Sidor som bilder

the king to take them with him in military expeditions, to fight near his person, and to be his guard; which, with reason, was judged very honourable. Another privilege, in which the useful united with the honourable, was that of being maintained for the rest of their lives at the expense of their country. u That this expense might not become too chargeable to the state, Solon reduced the pension of a victor in the Olympic games to five hundred drachms;v in the Isthmian to an hundred; w and in the rest in propor. tion. The victor and his country considered this pension less as a relief of the champion's indigence, than as a mark of honour and distinction. They were also exempted from all civil offices and employ. ments.

The celebration of the games being over, one of the first applications of the magistrates who presided in them was to inscribe, in the public register, the name and country of the Athletæ who had carried the prizes, and to annex the species of combat in which they had been victorious. The chariot race had the preference to all other games: from whence the historians, who date their facts by the Olympiads, as Thucydides, Dionysius Halicarnassus, Diodorus Siculus, and Pausanias, almost always express the Olympiad by the name and country of the victors in that race.

The praises of the victorious Athletæ were among the Greeks one of the principal subjects of their lyric poetry. We find that all the odes of the four books of Pindar turn upon it, each of which takes its title

Diog. Laert. in Solon. p. 37.

• About $50

w About $10

from the games in which the combatants signalized themselves, whose victories those poems celebrate. The poet, indeed, frequently enriches his matter, by calling in to the champion's assistance, incapable alone of inspiring all the enthusiasm necessary, the aid of the gods, heroes, and princes who have


relation to his subject; and to support the flights of imagination to which he abandons himself. Before Pindar, the poet Simonides practised the same manner of writing, intermingling the praises of the gods and heroes with those of the champions whose victories he sang. It is related upon this head, that one of the victors in boxing, called Scopas, having agreed with Simonides for a poem upon his victory, the poet, according to custom, after having given the highest praises to the champion, expatiates in a long digression to the honour of Castor and Pollux. Scopas, satisfied in appearance with the performance of Simonides, paid him, however, only the third part of the sum agreed on, referring him for the remainder to the Tyndarides, whom he had celebrated so well: and he was well paid their part in effect, if we may believe the sequel; for at the feast given by the champion, whilst the guests were at table, a servant came to Simonides, and told him, that two men, covered with dust and sweat, were at the door and desired to speak with him in all haste. He had scarce set his foot out of the chamber, in order to go to them, when the roof fell in, and crushed the champion, with all his guests, to death.

* Cic. de Orat. 1. ii. n. 352, 353. Phæd. I. ii. fab. 23. Quin. 1. xi. c. 2.

Sculpture united with poetry to perpetuate the fame of the champions. Statues were erected to the victors, especially in the Olympic games, in the very place where they had been crowned, and sometimes in that of their birth also ; which was commonly done at the expense of their country. Among the statues which adorned Olympia, were those of several children, of ten or twelve years old, who had obtained the prize at that age in the Olympic games. They did not only raise such monuments to the champions, but to the very horses to whose swiftness they were indebted for the Agonistic crown : and Pausanias mentions one, which was erected in honour of a mare, called Aura, whose history is worth repeating. Phidolas, her rider, having fallen off in the beginning of the race, the mare continued to run in the same manner as if he had been upon her back. She outstripped all the rest, and upon the sound of the trumpets, which was usual towards the end of the race to animate the competitors, she redoubled her vigor and courage, turned round the goal, and, as if she had been sensible of the victory, presented herself before the judges of the games. The Eleans declared Phidolas victor, with permission to erect a monument to himself and the mare that had served him so well.



Before I make an end of observing upon the combats and games, so much in estimation

among the Greeks, I beg the reader's permission to make a reflection, that

Lib. vi. p. 368.

may serve to explain the different characters of the Greeks and Romans, with regard to this subject.

The most common entertainment of the latter, at which the fair sex, by nature tender and compassionate, were present in throngs, was the combats of the gladiators, and of men with bears and lions, in which the cries of the wounded and dying, and the abundant effusion of human blood, supplied a grateful spectacle for a whole people, who feasted their cruel eyes with the savage pleasure of seeing men murder one another in cool blood ; and in the times of the persecutions, with the tearing in pieces of old men and infants, of women and tender virgins, whose age and weakness are apt to excite compassion in the hardest hearts.

In Greece these combats were absolutely unknown, and were only introduced into some cities, after their subjection to the Roman people. The Athenians, however, whose distinguishing characteristics were benevolence and humanity, never admitted them into their city; and when it was proposed to introduce the combats of the gladiators, that they might not be outdone by the Corinthians in that point, “ First throw down,” cried out an a Athenian from the midst of the assembly, “throw down the altar, erected above a thousand years ago by our ancestors to Mercy.'

It must be allowed, in this respect, that the conduct and wisdom of the Greeks was infinitely superior to that of the Romans. I speak of the wisdom of Pagans. Convinced that the multitude, too much governed by the objects of sense to be sufficiently amused and

? Lucian in vit. Demonact. p. 1014. * It was Demonax, a celebrated philosopher, whose disciple Lucian had been. He flourished in the reign of Marcus Aurelius.

entertained with the pleasures of the understanding, could be delighted only with sensible objects, both nations were studious to divert them with games and shews, and such external contrivances, as were proper to affect the senses. In the institution of which, each follows its peculiar genius and disposition.

The Romans, educated in war, and accustomed to battles, retained, notwithstanding the politeness upon which they piqued themselves, something of their ancient ferocity; and hence it was, that the effusion of blood, and the murders exhibited in their public shows, far from inspiring them with horror, was a grateful entertainment to them.

The insolent pomp of triumphs flows from the same source, and argues no less inhumanity. To obtain this honour, it was necessary to prove that eight or ten thousand men at least had been killed in battle. The spcils, which were carried with so much ostentation, proclaimed, that an infinity of honest families had been reduced to the utmost misery. The innumerable troop of captives had been free persons a few days before, and were often distinguishable for honour, merit, and virtue. The representation of the towns that had been taken in the war, explained, that they had sacked, plundered, and burnt the most opulent cities; and either destroyed or enslaved their inhabitants. In fine, nothing was more inhuman, than to drag kings and princes in chains before the chariot of a Roman citizen, and to insult their misfortunes and humiliation in that public manner.

bThe triumphal arches, erected under the emperors, where the enemies appeared with chains upon their

6 Plut. in Quæst. Rom. p. 273.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »