Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

Artax. ther soldiers or mariners, and those who were in the Longim different garrisons, were supported with the publick monies; it was but just, that the rest of the people who lived in the city should also be maintained in their way; and that, as all were members of the same republick, they all should reap the same advantages, by doing it services, which, though of a different kind, did however all contribute to its security or ornament.

One day, as the debates were growing warm, Pericles offered to defray the expence of all these things, provided it should be declared in the publick inscriptions, that he only had been at the charge of them. At these words the people, either admiring his magnanimity, or fired with emulation, and determined not to let him engross that glory, cried with one voice, that he might take out of the publick treasury all the sums necessary for his purpose.

Phidias the celebrated sculptor presided over all these works, as director general. It was he who particularly cast the gold and ivory statue representing Pallas, which was so highly valued by all the judges of antiquity. There arose an incredible ardour and emulation among the several artificers, who all strove to excel each other, and immortalize their names by master-pieces of art.

The odeon, or musick theatre, which had a great number of seats and columns within it, and whose roof grew narrower by degrees, and terminated in a point, was built, as history informs us, after the model of king Xerxes's tent, according to the direction of Pericles. It was at that time he proposed, with great warmth, a decree, by which it was ordained, that musical games should be celebrated on the festival called Panathenæa; and having been chosen the judge and distributor of the prizes, he regulated the

*Non Minerva Athenis factæ amplitudine utemur, cum ea sit cubitorum xxvi. Ebore hæc & auro constat. Plin. 1. xxxvi. c. 5. This statue was twenty-six cubits in height.

manner in which musicians should play on the flute Artax. and the lyre, as well as sing. From that time, Longim. the musical games were always exhibited in this theatre.

I have already taken notice, that the more the beauty and splendor of these works were admired, the greater envy and clamour were raised against Pericles. The orators of the opposite faction were eternally exclaiming against him, and tearing his character to pieces; accusing him of squandering the publick monies, and laying out very unseasonably the revenues of the state in edifices, whose magnificence was of no use. At last, the rupture between him and Thucydides rose to such a height, that one or other of them must necessarily be banished by the ostracism. He got the better of Thucydides; prevailed to have him banished; crushed by that means the faction which opposed him, and obtained a despotick authority over the city and government of Athens. He now disposed at pleasure of the publick monies, troops, and ships. The islands and sea were subject to him; and he reigned singly and alone in that wide domain, which extended, not only over the Greeks, but the Barbarians also, and which was cemented and strengthened by the obedience and fidelity of the conquered nations, by the friendship of kings, and treaties concluded with various princes.

Historians expatiate greatly on the magnificent edifices and other works with which Pericles adorned Athens, and I have related faithfully their testimony; but I cannot say whether the complaints and murmurs raised against him were very ill grounded. And indeed, was it just in him to expend in superfluous buildings, and vain decorations, the immense * sums intended for carrying on the war; and would it not have been better to have eased the allies of part of the contributions, which, in Pericles's administra

They amounted to upwards of ten millions French money.

Artax. tion, were raised to a third part more than before? Longim. According to Cicero, such edifices and other works only are worthy of admiration, as are of use to the publick, as aquæducts, city-walls, citadels, arsenals, sea-ports; and to these we must add, the work made by Pericles, to join Athens to the port of Piræus. But Cicero observes at the same time, that Pericles was blamed for squandering away the publick trea sure, merely to embellish the city with superfluous Plato, who formed a judgment of things, not from their outward splendor, but from truth, observes (after his master Socrates) that Pericles, with all his grand edifices and other works, had not improved the mind of one of the citizens in vir tue, but rather corrupted the purity and simplicity of their ancient manners.

ornaments.

SECT. XI. Pericles changes his conduct with regard to the people. His predigious authority. His disin

terestedness.

WHEN Pericles saw himself invested with the whole authority, he began to change his behaviour. He now was not so mild and tractable as before, nor did he submit or abandon himself any longer to the whims and caprice of the people, as so many winds; but drawing in, says Plutarch, the reins of this, too loose, popular government, in the same manner as we screw up the strings of an instrument when too slack, he changed it into an aristocracy, or rather a kind of monarchy, without departing however from the publick good. Choosing always what was most expedient, and becoming irreproachable in all things, he gained so mighty an ascendant over the minds of the people, that he turned and directed them at pleasure. Sometimes, by his bare counsel, and by

f Lib. ii. Offic. n. 60. p. 119.

8 In Georg. p. 515. In Alcib. c. i. Plut. in Pericl. P. 161.

persuasive methods, he would win them over gently Artax. to his will, and gain their assent spontaneously; at Longim. other times, when he found them obstinate, he would in a manner drag them forward against their will, to those things which were for their good; imitating on this occasion a skilful physician, who, in a tedious and stubborn disease, knows what times are proper for him to indulge his patient in innocent medicaments that are pleasing; in order after to administer those of a strong and violent nature, which indeed put him to pain, but are alone capable of restoring his health.

And indeed, it is manifest that the utmost skill and abilities were required, to manage and govern a populace haughty from their power and exceedingly capricious; and on this occasion Pericles succeeded wonderfully. He used to employ, according to the different situation of things, sometimes hope, and at other times fear, as a double helm, either to check the wild transports and starts of the people, or to raise them when dejected and desponding. By this conduct he shewed that eloquence, as Plato observes, is only the art of directing the minds of people at will; and that the chief excellency of this art consists in moving, seasonably, the various passions, whether gentle or violent; which being to the soul what strings are to a musical instrument, need only be touched by an ingenious and skilful hand to produce their effect.

It must nevertheless be confessed, that the circumstance which gave Pericles this great authority, was, not only the force of his eloquence; but, as Thucydides observes, the reputation of his life, and great probity.

Plutarch points out in Pericles, one quality which is very essential to statesmen; a quality, well adapted to win the esteem and confidence of the publick, and which supposes a great superiority of mind; and

[blocks in formation]

Artax, that is, for a man to be fully persuaded that he wants Longim. the counsels of others, and is not able to manage and direct all things alone; to associate with himself persons of merit in his labours, to employ each of these according to his talents; and to leave them the management of small matters, which only consume time, and deprive him of the liberty of mind, so necessary in the conduct of important affairs. Such a conduct, says Plutarch, is productive of two advantages. First, it extinguishes or at least breaks the force of envy and jealousy, by dividing, in some measure, a power, which is grating and offensive to us when we see it united in one single person, as if all merit centered in him alone. Secondly, it advances and facilitates the execution of affairs, and makes their success more certain. Plutarch, the better to explain his thought, employs a very natural and beautiful comparison. The hand, says he, which, from its being divided into five fingers, so far from being weaker, is the stronger, the more active, and better adapted to motion on that very account. It is the same of a statesman, who has the skill to divide his cares and functions in a proper manner, and who by that means makes his authority more active, more extensive and decisive: Whereas, the indiscreet fire of a narrow-minded man, who takes umbrage at, and is for engrossing all things, serves to no other purpose but to set his weakness and incapacity in a stronger light, and to disconcert his affairs. But Pericles, says Plutarch, did not act in this manner. Like a skilful pilot, who, though he stand almost motionless himself, however puts every thing in motion, and will sometimes seat subaltern officers at the helm; so Pericles was the soul of the government; and, seeming to do nothing of himself, he actuated and governed all things; employing the eloquence of one man, the credit and interest of another, the prudence of a third, the bravery and courage of a fourth, and so on.

« VorigeDoorgaan »