Page images

As soon as a child was born, it was visited by the elders of every tribe; and if they found it well made, strong and lively, they ordered it to be brought up, and assigned it one of the nine thousand portions for its inheritance. If on the other hand they found it ill-shaped, tender and weakly, and judged it to want health and strength, they condemned it io perish, and caused it to be exposed.

Children were early accustomed not to be difficult or nice about their victuals; not to be afraid in the dark; not to be frightened at their being left alone; not to be peevish, brawling, or crying; to walk barefoot; to enure themselves to fatigue; [g] to lie upon the bare ground; to wear the same clothes in winter as in summer, to harden themselves against heat and colit.

At seven years old they were distributed into classes, where they were all brought up together under the same discipline. [h] Their education properly speaking was no more than an apprenticeship to obedience; their legislator being thoroughly convinced, that the surest means of forming citizens submissive to the laws and magistrates, in which the good order and happiness of a state consists, was to teach children from their infancy to be perfectly obedient to their masters.

Whilst they were at table, the master proposed questions to the boys. As for instance, Who is the best man in the city? What say you to such an action ? Their answer was expected to be ready, and attended with a reason and proof.conceived in a few words; for they early accustomed them to the laconic style, i. e. to a short and concise one. Lycurgus required that the money should be very heavy and of small value; and that their discourse on the contrary should express a great deal in a little compass.

As to letters, they learned no more than was absoJutely necessary. All the sciences were banished their country. Their study was only how to obey, to endure

[8] Xenophon, de Lacedæm. [h] "Ωςε την παιδείας είναι μελέτης republic.

ευπειθείας. . A 4




labour and fatigue, and to conquer in battle. One of the most worthy and capable citizens presided over their education, and appointed each class such masters as were generally esteemed for wisdom and probity,

Theft was not only not prohibited the boys, but even commanded; I mean theft of a particular kind, which properly speaking had no more of it but the

I shall explain in my reflections the reasons and views of Lycurgus in allowing it. They crept the most dextrously and cunningly they could into the gardens and public balls, and carried off what herbs or victuals they were able; if they were discovered, they were punished for want of skill. It is said, that one of them having stole a young fox, hid it under his clothes, and let it tear into his belly with its teeth and claws, without crying out, till he fell down dead upon the spot.

The patience and resolution of the Lacedæmonian youth were put to the severest trial upon the celebra, tion of a feast in honour of Diana, surnamed Orthia, [i] when the children, in the sight of their parents, and in presence of the whole city, suffered themselves to be lashed till the blood ran down upon the altar of that inhuman goddess, and sometimes expired under the blows, without crying out, or so much as uttering a groan. [K] And their own fathers, who stood by and saw them all covered over with blood and wounds, were the persons who exhorted them to hold out constantly to the end. Plutarch assures us, that he saw several children with his own eyes lose their lives in this cruel diversion. Hence [l; Horace gives the epithet of patient to the city of Lacedæmon, patiens Lacedæmon; and another author makes a man who

[] Spartæ pueri ad aram sic ver- 2. Tusc. Quæst. n. 34. þesibus accipiuntur, ut multus è [/c] Ipsi illos patres adhortantur, visceribus sanguis exeat, nonnun- ut ictus flagellorum fortiter perfequam etiam, ut cùm ibi essem au- rant, & laceros ac semianimes rodiebam, ad necem ; quorum non gant, perseverent vulnera præbere modò nemo exclamavit unquam, vulneribus. Senec. de Provid. cap. 4, sed ne ingemuit quidem. Cic. lib. [?] Od. 7. lib. I.



had endured three good blows of a cudgel without complaining, say, Tres plagas Spartanå nobilitate conco.ri.

The most usual employment of the Lacedæmonians was hunting and the different exercises of the body. They were prohibited the exercise of any mechanical

The liotes, who were a kind of slaves, cultivated their lands, and paid them a certain revenue for them.

It was Lycurgus's will that his citizens should have a great deal of leisure. They had common halls, where they met together for conversation. And though their discourse frequently turned upon grave and serious subjects, it was seasoned with a wit and agreeableness, which instructed and corrected, whilst it diverted them. They were seldom alone; but were accustomed to live like bees, in swarms, and always around their chiefs. [m] The love of their country and the common good was their prevailing passion. They thought they were not to live for themselves, but for their country. Pedaretus not having had the honour of being chosen one of the three hundred, who beld a certain place of distinction in the city, returned home very cheerful and easy, saying, he was overjoyed to find there were three hundred better men in Sparta than himself.

Every thing at 'Sparta inspired the love of virtue, and hatred of vice; the actions of the citizens, their conversations, and even the public inscriptions. It was hard for men, brought up in the midst of so many precepts and living examples, not to become as virtuous as Pagans could be. It was to preserve this happy habitude in them, that Lycurgus did not allow all sorts of persons to travel, lest they should return with foreign manners, and licentious customs, which would soon have inspired them with a disgust for the life and maxims of Lacedæmon. He likewise expelled all foreigners the city, who came only for curiosity, and not out of some useful or profitable intention; apprehending that they might bring with them the

[m] Εθιζεν τες σολίτας, μικρού δείν εξεςώτας εαυτών υπένθετιασμού και φιλοτιμίας όλες είναι της πατρίδος.


faults and vices of their country; and fully convinced that it was more important and necessary to shut the gates of the city against corruption of manners than against plagues and pestilence.

Properly speaking, the business and exercise of the Lacedæmonians was war. Every thing had a tendency that way, and breathed nothing but arms. Their manner of life was far less rigid in the field than at home; and they were the only people in the world to whom war was a season of repose and refreshment; because then tlie obligations to that hard and severe discipline, wbich they observed at Sparta, were somewhat relaxed, and greater liberty allowed them. With thein the first and most inviolable law of war, [12] as Deinaratus told Xerxes, was never to turn their backs, how far superior soever in number the enemy might be; never to quit their post; never to surrender their arms; in a word, to conquer or die. [o] And hence it was, that a mother advised her son, who was setting out for a canipaign, to return with his buckler, or upon his buckler; and another hearing that her son was slain in battle in defence of his country, replied coldly, [P] It was for thul end I brought him into the world. And this was the common disposition of the Lacedæmonians. [9] After the famous battle of Leuctra, which was so fatal to them, the parents of those who were killed in fighting, congratulated one another, and ran to the temples to thank the gods, because their children had done their duty; whereas the parents of those who survived the defeat, were inconsolable. Such as fled were ever after infamous at Sparta. They were not only excluded all offices and employments, the assemblies, and shows, but it was a disgrace to marry a daughter to them, or take a daughter from them, and they were publicly affronted upon every occasion without any remedy for the injury offered. [n] Herod. I. 6.

They sometimes brought back [o] 'Aλλή ροσαναδιδούσα το παιδί την such as were slain upon their ασπίδα, και παρακελευομένη: (ion) û Tày, iwi Fãs. Plut. de Virtut. [p] Cic. I. 1.Tusc. Quæst.11.102.

(1) Plut. in vit. Ages.


Tényor, buckler.


They never went to battle, till they had implored the assistance of the gods by sacrifices and public prayers, and then they marched against the enemy in full confidence, as being thoroughly assured of the divine protection, or to use the expression of Plutarch, as if God were present, and fought with them; ώς το Θεξ συμπαρόντος.

When they had broke their enemies, and put them to flight, they pursued them no farther than was necessary to secure the victory; after which they retired, as judging it neither glorious, nor worthy of Greece, to cut in pieces such as yielded or made no resistance. And this was no less (iseful than honourable to them; for their enemies knowing that all who opposed were put to the sword, and that only such as ran away escaped, generally preferred flight to resistance.

After the first institutions of Lycurgus were received and confirmed by use, and the form of government he had established seemed strong enough to support itself without any other assistance; [r] as Plato says of God, that having finished the creation of the world, he rejoiced when he saw it first move with such harmony and exactitude; so this wise legislator, charmed with the grandeur and beauty of his laws, found a double satisfaction in seeing them subsist alone, and make so happy a progress.

But desiring to make them as immortal and, unchangeable as human prudence would admit, he told the people there was one point still remaining, more important and essential than all the rest, about which he would consult the oracle of Apollo; and in the mean time he obliged them all by an oath to keep up the form of government he had established, till such time as he should return. When he came to Delphos, he enquired of the god, whether his laws were good, and tended to make the Spartans happy and virtuous.

[r] This passage of Plato is in the world. Vidit Deus cuncta quæ his Timæus, and gives us reason to fecerat, & erant valde bona. Gen. believe, that he had read what Moses i. 31. says of God, upon the creation of


« EelmineJätka »