The Legacy of Ancient Greece
 

The Greek View of Life

 
Greece.

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THE GREEK VIEW OF THE INDIVIDUAL


Section 1. The Greek View of Manual Labour and Trade.

In our discussion of the Greek view of the State we noticed the tendency both of the theory and the practice of the Greeks to separate the citizens proper from the rest of the community as a distinct and aristocratic class. And this tendency, we had occasion to observe, was partly to be attributed to the high conception which the Greeks had formed of the proper excellence of man, an excellence which it was the function of the citizen to realise in his own person, at the cost, if need be, of the other members of the State. This Greek conception of the proper excellence of man it is now our purpose to examine more closely. The chief point that strikes us about the Greek ideal is its comprehensiveness. Our own word "virtue" is applied only to moral qualities; but the Greek word which we so translate should properly be rendered "excellence," and includes a reference to the body as well as to the soul. A beautiful soul, housed in a beautiful body, and supplied with all the external advantages necessary to produce and perpetuate such a combination--that is the Greek conception of well-being; and it is because labour with the hands or at the desk distorts or impairs the body, and the petty cares of a calling pursued for bread pervert the soul, that so strong a contempt was felt by the Greeks for manual labour and trade. "The arts that are called mechanical," says Xenophon, "are also, and naturally enough, held in bad repute in our cities. For they spoil the bodies of workers and superintendents alike, compelling them to live sedentary indoor lives, and in some cases even to pass their days by the fire. And as their bodies become effeminate, so do their souls also grow less robust. Besides this, in such trades one has no leisure to devote to the care of one's friends or of one's city. So that those who engage in them are thought to be bad backers of their friends and bad defenders of their country." [Footnote: Xen. Oec. iv. 3.]

In a similar spirit Plato asserts that a life of drudgery disfigures the body and mars and enervates the soul; [Footnote: Plato, Rep. 495.] while Aristotle defines a mechanical trade as one which "renders the body and soul or intellect of free persons unfit for the exercise and practice of virtue;" [Footnote: Arist. Pol. V. 1337 b 8.--Translated by Welldon.] and denies to the artisan not merely the proper excellence of man, but any excellence of any kind, on the plea that his occupation and status is unnatural, and that he misses even that reflex of human virtue which a slave derives from his intimate connection with his master. [Footnote: Ibid. i. 1260 a 34.]

If then the artisan was excluded from the citizenship in some of the Greek states, and even in the most democratic of them never altogether threw off the stigma of inferiority attaching to his trade, the reason was that the life he was compelled to lead was incompatible with the Greek conception of excellence. That conception we will now proceed to examine a little more in detail.


Section 2. Appreciation of External Goods.

In the first place, the Greek ideal required for its realisation a solid basis of external Goods. It recognised frankly the dependence of man upon the world of sense, and the contribution to his happiness of elements over which he had at best but a partial control. Not that it placed his Good outside himself, in riches, power, and other such appendages; but that it postulated certain gifts of fortune as necessary means to his self-development. Of these the chief were, a competence, to secure him against sordid cares, health, to ensure his physical excellence, and children, to support and protect him in old age. Aristotle's definition of the happy man is "one whose activity accords with perfect virtue and who is adequately furnished with external goods, not for a casual period of time but for a complete or perfect life- time;" [Footnote: Arist. Ethics. I. ii. 1101 a 14.--Translated by Welldon.] and he remarks, somewhat caustically, that those who say that a man on the rack would be happy if only he were good, intentionally or unintentionally are talking nonsense. That here, as elsewhere, Aristotle represents the common Greek view we have abundant testimony from other sources. Even Plato, in whom there runs so clear a vein of asceticism, follows the popular judgment in reckoning high among goods, first, health, then beauty, then skill and strength in physical exercises, and lastly wealth, if it be not blind but illumined by the eye of reason. To these Goods must be added, to complete the scale, success and reputation, topics which are the constant theme of the poets' eulogy. "Two things alone there are," says Pindar, "that cherish life's bloom to its utmost sweetness amidst the fair flowers of wealth--to have good success and to win therefore fair fame;" [Footnote: Pind. Isth. iv. 14.-- Translated by E. Myers.] and the passage represents his habitual attitude. That the gifts of fortune, both personal and external, are an essential condition of excellence, is an axiom of the point of view of the Greeks. But on the other hand we never find them misled into the conception that such gifts are an end in themselves, apart from the personal qualities they are meant to support or adorn. The oriental ideal of unlimited wealth and power, enjoyed merely for its own sake, never appealed to their fine and lucid judgment. Nothing could better illustrate this point than the anecdote related by Herodotus of the interview between Solon and Croesus, King of Lydia. Croesus, proud of his boundless wealth, asks the Greek stranger who is the happiest man on earth? expecting to hear in reply his own name. Solon, however, answers with the name of Tellus, the Athenian, giving his reasons in the following speech:

"First, because his country was flourishing in his days, and he himself had sons both beautiful and good, and he lived to see children born to each of them, and these children all grew up; and further because, after a life spent in what our people look upon as comfort, his end was surpassingly glorious. In a battle between the Athenians and their neighbours near Eleusis, he came to the assistance of his countrymen, routed the foe, and died upon the field most gallantly. The Athenians gave him a public funeral on the spot where he fell, and paid him the highest honours."

Later on in the discussion Solon defines the happy man as he who "Is whole of limb, a stranger to disease, free from misfortune, happy in his children, and comely to look upon," and who also ends his life well. [Footnote: Herodotus, i. 30. 32.--Translated by Rawlinson]


Section 3. Appreciation of Physical Qualities.

While, however, the gifts of a happy fortune are an essential condition of the Greek ideal, they are not to be mistaken for the ideal itself. "A beautiful soul in a beautiful body," to recur to our former phrase, is the real end and aim of their endeavour. "Beautiful and good" is their habitual way of describing what we should call a gentleman; and no expression could better represent what they admired. With ourselves, in spite of our addiction to athletics, the body takes a secondary place; after a certain age, at least, there are few men who make its systematic cultivation an important factor of their life; and in our estimate of merit physical qualities are accorded either none or the very smallest weight. It was otherwise with the Greeks; to them a good body was the necessary correlative of a good soul. Balance was what they aimed at, balance and harmony; and they could scarcely believe in the beauty of the spirit, unless it were reflected in the beauty of the flesh. The point is well put by Plato, the most spiritually minded of the Greeks, and the least apt to underprize the qualities of the soul.

"Surely then," he says, "to him who has an eye to see, there can be no fairer spectacle than that of a man who combines the possession of moral beauty in his soul with outward beauty of form, corresponding and harmonizing with the former, because the same great pattern enters into both.

"There can be none so fair.

"And you will grant that what is fairest is loveliest?

"Undoubtedly it is.

"Then the truly musical person will love those who combine most perfectly moral and physical beauty, but will not love any one in whom there is dissonance.

"No, not if there be any defect in the soul, but if it is only a bodily blemish, he may so bear with it as to be willing to regard it with complacency.

"I understand that you have now, or have had, a favourite of this kind; so I give way." [Footnote: Plato, Rep. 402.--Translated by Davies and Vaughan.]

The reluctance of the admission that a physical defect may possibly be overlooked is as significant as the rest of the passage. Body and soul, it is clear, are regarded as aspects of a single whole, so that a blemish in the one indicates and involves a blemish in the other. The training of the body is thus, in a sense, the training of the soul, and gymnastic and music, as Plato puts it, serve the same end, the production of a harmonious temperament.


Section 4. Greek Athletics.

It is this conception which gives, or appears at least in the retrospect to give, a character so gracious and fine to Greek athletics. In fact, if we look more closely into the character of the public games in Greece we see that they were so surrounded and transfused by an atmosphere of imagination that their appeal must have been as much to the aesthetic as to the physical sense. For in the first place those great gymnastic contests in which all Hellas took part, and which gave the tone to their whole athletic life, were primarily religious festivals. The Olympic and Nemean Games were held in honour of Zeus, the Pythian, of Apollo, the Isthmean, of Poseidon. In the enclosures in which they took place stood temples of the gods; and sacrifice, prayer, and choral hymn were the back-ground against which they were set. And since in Greece religion implied art, in the wake of the athlete followed the sculptor and the poet. The colossal Zeus of Pheidias, the wonder of the ancient world, flashed from the precincts of Olympia its glory of ivory and gold; temples and statues broke the brilliant light into colour and form; and under that vibrating heaven of beauty, the loveliest nature crowned with the finest art, shifted and shone what was in itself a perfect type of both, the grace of harmonious motion in naked youths and men. For in Greek athletics, by virtue of the practice of contending nude, the contest itself became a work of art; and not only did sculptors draw from it an inspiration such as has been felt by no later age, but to the combatants themselves, and the spectators, the plastic beauty of the human form grew to be more than its prowess or its strength, and gymnastic became a training in aesthetics as much as, or more than, in physical excellence.

And as with the contest, so with the reward, everything was designed to appeal to the sensuous imagination. The prize formally adjudged was symbolical only, a crown of olive; but the real triumph of the victor was the ode in which his praise was sung, the procession of happy comrades, and the evening festival, when, as Pindar has it, "the lovely shining of the fair-faced moon beamed forth, and all the precinct sounded with songs of festal glee," [Footnote: Pindar, Ol. xi. 90.-- Translated by Myers] or "beside Kastaly in the evening his name burnt bright, when the glad sounds of the Graces rose." [Footnote: Pindar, Nem. 6. 65.]

Of the Graces! for these were the powers who presided over the world of Greek athletics. Here, for example, is the opening of one of Pindar's odes, typical of the spirit in which he at least conceived the functions of the chronicler of sport:

"O ye who haunt the land of goodly steeds that drinketh of Kephisos' waters, lusty Orchomenos' Queens renowned in song, O Graces, guardians of the Minyai's ancient race, hearken, for unto you I pray. For by your gift come unto men all pleasant things and sweet, and the wisdom of a man and his beauty, and the splendour of his fame. Yea, even gods without the Graces' aid rule never at feast or dance; but these have charge of all things done in heaven, and beside Pythian Apollo of the golden bow they have set their thrones, and worship the eternal majesty of the Olympian Father. O lady Aglaia, and thou Euphrosyne, lover of song, children of the mightiest of the gods, listen and hear, and thou Thalia delighting in sweet sounds, and look down upon this triumphal company, moving with light step under happy fate. In Lydian mood of melody concerning Asopichos am I come hither to sing, for that through thee, Aglaia, in the Olympic games the Minyai's home is winner." [Footnote: Pindar, Ol. xiv.--Translated by Myers.]

This is but a single passage among many that might be quoted to illustrate the point we are endeavouring to bring into relief--the conscious predominance in the Greek games of that element of poetry and art which is either not present at all in modern sport or at best is a happy accessory of chance. The modern man, and especially the Englishman, addicts himself to athletics, as to other avocations, with a certain stolidity of gaze on the immediate end which tends to confine him to the purely physical view of his pursuit. The Greek, an artist by nature, lifted his not less strenuous sports into an air of finer sentiment, touched them with the poetry of legend and the grace of art and song, and even to his most brutal contests--for brutal some of them were--imparted so rich an atmosphere of beauty, that they could be admitted as fit themes for dedication to the Graces by the choice and spiritual genius of Pindar.


Section 5. Greek Ethics--Identification of the Aesthetic and Ethical Points of View.

And as with the excellence of the body, so with that of the soul, the conception that dominated the mind of the Greeks was primarily aesthetic. In speaking of their religion we have already remarked that they had no sense of sin; and we may now add that they had no sense of duty. Moral virtue they conceived not as obedience to an external law, a sacrifice of the natural man to a power that in a sense is alien to himself, but rather as the tempering into due proportion of the elements of which human nature is composed. The good man was the man who was beautiful--beautiful in soul. "Virtue," says Plato, "will be a kind of health and beauty and good habit of the soul; and vice will be a disease and deformity and sickness of it." [Footnote: Plato, Rep. 444,-- Translated by Davies and Vaughan.] It follows that it is as natural to seek virtue and to avoid vice as to seek health and to avoid disease. There is no question of a struggle between opposite principles; the distinction of good and evil is one of order or confusion, among elements which in themselves are neither good nor bad.

This conception of virtue we find expressed in many forms, but always with the same underlying idea. A favourite watch-word with the Greeks is the "middle" or "mean", the exact point of rightness between two extremes. "Nothing in excess," was a motto inscribed over the temple of Delphi; and none could be more characteristic of the ideal of these lovers of proportion. Aristotle, indeed, has made it the basis of his whole theory of ethics. In his conception, virtue is the mean, vice the excess lying on either side--courage, for example, the mean between foolhardiness and cowardice, temperance, between incontinence and insensibility, generosity, between extravagance and meanness. The various phases of feeling and the various kinds of action he analyses minutely on this principle, understanding always by "the mean" that which adapts itself in the due proportion to the circumstances and requirements of every case.

The interest of this view for us lies in its assumption that it is not passions or desires in themselves that must be regarded as bad, but only their disproportional or misdirected indulgence. Let us take, for example, the case of the pleasures of sense. The puritan's rule is to abjure them altogether; to him they are absolutely wrong in themselves, apart from all considerations of time and place. Aristotle, on the contrary, enjoins not renunciation but temperance; and defines the temperate man as one who "holds a mean position in respect of pleasures. He takes no pleasure in the things in which the licentious man takes most pleasure; he rather dislikes them; nor does he take pleasure at all in wrong things, nor an excessive pleasure in anything that is pleasant, nor is he pained at the absence of such things, nor does he desire them, except perhaps in moderation, nor does he desire them more than is right, or at the wrong time, and so on. But he will be eager in a moderate and right spirit for all such things as are pleasant and at the same time conducive to health or to a sound bodily condition, and for all other pleasures, so long as they are not prejudicial to these or inconsistent with noble conduct or extravagant beyond his means. For unless a person limits himself in this way, he affects such pleasures more than is right, whereas the temperate man follows the guidance of right reason." [Footnote: Arist. Ethics. III. 14.--1119 a 11.--Translated by Welldon.]

As another illustration of this point of view, we may take the case of anger. The Christian rule is never to resent an injury, but rather, in the New Testament phrase, to "turn the other cheek." Aristotle, while blaming the man who is unduly passionate, blames equally the man who is insensitive; the thing to aim at is to be angry "on the proper occasions and with the proper people in the proper manner and for the proper length of time." And in this and all other cases the definition of what is proper must be left to the determination of "the sensible man."

Thus, in place of a series of hard and fast rules, a rigid and uncompromising distinction of acts and affections into good and bad, the former to be absolutely chosen and the latter absolutely eschewed, Aristotle presents us with the general type of a subtle and shifting problem, the solution of which must be worked out afresh by each individual in each particular case. Conduct to him is a free and living creature, and not a machine controlled by fixed laws. Every life is a work of art shaped by the man who lives it; according to the faculty of the artist will be the quality of his work, and no general rules can supply the place of his own direct perception at every turn. The Good is the right proportion, the right manner and occasion; the Bad is all that varies from this "right." But the elements of human nature in themselves are neither good nor bad; they are merely the raw material out of which the one or the other may be shaped.

The idea thus formulated by Aristotle is typically Greek. In another form it is the basis of the ethical philosophy of Plato, who habitually regards virtue as a kind of "order." "The virtue of each thing," he says, "whether body or soul, instrument or creature, when given to them in the best way comes to them not by chance but as the result of the order and truth and art which are imparted to them." [Footnote: Plato, Gorgias, 506 d.--Translated by Jowett] And the conception here indicated, is worked out in detail in his Republic. There, after distinguishing in the soul three principles or powers, reason, passion, and desire, he defines justice as the maintenance among them of their proper mutual relation, each moving in its own place and doing its appropriate work as is, or should be, the case with the different classes in a state.

"The just man will not permit the several principles within him to do any work but their own, nor allow the distinct classes in his soul to interfere with each other, but will really set his house in order; and having gained the mastery over himself, will so regulate his own character as to be on good terms with himself, and to set those three principles in tune together, as if they were verily three chords of a harmony, a higher and a lower and a middle, and whatever may lie between these; and after he has bound all these together, and reduced the many elements of his nature to a real unity, as a temperate and duly harmonized man, he will then at length proceed to do whatever he may have to do." [Footnote: Plato, Rep. IV. 443.--Translation by Davies and Vaughan.]

Plato, it is true, in other parts of his work, approaches more closely to the dualistic conception of an absolute opposition between good and bad principles in man. Yet even so, he never altogether abandons that aesthetic point of view which looks to the establishment of order among the conflicting principles rather than to the annihilation of one by the other in an internecine conflict. The point may be illustrated by the following passage, where the two horses represent respectively the elements of fleshly desire and spiritual passion, while the charioteer stands for the controlling reason; and where, it will be noticed, the ultimate harmony is achieved, not by the complete eradication of desire, but by its due subordination to the higher principle. Even Plato, the most ascetic of the Greeks, is a Greek first and an ascetic afterwards.

"Of the nature of the soul, though her true form be ever a theme of large and more than mortal discourse, let me speak briefly, and in a figure, and let the figure be composite--a pair of winged horses and a charioteer. Now the winged horses and the charioteers of the gods are all of them noble and of noble descent, but those of other races are mixed; the human charioteer drives his in a pair; and one of them is noble and of noble breed, and the other is ignoble and of ignoble breed; and the driving of them of necessity gives a great deal of trouble to him.... The right hand horse is upright and cleanly made; he has a lofty neck and an aquiline nose; his colour is white, and his eyes dark; he is a lover of honour and modesty and temperance, and the follower of true glory; he needs no touch of the whip, but is guided by word and admonition only. The other is a crooked lumbering animal, put together anyhow; he has a short thick neck; he is flat-faced and of a dark colour, with grey eyes and blood-red complexion; the mate of insolence and pride, shag-eared and deaf, hardly yielding to whip and spur. Now when the charioteer beholds the vision of love, and has his whole soul warmed through sense, and is full of, the prickings and ticklings of desire, the obedient steed, then as always under the government of shame, refrains from leaping on the beloved; but the other, heedless of the blows of the whip, plunges and runs away, giving all manner of trouble to his companion and the charioteer, whom he forces to approach the beloved and to remember the joys of love. They at first indignantly oppose him and will not be urged on to do terrible and unlawful deeds; but at last, when he persists in plaguing them, they yield and agree to do as he bids them. And now they are at the spot and behold the flashing beauty of the beloved; which when the charioteer sees, his memory is carried to the true beauty whom he beholds in company with Modesty like an image placed upon a holy pedestal He sees her, but he is afraid and falls backwards in adoration, and by his fall is compelled to pull back the reins with such violence as to bring both the steeds on their haunches, the one willing and unresisting, the unruly one very unwilling; and when they have gone back a little, the one is overcome with shame and wonder, and his whole soul is bathed in perspiration; the other, when the pain is over which the bridle and the fall had given him, having with difficulty taken breath, is full of wrath and reproaches, which he heaps upon the charioteer and his fellow-steed, for want of courage and manhood, declaring that they have been false to their agreement and guilty of desertion. Again they refuse, and again he urges them on, and will scarce yield to their prayer that he would wait until another time. When the appointed hour comes, they make as if they had forgotten, and he reminds them, fighting and neighing and dragging them on, until at length he on the same thoughts intent, forces them to draw near again. And when they are near he stoops his head and puts up his tail, and takes the bit in his teeth and pulls shamelessly. Then the charioteer is worse off than ever; he falls back like a racer at the barrier, and with a still more violent wrench drags the bit out of the teeth of the wild steed and covers his abusive jaws and tongue with blood, and forces his legs and haunches to the ground and punishes him sorely.

"And when this has happened several times and the villain has ceased from his wanton way, he is tamed and humbled and follows the will of the charioteer, and when he sees the beautiful one he is ready to die of fear. And from that time forward the soul of the lover follows the beloved in modesty and holy fear." [Footnote: Plato, Phaedrus. 246.-- Translated by Jowett.]

Even from this passage, in spite of its dualistic hypothesis, but far more clearly from the whole tenor of his work, we may perceive that Plato's description of virtue as an "order" of the soul is prompted by the same conception, characteristically Greek, as Aristotle's account of virtue as a "mean." The view, as we said at the beginning, is properly aesthetic rather than moral. It regards life less as a battle between two contending principles, in which victory means the annihilation of the one, the altogether bad, by the other, the altogether good, than as the maintenance of a balance between elements neutral in themselves but capable, according as their relations are rightly ordered or the reverse, of producing either that harmony which is called virtue, or that discord which is called vice.

Such being the conception of virtue characteristic of the Greeks, it follows that the motive to pursue it can hardly have presented itself to them in the form of what we call the "sense of duty." For duty emphasises self-repression. Against the desires of man it sets a law of prohibition, a law which is not conceived as that of his own complete nature, asserting against a partial or disproportioned development the balance and totality of the ideal, but rather as a rule imposed from without by a power distinct from himself, for the mortification, not the perfecting, of his natural impulses and aims. Duty emphasises self- repression; the Greek view emphasised self-development. That "health and beauty and good habit of the soul," which is Plato's ideal, is as much its own recommendation tion to the natural man as is the health and beauty of the body. Vice, on this view, is condemned because it is a frustration of nature, virtue praised because it is her fulfilment; and the motive throughout is simply that passion to realise oneself which is commonly acknowledged as sufficient in the case of physical development, and which appeared sufficient to the Greeks in the case of the development of the soul.


Section 6. The Greek View of Pleasure.

From all this it follows clearly enough that the Greek ideal was far removed from asceticism; but it might perhaps be supposed, on the other hand, that it came dangerously near to license. Nothing, however, could be further from the case. That there were libertines among the Greeks, as everywhere else, goes without saying; but the conception that the Greek rule of life was to follow impulse and abandon restraint is a figment of would-be "Hellenists" of our own time. The word which best sums up the ideal of the Greeks is "temperance"; "the mean," "order," "harmony," as we saw, are its characteristic expressions; and the self- realisation to which they aspired was not an anarchy of passion, but an ordered evolution of the natural faculties under the strict control of a balanced mind. The point may be illustrated by a reference to the treatment of pleasure in the philosophy of Plato and of Aristotle.

The practice of the libertine is to identify pleasure and good in such a manner that he pursues at any moment any pleasure that presents itself, eschewing comparison and reflection, with all that might tend to check that continuous flow of vivid and fresh sensations which he postulates as the end of life. The ideal of the Greeks, on the contrary, as interpreted by their two greatest thinkers, while on the one hand it is so far opposed to asceticism that it requires pleasure as an essential complement of Good, on the other, is so far from identifying the two, that it recognises an ordered scale of pleasures, and while rejecting altogether those at the lower end, admits the rest, not as in themselves constituting the Good, but rather as harmless additions or at most as necessary accompaniments of its operation. Plato, in the Republic, distinguishes between the necessary and unnecessary pleasures, defining the former as those derived from the gratification of appetites "which we cannot get rid of and whose satisfaction does us good"--such, for example, as the appetite for wholesome food; and the latter as those which belong to appetites "which we can put away from us by early training; and the presence of which, besides, never does us any good, and in some cases does positive harm,"--such, for example, as the appetite for delicate and luxurious dishes. [Footnote: Plato, Rep. VIII. 558.--Translated by Davies and Vaughan.] The former he would admit, the latter he excludes from his ideal of happiness. And though in a later dialogue, the Philebus, he goes further than this, and would exclude from the perfect life all pleasures except those which he describes as "pure," that is those which attend upon the contemplation of form and colour and sound, or which accompany intellectual activity; yet here, no doubt, he is passing beyond the sphere of the practicable ideal, and his distinct personal bias towards asceticism must be discounted if we are to take him as representative of the Greek view. His general contention, however, that pleasures must be ranked as higher and as lower, and that at the best they are not to be identified with the Good, is fully accepted by so typical a Greek as Aristotle. Aristotle, however, is careful not to condemn any pleasure that is not definitely harmful. Even "unnecessary" pleasures, he admits, may be desirable in themselves; even the deliberate creation of desire with a view to the enjoyment of satisfying it may be admissible if it is not injurious. Still, there are kinds of pleasures which ought not to be pursued, and occasions and methods of seeking it which are improper and perverse. Therefore the Reason must be always at hand to check and to control; and the ultimate test of true worth in pleasure, as in everything else, is the trained judgment of the good and sensible man.


Section 7. Illustrations--Ischomachus; Socrates.

Such, then, was the character of the Greek conception of excellence. The account we have given may seem somewhat abstract and ideal; but it gives the general formula of the life which every cultivated Greek would at any rate have wished to live. And in confirmation of this point we may adduce the testimony of Xenophon, who has left us a description, evidently drawn from life, of what he conceives to be the perfect type of a "gentleman."

The interest of the account lies in the fact, that Xenophon himself was clearly an "average" Greek, one, that is to say, of good natural parts, of perfectly normal faculties and tastes, undisturbed by any originality of character or mind, and representing therefore, as we may fairly assert, the ordinary views and aims of an upright and competent man of the world. His description of the "gentleman," therefore, may be taken as a representative account of the recognised ideal of all that class of Athenian citizens. And this is how the gentleman in question, Ischomachus, describes his course of life.

"In the first place," he says, "I worship the gods. Next, I endeavour to the best of my ability, assisted by prayer, to get health and strength of body, reputation in the city, good will among my friends, honourable security in battle and an honourable increase of fortune."

At this point Socrates, who is supposed to be the interlocutor, interrupts. "Do you really covet wealth," he asks, "with all the trouble it involves?" "Certainly I do," is the reply, "for it enables me to honour the gods magnificently, to help my friends if they are in want, and to contribute to the resources of my country."

Here definitely and precisely expressed is the ideal of the Athenian gentleman--the beautiful body housing the beautiful soul, the external aids of fortune, friends, and the like, and the realisation of the individual self in public activity. Upon it follows an account of the way in which Ischomachus was accustomed to pass his days. He rises early, he tells us, to catch his friends before they go out, or walks to the city to transact his necessary business. If he is not called into town, he pays a visit to his farm, walking for the sake of exercise and sending on his horse. On his arrival he gives directions about the sowing, ploughing, or whatever it may be, and then mounting his horse practices his military exercises. Finally he returns home on foot, running part of the way, takes his bath, and sits down to a moderate midday meal.

This combination of physical exercise, military training and business, arouses the enthusiasm of Socrates. "How right you are!" he cries, "and the consequence is that you are as healthy and strong as we see you, and one of the best riders and the wealthiest men in the country!"

This little prosaic account of the daily life of an Athenian gentleman is completely in harmony with all we have said about the character of the Greek ideal; but it comprehends only a part, and that the least spiritual, of that rich and many-sided excellence. It may be as well, therefore, to append by way of complement the description of another personality, exceptional indeed even among the Greeks, yet one which only Greece could have produced--the personality of Socrates. No more striking figure is presented to us in history, none has been more vividly portrayed, and none, in spite of the originality of mind which provoked the hostility of the crowd, is more thoroughly Hellenic in every aspect, physical, intellectual, and moral.

That Socrates was ugly in countenance was a defect which a Greek could not fail to note, and his snub nose and big belly are matters of frequent and jocose allusion. But apart from these defects his physique, it appears, was exceptionally good; he was sedulous in his attendance at the gymnasia, and was noted for his powers of endurance and his courage and skill in war. Plato records it of him that in a hard winter on campaign, when the common soldiers were muffling themselves in sheepskins and felt against the cold, he alone went about in his ordinary cloak, and barefoot over the ice and snow; and he further describes his bearing in a retreat from a lost battle, how "there you might see him, just as he is in the streets of Athens, stalking like a pelican and rolling his eyes, calmly contemplating enemies as well as friends, and making very intelligible to anybody, even from a distance, that whoever attacked him would be likely to meet with a stout resistance." [Footnote: Plato, Symp. 221 b.--Translated by Jowett.]

To this efficiency of body corresponded, in accordance with the Greek ideal, a perfect balance and harmony of soul. Plato, in a fine figure, compares him to the wooden statues of Silenus, which concealed behind a grotesque exterior beautiful golden images of the gods. Of these divine forms none was fairer in Socrates than that typical Greek virtue, temperance. Without a touch of asceticism, he knew how to be contented with a little. His diet he measured strictly with a view to health. Naturally abstemious, he could drink, when he chose, more than another man; but no one had ever seen him drunk. His affections were strong and deep, but never led him away to seek his own gratification at the cost of those he loved. Without cutting himself off from any of the pleasures of life, a social man and a frequent guest at feasts, he preserved without an effort the supremacy of character and mind over the flesh he neither starved nor pampered. Here is a description by Plato of his bearing at the close of an all-night carouse, which may stand as a concrete illustration not only of the character of Socrates, but of the meaning of "temperance" as it was understood by the Greeks:

"Aristodemus said that Eryximachus, Phaedrus, and others went away--he himself fell asleep, and as the nights were long took a good rest: he was awakened towards day-break by a crowing of cocks, and when he awoke the others were either asleep, or had gone away; there remained awake only Socrates, Aristophanes, and Agathon, who were drinking out of a large goblet which they passed round, and Socrates was discoursing to them. Aristodemus did not hear the beginning of the discourse, and he was only half awake, but the chief thing which he remembered was Socrates compelling the other two to acknowledge that the genius of comedy was the same as that of tragedy, and that the true artist in tragedy was an artist in comedy also. To this they assented, being drowsy, and not quite following the argument. And first of all Aristophanes dropped off, then, when the day was already dawning, Agathon. Socrates, when he had laid them to sleep, rose to depart: Aristodemus, as his manner was, following him. At the Lyceum he took a bath, and passed the day as usual. In the evening he retired to rest at his own house." [Footnote: Plato, Symposion, 223.--Translated by Jowett.]

With this quality of temperance was combined in Socrates a rare measure of independence and moral courage. He was never an active politician; but as every Athenian citizen was called, at some time or another, to public office, he found himself, on a critical occasion, responsible for putting a certain proposition to the vote in the Assembly. It was a moment of intense excitement. A great victory had just been won; but the generals who had achieved the success had neglected to recover the corpses of the dead or to save the ship-wrecked. It was proposed to take a vote of life or death on all the generals collectively. Socrates, as it happened, was one of the committee whose duty it was to put the question to the Assembly. But the proposition was in itself illegal, and Socrates with some other members of the committee, refused to submit it to the vote. Every kind of pressure was brought to bear upon the recalcitrant officers; orators threatened, friends besought, the mob clamoured and denounced. Finally all but Socrates gave way. He alone, an old man, in office for the first time, had the courage to obey his conscience and the law in face of an angry populace crying for blood.

And as he could stand against a mob, so he could stand against a despot. At the time when Athens was ruled by the thirty tyrants he was ordered, with four others, to arrest a man whom the authorities wished to put out of the way. The man was guilty of no crime, and Socrates refused. "I went quietly home," he says, "and no doubt I should have been put to death for it, if the government had not shortly after come to an end."

These, however, were exceptional episodes in the career of a man who was never a prominent politician. The main interest of Socrates was intellectual and moral; an interest, however, rather practical than speculative. For though he was charged in his indictment with preaching atheism, he appears in fact to have concerned himself little or nothing with either theological or physical inquiries. He was careful in his observance of all prescribed religious rites, and probably accepted the gods as powers of the natural world and authors of human institutions and laws. His originality lay not in any purely speculative views, but in the pertinacious curiosity, practical in its origin and aim, with which he attacked and sifted the ethical conceptions of his time: "What is justice?" "What is piety?" "What is temperance?"--these were the kinds of questions he never tired of raising, pointing out contradictions and inconsistencies in current ideas, and awakening doubts which if negative in form were positive and fruitful in effect.

His method in pursuing these inquiries was that of cross-examination. In the streets, in the market, in the gymnasia, at meetings grave and gay, in season or out of season, he raised his points of definition. The city was in a ferment around him. Young men and boys followed and hung on his lips wherever he went. By the charm of his personality, his gracious courtesy and wit, and the large and generous atmosphere of a sympathy always at hand to temper to particular persons the rigours of a generalising logic, he drew to himself, with a fascination not more of the intellect than of the heart, all that was best and brightest in the youth of Athens. His relation to his young disciples was that of a lover and a friend; and the stimulus given by his dialectics to their keen and eager minds was supplemented and reinforced by the appeal to their admiration and love of his sweet and virile personality.

Only in Ancient Athens, perhaps, could such a character and such conditions have met. The sociable out-door city life; the meeting places in the open air, and especially the gymnasia, frequented by young and old not more for exercise of the body than for recreation of the mind; the nimble and versatile Athenian wits trained to preternatural acuteness by the debates of the law courts and the Assembly; all this was exactly the environment fitted to develop and sustain a genius at once so subtle and so humane as that of Socrates. It is the concrete presentation of this city-life that lends so peculiar a charm to the dialogues of Plato. The spirit of metaphysics puts on the human form; and Dialectic walks the streets and contends in the palaestra. It would be impossible to convey by citation the cumulative effect of this constant reference in Plato to a human background; but a single excerpt may perhaps help us to realise the conditions under which Socrates lived and worked. Here, then, is a description of the scene in one of those gymnasia in which he was wont to hold his conversations:

"Upon entering we found that the boys had just been sacrificing; and this part of the festival was nearly at an end. They were all in white array, and games at dice were going on among them. Most of them were in the outer court amusing themselves; but some were in a corner of the Apodyterium playing at odd and even with a number of dice, which they took out of little wicker baskets. There was also a circle of lookers- on, one of whom was Lysis. He was standing among the other boys and youths, having a crown upon his head, like a fair vision, and not less worthy of praise for his goodness than for his beauty. We left them, and went over to the opposite side of the room, where, finding a quiet place, we sat down; and then we began to talk. This attracted Lysis, who was constantly turning round to look at us--he was evidently wanting to come to us. For a time he hesitated and had not the courage to come alone; but first of all, his friend Menexenus came in out of the court in the interval of his play, and when he saw Ctesippus and myself, came and sat by us; and then Lysis, seeing him, followed, and sat down with him, and the other boys joined.

"I turned to Menexenus, and said: 'Son of Demophon, which of you two youths is the elder?'

"'That is a matter of dispute between us,' he said.

"'And which is the nobler? Is that a matter of dispute too?'

"'Yes, certainly.'

"'And another disputed point is, which is the fairer?'

"The two boys laughed.

"'I shall not ask which is the richer,' I said; 'for you two are friends, are you not?'

"'Certainly,' they replied.

"'And friends have all things in common, so that one of you can be no richer than the other, if you say truly that you are friends.'

"They assented. I was about to ask which was the greater of the two, and which was the wiser of the two; but at this moment Menexenus was called away by some one who came and said that the gymnastic-master wanted him. I supposed that he had to offer sacrifice. So he went away and I asked Lysis some more questions." [Footnote: Plato, Lysis 206 e.--Translated by Jowett]

Such were the scenes in which Socrates passed his life. Of his influence it is hardly necessary here to speak at length. In the well-known metaphor put into his mouth by Plato, he was the "gad-fly" of the Athenian people. To prick intellectual lethargy, to force people to think, and especially to think about the conceptions with which they supposed themselves to be most familiar, those which guided their conduct in private and public affairs--justice expediency, honesty, and the like--such was the constant object of his life. That he should have made enemies, that he should have been misunderstood, that he should have been accused of undermining the foundations of morality and religion, is natural and intelligible enough; and it was on these grounds that he was condemned to death. His conduct at his trial was of a piece with the rest of his life. The customary arts of the pleader, the appeal to the sympathies of the public, the introduction into court of weeping wife and children, he rejected as unworthy of himself and of his cause. His defence was a simple exposition of the character and the aims of his life; so far from being a criminal he asserted that he was a benefactor of the Athenian people; and having, after his condemnation, to suggest the sentence he thought appropriate, he proposed that he should be supported at the public expense as one who had deserved well of his country. After his sentence to death, having to wait thirty days for its execution, he showed no change from his customary cheerfulness, passing his time in conversation with his friends. So far from regretting his fate he rather congratulated himself that he would escape the decadence that attends upon old age; and he had, if we may trust Plato, a fair and confident assurance that a happy life awaited him beyond. He died, according to the merciful law of Athens, by drinking hemlock; "the wisest and justest and best," in Plato's judgment, "of all the men that I have ever known."

We have dwelt thus long on the personality of Socrates, familiar though it be, not only on account of its intrinsic interest, but also because it is peculiarly Hellenic. That sunny and frank intelligence, bathed, as it were, in the open air, a gracious blossom springing from the root of physical health, that unique and perfect balance of body and soul, passion and intellect, represent, against the brilliant setting of Athenian life, the highest achievement of the civilisation of Greece. The figure of Socrates, no doubt, has been idealised by Plato, but it is none the less significant of the trend of Hellenic life. No other people could have conceived such an ideal; no other could have gone so far towards its realisation.


Section 8. The Greek View of Woman.

In the preceding account we have attempted to give some conception of the Greek ideal for the individual man. It is now time to remind ourselves that that ideal was only supposed to be proper to a small class--the class of soldier-citizens. Artisans and slaves, as we have seen, had no participation in it; neither, and that is our next point, had women.

Nothing more profoundly distinguishes the Hellenic from the modern view of life than the estimate in which women were held by the Greeks. Their opinion on this point was partly the cause and partly the effect of that preponderance of the idea of the State on which we have already dwelt, and from which it followed naturally enough that marriage should be regarded primarily as a means of producing healthy and efficient citizens. This view is best illustrated by the institutions of such a State as Sparta, where, as we saw, the woman was specially trained for maternity, and connections outside the marriage tie were sanctioned by custom and opinion, if they were such as were likely to lead to healthy offspring. Further it may be noted that in almost every State the exposure of deformed or sickly infants was encouraged by law, the child being thus regarded, from the beginning, as a member of the State, rather than as a member of the family.

The same view is reflected in the speculations of political philosophers. Plato, indeed, in his Republic, goes so far as to eliminate the family relation altogether. Not only is the whole connection between men and women to be regulated by the State, in respect both of the persons and of the limit of age within which they may associate, but the children as soon as they are born are to be carried off to a common nursery, there to be reared together, undistinguished by the mothers, who will suckle indifferently any infant that might happen to be assigned to them for the purpose. Here, as in other instances, Plato goes far beyond the limits set by the current sentiment of the Greeks, and in his later work is reluctantly constrained to abandon his scheme of community of wives and children. Yet even there he makes it compulsory on every man to marry between the ages of thirty and thirty-five, under penalty of fine and civil disabilities. Plato, no doubt, as we have said, exaggerates the opinions of his time; but the view, which he pushes to its extreme, of the subordination of the family to the State, was one, as we have already pointed out, which did predominate in Greece. It reappears in a soberer form in the treatise of Aristotle. He too would regulate by law both the age at which marriages should take place and the number of children that should be produced, and would have all deformed infants exposed. And here, no doubt, he is speaking in conformity if not with the practice, at least with the feeling of Greece. The modern conception that the marriage relation is a matter of private concern, and that any individual has a right to wed whom and when he will, and to produce children at his own discretion, regardless of all considerations of health and decency, was one altogether alien to the Greeks. In theory at least, and to some extent in practice (as for example in the case of Sparta), they recognised that the production of children was a business of supreme import to the State, and that it was right and proper that it should be regulated by law with a view to the advantage of the whole community.

* * * * *


And if now we turn from considering the family in its relation to the State to regard it in its relation to the individual, we are struck once more by a divergence from the modern point of view, or rather from the view which is supposed to prevail, particularly by writers of fiction, at any rate in modern English life. In ancient Greece, so far as our knowledge goes, there was little or no romance connected with the marriage tie. Marriage was a means of producing legitimate children; that is how it is defined by Demosthenes; and we have no evidence that it was ever regarded as anything more. In Athens we know that marriages were commonly arranged by the father, much as they are in modern France, on grounds of age, property, connection and the like, and without any regard for the inclination of the parties concerned. And an interesting passage in Xenophon indicates a point of view quite consonant with this accepted practice. God, he says, ordained the institution of marriage; but on what grounds? Not in the least for the sake of the personal relation that might be established between the husband and wife, but for ends quite external and indifferent to any affection that might exist between them. First, for the perpetuation of the human race; secondly, to raise up protectors for the father in his old age; thirdly, to secure an appropriate division of labour, the man performing the outdoor work, the woman guarding and superintending at home, and each thus fulfilling duly the function for which they were designed by nature. This eminently prosaic way of conceiving the marriage relation, is also, it would seem, eminently Greek; and it leads us to consider more particularly the opinion prevalent in Greece of the nature and duty of woman in general.

Here the first point to be noticed is the wide difference of the view represented in the Homeric poems from that which meets us in the historic period. Readers of the Iliad and the Odyssey will find depicted there, amid all the barbarity of an age of rapine and war, relations between men and women so tender, faithful and beautiful, that they may almost stand as universal types of the ultimate human ideal. Such for example is the relation between Odysseus and Penelope, the wife waiting year by year for the husband whose fate is unknown, wooed in vain by suitors who waste her substance and wear her life, nightly "watering her bed with her tears" for twenty weary years, till at last the wanderer returns, and "at once her knees were loosened and her heart melted within her... and she fell a weeping and ran straight towards him, and cast her hands about his neck, and kissed his head;" for "even as the sight of the land is welcome to mariners, so welcome to her was the sight of her lord, and her white arms would never quite leave hold of his neck." [Footnote: Odyss. xxiii. 205, 231.--Translated by Butcher and Lang.]

Such, again, is the relation between Hector and Andromache as described in the well-known scene of the Iliad, where the wife comes out with her babe to take leave of the husband on his way to battle. "It were better for me," she cries, "to go down to the grave if I lose thee; for never will any comfort be mine, when once thou, even thou, hast met thy fate, but only sorrow..... Thou art to me father and lady mother, yea, and brother, even as thou art my goodly husband. Come now, have pity and abide here upon the tower, lest thou make thy child an orphan and thy wife a widow." Hector answers with the plea of honour. He cannot draw back, but he foresees defeat; and in his anticipation of the future nothing is so bitter as the fate he fears for his wife. "Yet doth the conquest of the Trojans hereafter not so much trouble me, neither Hekabe's own, neither King Priam's, neither my brethren's, the many and brave that shall fall in the dust before their foemen, as doth thine anguish in the day when some mail-clad Achaian shall lead thee weeping and rob thee of the light of freedom.... But me in death may the heaped- up earth be covering, ere I hear thy crying and thy carrying into captivity." [Footnote: Iliad vi. 450.--Translated by Lang, Leaf and Myers.]

But most striking of all the portraits of women to be found in Homer, and most typical of a frank and healthy relation between the sexes, is the account of Nausicaa given in the Odyssey. Ulysses, shipwrecked and naked, battered and covered with brine, surprises Nausicaa and her maidens as they are playing at ball on the shore. The attendants run away, but Nausicaa remains to hear what the stranger has to say. He asks her for shelter and clothing; and she grants the request with an exquisite courtesy and a freedom from all embarrassment which becomes only the more marked and the more delightful when, as she sees him emerge from the bath, clothed and beautiful, she cannot restrain the exclamation "would that such a one might be called my husband, dwelling here, and that it might please him here to abide." [Footnote: Od. vi. 244.--Translated by Butcher and Lang.] About the whole scene there is a freshness and a fragrance as of early morning, and a tone so natural, free and frank, that in the face of this rustic idyl the later centuries sicken and faint, like candle-light in the splendour of the dawn.

If we had only Homer to give us our ideas of the Greeks, we might conclude, from such passages as these, that they had a conception of woman and of her relation to man, finer and nobler, in some respects, than that of modern times. But in fact the Homeric poems represent a civilisation which had passed away before the opening of the period with which at present we are chiefly concerned. And in the interval, for reasons which we need not here attempt to state, a change had taken place in the whole way of regarding the female sex. So far, at any rate, as our authorities enable us to judge, woman, in the historic age, was conceived to be so inferior to man that he recognised in her no other end than to minister to his pleasure or to become the mother of his children. Romance and the higher companionship of intellect and spirit do not appear (with certain notable exceptions) to have been commonly sought or found in this relation.

Woman, in fact, was regarded as a means, not as an end; and was treated in a manner consonant with this view. Of this estimate many illustrations might be adduced from the writers of the fifth and fourth centuries. Plato, for example, classes together "children, women, and servants," [Footnote: Plato, Republic 431 c.] and states generally that there is no branch of human industry in which the female sex is not inferior to the male. [Footnote: Ibid. 455 c.] Similarly, Aristotle insists again and again on the natural inferiority of woman, and illustrates it by such quaint observations as the following: "a man would be considered a coward who was only as brave as a brave woman, and a woman as a chatterbox who was only as modest as a good man." [Footnote: Arist. Pol. III. 1277 b 21.--Translated by Welldon.] But the most striking example, perhaps, because the most unconscious, of this habitual way of regarding women is to be found in the funeral oration put by Thucydides into the mouth of Pericles, where the speaker, after suggesting what consolation he can to the fathers of the slain, turns to the women with the brief but significant exhortation: "If I am to speak of womanly virtues to those of you who will henceforth be widows, let me sum them up in one short admonition: To a woman not to show more weakness than is natural to her sex is a great glory, and not to be talked about for good or for evil among men." [Footnote: Thucydides ii. 45.--Translated by Jowett.]

The sentiments of the poets are less admissible as evidence. But some of them are so extreme that they may be adduced as a further indication of a point of view whose prevalence alone could render them even dramatically plausible. Such for example is the remark which Euripides puts into the mouth of his Medea--"women are impotent for good, but clever contrivers of all evil" [Footnote: Euripides, Medea. 406.]; or that of one of the characters of Menander, "a woman is necessarily an evil, and he is a lucky man who catches her in the mildest form." While the general Greek view of the dependence of woman on man is well expressed in the words of Aethra, in the "Suppliants" of Euripides--"it is proper for women who are wise to let men act for them in everything." [Footnote: Euripides, Hik. 40.]

In accordance with this conception of the inferiority of the female sex, and partly as a cause, partly as an effect of it, we find that the position of the wife in ancient Greece was simply that of the domestic drudge. To stay at home and mind the house was her recognised ideal. "A free woman should be bounded by the street door," says one of the characters in Menander; and another writer discriminates as follows the functions of the two sexes:--"War, politics, and public speaking are the sphere of man; that of woman is to keep house, to stay at home and to receive and tend her husband." We are not surprised, therefore, to find that the symbol of woman is the tortoise; and in the following burlesque passage from Aristophanes we shall recognise, in spite of the touch of caricature, the genuine features of the Greek wife. Praxagora is recounting the merits and services of women:

"They dip their wool in hot water according to the ancient plan, all of them without exception, and never make the slightest innovation. They sit and cook, as of old. They carry upon their heads, as of old. They conduct the Themophoriae, as of old. They wear out their husbands, as of old. They buy sweets, as of old. They take their wine neat, as of old." [Footnote: Aristophanes, Eccles. 215.]

And that this was also the kind of ideal approved by their lords and masters, and that any attempt to pass beyond it was resented, is amusingly illustrated in the following extract from the same poet, where Lysistrata explains the growing indignation of the women at the bad conduct of affairs by the men, and the way in which their attempts to interfere were resented. The comments of the "magistrate" typify, of course, the man's point of view.

"Think of our old moderation and gentleness, think how we bore with your pranks, and were still, All through the days of your former prognacity, all through the war that is over and spent: Not that (be sure) we approved of your policy; never our griefs you allowed us to vent. Well we perceived your mistakes and mismanagement. Often at home on our housekeeping cares, Often we heard of some foolish proposal you made for conducting the public affairs. Then would we question you mildly and pleasantly, inwardly grieving, but outwardly gay; 'Husband, how goes it abroad?' we would ask of him; 'what have ye done in Assembly to-day?' 'What would ye write on the side of the Treaty-stone?' Husband says angrily, 'What's that to you? You hold your tongue!' And I held it accordingly.

  STRATYLLIS.

That is a thing which I never would do!

  MAGISTRATE.

Ma'am, if you hadn't you'd soon have repented it.

  LYSISTRATA.

Therefore I held it, and spake not a word. Soon of another tremendous absurdity, wilder and worse than the former we heard. 'Husband,' I say, with a tender solicitude, 'Why have you passed such a foolish decree?' Viciously, moodily, glaring askance at me, 'Stick to your spinning, my mistress,' says he, 'Else you will speedily find it the worse for you! war is the care and the business of men!'

  MAGISTRATE.

Zeus! 'twas a worthy reply, and an excellent!

  LYSISTRATA.

What! you unfortunate, shall we not then, Then, when we see you perplexed and incompetent, shall we not tender advice to the state!" [Footnote: Aristoph. Lysistrata. 507.--Translated by B. B. Rogers.]

The conception thus indicated in burlesque of the proper place of woman is expressed more seriously, from the point of view of the average man in the "Oeconomicus" of Xenophon. Ischomachus, the hero of that work, with whom we have already made acquaintance, gives an account of his own wife, and of the way in which he had trained her. When he married her, he explains, she was not yet fifteen, and had been brought up with the utmost care "that she might see, hear, and ask as little as possible." Her accomplishments were weaving and a sufficient acquaintance with all that concerns the stomach; and her attitude towards her husband she expressed in the single phrase: "Everything rests with you; my duty, my mother said, is simply to be modest." Ischomachus proceeds to explain to her the place he expects her to fill; she is to suckle his children, to cook, and to superintend the house; and for this purpose God has given her special gifts, different from but not necessarily inferior to those of man. Husband and wife naturally supply one another's deficiencies; and if the wife perform her function worthily she may even make herself the ruling partner, and be sure that as she grows older she will be held not less but more in honour, as the guardian of her children and the stewardess of her husband's goods.--In Xenophon's view, in fact, the inferiority of the woman almost disappears; and the sentiment approximates closely to that of Tennyson--

  "either sex alone

Is half itself, and in true marriage lies Nor equal, nor unequal: each fulfils Defect in each."

Such a conception, however, of the "complementary" relation of woman to man, does not exclude a conviction of her essential inferiority. And this conviction, it can hardly be disputed, was a cardinal point in the Greek view of life.


Section 9. Protests against the Common View of Woman.

Nevertheless, there are not wanting indications, both in theory and practice, of a protest against it. In Sparta as we have already noticed, girls, instead of being confined to the house, were brought up in the open air among the boys, trained in gymnastics and accustomed to run and wrestle naked. And Plato, modelling his view upon this experience, makes no distinction of the sexes in his ideal republic. Women, he admits, are generally inferior to men, but they have similar, if lower, capacities and powers. There is no occupation or art for which they may not be fitted by nature and education; and he would therefore have them take their share in government and war, as well as in the various mechanical trades." None of the occupations," he says, "which comprehend the ordering of a state, belong to woman as woman, nor yet to man as man; but natural gifts are to be found here and there, in both sexes alike; and, so far as her nature is concerned, the woman is admissible to all pursuits as well as the man; though in all of them the woman is weaker than the man." [Footnote: Plato, Rep, 455 d.--Translated by Davies and Vaughan.]

In adopting this attitude Plato stands alone not only among Greeks, but one might almost say, among mankind, till we come to the latest views of the nineteenth century. But there is another Greek, the poet Euripides, who, without advancing any theory about the proper position of women, yet displays so intimate an understanding of their difficulties, and so warm and close a sympathy with their griefs, that some of his utterances may stand to all time as documents of the dumb and age-long protest of the weaker against the stronger sex. In illustration we may cite the following lines from the "Medea," applicable, mutatis mutandis, to how many generations of suffering wives?

"Of all things that have life and sense we women are most wretched. For we are compelled to buy with gold a husband who is also--worst of all!-- the master of our person. And on his character, good or bad, our whole fate depends. For divorce is regarded as a disgrace to a woman and she cannot repudiate her husband. Then coming as she does into the midst of manners and customs strange to her, she would need the gift of divination--unless she has been taught at home--to know how best to treat her bed-fellow. And if we manage so well that our husband remains faithful to us, and does not break away, we may think ourselves fortunate; if not, there is nothing for it but death. A man when he is vexed at home can go out and find relief among his friends or acquaintances; but we women have none to look to but him. They tell us we live a sheltered life at home while they go to the wars; but that is nonsense. For I would rather go into battle thrice than bear a child once." [Footnote: Euripides, Med. 230.]

Hitherto we have been speaking mainly of the position of the wife in Greece. It is necessary now to say a few words about that class of women who were called in the Greek tongue Hetaerae; and who are by some supposed to have represented, intellectually at least, a higher level of culture than the other members of their sex. In exceptional cases, this, no doubt, was the fact. Aspasia, for example, the mistress of Pericles, was famous for her powers of mind. According to Plato she was an accomplished rhetorician, and the real composer of the celebrated funeral oration of Pericles; and Plutarch asserts that she was courted and admired by the statesmen and philosophers of Greece. But Aspasia cannot be taken as a type of the Hetaerae of Greece. That these women, by the variety and freedom of their life, may and must have acquired certain qualities of character and mind that could hardly be developed in the seclusion of the Greek home, may readily be admitted; we know, for example, that they cultivated music and the power of conversation; and were welcome guests at supper-parties. But we have no evidence that the relations which they formed rested as a rule on any but the simplest physical basis. The real distinction, under this head, between the Greek point of view and our own, appears to lie rather in the frankness with which this whole class of relations was recognised by the Greeks. There were temples in honour of Aphrodite Pandemos, the goddess of illicit love, and festivals celebrated in her honour; statues were erected of famous courtesans, of Phryne for example, at Delphi, between two kings; and philosophers and statesmen lived with their mistresses openly, without any loss of public reputation. Every man, said the orator Demosthenes, requires besides his wife at least two mistresses; and this statement, made as a matter of course in open court, is perhaps the most curious illustration we possess of the distinction between the Greek civilisation and our own, as regards not the fact itself but the light in which it was viewed.


Section 10. Friendship.

From what has been said about the Greek view of women, it might naturally have been supposed that there can have been little place in their life for all that we designate under the term "romance." Personal affection, as we have seen, was not the basis of married life; and relations with Hetaerae appear to have been, in this respect, no finer or higher than similar relations in our own times. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to conclude, from these conditions, that the element of romance was absent from Greek life. The fact is simply that with them it took a different form, that of passionate friendship between men. Such friendships, of course, occur in all nations and at all times, but among the Greeks they were, we might say, an institution. Their ideal was the development and education of the younger by the older man, and in this view they were recognised and approved by custom and law as an important factor in the state. In Sparta, for example, it was the rule that every boy had attached to him some elder youth by whom he was constantly attended, admonished, and trained, and who shared in public estimation the praise and blame of his acts; so that it is even reported that on one occasion a Spartan boy having cried out in a fight, not he himself but his friend was fined for the lapse of self-control. The custom of Sparta existed also in Crete. But the most remarkable instance of the deliberate dedication of this passion to political and military ends is that of the celebrated "Theban band," a troop consisting exclusively of pairs of lovers, who marched and fought in battle side by side, and by their presence and example inspired one another to a courage so constant and high that "it is stated that they were never beaten till the battle at Chaeronea: and when Philip, after the fight, took a view of the slain, and came to the place where the three hundred that fought his phalanx lay dead together, he wondered, and understanding that it was the band of lovers, he shed tears, and said, "Perish any man who suspects that these men either did or suffered anything that was base." [Footnote: Plutarch, Pelopidas. ch. 18.--Ed. by Clough.]

Greek legend and history, in fact, resounds with the praises of friends. Achilles and Patroclus, Pylades and Orestes, Harmodius and Aristogeiton, Solon and Peisistratus, Socrates and Alcibiades, Epaminondas and Pelopidas,--these are names that recall at once all that is highest in the achievement and all that is most romantic in the passion of Greece. For it was the prerogative of this form of love, in its finer manifestations, that it passed beyond persons to objective ends, linking emotion to action in a life of common danger and toil. Not only, nor primarily, the physical sense was touched, but mainly and in chief the imagination and intellect. The affection of Achilles for Patroclus is as intense as that of a lover for his mistress, but it has in addition a body and depth such as only years of common labour could impart. "Achilles wept, remembering his dear comrade, nor did sleep that conquereth all take hold of him, but he kept turning himself to this side and to that, yearning for Patroclus' manhood and excellent valour, and all the toils he achieved with him and the woes he bare, cleaving the battles of men and the grievous waves. As he thought thereon he shed big tears, now lying on his side, now on his back, now on his face; and then anon he would arise upon his feet and roam wildly beside the beach of the salt sea." [Footnote: Iliad XXIV. 3.--Translated by Lang, Leaf and Myers.] That is the ideal spirit of Greek comradeship--each supporting the other in his best efforts and aims, mind assisting mind and hand hand, and the end of the love residing not in an easy satisfaction of itself but in the development and perfecting of the souls in which it dwelt.

Of such a love we have a record in the elegies of Theognis, in which the poet has embodied, for the benefit of Kurnus his friend, the ripe experience of an eventful life. The poems for the most part are didactic in character, consciously and deliberately aimed at the instruction and guidance of the man to whom they are addressed; but every now and again the passion breaks through which informs and inspires this virile intercourse, and in such a passage as the following gives us the key to this and to all the finer friendships of the Greeks:--

"Lo,
I have given thee wings wherewith to fly Over the boundless ocean and the earth;
Yea,
on the lips of many shalt thou lie, The comrade of their banquet and their mirth.

Youths in their loveliness shall bid thee sound Upon the silver flute's melodious breath; And when thou goest darkling underground Down to the lamentable house of death, Oh yet not then from honour shalt thou cease But wander, an imperishable name, Kurnus, about the seas and shores of Greece, Crossing from isle to isle the barren main. Horses thou shalt not need, but lightly ride Sped by the Muses of the violet crown, And men to come, while earth and sun abide, Who cherish song shall cherish thy renown.

Yea,
I have given thee wings, and in return Thou givest me the scorn with which I burn." [Footnote: Theognis 237.]

It was his insistence on friendship as an incentive to a noble life that was the secret of the power of Socrates. Listen, for example, to the account which Plutarch gives of his influence upon the young Alcibiades:

"Alcibiades, listening now to language entirely free from every thought of unmanly fondness and silly displays of affection, finding himself with one who sought to lay open to him the deficiencies of his mind, and repress his vain and foolish arrogance,

'Dropped like the craven cock his conquered wing.'

He esteemed these endeavours of Socrates as most truly a means which the gods made use of for the care and preservation of youth, and began to think meanly of himself, and to admire him; to be pleased with his kindness, and to stand in awe of his virtue; and, unawares to himself, there became formed in his mind that reflex image and reciprocation of love, or Anteros, that Plato talks of..... Though Socrates had many and powerful rivals, yet the natural good qualities of Alcibiades gave his affection the mastery. His words overcame him so much, as to draw tears from his eyes, and to disturb his very soul. Yet sometimes he would abandon himself to flatterers, when they proposed to him varieties of pleasure, and would desert Socrates; who then would pursue him, as if he had been a fugitive slave. He despised every one else, and had no reverence or awe for any but him." [Footnote: Plut. Alc. ch. 4.--Ed. by Clough.] The relation thus established may be further illustrated by the following graceful little anecdote. Socrates and Alcibiades were fellow- soldiers at Potidaea and shared the same tent. In a stiff engagement both behaved with gallantry. At last Alcibiades fell wounded, and Socrates, standing over him, defended and finally saved him. For this he might fairly have claimed the customary prize of valour; but he insisted on resigning it to his friend, as an incentive to his "ambition for noble deeds."

Another illustration of the power of this passion to evoke and stimulate courage is given in the story of Cleomachus, narrated by Plutarch. In a battle between the Chalcidians and the Eretrians, the cavalry of the former being hard pressed, Cleomachus was called upon to make a diversion. He turned to his friend and asked him if he intended to be a spectator of the struggle; the youth replied in the affirmative, and embracing his friend, with his own hands buckled on his helmet; whereupon Cleomachus charged with impetuosity, routed the foe and died gloriously fighting. And thenceforth, says Plutarch, the Chalcidians, who had previously mistrusted such friendships, cultivated and honoured them more than any other people.

So much indeed were the Greeks impressed with the manliness of this passion, with its power to prompt to high thought and heroic action, that some of the best of them set the love of man for man far above that of man for woman. The one, they maintained, was primarily of the spirit, the other primarily of the flesh; the one bent upon shaping to the type of all manly excellence both the body and the soul of the beloved, the other upon a passing pleasure of the senses. And they noted that among the barbarians, who were subject to tyrants, this passion was discouraged, along with gymnastics and philosophy, because it was felt by their masters that it would be fatal to their power; so essentially was it the prerogative of freedom, so incompatible with the nature and the status of a slave.

It is in the works of Plato that this view is most completely and exquisitely set forth. To him, love is the beginning of all wisdom; and among all the forms of love, that one in chief, which is conceived by one man for another, of which the main operation and end is in the spirit, and which leads on and out from the passion for a particular body and soul to an enthusiasm for that highest beauty, wisdom, and excellence, of which the most perfect mortal forms are but a faint and inadequate reflection. Such a love is the initiation into the higher life, the spring at once of virtue, of philosophy, and of religion. Always operative in practice in Greek life it was not invented but interpreted by Plato. The philosopher merely gave an ideal expression to what was stirring in the heart of every generous youth; and the passage which we have selected for quotation may be taken as representative not only of the personality of Plato, but of the higher aspect of a characteristic phase of Greek civilisation.

"And now, taking my leave of you, I will rehearse a tale of love which I heard from Diotima of Mantineia, a woman wise in this and in many other kinds of knowledge. She was my instructress in the art of love, and I shall repeat to you what she said to me: 'On the birthday of Aphrodite there was a feast of the gods, at which the god Poros or Plenty, who is the son of Metis or Discretion, was one of the guests. When the feast was over, Penia or Poverty, as the manner is on such occasions, came about the doors to beg. Now Plenty, who was the worse for nectar (there was no wine in those days), went into the garden of Zeus and fell into a heavy sleep; and Poverty considering her own straitened circumstances, plotted to have a child by him, and accordingly she lay down at his side and conceived Love, who partly because he is naturally a lover of the beautiful, and because Aphrodite is herself beautiful, and also because he was born on her birthday, is her follower and attendant. And as his parentage is, so also are his fortunes. In the first place he is always poor, and anything but tender and fair, as the many imagine him; and he is rough and squalid, and has no shoes, nor a house to dwell in; on the bare earth exposed he lies under the open heaven, in the streets, or at the doors of houses, taking his rest; and like his mother he is always in distress. Like his father too, whom he also partly resembles, he is always plotting against the fair and good; he is bold, enterprising, strong, a mighty hunter, always weaving some intrigue or other, keen in the pursuit of wisdom, fertile in resources; a philosopher at all times, terrible as an enchanter, sorcerer, sophist. He is by nature neither mortal nor immortal, but alive and flourishing at one moment when he is in plenty, and dead at another moment, and again alive by reason of his father's nature. But that which is always flowing in is always flowing out, and so he is never in want and never in wealth; and, further, he is in a mean between ignorance and knowledge. The truth of the matter is this: No god is a philosopher or seeker after wisdom, neither do the ignorant seek after wisdom. For herein is the evil of ignorance, that he who is neither good nor wise is nevertheless satisfied with himself: he has no desire for that of which he feels no want.' 'But who then, Diotima,' I said, 'are the lovers of wisdom, if they are neither the wise nor the foolish?' 'A child may answer that question,' she replied; 'they are those who are in a mean between the two; Love is one of them. For wisdom is a most beautiful thing, and Love is of the beautiful; and therefore Love is also a philosopher or lover of wisdom, and being a lover of wisdom is in a mean between the wise and the ignorant. And of this too his birth is the cause; for his father is wealthy and wise, and his mother poor and foolish. Such, my dear Socrates, is the nature of the spirit Love.'

"I said: 'O thou stranger woman, thou sayest well; but, assuming Love to be such as you say, what is the use of him to man?'

"'That, Socrates,' she replied, 'I will attempt to unfold: of his nature and birth I have already spoken; and you acknowledge that Love is of the beautiful. But some one will say: Of the beautiful in what, Socrates and Diotima? or rather let me put the question more clearly, and ask: When a man loves the beautiful, what does he desire?'

"I answered her, 'That the beautiful may be his.'

"'Still,' she said, 'the answer suggests a further question: What is given by the possession of beauty?'

"'To what you have asked,' I said, 'I have no answer ready.'

"'Then,' she said, 'let me put the word "good" in the place of "beautiful," and repeat the question once more: If he who loves, loves the good, what is it then that he loves?'

"'The possession of the good,' I said.

"'And what does he gain who possesses the good?'

"'Happiness,' I replied; 'there is less difficulty in answering that question.'

"'Yes,' she said, 'the happy are made happy by the acquisition of good things. Nor is there any need to ask why a man desires happiness; the answer is already final.'

"'You are right,' I said.

"'And is this wish and this desire common to all? and do all men always desire their own good, or only some men?--what say you?'

"'All men,' I replied; 'the desire is common to all.'

"'Then,' she said, 'the simple truth is that men love the good.'

"'Yes,' I said.

"'To which must be added that they love the possession of the good?'

"'That must be added too.'

"'Then love,' she said, may be described generally as the love of the everlasting possession of the good?'

"'That is most true.'

"'Then if this be the nature of love, can you tell me further,' she said, 'what is the manner of the pursuit? what are they doing who show all this eagerness and heat which is called love? and what is the object which they have in view? Answer me.'

"'Nay, Diotima,' I replied, 'if I had known, I should not have wondered at your wisdom, neither should I have come to learn from you about this very matter.'

"'Well,' she said, 'I will teach you:--The object which they have in view is birth in beauty, whether of body or soul.'

"'I do not understand you,' I said; 'the oracle requires an explanation.'

"'I will make my meaning clearer,' she replied. 'I mean to say, that all men are bringing to the birth in their bodies and in their souls. There is a certain age at which human nature is desirous of procreation-- procreation which must be in beauty and not in deformity; and this procreation is the union of man and woman, and is a divine thing: for conception and generation are an immortal principle in the mortal creature, and in the inharmonious they can never be. But the deformed is always inharmonious with the divine, and the beautiful harmonious. Beauty, then, is the destiny or goddess of parturition who presides at birth, and therefore, when approaching beauty, the conceiving power is propitious, and diffusive, and benign, and begets and bears fruit: at the sight of ugliness she frowns and contracts and has a sense of pain, and turns away, and shrivels up, and not without a pang refrains from conception. And this is the reason why, when the hour of conception arrives, and the teeming nature is full, there is such a flutter and ecstasy about beauty whose approach is the alleviation of the pain of travail. For love, Socrates, is not as you imagine, the love of the beautiful only.'

"'What then?'

"'The love of generation and of birth in beauty.'

"'Yes,' I said.

"'Yes indeed,' she replied.

"'But why of generation?'

"'Because to the mortal creature, generation is a sort of eternity and immortality,' she replied; 'and if, as has been already admitted, love is of the everlasting possession of the good, all men will necessarily desire immortality together with good: wherefore love is of immortality.'

"I was astonished at her words and said: 'Is this really true, O thou wise Diotima?'

"And she answered with all the authority of an accomplished sophist: 'Of that, Socrates, you may be assured;--think only of the ambition of men, and you will wonder at the senselessness of their ways, unless you consider how they are stirred by the love of an immortality of fame. They are ready to run all risks greater far than they would have run for their children, and to spend money and undergo any sort of toil, and even to die, for the sake of leaving behind them a name which shall be eternal. Do you imagine that Alcestis would have died to save Admetus, or Achilles to avenge Patroclus, or your own Codrus in order to preserve the kingdom for his sons, if they had not imagined that the memory of their virtues, which still survives among us, would be immortal? Nay,' she said, 'I am persuaded that all men do all things, and the better they are the more they do them, in hope of the glorious fame of immortal virtue; for they desire the immortal.

"'Those who are pregnant in the body only, betake themselves to women and beget children--this is the character of their love; their offspring, as they hope, will preserve their memory and give them the blessedness and immortality which they desire in the future. But souls which are pregnant--for there certainly are men who are more creative in their souls than in their bodies--conceive that which is proper for the soul to conceive or contain. And what are these conceptions? wisdom and virtue in general. And such creators are poets and all artists who are deserving of the name inventor. But the greatest and fairest sort of wisdom by far is that which is concerned with the ordering of states and families, and which is called temperance and justice. And he who in youth has the seed of these implanted in him and is himself inspired, when he comes to maturity desires to beget and generate. He wanders about, seeking beauty that he may beget offspring--for in deformity he will beget nothing--and naturally embraces the beautiful rather than the deformed body; above all when he finds a fair and noble and well- nurtured soul, he embraces the two in one person, and to such a one he is full of speech about virtue and the nature and pursuits of a good man; and he tries to educate him; and at the touch of the beautiful which is ever present to his memory, even when absent, he brings forth that which he had conceived long before, and in company with him tends that which he brings forth; and they are married by a far nearer tie and have a closer friendship than those who beget mortal children, for the children who are their common offspring are fairer and more immortal. Who, when he thinks of Homer and Hesiod and other great poets, would not rather have their children than ordinary ones? Who would not emulate them in the creation of children such as theirs, which have preserved their memory and given them everlasting glory? Or who would not have such children as Lycurgus left behind him to be the saviours not only of Lacedaemon, but of Hellas, as one may say? There is Solon, too, who is the revered father of Athenian laws; and many others there are in many other places, both among Hellenes and barbarians, who have given to the world many noble works, and have been the parents of virtue of every kind; and many temples have been raised in their honour for the sake of children such as theirs; which were never raised in honour of any one, for the sake of his mortal children.

"'These are the lesser mysteries of love, into which even you, Socrates, may enter; to the greater and more hidden ones which are the crown of these, and to which, if you pursue them in a right spirit, they will lead, I know not whether you will be able to attain. But I will do my utmost to inform you, and do you follow if you can. For he who would proceed aright in this matter should begin in youth to visit beautiful forms; and first, if he be guided by his instructor aright, to love one such form only--out of that he should create fair thoughts; and soon he will of himself perceive that the beauty of one form is akin to the beauty of another; and then if beauty of form in general is his pursuit, how foolish would he be not to recognise that the beauty in every form is one and the same! And when he perceives this he will abate his violent love of the one, which he will despise and deem a small thing, and will become a lover of all beautiful forms. In the next stage he will consider that the beauty of the mind is more honourable than the outward form. So that, if a virtuous soul have but a little comeliness, he will be content to love and tend him, and will search out and bring to the birth thoughts which may improve the young, until he is compelled to contemplate and see the beauty of institutions and laws, and to understand that the beauty of them all is of one family, and that personal beauty is a trifle; and after laws and institutions he will go on to the sciences, that he may see their beauty, being not like a servant in love with the beauty of one youth or man or institution, himself a slave mean and narrow-minded, but drawing towards and contemplating the vast sea of beauty, he will create many fair and noble thoughts and notions in boundless love of wisdom; until on that store he grows and waxes strong, and at last the vision is revealed to him of a single science which is the science of beauty everywhere. To this I will proceed; please to give me your very best attention:

"'He who has been instructed thus far in the things of love, and who has learned to see the beautiful in due order and succession, when he comes toward the end will suddenly perceive a nature of wondrous beauty (and this, Socrates, is the final cause of all our former toils)--a nature which in the first place is everlasting, not growing and decaying, or waxing and waning; secondly, not fair in one point of view and foul in another, or at one time or in one relation or in one place fair, at another time or in another relation or at another place foul, as if fair to some and foul to others, or in the likeness of a face or hands or any other part of the bodily frame, or in any form of speech or knowledge, or existing in any other being, as for example, in an animal, or in heaven, or in earth, or in any other place; but beauty absolute, separate, simple, and everlasting, which without diminution and without increase, or any change, is imparted to the evergrowing and perishing beauties of all other things. He who, from these ascending under the influence of true love, begins to perceive that beauty, is not far from the end. And the true order of going, or being led by another, to the things of love, is to begin from the beauties of earth and mount upwards for the sake of that other beauty, using these as steps only, and from one going on to two, and from two to all fair forms, and from fair forms to fair practices, and from fair practices to fair notions, until from fair notions he arrives at the notion of absolute beauty, and at last knows what the essence of beauty is. This, my dear Socrates,' said the stranger of Mantineia, 'is that life above all others which man should live, in the contemplation of beauty absolute: a beauty which if you once beheld, you would see not to be after the measure of gold, and garments, and fair boys and youths, whose presence now entrances you; and you and many a one would be content to live seeing them only and conversing with them without meat or drink, if that were possible,--you only want to look at them and to be with them. But what if man had eyes to see the true beauty--the divine beauty, I mean, pure and clear and unalloyed, not clogged with the pollutions of mortality and all the colours and vanities of human life--thither looking, and holding converse with the true beauty simple and divine? Remember how in that communion only, beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities (for he has hold not of an image but of a reality), and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue to become the friend of God and be immortal, if mortal man may. Would that be an ignoble life?'

"Such, Phaedrus--and I speak not only to you, but to all of you--were the words of Diotima; and I am persuaded of their truth. And being persuaded of them, I try to persuade others, that in the attainment of this end human nature will not easily find a helper better than Love. And therefore, also, I say that every man ought to honour him as I myself honour him, and walk in his ways, and exhort others to do the same, and praise the power and spirit of Love according to the measure of my ability now and ever." [Footnote: Plato, Symp. 201.--Translated by Jowett.]

I have thought it worth while to quote this passage, in spite of its length, partly for the sake of its own intrinsic beauty, partly because no account of the Greek view of life could be complete which did not insist upon the prominence in their civilisation of the passion of friendship, and its capacity of being turned to the noblest uses. That there was another side to the matter goes without saying. This passion, like any other, has its depths, as well as its heights; and the ideal of friendship conceived by Plato was as remote, perhaps, from the experience of the average man, as Dante's presentation of the love between man and woman. Still, the fact remains that it was friendship of this kind that supplied to the Greek that element of romance which plays so large a part in modern life; and it is to this, and not to the relations between men and women, that we must look for the highest reaches of their emotional experience.


Section 11. Summary.

If now we turn back to take a general view of the points that have been treated in the present chapter, we shall notice, in the first place, that the ideal of the Greeks was the direct and natural outcome of the conditions of their life. It was not something beyond and above the experience of the class to which it applied, but rather, was the formula of that experience itself: in philosophical phrase, it was immanent not transcendent. Because there really was a class of soldier-citizens free from the necessity of mechanical toil, possessed of competence and leisure, and devoting these advantages willingly to the service of the State, therefore their ideal of conduct took the form we have described. It was the ideal of a privileged class, and postulated for its realisation, not only a strenuous endeavour on the part of the individual, but also certain adventitious gifts of fortune, such as health, wealth, and family connections. These were conditions that actually obtained among members of the class concerned; so that the ideal in question was not a mere abstract "ought", but an expression of what, approximately at least, was realised in fact.

But this, which was the strength of the ideal of the Greeks, was also its limitation. Their ethical system rested not only on universal facts of human nature, but also on a particular and transitory social arrangement. When therefore the city State, with its sharp antithesis of classes, began to decline, the ideal of the soldier-citizen declined also. The conditions of its realisation no longer existed, and ethical conceptions passed into a new phase. In the first place the ideal of conduct was extended so as to apply to man as man, instead of to a particular class in a particular form of State; and in the second place, as a corollary of this, those external goods of fortune which were the privilege of the few, could no longer be assumed as conditions of an ideal which was supposed to apply to all. Consequently the new ideal was conceived as wholly internal. To be virtuous was to act under the control of the universal reason which was supposed to dwell in man as man; and such action was independent of all the gifts of chance. It was as open to a slave as to a freeman, to an artisan as to a soldier or a statesman. The changes and chances of this mortal life were indifferent to the virtuous man; on the rack as on the throne he was lord of himself and free.

This conception of the Stoics broke down the limitation of the Greek ideal by extending the possibility of virtue to all mankind. But at the same time it destroyed its sanity and balance. For it was precisely because of its limitation that the ideal of the Greeks was, approximately at least, an account of what was, and not merely of what ought to be. A man possessed of wealth and friends, of leisure, health, and culture, really could and did achieve the end at which he was aiming; but the conception of one who without any such advantages, on the contrary with positive disadvantages, poor, sickly, and a slave perhaps, or even in prison or on the rack, should nevertheless retain unimpaired the dignity of manhood and the freedom of his own soul--, such a conception if it is not chimerical, is at any rate so remote from common experience, that it is not capable of serving as a really practical ideal for ordinary life. But an ideal so remote that its realisation is despaired of, is as good as none. And the conception of the Stoics, if it was more comprehensive than that of Aristotle, was also less practical and real.

By virtue, nevertheless, of this comprehensiveness, the Stoic ideal is more akin to modern tendencies than that of the soldier-citizen in the city-state. To provide for the excellence of a privileged class at the expense of the rest of the community is becoming to us increasingly impossible in fact and intolerable in idea. But while admitting this, we cannot but note that the Greeks, at whatever cost, did actually achieve a development of the individual more high and more complete than has been even approached by any other age. Whether it will ever be possible, under totally different conditions, to realise once more that balance of body and soul, that sanity of ethical intuition, that frank recognition of the whole range of our complex human nature with a view to its harmonious organisation under the control of a lucid reason--whether it will ever be possible again to realise this ideal, and that not only in the members of a privileged class, but in the whole body of the State, is a question too problematical to be raised with advantage in this place. But it is impossible not to perceive that with the decline of the Greek city-state something passed from the world which it can never cease to regret, and the recovery of which, if it might be, in some more perfect form, must be the goal of its highest practical endeavours. Immense, no doubt, is the significance of the centuries that have intervened, but it is a significance of preparation; and when we look beyond the means to the wished-for end, limiting our conceptions to the actual possibilities of life on earth, it is among the Greeks that we seek the record of the highest achievement of the past, and the hope of the highest possibilities of the future.




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