merely with their arms, leaving their tents, full of corn and other stores, as a gift to the Romans. Hence, even down to our time, when there is a public sale of goods, they cry Porsenna’s first, by way of perpetual commemoration of his kindness. There stood, also, by the senate-house, a brazen statue of him, of plain and antique workmanship.
Afterwards, the Sabines making incursions upon the Romans, Marcus Valerius, brother to Poplicola, was made consul, and with him Postumius Tubertus. Marcus, through the management of affairs by the conduct and direct assistance of Poplicola, obtained two great victories, in the latter of which he slew thirteen thousand Sabines without the loss of one Roman, and was honored, as an accession to his triumph, with an house built in the Palatium at the public charge; and whereas the doors of other houses opened inward into the house, they made this to open outward into the street, to intimate their perpetual public recognition of his merit by thus continually making way for him. The same fashion in their doors the Greeks, they say, had of old universally, which appears from their comedies, where those that are going out make a noise at the door within, to give notice to those that pass by or stand near the door, that the opening the door into the street might occasion no surprisal.
The year after, Poplicola was made consul the fourth time, when a confederacy of the Sabines and Latins threatened a war; a superstitious fear also overran the city on the occasion of general miscarriages of their women, no single birth coming to its due time. Poplicola, upon consultation of the Sibylline books, sacrificing to Pluto, and renewing certain games commanded by Apollo, restored the city to more cheerful assurance in the gods, and then prepared against the menaces of men. There were appearances of great preparation, and of a formidable confederacy. Amongst the Sabines there was one Appius Clausus, a man of a great wealth and strength of body, but most eminent for his high character and for his eloquence; yet, as is usually the fate of great men, he could not escape the envy of others, which was much occasioned by his dissuading the war, and seeming to promote the Roman interest, with a view, it was thought, to obtaining absolute power in his own country for himself. Knowing how welcome these reports would be to the multitude, and how offensive to the army and the abettors of the war, he was afraid to stand a trial, but, having a considerable body of friends and allies to assist him, raised a tumult amongst the Sabines, which delayed the war. Neither was Poplicola wanting, not only to understand the grounds of the sedition, but to promote and increase it, and he despatched emissaries with instructions to Clausus, that Poplicola was assured of his goodness and justice, and thought it indeed unworthy in any man, however injured, to seek revenge upon his fellow-citizens; yet if he pleased, for his own security, to leave his enemies and come to Rome, he should be received, both in public and private, with the honor his merit deserved, and their own glory required. Appius, seriously weighing the matter, came to the conclusion that it was the best resource which necessity left him, and advising with his friends, and they inviting again others in the same manner, he came to Rome, bringing five thousand families, with their wives and children; people of the quietest and steadiest temper of all the Sabines. Poplicola, informed of their approach, received them with all the kind offices of a friend, and admitted them at once to the franchise, allotting to every one two acres of land by the river Anio, but to Clausus twenty-five acres, and gave him a place in the senate; a commencement of political power which he used so wisely, that he rose to the highest reputation, was very influential, and left the Claudian house behind him, inferior to none in Rome.
The departure of these men rendered things quiet amongst the Sabines; yet the chief of the community would not suffer them to settle into peace, but resented that Clausus now, by turning deserter, should disappoint that revenge upon the Romans, which, while at home, he had unsuccessfully opposed. Coming with a great army, they sat down before Fidenæ, and placed an ambuscade of two thousand men near Rome, in wooded and hollow spots, with a design that some few horsemen, as soon as it was day, should go out and ravage the country, commanding them upon their approach to the town so to retreat as to draw the enemy into the ambush. Poplicola, however, soon advertised of these designs by deserters, disposed his forces to their respective charges. Postumius Balbus, his son-in-law, going out with three thousand men in the evening, was ordered to take the hills, under which the ambush lay, there to observe their motions; his colleague, Lucretius, attended with a body of the lightest and boldest men, was appointed to meet the Sabine horse; whilst he, with the rest of the army, encompassed the enemy. And a thick mist rising accidentally, Postumius, early in the morning, with shouts from the hills, assailed the ambuscade, Lucretius charged the light-horse, and Poplicola besieged the camp; so that on all sides defeat and ruin came upon the Sabines, and without any resistance the Romans killed them in their flight, their very hopes leading them to their death, for each division, presuming that the other was safe, gave up all thought of fighting or keeping their ground; and these quitting the camp to retire to the ambuscade, and the ambuscade flying to the camp, fugitives thus met fugitives, and found those from whom they expected succor as much in need of succor from themselves. The nearness, however, of the city Fidenæ was the preservation of the Sabines, especially those that fled from the camp; those that could not gain the city either perished in the field, or were taken prisoners. This victory, the Romans, though usually ascribing such success to some god, attributed to the conduct of one captain; and it was observed to be heard amongst the soldiers, that Poplicola had delivered their enemies lame and blind, and only not in chains, to be despatched by their swords. From the spoil and prisoners great wealth accrued to the people.
Poplicola, having completed his triumph, and bequeathed the city to the care of the succeeding consuls, died; thus closing a life which, so far as human life may be, had been full of all that is good and honorable. The people as though they had not duly rewarded his deserts when alive, but still were in his debt, decreed him a public interment, every one contributing his quadrans towards the charge; the women, besides, by private consent, mourned a whole year, a signal mark of honor to his memory. He was buried, by the people’s desire, within the city, in the part called Velia, where his posterity had likewise privilege of burial; now, however, none of the family are interred there, but the body is carried thither and set down, and some one places a burning torch under it, and immediately takes it away, as an attestation of the deceased’s privilege, and his receding from his honor; after which the body is removed.
COMPARISON OF POPLICOLA WITH SOLON.
There is something singular in the present parallel, which has not occurred in any other of the lives; that the one should be the imitator of the other, and the other his best evidence. Upon the survey of Solon’s sentence to Crœsus in favor of Tellus’s happiness, it seems more applicable to Poplicola; for Tellus, whose virtuous life and dying well had gained him the name of the happiest man, yet was never celebrated in Solon’s poems for a good man, nor have his children or any magistracy of his deserved a memorial; but Poplicola’s life was the most eminent amongst the Romans, as well for the greatness of his virtue as his power, and also since his death many amongst the distinguished families, even in our days, the Poplicolæ, Messalæ, and Valerii, after a lapse of six hundred years, acknowledge him as the fountain of their honor. Besides, Tellus, though keeping his post and fighting like a valiant soldier, was yet slain by his enemies; but Poplicola, the better fortune, slew his, and saw his country victorious under his command. And his honors and triumphs brought him, which was Solon’s ambition, to a happy end; the ejaculation which, in his verses against Mimnermus about the continuance of man’s life, he himself made,
is evidence to Poplicola’s happiness; his death did not only draw tears from his friends and acquaintance, but was the object of universal regret and sorrow through the whole city; the women deplored his loss as that of a son, brother, or common father. “Wealth I would have,” said Solon, “but wealth by wrong procure would not,” because punishment would follow. But Poplicola’s riches were not only justly his, but he spent them nobly in doing good to the distressed. So that if Solon was reputed the wisest man, we must allow Poplicola to be the happiest; for what Solon wished for as the greatest and most perfect good, this Poplicola had, and used and enjoyed to his death.
And as Solon may thus be said to have contributed to Poplicola’s glory, so did also Poplicola to his, by his choice of him as his model in the formation of republican institutions; in reducing, for example, the excessive powers and assumption of the consulship. Several of his laws, indeed, he actually transferred to Rome, as his empowering the people to elect their officers, and allowing offenders the liberty of appealing to the people, as Solon did to the jurors. He did not, indeed, create a new senate, as Solon did, but augmented the old to almost double its number. The appointment of treasurers again, the quæstors, has a like origin; with the intent that the chief magistrate should not, if of good character, be withdrawn from greater matters; or, if bad, have the greater temptation to injustice, by holding both the government and treasury in his hands. The aversion to tyranny was stronger in Poplicola; any one who attempted usurpation could, by Solon’s law, only be punished upon conviction; but Poplicola made it death before a trial. And though Solon justly gloried, that, when arbitrary power was absolutely offered to him by circumstances, and when his countrymen would have willingly seen him accept it, he yet declined it; still Poplicola merited no less, who, receiving a despotic command, converted it to a popular office, and did not employ the whole legal power which he held. We must allow, indeed, that Solon was before Poplicola in observing that
The remission of debts was peculiar to Solon; it was his great means for confirming the citizens’ liberty; for a mere law to give all men equal rights is but useless, if the poor must sacrifice those rights to their debts, and, in the very seats and sanctuaries of equality, the courts of justice, the offices of state, and the public discussions, be more than anywhere at the beck and bidding of the rich. A yet more extraordinary success was, that, although usually civil violence is caused by any remission of debts, upon this one occasion this dangerous but powerful remedy actually put an end to civil violence already existing, Solon’s own private worth and reputation overbalancing all the ordinary ill-repute and discredit of the change. The beginning of his government was more glorious, for he was entirely original, and followed no man’s example, and, without the aid of any ally, achieved his most important measures by his own conduct; yet the close of Poplicola’s life was more happy and desirable, for Solon saw the dissolution of his own commonwealth, Poplicola’s maintained the state in good order down to the civil wars. Solon, leaving his laws, as soon as he had made them, engraven in wood, but destitute of a defender, departed from Athens; whilst Poplicola, remaining, both in and out of office, labored to establish the government. Solon, though he actually knew of Pisistratus’s ambition, yet was not able to suppress it, but had to yield to usurpation in its infancy; whereas Poplicola utterly subverted and dissolved a potent monarchy, strongly settled by long continuance; uniting thus to virtues equal to those, and purposes identical with those of Solon, the good fortune and the power that alone could make them effective.
In military exploits, Daimachus of Platæa will not even allow Solon the conduct of the war against the Megarians, as was before intimated; but Poplicola was victorious in the most important conflicts, both as a private soldier and commander. In domestic politics, also, Solon, in play, as it were, and by counterfeiting madness, induced the enterprise against Salamis; whereas Poplicola, in the very beginning, exposed himself to the greatest risk, took arms against Tarquin, detected the conspiracy, and, being principally concerned both in preventing the escape of and afterwards punishing the traitors, not only expelled the tyrants from the city, but extirpated their very hopes. And as, in cases calling for contest and resistance and manful opposition, he behaved with courage and resolution, so, in instances where peaceable language, persuasion, and concession were requisite, he was yet more to be commended; and succeeded in gaining happily to reconciliation and friendship, Porsenna, a terrible and invincible enemy. Some may, perhaps, object, that Solon recovered Salamis, which they had lost, for the Athenians; whereas Poplicola receded from part of what the Romans were at that time possessed of; but judgment is to be made of actions according to the times in which they were performed. The conduct of a wise politician is ever suited to the present posture of affairs; often by foregoing a part he saves the whole, and by yielding in a small matter secures a greater; and so Poplicola, by restoring what the Romans had lately usurped, saved their undoubted patrimony, and procured, moreover, the stores of the enemy for those who were only too thankful to secure their city. Permitting the decision of the controversy to his adversary, he not only got the victory, but likewise what he himself would willingly have given to purchase the victory, Porsenna putting an end to the war, and leaving them all the provision of his camp, from the sense of the virtue and gallant disposition of the Romans which their consul had impressed upon him.
THEMISTOCLES AND CAMILLUS
[* ]Astǒlos chitōn, the under garment, frock, or tunic, without any thing, either himation or peplus, over it.
[* ]One of the old Curetes, who took charge of the infant Jupiter upon his birth in Crete, come, as it were, to life again.
[* ]The Diacrii, Pedieis, and Parali.
[* ]That is to say, if a man owed three hundred drachmas, his debt would now be discharged upon payment of three minas, or pounds; whereas before, he would have paid something more than four. The drachma was reduced twenty-seven per cent.
[* ]That is, the king-archons.
[* ]For example, the chitōn or tunic, himation or pallium, and peplus, i. e., the frock with two shawls, or one and a scarf; or perhaps an inner and an outer frock, with one shawl or scarf over them.
[† ]In Bœotia, or perhaps at Chæronea.
[* ]The Attic drachma, it is convenient to remember, is just about equivalent to a French franc; the obol, six of which went to the drachma, was, therefore, worth about three half-pence, or three cents.
[* ]Enē cai nea.
[* ]The Cyprian Venus.
[* ]No such city is heard of in any other author. Possibly it should be Signia, which, according to Livy, was founded earlier in the reign of the last Tarquin.
Page 163 . — Comparison.These with the young men, &c., is from the Andromache of Euripides, (597). She also, the young maid, on the next page, is referred by some to the Hermione, by some to the Reclaiming of Helen, both of them lost plays of Sophocles. It is the Fragment No. 791 in Dindorf.
Page 170 . — Work is a shame to none, the shame is not to be working, is the 309th line of Hesiod’s Works and Days.
Page 179 . — Munychia was best known to the Athenians of Plutarch’s time, as one of the strong-holds invariably occupied by the garrisons by which the kings of Macedon had controlled the city.
Page 188 . — The Tragedy is probably the Philoctetes, one of the lost tragedies of Euripides. Plutarch quotes it more fully elsewhere: “What bride, what young virgin would accept thee? Truly,” &c.
Page 193 . — The end and the beginning of the month, occurs twice in the Odyssey (XIV. 162, XIX. 307).
Page 199 . — For Homer’s Ulysses, see the fourth book of the Odyssey (235-264), where Helen relates, at Sparta, to Telemachus and Nestor’s son, how Ulysses entered Troy, as a spy, in the dress of a beggar, and was recognized by her alone, and returned after killing many and procuring much information.
Page 201 . — Plato, on the mother’s side, claimed relationship with Solon, so that in this way, the story of the Atlantis came with some title to him. See the Timæus, pp. 21 to 26.