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hands and legs, could proceed only from a haughty fierceness of disposition, and an inhuman pride, that took delight in immortalizing the shame and sorrow of subjected nations.
The joy of the Greeks after a victory was far more modest. They erected trophies indeed, but of wood, a matter little durable, which would soon consume; and those it was prohibited to renew. Plutarch's reason for this is admirable. After time had destroyed and obliterated the marks of dissension and enmity that had divided the people, it would have been the excess of odious and barbarous animosity, to have thought of reestablishing them, and to have perpetuated the remembrance of ancient quarrels, which could not be buried too soon in silence and oblivion. He adds, that the trophies of stone and brass, since substituted to those of wood, reflect no honour upon those who introduced the custom.
"I am pleased with the grief of Agesilaus's countenance, after a considerable victory, wherein a great number of his enemies, that is to say of Greeks, were left upon the field, and to hear him utter with sighs and groans, these words, so full of moderation and humanity; “Oh! unhappy Greece, to deprive thyself of so many brave citizens, and to destroy those who had been sufficient to have conquered all the Barba. rians!”
The same spirit of moderation and humanity prevailed in the public shows of the Greeks. Their
° Οτι τε χgoνε τα σημεία της προς τις πολεμιες διαφορας αμαυρεντης, Φυτες αναλαμβανων και καινοποιων επιφθονον εφι και φιλαπεχθημεν.
Plut. in Lacon. Apophthegm. p. 211.
festivals had nothing mournful or afflictive in them. Every thing in those feasts tended to delight, friend. ship, and harmony; and in that consisted one of the greatest advantages which resulted to Greece from the solemnization of these games. The republics, separated by distance of country, and diversity of interests, having the opportunity of meeting from time to time, in the same place, and in the midst of rejoicing and festivity, allied themselves more strictly with one another, apprized each other against the Barbarians and the common enemies of their liberty, and made up their differences by the mediation of some neutral state in alliance with them. The same language, manners, sacrifices, exercises and worship, all conspired to unite the several little states of Greece into one great and formidable nation; and to preserve among them the same disposition, the same principles, the same zeal for their liberty, and the same passion for the arts and sciences. OF THE PRIZES OF WIT, AND THE SHOWS AND REPRESENTATIONS
OF THE THEATRE I have reserved for the conclusion of this head another kind of competition, which does not at all depend upon the strength, activity, and address of the body, and may be called with reason the combat of the mind; wherein the orators, historians, and poets made trial of their capacities, and submitted their productions to the censure and judgment of the public. The emulation in this sort of dispute was most lively and ardent, as the victory in question might justly be deemed to be infinitely superior to all the others, because it affects the man more nearly, is founded in his personal and internal qualities, and decides the merit of his wit and capacity; which are advantages we are apt to aspire at with the utmost vivacity and passion, and of which we are the least of all inclined to renounce the glory to others.
It was a great honour, and at the same time a most sensible pleasure, for writers, who are generally fond of fame and applause, to have known how to reconcile the voices in their favour of so numerous and select an assembly as that of the Olympic games, in which were present all the finest geniuses of Greece, and all the best judges of the excellency of a work. This theatre was equally open to history, eloquence, and poetry.
• Herodotus read his history in the Olympic games to all Greece, assembled at them, and was heard with with such applause, that the names of the nine Muses were given to the nine books which compose his work; and the people cried out wherever he passed, "That is he who has wrote our history, and celebrated our glorious successes against the barbarians so excellently."
All who had been present at the games, did afterwards make every part of Greece resound with the name and glory of this illustrious historian.
Lucian, who writes the fact I have repeated, adds, that, after the example of Herodotus, many of the sophists and rhetoricians went to Olympia, to read the harangues of their composing; finding that the shortest and most certain method of acquiring a great reputation in a little time.
i Lucian. in Herod. p. 622.
* Plutarch observes, that Lysias, the famous Athe nian orator, cotemporary with Herodotus, pronounced a speech in the Olympic games, wherein he congratulated the Greeks upon their reconciliation with each other, and their having united to reduce the power of Dionysius the tyrant, as upon the greatest action they had ever done.
8 We may judge of the passion of the poets to signalize themselves in these solemn games, from that of Dionysius himself. That prince who had the foolish vanity to believe himself the most excellent poet of his time, appointed readers, called, in the Greek, . rhapsodists, to read pieces of his composing at Olympia. When they began to pronounce the verses of the royal poet, the strong and harmonious voices of the readers occasioned a profound silence, and they were heard at first with the greatest attention, which continually decreased as they went on, and turned at last into downright horselaughs and hooting; so miserable did the verses appear. He comforted himself for this disgrace by a victory he gained some tine after in the feast of Bacchus at Athens, in which he caused a tragedy of his composition to be represented.
The disputes of the poets in the Olympic games, were nothing in comparison with the ardour and emulation expressed by them at Athens; which is what remains to be said upon this subject, and there. fore I shall conclude with it; taking occasion to give my readers, at the same time, a short view of the shows and representations of the theatre of the ancients. Those who would be more fully informed on this subject, will find it treated at large in a work lately made public by the reverend Father Brumoi, the Jesuit; a work which abounds with profound knowledge and erudition, and with reflections entirely new, deduced from the nature of the poems of which it treats. I shall make considerable use of that piece, and often without citing it; which is not uncommon with me.
P * Plut. de vit. Orat. p. 835. & Diod. I. xiv. p. 318.
tafador i Diod. I. xy. p. 384.
EXTRAORDINARY PASSION OF THE ATHENIANS FOR THE INTER
TAINMENTS OF THE STAGE. EMULATION OF THE POETS IN DISPUTING THE PRIZES IN THOSE REPRESENTATIONS.
A short idea of Dramatic Poetry. No people ever expressed so much ardour and passion for the entertainments of the theatre as the Greeks, and especially the Athenians. The reason of this is obvious. No people ever demonstrated such extent of genius, nor carried so far the love of eloquence and poesy, taste for the sciences, justness of sentiment, elegance of ear, and delicacy in all the refinements of language. A poor woman who sold herbs at Athens, distinguished Theophrastus to be a stranger, by a single word which he made use of in expressing himself. The common people got the tragedies of Euripides by heart. The genius of every nation expresses
itself in the people's manner of passing their time, and in their pleasures.
great employment and delight of the Athenians were to amuse themselves with works of wit, and
* Attica anus Theophrastum, hominem alioqui dissertissimum, annobata unius affectatione verbi, hospitem dixit. Quint. I. viii. c. 1.