Page images
PDF
EPUB

tion, was Miltiades, who lived about ninety years after Solon, and is reckoned to have been the first great captain, not only of Athens, but of all Greece. From the time of Miltiades to that of Phocion, who is looked upon as the last famous general of Athens, are about igo years: after which, they were subdued and insulted by Alex ander's captains, and continued, under several revolutions, a small truckling state, of no name or reputation, till they fell, with the rest of Greece, under the power of the Romans.

During this period from Miltiades to Phocion, I fhall trace the conduct of the Athenians with relation to their diffensions between the people and fome of their generals; who, at that time, by their power and credit in the army, in a warlike commonwealth, and often supported by each other, were, with the magistrates and other civil officers, a sort of counterpoise to the power of the people, who, since the death of Solon, had already made great encroachments. What these diffenfions were, how founded, and what the confequences of them, I shall briefly and impartiaily relate.

I must here premise, that the Nobles in Athens, were not at this time a corporate affembly, that I can gather; therefore, the refentments of the Commons were usually turned against particular persons, and by way of articles of impeachment. Whereas, the Commons in Rome, and some other states, as will appear in a proper place, though they followed this method upon

occasion, occasion, yet generally pursued the enlargement of their power, by more fet quarrels of one entire assembly against another. However, the custom of particular impeachments being not limited to former ages, any more than that of general struggles and diffenfions between fixed assemblies of Nobles and Commons, and the ruin of Greece having been owing to the former, as that, of Rome was to the latter, I shall treat on both expresly; that those states, who are concerned in either (if at least there be any such now in the world) may, by observing the means and issues of former diffenfions, learn whether the causes are alike in theirs; and if they find them to be so, may consider whether they ought not justly to apprehend the same effects. • To speak of every particular person impeached by the Commons of Athens, within the compass designed, would introduce the history of almost every great man they had among them : I shall therefore take notice only of six, who, living in that period of time when Athens was at the height of its glory, as indeed it could not be 0therwise, while such hands were at the helm; though impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors, such as bribery, arbitrary proceedings, mifupplying or embezzling public funds, ill conduct at sea, and the like, were honoured and lamented by their country, as the preservers of it, and have had the veneration of all ages since paid justly to their memories.

Miltiades was one of the Athenian generals

against against the Persian power, and the famous victory at Marathon was chieily owing to his valour and conduct. Being sent, some time after, to reduce the island Paros, be mistook a great fire at a distance for the fleet, and being no ways a match for them, fet fail for Athens; at his arrival, he was impeached by the Commons for treachery, though not able to appear by reason of his wounds, fined 30,000 crowns, and died in prison. Though the consequences of this proceeding, upon the affairs of Athens, were no other than the untimely loss of fo great and good a man, yet I could not forbear relating it..

Their next great man was Aristides. * Bew fides the mighty service he had done his country in the wars, he was a person of the strictest juftice, and best acquainted with the laws, as well as forms of their government, so that he was in a manner Chancellor of Athens. This man, upon a flight and false accusation, of favouring arbia trary power, was banished by ostracism; which, rendered into modern English, would fignify, that they voted, he fould be removed from their prefence and council for ever. But, however, they had the wit to recal him, and to that action owed the prefervation of their state, by his future services. For it must be still confeffed in behalf of the Athenian people, that they never conceived themselves perfectly infallible, nor arrived to the heights of modern assemblies, to make cbs/inacy Vol. II.

X

confirm * Lord Somers. He was the general patron of the literati, and the particular friend of Dr. Swift. Orrery,

the Athenian must be still come by his future

confirm what sudden heat and temerity began. They thought it not below the dignity of an afsembly, to endeavour at correcting an ill step; at least to repent, though it often fell out too late.

Themistocles † was at first a Commoner himself: it was he that raised the Athenians to get their greatness at sea, which he thought to be the true and constant interest of that commonwealth; and the famous naval victory over the Persians, at Salamis, was owing to his conduct. It seems the people observed somewhat of haughtiness in his temper and behaviour, and therefore banished him for five years; but, finding some slight matter of accufation against him, they sent to seize his person, and he hardly escaped to the Persian court; from whence, if the love of his country had not surmounted its base ingratitude to him, he had many invitations to return at the head of the Persian fleet, and take a terrible revenge: but he rather chofe a voluntary death. The people of Athens impeached Pericles, *

- , for + Earl of Orford. He had been considered in a manner as Lord High Admiral, the whole affairs of the navy having been committed to his charge. Orrery.

* Lord Halifax. He had a fine genius for poetry; and had employed his more youthful part of life in that science. He was distinguished by the name of Mouse Montague, having ridiculed, jointly with Mat. Prior, Mr. Dryden's famous poem of the Hind and Panther. The parody is drawn from Horace's fable of the city mouse and country mouse. But afterwards, upon Mr. Montague's promotion to the Chancellorship of the Exchequer, Prior, with a good-humoured indignation at seeing his friend preferred, and limself neglected, concludes an epistle,

written

[ocr errors]

for misapplying the public revenues to his own private use. He had been a person of great deserva ings from the republic, was an admirable speaker, and very popular. His accompts were confused, and he could not then give them up; therefore, merely to divert that difficulty, and the consequences of it, he was forced to engage his country in the · Peloponnesian war, the longest that ever was known in Greece, and which ended in the utter ruin of Athens.

The same people, having resolved to subdue Sicily, sent 'a mighty fleet under the command of Nicias, Lyfimachus, and Alcibiades; the two former, persons of age and experience; the last, a young man of noble birth, excellent education, and a plentiful fortune. A little before the fleet set fail, it seems, one night, the stone images of Mercury, placed in several parts of the city, were all pared in the face : this action the Athenians interpreted for a design of destroying the popular state; and Alcibiades, having been formerly noted for the like frolicks and excursions, was immediately accused of this. He, whether conscious of his innocence, or assured of the secrecy, offered to come to his trial, before he went to his command; this the Athenians refufed. But as soon as he was got to Sicily, they sent for him back, designing to take the advantage, and pro

X 2

fecute written in the year 1698, to Fleetwood Shepherd, Efq; with these three lines :

My friend Charles Montague's preferr’d,

Nor would I have it long observ’d,
- That one mouse eats while t'other's start'd. Orrery,

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »