Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

*

but having revolted were afterwards subdued, being conquered in battle." Now history records no revolt of the Medes from any Darius except Darius Nothus,-an event mentioned by Xenophon in his Hellenic History, I. ii. 12, under the year 408 B.C. But for these passages and their supposed reference to the same events, we should be at liberty to assume that Herodotus closed and finally published his History in the course of the Peloponnesian war. For the argument derived from the mention of Amyrtæus, III. 15, as it assumes the identity of two persons bearing the same name at an interval of fifty years, must be admitted to be very doubtful; and the supposed allusion to the fortification of Deceleia (IX. 73) is of such a kind, that it receives a more natural explanation as referring to the first period of the war. But if the words which we have quoted above refer to the revolt of the Medes in 408 B. C., Herodotus did not publish his History, in the form in which we have it, till the 76th year of his own age. It must be admitted, too, that the language in which he speaks of the repentance of the Medes sounds rather strange, if applied to an event which happened more than 150 years after their original submission. These difficul. ties have been strongly felt; still, finding no recorded insurrection of the Medes against Darius except that of the year 408, critics have felt themselves compelled to admit that Herodotus at least made additions to his Muses as late as that year. Mr. Grote takes great pains to shew that the revolt in question is nothing else than the endeavour of the Medes to recover the ascendency which they had lost in submitting to the Persians under Cyrus, by setting Smerdis the Magian on the throne, after the death of Cambyses. Heeren has shewn that the attempt of the Magi to possess themselves of the sovereignty was not merely the act of an ambitious sacerdotal caste, but a national reaction of Medes against Persians, and the change of the sceptre from Smerdis to Darius a recovery of their ascendency by the Persians; and Mr. Grote has brought together all the circumstances which tend to give a political character and importance to this movement. But he has not succeeded in establishing the existence of a state of things corresponding to the description of Herodotus. How could the attempt to set a Magian upon the throne be called a revolt from Darius, when Darius was only appointed to the throne after the assassination of Smerdis and his brother by the seven Persian nobles, and after the general Magophonia? We read of disobedience to the orders of Darius by satraps in distant provinces (who were not Medes, but Persians); but we find nothing amounting to a justification of Mr. Grote’s assertion that “the Medes revolted and tried to maintain themselves by force against Darius, who, however, found means to subdue them."† (IV. 303.) Still less can we find any trace in Herodotus or any other account of the progress and termination of the Magian usurpation of a battle (åroorávtec ®È, οπίσω κατεστράφθησαν, μάχη νικηθέντες, Ι. 130) by which he says the

That he had witnessed some of the calamities of that war, we think the natural interpretation of VI. 98, where he speaks of the sufferings of the Greeks -τα μεν από των Περσέων αυτη γενόμενα, τα δε απ' αυτέων των κορυφαίων περί της αρχής πολεμεόντων. .

+ Immediately after the account of the election of Darius, Herodotus proceeds (ΠΙ. 88): Δαρείος τε δή, ο Υστάσπεος, βασιλεύς απεδέδεκτο και οι ήσαν πάντες εν τη Ασίη κατήκοοι, πλήν 'Αραβίων.

revolt was terminated. Gladly, therefore, as we should have accepted any plausible solution of the difficulty respecting the biography of Herodotus, we must acknowledge that we cannot adopt what Mr. Grote offers.

In the progress of his history of the Persian power, Mr. Grote has to relate the expedition of Darius into Scythia, which he places about 516 or 515 B.C. We think he deals hardly with that monarch, when he calls it “an insane expedition,” and pronounces it to have been produced “by the lust of conquest and a sentiment of wounded dignity.” The remembrance of the Scythian inroad about a century before, and the evils which it had inflicted upon Asia, was surely a reasonable motive with a sovereign who had done so much to establish order in his dominions, to attempt to bridle these fierce and lawless Nomads, from age to age the terror of their civilized neighbours. That his expedition, like that of Cyrus, was undertaken without due calculation of the difficulties which the physical peculiarities of the country and the warfare of its inhabitants presented, is true; and this ignorance cost Cyrus his life and Darius his army: but the epithet insane would more justly characterize the expedition of Cambyses into Ethiopia, than that of Darius against the Scythians. Mr. Grote has forcibly pointed out the improbabilities of the narrative of Herodotus, and the want of historical verity in all the details of the expedition.

“As far as the point now attained,” the crossing of the Danube, "our narrative runs smoothly and intelligibly. We know that Darius marched his army into Scythia, and that he came back with ignominy and severe loss. But as to all which happened between his crossing and re-crossing the Danube, we find nothing approaching to authentic statement, nor even what we can set forth as the probable basis of truth on which exaggerating fancy has been at work. All is inexplicable mystery. The narrative of Ktesias, defective as it is, is much less perplexing than that of Herodotus, who conducts the immense host of Darius, as it were, through fairy land-heedless of large intervening rivers, want of all cultivation or supplies, destruction of the country, in so far as it could be destroyed, by the retreating Scythians, &c. He tells us that the Persian army consisted chiefly of foot—that there were no roads nor agriculture; yet his narrative carries it over about twelve degrees of longitude, from the Danube to the country east of the Tanais, across the rivers Tyras (Dniester), Hypanis (Bog), Borysthenes (Dnieper), Hypakris, Gerrhus and Tanais. How these rivers could have been passed in the face of enemies by so vast a host, we are left to conjecture, since it was not winter-time to convert them into ice: nor does the historian even allude to them as having been crossed either in the advance or in the retreat.”

After describing the adventures of Darius, his march all across Scythia in a north-easterly direction, and back again a prodigious distance in a north-westerly direction, and his final precipitate retreat to the Danube, he continues,

“Here we re-enter the world of reality at the north bank of the Danube, the place where we before quitted it. All that is reported to have passed in the interval, if tried by the tests of historical matter of fact, can be received as nothing more than a perplexing dream; it only acquires value when we consider it as an illustrative fiction, including, doubtless, some unknown matter of fact, but framed chiefly to exhibit in action those unattackable nomads who formed the north-eastern barbarous world of a Greek, and with whose manners Herodotus was profoundly struck. That Darius actually marched into the country there can be no doubt : nothing else is certain except his ignominious retreat out of it."--IV. 360.

his igno

The idea of a march to the Wolga or the Tanais is indeed absurd ; that it should have been countenanced by Herodotus proves rance of the geography of the countries north of the Euxine, and that inaptitude, which we have mentioned before, to apply calculation as a test of truth. But when Mr. Grote refuses to consider his account as even containing materials for history, we think he applies, out of place, a principle which is only just in reference to those mythic legends with which he had to deal in his former volumes. To inquire whether Jason and the Argonauts really penetrated into Armenia, or what countries Menelaus visited in his eight years' wanderings, is certainly lost labour; because we are not assured of the primary fact, that such a voyage or such wanderings were ever performed. But the expedition of Darius is certified to us in several very important points; and to attempt, by the aid of these, to fix others, seems to us by no means so hopeless or absurd as Mr. Grote regards it. It would be a very idle inquiry, on what part of the island of Albion Brute the Trojan landed, or how much he subdued of it in his first campaign; but not so to endeavour to ascertain where Cæsar disembarked his legions, and where he crossed the Thames. The problem may not prove capable of a solution, but it is an historical problem. Now we know that Darius crossed the Danube; that he expected to subdue Scythia and return to Persia by an eastern route; and that, to accomplish this, he would march along the northern margin of the Euxine; and though Herodotus has not definitely fixed the limit of his progress, nature has. He must have been stopped by the Dniester, the very first great river which he encountered, for pontoons were no part of the field equipage of a Persian army; and had the country furnished wood for the construction of floats, the attempt to transport such a host as Darius led, must have exposed them to ruinous assaults from the Scythians. That Herodotus has composed a romance to illustrate Scythian manners, and endeavoured to pass it off for history on his readers, is a supposition irreconcilable with the good faith which shines through the simplicity with which he gives credence to stories that a severer judgment would have rejected. Sources of information were not wanting; the Ionians, who remained at the bridge, saw the army of Darius when they returned, and conversed with the Scythians, who came to persuade them to break it down. This information has been strangely blended with geographical errors and illustrated with anecdotes, whose authenticity, like most of those relative to such remote times, is any thing but certain ; yet we see nothing in the story which might not arise spontaneously and without any purpose of constructing a romance, either in Herodotus or any one else who had a share in its composition. Mr. Grote takes a view somewhat similar of the celebrated interview between Solon and Cræsus (I. 30), long ago called in question on grounds of chronology; he regards it as an illustrative tale, in which real characters are combined with facts altogether fictitious, so as to convey an impressive moral lesson. We readily admit that the discourse was framed after the event; throughout, the coming evil “casts its shadow before;” but if it had been ever so certain that Solon and Creesus had met, we should not have placed at all the more confidence in the report of their conversation. We think it a violation of an historian's duty to relate characteristic dialogues without evidence of their having been held; in the age of Herodotus it was considered a merit, not a blameable fiction, thus to fill up an unsatisfactory blank. The adventure of Adrastus and the son of Cresus, again, appears to us to be really a mythic legend turned into history. The name Adrastus " the inevitable,” is the representative of the terrible goddess Nemesis,* 'Adpáotela, by whom Cræsus is pursued. The premature death of Atys is a legend very generally diffused in the mythology of Western Asia, t happily varied, in this instance, for the purpose of the tale, by making Adrastus himself, not the boar," the instrument of his death. Even the funeral pile of Cræsus has a mythical air, from its resemblance to the story of the conflagration of the local deity of Sardes, the Lydian Hercules, which reappears in the history of Sardanapalus at Tarsus.

We have dwelt, perhaps, too long on these points, which, though interesting to critical inquirers into history, will appear of trifling importance to readers in general. The great practical instruction which Grecian history yields is the growth of the Athenian democracy; and the present political aspect of the world gives unusual interest to every thing which can illustrate the nature and tendency of that form of government. It is impossible not to perceive that every where popular power is on the increase, monarchical and aristocratical declining, and we can see no natural limit to this process, until first the spirit and finally the forms of government become republican. How far such a constitution is capable of securing to those who live under it the highest results of the social union, is therefore a deeply interesting practical question-certainly for a few generations hence, perhaps even for our own. Hitherto Athenian democracy has usually been held up as a warning, and even those who have most extolled its effects in producing enthusiastic patriotism, and calling forth the highest practical and intellectual powers, have found it difficult to deny the imputation of fickleness and ingratitude, reckless ambition and disregard of justice. We think we do not misinterpret Mr. Grote's motives in devoting the labour of so many years to a History of Greece, when we suppose that he has had it in view to rectify these conceptions, and exhibit the political institutions of Athens and the character of her people, as not less worthy of admiration than the productions of her artists, poets and philosophers.

One of the earliest phenomena in the historic ages of Greece is the very general abolition of monarchy. In the heroic times we find the normal type of government to be a king, invested with all administrative power, subject, however, to the necessity of consulting a body of elder chiefs and a popular assembly. But very early in the historic period the king disappears, in most instances we hardly know how, and his place is occupied by an oligarchy, which in course of time is more and more popularized, with occasional interruptions of this process by the usurpation of despots. Considering the close analogy between the heroic monarchies of Greece and the political institutions of the Teutonic tribes who overthrew the Roman empire, it is a curious inquiry

* Antimachus, quoted by Harpocration, Lex. s. v. 'Aồpáotela.

† The stories of the premature deaths of Maneros, Linus, Adonis, Atys, Bormius, appear to be essentially the same.

I Mr. Mitford (Ch. i. Sect. iii.) brings forward the expedition sent by Cræsus against this Mysian monster, in confirmation of similar legends of the heroic times of Greece. But such "felon boars," requiring armies for their capture, belong only to a mythical zoology.

how monarchy, more or less limited, has been the almost universal form of modern European society, while in Greece it was retained only in Sparta and Epirus. Mr. Grote justly attributes the difference in great measure to the extreme smallness of the Grecian communities. A city appears to have been the largest aggregate which they deemed susceptible of a government by law; and within so narrow an extent no force could be accumulated sufficient for the permanent maintenance of the dominion of one man. And he observes, that in modern Europe, wherever any single city or cluster of cities, or even villages, whether in the plains of Lombardy or in the mountains of Switzerland, has acquired independence, the tendency has been towards some modification of republican government. To us, who are so accustomed to see monarchical rule combined with an impartial execution of the laws, freedom of discussion and respect for private rights, even in a more perfect degree than in any ancient republic, the passionate antipathy of the Greeks to the dominion of one man under any form, appears like a blind prejudice. Mr. Grote, admitting the wide difference of ancient and modern monarchies, justifies them from the experience of their own country.

“The hatred of kings as it stood among the Greeks was a pre-eminent virtue, flowing directly from the noblest and wisest part of their nature; it was a consequence of their deep conviction of the necessity of universal legal restraint -a direct expression of that regulated sociality which required the suppression of individual passion from every one without exception, and most of all from him to whom power was confided. The conception which the Greeks formed of an irresponsible one, may be expressed in the pregnant words of Herodotus : 'He subverts the customs of the country; he violates women, he puts men to death without trial. No other conception of the probable tendencies of kingship was justified, either by a general knowledge of human nature, or by political experience as it stood from Solon downward.—The theory of a constitutional king as it exists in England would have appeared to Aristotle impracticable: to establish a king who will reign without governing, in whose name all government is carried on, yet whose personal will is in practice of little or no effect-surrounded with all the paraphernalia [we presume insignia are meant) " of power, yet acting as a passive instrument in the hands of ministers, marked out for his choice by indications which he is not at liberty to resist. This combination of the fiction of superhuman grandeur and licence with the reality of an invisible strait-waistcoat,* is what an Englishman has in his mind when he speaks of a constitutional king; the wants of our history have brought it to pass in England, amidst an aristocracy the most powerful that the world has yet seen; but we have still to learn whether it can be made to exist elsewhere, or whether the occurrence of a single king, at once able, aggressive and resolute, may not suffice to break it up.-We must not construe or criticise Grecian democracy by reference to the feelings of modern Europe, still less to the very peculiar feelings of England, respecting kingship: and it is the application, sometimes explicit and sometimes tacit, of this unsuitable standard, which renders Mr. Mitford's

appreciation of Greek politics so often incorrect and unfair.”—III. 17–19.

A curious instance of involuntary imitation ; for surely Mr. Grote must have had sounding in his ears Moore's poetical version of the Regent's Letter to the Duke of York, when he determined to retain the Perceval Administration:

“You well must reinember how shockingly bad

Our affairs were all looking, when father went mad.
A strait-waistcoat on him and restrictions on me,
A more limited monarchy could not well be."

« VorigeDoorgaan »