Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

should now call the rudiments of polite literature, and even the first elements of ethical doctrine.'

2. From the very primitive and unformed condition in which science of every kind continued to exist until shortly before the time of Plato and Aristotle, to say nothing of the scanty and limited extent to which the materials for learned study were then extant, it is evident that, all interesting, and invaluable as are the institutions and precepts of the philosophers and legislators of earlier Greece, from the light they throw upon the nature and ultimate aims of education, they can supply at the utmost but distant, and general analogies with reference to the peculiar and distinctive functions of the several parts of a system of instruction provided in accordance with requirements of which that age had not as yet become conscious. Xenophon, or whoever else is the author of the treatise de republica Lacedaemoniorum, informs us that the state of Lycurgus regarded the education of the ißürtaç as infinitely transcending in importance and dignity that of a period less mentally and physically developed, and less capable of moral good and evil. Notwithstanding this general conviction of the necessity for a more advanced form of instruction the training of those who had advanced beyond childhood partook even more strongly of the character of a practical discipline than the educational stages by which it had been preceded. Vigor and manly dignity of character, as exhibited in deeds of positive morality (åperń, áropayaDia), still constituted the highest form of excellence placed before the coming man, just as obedience (Tel Japxia), moral purity (owoposúvn), and reverence (aiĉwc), had been almost exclusively inculcated in childhood. It was reserved for a later period, and for a more intellectually progressive portion of the Hellenic race to recognize in knowledge and mental power the highest condition, and absolute end of human existence. The entire scientific attainments of the wimes in which the Dorian commonwealths had their period of pertinency were expended in the pregnant apophthegms, the heroic ballads, and the masculine, Handelian music, which formed the principal components of the mental training of boyhood. Positive instruction had herein reached its farthest limits. The man was henceforth called upon to enact deeds similar in spirit to those which he had been taught to remember, and revere. The only higher school into which he now passed was that of the public service. The grandly suggestive forms,

1. See Plato Protag., p. 826. 2. • yap dóyos nuiv kai ó vous mis dúoews Témos. Aristotle. 3. These brief and sententious aphorisms were not in reality peculiar to the Spartans, but simply a remnant of the pithy and proverblike form in which the most ancient philosophy of the Greeks was embodied. See the celebrated passage in the Protagoras of Plato p. 843-444.

and sublime tendencies of the state were designed to set before the man a still loftier, more serious, and more impressive manifestation of the principle of the nobly beautiful (valóv)' which had been throughout the keynote of his previous education. This notion that the state is the school for men, πόλις άνδρα διδάσκει, though most emphatically expressed amongst the Dorians, who were, indeed little more than the strictest and straitest sect of the practical politicians of Greece, was scarcely less adhered to in the antagonistic element of the common race. In the magnificently eloquent harangue in which Pericles has idealized the excellences of the state he had exalted to a grandeur of supremacy so nobly contrasting with its diminutive extent, and insignificance in point of material resources, he sums up all the glories of the Athenian people in the fact that their commonwealth was not only the most admirably perfect training school of its own citizens, but served at the same time as the means of education (Taidevois) to the entire civilized world.”

3. At the period here referred to the principles of political existence which lived in the Hellenic race whilst remaining substantially the same, had nevertheless entered upon a new phase of development, i The glory of the Dorian citizen had consisted in becoming the organ of the state, that of the Athenian was sought for in the acquisition of an intellectual dominion in, and over the state. The example of the extraordinary man to whom we have already referred had given the most striking and conspicuous proof of the more than regal authority which the apūros ávng could wield in a government where scarcely the slightest check, or balance to the popular will had been suffered to exist. On the other hand the utter sweeping away of the support afforded by forms of state, and positive institutions, had driven the nation when deprived of the masterly intellect, and steadfast will, which had hitherto supplied the place of governmental organization, to throw itself in utter helplessness into the arms of the first bold and confident adventurer who undertook the responsibility of command. Honor and emolument in profusion, unlimited power, the more fascinating to a quick witted and aspiring people, from the acknowledgment of intellectual superiority which it involved, all contributed to render the ascendency over the Athenian demos scarcely less alluring to every ardent and ambitious spirit during the era of the great Pelo

1. The phrase tà kadà was the regular expression for a refined and liberal education. See Xen. Hellen., V. 3,9. Cyr. I. 2, 15. Compare also Aristoph. Ran., 729.

2. See Plato Protag. p. 82 b. éneigày 8' ¢x Oldaskádwv åtallaywowy i módus aŮ toús te vónovs áyaykája pavlávelv kai katà TOÚTOUS 5Tv Karà rapádecyua m. 9. d. Compare also Gorg. p. 517.

4. Thucyd. II, 41.

ponnesian contest than the occupancy of the throne itself had proved in the earlier periods of Grecian history.

4. The eager emulation which arose between the numerous competitors for the sovereignty over the popular will, as well as the refined fastidiousness and intellectual subtlety of the audience before whom their claims were to be approved, soon rendered the necessity for theoretical attainments and scientific training imperative upon all who aspired to distinction and success in the one great field of enterprise and activity for every Athenian. Public life had developed itself into a systematic and legitimate career, in which the correspondence of means to ends had become thoroughly understood; and the simple and purely general education of former ages was no longer found sufficient to satisfy the requirements of a mode of activity as refined and complicated in its workings as the professional industry of modern times. To meet these demands, and to furnish to the noblest born, and most intelligent portion of the Athenian youth that scientific method which should serve at once as the canon for action, and the nucleus of future experience a new class of instructors, the Sophists, or professores artium, were called into existence. The limits of the present treatise do not permit us to enter into any detailed account of the history and doctrines of those remarkable men, respecting whose influence and importance opinions so various and conflicting have been entertained. Suffice it to say that in the circumstances above referred to many of the most singular and otherwise inexplicable peculiarities in their history and character find their full interpretation. In the fact that an actual profession- and one too of the highest order-had for the first time arisen in the social horizon, that new educational wants had preceded, and loudly called for their appearance, we obtain a far more satisfactory explanation of the marvelous success which attended their teaching, the princely fortunes they amassed, and the rapturous enthusiaśm with which they were welcomed, than can be discovered in any fragmentary specimens of their literary productions which have come down to later ages.

5. The Sophists peculiarly addressed themselves to that thirst for intellectual supremacy, as expressed in the forms of political power, which was the master passion of that period. They declared themselves absolutely competent to afford a mastery of the secrets of power so complete as to enable its possessor to command the implicit obedience of his countrymen, and by able administration to derive the fullest advantage from the position to which he had thus attained. That an insight into causes, and an acquaintance with scientific method can have no other effect upon practical experience than that of endlessly increasing its precision and efficiency was a deeply rooted and characteristic conviction of the best era of Athenian' history. The very earliest orators endeavor to base their art upon certain theoretic principles, and the Sophists, as the sole possessors of the learning and systematic knowledge of that period, were long the instructors of the statesmen and advocates (ouvhyopol) who composed the higher world in the leading people of Greece. Not only do we read that men like Thucydides, Alcibiades, and Theramenes were trained in the schools of the Sophists,” but even the most turbulent and contemptible demagogues are said to have found it expedient to adopt a similar course.3

1. ήν (δεινότητα πολιτική και δραστήριον σύνεσιν) οι μετά ταύτα μίξαντες τέχναις και μεταyayóvres à TÒ TV apáfewv TÌv áo know ėti tous Noyous copiotai spoonyopevonpar. Plut. vit. Themistocl. cited by Cresoll Theatr. Rhet I. 4. 2. 266. Roller, die Gr. Sophisten p. 2. Cresoll. Theatr. Rhet. V. 6. 3. Plato Gorg. pp. 452-454.

6. That the existence of the Sophists is distinctly to be referred to the rise of the various professions connected with public life is evident from the fact that Protagoras, the most acute and speculatively important amongst the apostles of the sect expressly describes himself in Plato as a teacher of political science. At a later period the chair assigned to this subject in the school of Athens was regularly held by a sophist. The elder sophists, it is well known, were often employed in embassies and public missions in which the gravest public interests were concerned. The same connection between Sophistry and the grander forms of practical life is further attested in the frequency with which we find individuals of this class appointed to civil offices of a more than usually responsible and important nature. Isocrates himself is said to have acted as private secretary to Conon,' and numerous instances of a similar nature are mentioned in the historians and biographers of the third and fourth centuries after Christ. As the most finished and highly cultivated form of oratory, sophistry naturally stood in the closest relation with jurisprudence. Professors of the art are frequently described as acting both in the capacity of teachers and advocates. Those of the number who confined themselves exclusively to legal practice (oi uexpè tù v oavidwy kal toū Bhuaroc) are said to have been beld in lower estimation (ευτελέστεροι). The forensic sophists (οι δικανικοί

1. Thuc. II. 40. où tous doyous rois éprous Baáßny nyoúpevou, ástà min a podidaxonvai patter. λόγω πρότερον ή επί & δει έργω έλθείν. See also Μenander Fr. 267.

"Ελληνές εισιν άνδρες ουκ αγνώμονες,

και μετά λογισμου πάντα πράττουσίν τινος. 2. Ruhnken. Dissertatio de Antiphonte. 3. Aristoph. Nub. 875. cited in Bernhardy. Grundriss der Gr. Litt.. I. p. 335. 4. Plato Protag. p. 168. 6. Photius Bibl. Cod. 260. 6. Wernsdorf Vit. Himerii, p. 4T. 1 Philostr. II. p. 509. Morell. The term pýtwp as compared with coplotns, is empoyed to denote the Professor of legal and political oratory, in contradistinction to those who taught the art in its more general bearings and power of application. Amongst the Romans the expression rhetor was used with reference to the teacher of Latin Literature while robiotis denote one who publicly professed that of Greece. See Cresoll., Theatr. Rhet. I. 1. 2.

phropes), though often described as coming off the worse in their encounters with the harder headed and more knowing ảyopažol, seem on the whole to have been regarded as the more educated and gentlemanly portion of the juristic body, and to have maintained with reference to the former a position analogous to that which the advocate as compared to the solicitor holds with us. Libanius in his epistles refers moreover to notable instances where Sophists had achieved a greater amount of success as lawyers than had fallen to the lot of their more practically trained antagonists.

7. Born as it was out of a condition of daily increasing and ever more aggravated social disorder, the vocation of the Sophist could not be otherwise than deeply tainted with the profligate and unprincipled character of the times in which it originated. The entire system furnished a complete reflex of the utter unbelief which had taken possession of the minds of men in the period intervening between the departure of the simple and ancestral faith of the nation, and the rise of the clear and steadfast convictions by which its place was ultimately destined to be supplied. Far from seeking to give the inward strength of truth and solid knowledge, the sophists made the denial of both the very keystone of their system of instruction. Objective reality of every kind they utterly impugned, maintaining that intellectual superiority simply consists in the power of producing a vividless of subjective impression in the minds of others. The baser and more paltry tendencies of sophistic education are conspicuously seen in the regular training which it furnished to the class of professional demagogues. Oratorical persuasiveness and power were of course recognized as the one great engine for working upon the passions of the populace. Fluency on a variety of topics, and dexterity in the use of that simpler logic which, as Aristotle tells us, the many are competent to appreciate and enjoy, also suggested themselves as well adapted to dazzle and astonish, even where more important results could not be secured. The instruction of the Sophists aimed accordingly at imparting an acquaintance with a system of political artifices, highly colored and declamatory rhetoric, multifarious information, and skill of fence in gladiatorial dialectics.

8. The apologists of this class of pseudo politicians have been fond of dwelling upon the fact that all the accounts we possess of the

[ocr errors]

2. Aristoph. Nub., 267. 816. 444. sqq. Wachsmuth, Hellen. Allerthumskunde, I. $62.

« AnteriorContinuar »