Page images

the covenant with many for one week; and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations, he shall make it desolate, even until the con. summation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate."

: When Esdras was in power, as his chief view was to restore religion to its ancient purity, he disposed the books of scripture into their proper order, revised them all very carefully, and collected the incidents relating to the people of God in ancient times ; in order to compose out of them the two books of Chronicles, to which he added the history of his own times, which was finished by Nehemiah. It is their books that end the long history which Moses had begun, and which the writers who came after them continued in a direct series, till the repairing of Jerusalem. The rest of the sacred history is not written in that uninterrupted order. Whilst Esdras and Nehemiah were compiling the latter part of that great work, Herodotus, whom profane authors call the Father of History, began to write. Thus we find that the latest authors of the books of scripture, flourished about the same time with the first authors of the Grecian history ; and when it began, that of God's people, to compute only from Abraham, included already fifteen centuries. Herodotus made no mention of the Jews in his history ; for the Greeks desired to be informed of such nations only, as were famous for their wars, their commerce, and grandeur ; so that as Judea was then but just rising from its ruins, it did not excite the attention of that people.

& Bishop of Meaux's Universal History.




I now return to Greece. From the banishment of Themistocles, and the death of Aristides, the exact time of which is not known, two citizens, Cimon and Pericles, divided all credit and authority in Athens. Pericles was much younger than Cimon, and of a quite different character. As he will make a very considerable figure in the following history, it is of importance to the reader to know who he was, in what manner he had been educated, and his scheme and method of government.

h Pericles was descended, by the mother's as well as father's side, from the greatest and most illustrious families of Athens. His father Xanthippus, who defeated at Mycale the king of Persia's lieutenants, married Agarista, niece to Clysthenes, who expelled the Pisistratides, descendants of Pisistratus the tyrant, and established a popular government in Athens. Pericles had long prepared himself for the design he formed of engaging in state affairs,

He was brought up under the most learned men of his age, and particularly Anaxagoras of Clazomene, sirnamed the Intelligent, from his being the first, as we are told, who ascribed human events, as well as the formation and government of the universe, not to chance, as some philosophers, nor to a fatal necessity, but to a superior intelligence, who disposed and governed all things with wisdom.

This tenet or opinion subsisted long before his time; but he perhaps set it in a stronger light than all others had done, and taught it methodically and from principles. Anaxagoras instructed his pupil perfectly in the part of philosophy that relates to nature, and which is therefore called physics. This study gave him a strength and greatenss of soul which raised him above an infinite number of vulgar prejudices and vain practices generally observed in his time; and which, in affairs of government and military enterprises, either disconcerted often the wisest and most necessary measures, or defeated them by scrupulous delays, authorized and covered with the specious veil of religion. These were sometimes dreams or auguries, at other times dreadful phenomena, as eclipses of the sun or moon, or else omens and presages; not to mention the wild chimeras of judiciary astrology. The knowledge of nature, free from the groveling and weak superstitions to which ignorance gives birth, inspired him, says Plutarch, with a well grounded piety towards the gods, attended with a strength of mind that was immoveable, and a calm hope of the blessings to be expected from them. Although he found infinite charms in this study, he did not however devote himself to it as a philosopher, but as a statesman ; and he had so much power over himself, (a very difficult thing,) as to pre. scribe himself limits in the pursuit of knowledge.

1 Plut. in vit. Pericl. p. 153–156.

But the talent he cultivated with the greatest care, because he looked upon it as the most necessary instrument to all who are desirous of conducting and governing the people, was eloquence. And indeed, those who possessed this talent, in a free state like that of Athens, were sure of reigning in the assemblies,

The ancients, under this name, comprehended what we call physics and metaphysics ; that is, the knowledge of spiritual things, as God and spirits ; and that of bodies.


engrossing suffrages, determining affairs, and exercising a kind of absolute power over the hearts and minds of the people. He therefore made this his chief object, and the mark to which all his other improvements, as well as the several sciences he had learned from Anaxagoras, “ were directed ; exalting, to borrow Plutarch's expression, the study of philosophy with the dye of rhetoric ; the meaning of which is, that Pericles, to embellish and adorn his discourse heightened the strength and solidity of reasoning with the colouring and graces of eloquence.

He had no cause to repent his having bestowed so much time in this study, for his success far exceeded his utmost hopes. The poets,' his contemporaries, used to say, that his eloquence was so powerful, that he lightned, thundered, and agitated all Greece. - It had those piercing and lively strokes, that reach the inmost soul ; and his discourse left always an irresistible incentive, a kind of spur behind it in the minds of his auditors. He had the art of uniting beauty with strength; and Cicero observes, that at the very time he opposed, with the greatest tenaciousness, the inclinations and desires of the Athenians, he had the art to make even severity itself, and the kind of cruelty with which he spoke against the flatterers of the people, popular. There was no resisting the solidity of his

* Βαφη τη ρητορικε την φυσιολογιας οπο χεομεν. 1 Ab Aristophane poeta fulgurare, tonare, permiscere Græciam dictus est. Cic. in Orat, n. 29.

Quid Pericles ? De cujus dicendi copia sic accepimus, ut, cum contra voluntatem Atheniensium loqueretur pro salute patriæ, severius tamen id ipsum, quod ille contra populares homines diceret, populare omnibus et jucundum videretur : cujus in labris veteres comici, leporem habitasse diserunt : tantamque vim in eo fuisse, ut in eorum mentibus, qui audissent, quasi aculeos quosdam relinqueret. Cic. 1. iii. de Orat. n. 138.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

arguments, or the sweetness of his words; whence it was said, that the goddess of persuasion, with all her graces, resided on his lips. And indeed, as Thucydides, • his rival and adversary, was one day asked, whether he or Pericles was the best wrestler : “ Whenever,” says he, “I have given him a fall, he affirms the contrary in such strong and forcible terms, that he

per. suades all the spectators that I did not throw him, though they themselves saw him on the ground.” Nor was he less prudent and reserved, than strong and vehement in his speeches; and it is related, that he never spoke in public, till after he had besought the gods not to suffer any expression to drop from him, either incongruous to his subject, or offensive to the people. • Whenever he went into the assembly, before he came out of his house, he used to say to himself, “Remember, Pericles, that thou art going to speak to men born in the arms of liberty ; to Greeks, to Athenians.”

The uncommon endeavours which Pericles, according to historians, used, in order to improve his mind in knowledge, and to attain to a perfection in eloquence, are an excellent lesson to such persons as are one day to fill the important offices of state ; and a just censure of those,p who, disregarding whatever is called study and learning, bring into those employments, upon which they enter without knowledge or experience, nothing but a ridiculous self sufficiency, and a rash

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

· Not the historian.

• Plut. in Symp. 1. i. p. 610. Nunc contra plerique ad honores adipiscendos, et ad remp. geren dam, nudi veniunt et inermes, nulla cognitione rerum, nulla scientia or. Dati. Cic. I. ii. de Orat. n. 136.


« PreviousContinue »