Billeder på siden

tides, his conduct and principles were always uniform, stedfast in the pursuit of whatever he thought just, and incapable of the least falshood or shadow of flattery, disguise or fraud, no not in jest.

fle had one maxiin of the greatest importance to all such as would enter into public employments, who are too apt to rely upon their friends, and their intrigues. And this was, that every true citizen and man of probity should place his whole credit in doing and advising upon alloccasions whatever was just and honest. He spoke thus, from observing that the great credit of their friends induced most persons in office to abuse their power, by committing unjust actions.

Nothing could be more admirable than the behaviour of Aristides before the battle of Marathon, or more different from our way of thinking and acting at present. The command of the army being divided between ten Athenian generals, who had each their particular day to preside over the rest, Aristides was the first to give up this command to Miltiades, as the person of the greatest ability among them, and engaged his colleagues to do the same, by representing to them, that it was not shameful, but great and salutary, to submit to superior merit. And by thus uniting the whole authority in a single chief, he enabled Miltiades to gain a great victory over the Persians.

There is one quality very extraordinary, which belongs to all the four great men I have been speaking of, and deserves to be carefully taken notice of by a master, and to be pointed out to his scholars; and that is their facility in sacrificing their own private resentments to the good of the public. Their hatred had nothing implacable in it, no rancour, no fury, as among the Romans. The safety of the state reconciles then without leaving any jealousy or gall behind it; and far from secretly crossing the designs of a former rival, every one concurs with zeal to the success of his enterprises, and to the advancement of

his glory.

[blocks in formation]

This quality, this characteristic, is one of the noblest, most difficult, and most superior to human nature, that we meet with in history; and I may venture to say, the most necessary and important for persons in high stations, in whom it is but ioo common to observe a narrowness of soul, which they are pleased to call great and noble, and puts them upon being captious, nice and jealous in point of commmand, incompatible with their colleagues, solely attentive to their own glory, always ready to sacrifice the public to their private interest, and suffering theirrivals to commit faults, that they may turn them to their own advantage.

But, we shall see a quite different conduct in the persons whose characters we are now examining.

Themistocles, not long before the battle of Salamis, finding the Athenians regretted Aristides, and were desirous of his return, though he was the principal author of his banishment, made no scruple to recal hin, by a decree in favour of all exiles, which allowed thein to return and assist their country with their counsel, and defend it with their valour.

, [g] Aristides, thus recalled, went some time after to find Themistocles in his tent, and gave him an important piece of advice, upon which the success of the war, and the safety of Greece depended. His discourse deserved to have been engraved in letters of gold. “ Themistocles, says he, if we are wise, we shall “ henceforward lay aside that vain and childish dissen

tion, which has hitherto set us at variance; and by a more noble and useful emulation, strive who shall take the most pains in serving our country; you,

by cummanding and doing the duty of a discreet " and good officer; and I, by obeying and assisting

you with my person and advice. He then communicated to him what he judged necessary in the present conjuncture. Themistocles astonished at his greatness of soul, and so noble a frankness of sentiments, was ashamed to be outdone by his rival; and freely owning it, promised from thenceforth ta imi[8] Herod. lib. 8. Plut, in Vit. Themist, & Aristid.


tate his generous example, and if possible exceed it in his future conduct. Nor did all these professions end in mere compliment, but were made good by constant effects: and Plutarch observes, that during the whole tiine Themistocles commanded, [h] Aristides assisted him upon every occasion with his advice and credit, joyfully taking pains to promote the glory of his greatest enemy through the motive of advancing the public good. And when afterwards the disgrace of Themistocles gave him a proper opportunity for revenge, [i] instead of resenting the ill treatment he had received from him, he constantly refused to join with his enemies, as far from secretly rejoicing over the misfortune of his adversary, as he had been before from being afflicted at his good success.

Is there in history any thing more entirely grand and exalted than what we have now related? Or do we find any thing elsewhere which may justly be compared with this noble and generous behaviour of Aristides? [k] It is deservedly admired as one of the most beautiful circumstances in the life of Agricola, that he employed all his abilities and care

augment the glory of his generals; but here it was to advance that of the greatest enemy. How far superior in merit?

We have also in Cimon a great instance of the virtue I am describing, who being actually banished by ostracism, came notwithstanding to take his place in his tribe to fight against the Lacedæmonians, who till then had been constantly his friends, and with whom he stood charged of holding private intelligence. And when his enemies had obtained an order from the public council, to forbid his going to the battle, he withdrew, and conjured his friends to prove his innocence and their own by their actions. They took the armour of Cimon, placed it in his post, and fought with so much valour, that the most part of them lost their lives, leaving the Athenians under the utmost regret for their loss, and severely repenting the unjust accusations they had thrown upon them.

[] Násla Ourém pale xy ouvefs- suam famam gestis exultavit: ad λευών, ένδοξότατον επί σωτηρία κοινή auctorem & ducem, ut minister for. WoW tor ex dogov. Plut. in Vit. tunamn referebat. Ita virtute in ob

sequendo, verecundiâ in prædican[i] Oix furnoixárncev. ... de do, extra invidiam, nec extra glóarénavo ir izope duso xêrlos, coneg riam erat. Tacit. in Vit. Agric. εδ' ευεμερεήπρότερον έφθόνησε. Ιb. cap. 8. [k] Nec Agricola unquam in

E e 4



The Athenians, upon the loss of a considerable battle recalled Cimon; and Pericles himself, as we have before observed, was the person who drew up and proposed the decree, by which he was recalled, though he had before contributed more than any other to his banishment. Upon which Plutarch makes a beautiful reflection, that wholly confirms all that I have advanced upon this subject. Pericles, says he, used his whole interest to bring back his rival,“ SO “ much were the quarrels of the citizens moderated

by the views of the public advantage, and their " animosities always ready to be laid aside as soon as “ the good of the state required it; and so much did " their ambition, which is the most lively and most “ violent of passions, conform and give way to the

necessities and interests of their country.” Cimon upon his return, without complaining of his former ill usage; or taking much upon him, and without seeking to prolong a war which made him necessary to his country, readily executed the service expected from him, and immediately procured the peace it wanted.

But nothing more clearly discovers the inward sentiments of Pericles, his good nature and aversion to all hatred and revenge, than an expression which fell from him a little before his death. His friends were sitting round him as he lay sick, and not thinking that he heard them, were talking amongst themselves in commendation of his government, and the nine trophies he had gained, when he interrupted them, and won: dered, he said, they should dwell so much upon matters in which fortune had so great a share, and were common to him with many other generals, and forget the greatest and most beautiful circumstance of his life, that no Athenian had ever wore mourning on his account.

The several particulars I have here mentioned concerning the four great men, who were the ornaments of the Athenian republic, may in my opinion be very useful, not only to such young persons, as are destined to fill considerable places in the state, but to people of all conditions whatsoever. For they let us see, how low and mean-spirited it is to be envious and jealous of the virtue and reputation of others; and on the other hand, how noble and generous to value, love, and commend the merit of our equals, colleagues, competitors, and even enemies, if we have any. And these passages of history should make the greater impression upon us, as they are not the speculative lessons of philosophers, but duties reduced to practice.


II. OF OSTRACISM. Ostracism was a sentence among the Athenians, by which they condemned any one to a kind of banishment that was to last ten years, unless that terin was lessened by the people. The consent of six thousand citizens at least was required for a condemnation of this kind. They gave their vote by writing the name of the person upon a shell, in Greek called Öspaxos, from whence came the name of ostracism. This kind of banishment was not inflicted as a punishment for any crime, nor considered as infamous; [2] the most illustrious citizens, and often men of the greatest probity, were exposed to it. I do not here take upon me to plead or apologize in behalf of ostracism, which, as it may be considered under different views, may likewise occasion very different judgments. As this law seemed only designed against virtue, and to be severe upon merit, it is no wonder, that in this view it should appear extremely odious and offensive to every rational man. This induced Valerius Maximus to charge this custom as the folly and extravaMiltiades, Cimon, Aristides, Themistocles, &c.


« ForrigeFortsæt »