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ON THE LITERARY EDUCATION OF FORMER TIMES. 289 faculties of the intellect. But for this, every thing would be doubt; and darke ness, and death-shade ; all knowledge would be traditionary, and all experience local; civilized life would relapse into barbarism, and man would have to run through his little, and comparatively insignificant round of existence, the perpetual sport of ignorance and error, uninstructed by science, unregu« lated by laws, and unconsoled by Revelation. Have I not, then, justly characterized it as the noblest art that has ever been invented by the unassisted efforts of human understanding ?
ON THE LITERARY EDUCATION OF FORMER TIMES; AND ESPECIALLY THAT OF
GREECE AND ROME.
We have taken a brief survey of the nature of oral language, and of the means devised in different ages and parts of the world to render the transia tory ideas it communicates permanent, by means of picturesque or symbolie cal signs; so that what is once spoken may conveniently be copied or written down, and treasured up for future ages.
It yet remains for us to take some notice of the chief methods, that have been adopted in different eras, to turn this accumulating treasure or bank of intellectual knowledge to the best account; or, in other words, to develope the mode of education adopted among those nations that have been most celebrated for literary and scientific acquirements, especially in Greece and Rome; and to compare them with the means possessed in our own day, and the general and laudable desire of improvement manifested in every quarter, and prospective of no small addition to the best sort of wealth and prosperity with which a nation can ever be enriched.
We have already traced whatever degree of art or science may have des scended from the antediluvian to the postdiluvian race, through the narrow link of human beings preserved in the ark, or whatever the earliest generations of the postdiluvians may have been able to strike out for themselves, to the plains of Babylon as their centre; and observed that, in their radiations from this central point, they have been peculiarly influenced by the political character of the people who cultivated them, and that of the country and the climate in which they took up their abode.
When, in the prosecution of the present subject, we shall come hereafter to examine more particularly into the furniture and faculties with which the mind is endowed, we shall have to show that its chief trains, as well of feelings as of ideas, of passions, and rational pursuits, have derived a strong tinge from these circumstances.
of the birth or first growth of the Grecian states we know little or nothing, though we are made acquainted with the region from which they sprang. The exquisite beauty of the country in which they had the good fortune to fix themselves; its rich and picturesque variety of hill and dale, the spontaneous fertility of its soil, the sweetness of its temperature, the almost unbroken serenity of its skies, and the smooth and glassy sea that surrounded and deeply indented its coasts, harmonized all the ruder passions, and called forth the noblest and finest feelings of the soul. They soon became enamoured of the graceful and the beautiful; their language was melody, and they were led by nature to delight in music, poetry, and painting, from the first. Hence these are the eldest employments we find them cultivating the earliest historians were their rhapsodists, Homer, Hesiod, and the writers whose works constituted the very valuable Epic Cycle of Greece; a work, unhappily, long lost to the world, and from which Statius is supposed to have drawn the materials of his Thebaid.*, Their earliest artists were thei. musi* For the particulars of this celebrated work, see note in vol. ii. p. 262, 263, of the author's translation
cians; as Orpheus, and the priests of Cybele, and others of like power; the first of whom is represented, not only as having harmonized the passions of men, but broken the ferocity of the beasts of the forests, and even tranquillized the tortures of the infernal regions. And of their early knowledge of colours and the art of designing we have a sufficient proof in various passages of the Cyclic poets that have reached us; while in Homer we have occasional references to their being applied, and by ladies, through the medium of tapestry, to the most important subjects of history. Thus Iris, in the third book of the Iliad, finds Helen occupied in representing in tapestry the evils which the Greeks and Trojans had suffered on her account in their battles; and when Andromache first heard the melancholy tidings of the death of Hector, she was engaged in a similar occupation. These, indeed, were employments of Trojan ladies, but what was common to them must have been common also to their neighbours of Greece.
Among the Greek states, however, that of Athens was by far the most renowned for its love of letters and science; and amid the different eras which the Athenian history comprises, that of Pericles may be selected as affording the fairest specimen of the manner in which education was conducted, general learning and a knowledge of the arts acquired and disseminated, philosophy taught, and society cultivated and polished. This era may be regarded as contemporary with the reign of Artaxerxes the First of Persia, and Alexander the Second of Macedon, the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem under Nehemiah, and the establishment of the decemvirs at Rome: and if we extend its range through an entire century, as, for example, from the middle of the fourth to the middle of the third century before the birth of our Saviour, it will just reach from Herodotus to Demosthenes, and will, besides these celebrated characters, include the existence of Euripides, Sophocles, and Aristophanes, among the poets; Thucydides, Xenophon, and Marsyas, among the historians ; Lycias, Isæus, Isocrates, and Æschines, among the orators and rhetoricians; Socrates, Timæus Ocellus, Aristippus, Diogenes, Plato, Aristotle, and Epicurus, among the philosophers; Eudoxus, among the astronomers; and Apelles, among the painters.
The elementary branches of education were acquired among the Athenians, as among ourselves, sometimes by private instruction, but more generally by public schools; many of which, at the period I am now adverting to, had attained a very high degree of reputation, and were crowded with youths from other Grecian states, and even from foreign countries. For the first five or six years, however, not the smallest effort was made to improve the mind; the whole of this period of time being devoted, agreeably to the advice of Plato, and even of many earlier sages, to sports and pastimes, for the purpose of giving strength to the body; exercises which were even afterward continued with the greatest punctuality, under particular regulations, and constituted a very important branch of Athenian education. In this respect they seem to have imitated the example of the Persians, who never commenced training their children till they were five or six years old, not even those of royal birth. At the age of five or six, the rising generation of Persia were placed under the care of their magi, or men of letters, and combined a course of gymnastics with a course of moral science: the former consisted in learning to ride, to shoot with the bow, and to fight on horseback; the latter embraced and inculcated the valuable habits of honesty and speaking the truth, patience, sobriety, reverence to parents, and the practice of every other virtue. With them literature was subservient to morals.
The general circle of study among the Greeks is well known to have comprised the seven liberal arts of grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy. Of these the first two, or grammar and rhetoric, were commenced earliest, and occupied by far the greatest attention of the scholar: for poetry and declaration were now the most fashionable pursuits, and the Greek language was criticised with an accuracy amounting even to fastidiousness, for new niceties and turns of expression, both in prose and verse; the sense itself being often sacrificed to the sound as a matter of sub
ordinate consideration. Nor was the time of the student allowed to be in fringed upon by the acquisition of any other language; the vanity of the Greeks inducing them to regard almost all other nations as barbarians; and only a few of their philosophers thinking it worth while to make any sort of inquiry into the literature of remote countries.
Next to a critical initiation into their native language under the most celebrated grammarians, the chief object of Athenian education was, as I have just observed, to strengthen the body, and give pliancy to the muscles by athletic exercises ; for which purpose three magnificent establishments were instituted and supported at the public expense, consisting of an extensive range of buildings surrounding gardens that were defended by groves, porticoes, and shady walks, from the rays of the midday sun, and still farther cooled and embellished by sheets of limpid water. These schools were called gymnasia, and comprised the Lyceum, the Cynosarges, and the Academy. Here the Athenian youth were instructed in the arts of wrestling, leaping, boxing, tennis, and foot-racing. In different parts of the buildings, large and commodious halls, duly provided with seats, were allotted to the philosophers, rhetoricians, and sophists; and in these halls the students were completed in the higher branches of instruction. At the age of eighteen, the young Athenian had his name formally enrolled in the register of that division of the curia or militia of which his father was a member; and at twenty, was admitted 10 all the rights and privileges of citizenship, and might plunge, as soon as he chose, into a contest for its honours and emoluments; or, if he were able, set up a magnificent establishment, and endeavour to distinguish himself at the chariot and horse-races.
The education of Athenian females was for the most part very limited. Those of the middle ranks of life were seldom taught any thing more than to read, write, sew, prepare wool for clothing, and superintend domestic concerns; while even the higher ranks, or those who were educated with more refinement, independently of this general knowledge, were only instructed how to take some part in the public festivals and other religious ceremonies of the country: such as that of carrying the sacred baskets on their heads, or of joining in the hymns and sacred dances. Upon this point, however, no expense was deemed too costly, that could endow them with the requisite arts of modulating their voices and measuring their steps; no pains or sacrifice too extravagant, that could bestow upon them elegance of shape and gracefulness of motion. Nor is this to be wondered at, since, excepting on such occasions, Athenian females, above the lower classes, seldom appeared abroad, and perhaps never without having their faces veiled. The married women, indeed, were allowed to receive and return visits among themselves, but even these were never permitted to be present at their husbands' parties, though the latter occasionally joined them at their own houses, and had the liberty of introducing their more intimate friends and companions. So that, among the female sex, none but those of acknowledged licentious manners had even an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the general literature, or literary characters, of their own times; whence, with a singular subversion of the very principles of their system of ethics, such persons were often noticed and even visited by philosophers and moralists.
Education, therefore, among the Athenians appears rather to have been directed to purposes of elegance and accomplishment than to the acquisition of useful knowledge. To possess the first dignities of the state; to be applauded in the assemblies of the people, or at the bar; to bear away the prize tripods at the palestræ, or public places for games of exercise among men, as the gymnasia were for youths, or the prize crowns at the theatre, were the chief objects of ambition among the more active. While the great body of citizens idled away almost the whole of their leisure hours by sauntering on the pleasant banks of the Ilissus, or in the agora, or great square of the city, frequenting every shop in succession, and especially those of the perfumers, in quest of news, for which they had an insatiable thirst; indulging their
well-known vein of wit and keen satire upon passers and passing events, or listening to the declamations of sophists, and other noisy disputants.
A few clubs of wits are occasionally to be met with in the present epoch of the history of this people; and a few select assemblies for polite literature and elegant conversation : of which last the most remarkable, perhaps, was that held at the house of the celebrated Aspasia: since it was attended by Socrates and Alcibiades, as well as by almost every other scholar or philosopher of reputation, and hy all the most renowned artists of the day. But we meet with no public establishment for a general course of science like that of the universities or the Institutions (as they called) of our own times, excepting their schools, nor with any public library of much note, except that of Pisistratus, which was carried away by Xerxes into Persia before the epoch to which our attention is now directed commenced.
Private libraries, however, were not uncommon, though seldom extensive. Those of Aristotle, of Theophratus, and of Euclid, the founder of the school of Megara, were perhaps the largest and most valuable. The art of printing being unknown, books were rare, and copied with great difficulty and expense; sometimes by individuals for their own benefit ; but more generally by professional transcribers, who formed a distinct trade. The great mass of Athenians, moreover, though of exquisite taste and elegance, and certainly wealthier than most of the other Grecian states, seldom displayed those splendid fortunes which were so common in Persia. A freehold of the value of fifteen or twenty talents (about four or five thousand pounds sterling), raised a man considerably above the middle ranks of life. The father of Demosthenes was esteemed rich, the whole of whose property on his death amounted to not more than fourteen talents, or £3150 sterling: Plato appears to have given a hundred minæ, or £375 for three small treatises by Philolaus.* But this was a costly purchase: for Aristotle bought the whole library of Speusippus, small indeed, but select, for three talents, or £675.4
Hence the trade of bookselling at Athens was generally upon a limited scale, and usually engaged in by persons of but little property, whose stock consisted mostly of books of mere amusement; a part of which, however, was often sent to the adjacent countries, and sometimes as far as to the Greek colonies on the coast of the Euxine.*
In respect to books, and the possession of public libraries, Rome was far more fortunate than Athens; and I shall now hasten to a brief survey of its literary and scientific character in what may be regarded as its most classical and cultivated era ; not the Augustan age, which has usually been contemplated as such, but that which immediately preceded it, reaching from the dictatorship of Sylla to the establishment of Augustus, and of course terminating a few years before the birth of our Saviour.
The Romans, who had hitherto devoted themselves altogether to arms and agriculture, and who had even despised eloquence, and paid no attention to the improvement of their native tongue, became attached to literature all of a sudden. The Achæans were accused by the Roman people of having acted hostilely towards them; and a thousand of them were sent as deputies, or rather as hostages, to plead their cause, and obtain the best terms they could for their country before the senate of this aspiring republic. Contrary, however, to the engagement stipulated with them, they were not allowed to enter upon their defence; were scattered over different parts of the republic; forbidden to appear before the senate; and detained, in a state of captivity, for not less than seventeen years. For the most part these Achæans were men of taste and elegant accomplishments, and many of them were scholars of profound and diversified erudition. Such, more especially, was Polybius, who was soon introduced into public favour under the patronage of Scipio Æmilianus, and whose elegant Greek writings were now read and studied by every one. The whole republic became enamoured of the various acquisi
* Diog. Laert. in Plat. lib. iii. sec. 9, viii. 85. † Diog. Laert. in Speus. lib. iv. sec. 5. Auk Gell iii.
Xenoph. Exped Cyr. lib. vii. p. 412. Travels of Anacharsis (Engl. vers.), lii. 130.
tions of its new, but mistreated visitants : and in matters of polite literature the conquerors soon yielded to the conquered. Hence schools for the study and exercise of rhetoric and eloquence, superintended by native Greeks, became in a short time so frequent, that scarcely a Roman youth was to be found who would engage in any other avocation; and the whole body of Greek philosophers and rhetoricians, that remained after the return of the Achæan deputies, were expelled by a decree of the senate during the consulship of Caius Fannius Strabo and Valerius Messala, in the year of the city 592, in consequence of the ascendency they had acquired over the public mind.
This expulsion, however, was too late; a general taste for Grecian literature had been caught, and the classical contagion had spread universally. Polybius was still studied, and the consul Rutilius Rufus had published, in elegant Greek, a history of his own country. The Greek scholars, indeed, were still farther avenged a few years afterward, by the general comparison which was drawn between their own genuine taste and that of the tribe of Latin sophists and declaimers, who, in consequence of their banishment, had sprung up and occupied their place: men who were bloated with conceit, instead of being inspired by wisdom; and who substituted the mere tinsel of verbiage for the sterling gold of perspicuous argument and fair induction. With this foppery of learning the Roman government soon became far more disgusted than with the seductive talents of the Greek teachers; and hence, in the year of the city 661, during the censorship of Crassus, the Latin declaimers shared the fate of their predecessors, and were formally banished from Rome.
In their own language, therefore, we meet with but few successful specimens of prosaic eloquence down to this period: yet Cato the censor, Lælius, and Scipio were orators of no inconsiderable powers, and eminently, as well as deservedly, esteemed in their day. In poetry, however, the republic had already a right to boast of its productions; for Andronicus, Nævius, and Ennius had long delighted their countrymen with their dramatic as well as their epic labours : Pacuvius and Accius, Plautus, Cæcilius, and Afranus had improved upon the models thus offered them in the former department, and Terence had just carried it to its highest pitch of perfection.*
Public museums, also libraries, and collections of valuable curiosities of all kinds, from Greece, Syracuse, Spain, and other parts of the world, were, at this period, becoming frequent and fashionable. Italy was never more emptied of its elegancies and ornaments by Buonaparte, than Syracuse was by Marcellus, when stratagem and treachery at length gave him an admission into the city. In the forcible words of Livy, “ he left nothing to the wretched inhabitants, but their walls and houses.” Spain and Africa were in the same manner ransacked by the elder Scipio; Macedon and Lacedæmon by Flaminius; Carthage by Scipio Africanus ; and Corinth, in the very same year, by Mummius. Nothing, however, can afford a stronger proof of the general want of taste for the fine arts among the Romans, even at this period, than the threat given by Mummius to the masters of the transports to whom he committed his invaluable pillage of the best pictures and statues of Achaia, that if they lost or injured any of them he would oblige them to find others at their own cost. In addition to which I may also observe, that Polybius, who was at this time with the Roman army, found a party of Roman legionaries, shortly after the capture of Corinth, playing at dice on the Bacchus of Aristides ; a picture so exquisitely finished as to be accounted one of the wonders of the world. Not knowing the value of it they were readily persuaded to part with it for a more convenient table ; and when the spoils of Corinth were afterward put up to sale, Attalus, king of Pergamus, a much better judge of painting than the Roman soldiers, offered for it six hundred thousand sesterces, or about five thousand pounds sterling. Mummius, the Roman consul and general, disbelieving that a picture of any kind could be so valuable of itself, thought it must contain some magical virtue in it; and
See the author's Life of Lucretius, prefixed to his translation of the poem De Rerum Natura