Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Beacon Lights of History, Volume I by John Lord

Part 3 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Such were the sublime meditations of Xenophanes. He believed in the
_One_, which is God; but this all-pervading, unmoved, undivided being
was not a personal God, nor a moral governor, but deity pervading all
space. He could not separate God from the world, nor could he admit the
existence of world which is not God. He was a monotheist, but his
monotheism was pantheism. He saw God in all the manifestations of
Nature. This did not satisfy him nor resolve his doubts, and he
therefore confessed that reason could not compass the exalted aims of
philosophy. But there was no cynicism in his doubt. It was the
soul-sickening consciousness that reason was incapable of solving the
mighty questions that he burned to know. There was no way to arrive at
the truth, "for," said he, "error is spread over all things." It was not
disdain of knowledge, it was the combat of contradictory opinions that
oppressed him. He could not solve the questions pertaining to God. What
uninstructed reason can? "Canst thou by searching find out God? canst
thou know the Almighty unto perfection?" What was impossible to Job was
not possible to Xenophanes. But he had attained a recognition of the
unity and perfections of God; and this conviction he would spread
abroad, and tear down the superstitions which hid the face of truth. I
have great admiration for this philosopher, so sad, so earnest, so
enthusiastic, wandering from city to city, indifferent to money,
comfort, friends, fame, that he might kindle the knowledge of God. This
was a lofty aim indeed for philosophy in that age. It was a higher
mission than that of Homer, great as his was, though not so successful.

Parmenides of Elea, born about the year 530 B.C., followed out the
system of Xenophanes, the central idea of which was the existence of
God. With Parmenides the main thought was the notion of _being_. Being
is uncreated and unchangeable; the fulness of all being is _thought_;
the _All_ is thought and intelligence. He maintained the uncertainty of
knowledge, meaning the knowledge derived through the senses. He did not
deny the certainty of reason. He was the first who drew a distinction
between knowledge obtained by the senses and that obtained through the
reason; and thus he anticipated the doctrine of innate ideas. From the
uncertainty of knowledge derived through the senses, he deduced the
twofold system of true and apparent knowledge.

Zeno of Elea, the friend and pupil of Parmenides, born 500 B.C.,
brought nothing new to the system, but invented _Dialectics_, the art of
disputation,--that department of logic which afterward became so
powerful in the hands of Plato and Aristotle, and so generally admired
among the schoolmen. It seeks to establish truth by refuting error
through the _reductio ad absurdum_. While Parmenides sought to establish
the doctrine of the _One_, Zeno proved the non-existence of the _Many_.
He did not deny existences, but denied that appearances were real
existences. It was the mission of Zeno to establish the doctrines of his
master. But in order to convince his listeners, he was obliged to use a
new method of argument. So he carried on his argumentation by question
and answer, and was therefore the first who used dialogue, which he
called dialectics, as a medium of philosophical communication.

Empedocles, born 444 B.C., like others of the Eleatics, complained of
the imperfection of the senses, and looked for truth only in reason. He
regarded truth as a perfect unity, ruled by love,--the only true force,
the one moving cause of all things,--the first creative power by which
or whom the world was formed. Thus "God is love" is a sublime doctrine
which philosophy revealed to the Greeks, and the emphatic and continuous
and assured declaration of which was the central theme of the revelation
made by Jesus, the Christ, who resolved all the Law and the Gospel into
the element of Love,--fatherly on the part of God, filial and fraternal
on the part of men.

Thus did the Eleatic philosophers speculate almost contemporaneously
with the Ionians on the beginning of things and the origin of knowledge,
taking different grounds, and attempting to correct the representations
of sense by the notions of reason. But both schools, although they did
not establish many truths, raised an inquisitive spirit, and awakened
freedom of thought and inquiry. They raised up workmen for more
enlightened times, even as scholastic inquirers in the Middle Ages
prepared the way for the revival of philosophy on sounder principles.
They were all men of remarkable elevation of character as well as
genius. They hated superstitions, and attacked the anthropomorphism of
their day. They handled gods and goddesses with allegorizing boldness,
and hence were often persecuted by the people. They did not establish
moral truths by scientific processes, but they set examples of lofty
disdain of wealth and factitious advantages, and devoted themselves with
holy enthusiasm to the solution of the great questions which pertain to
God and Nature. Thales won the respect of his countrymen by devotion to
studies. Pythagoras spent twenty-two years in Egypt to learn its
science. Xenophanes wandered over Sicily as a rhapsodist of truth.
Parmenides, born to wealth and splendor, forsook the feverish pursuit of
sensual enjoyments that he might "behold the bright countenance of truth
in the quiet and still air of delightful studies." Zeno declined all
worldly honors in order that he might diffuse the doctrines of his
master. Heraclitus refused the chief magistracy of Ephesus that he might
have leisure to explore the depths of his own nature. Anaxagoras allowed
his patrimony to run to waste in order to solve problems. "To
philosophy," said he, "I owe my worldly ruin, and my soul's prosperity."
All these men were, without exception, the greatest and best men of
their times. They laid the foundation of the beautiful temple which was
constructed after they were dead, in which both physics and psychology
reached the dignity of science. They too were prophets, although
unconscious of their divine mission,--prophets of that day when the
science which explores and illustrates the works of God shall enlarge,
enrich, and beautify man's conceptions of the great creative Father.

Nevertheless, these great men, lofty as were their inquiries and
blameless their lives, had not established any system, nor any theories
which were incontrovertible. They had simply speculated, and the world
ridiculed their speculations. Their ideas were one-sided, and when
pushed out to their extreme logical sequence were antagonistic to one
another; which had a tendency to produce doubt and scepticism. Men
denied the existence of the gods, and the grounds of certainty fell away
from the human mind.

This spirit of scepticism was favored by the tide of worldliness and
prosperity which followed the Persian War. Athens became a great centre
of art, of taste, of elegance, and of wealth. Politics absorbed the
minds of the people. Glory and splendor were followed by corruption of
morals and the pursuit of material pleasures. Philosophy went out of
fashion, since it brought no outward and tangible good. More scientific
studies were pursued,--those which could be applied to purposes of
utility and material gains; even as in our day geology, chemistry,
mechanics, engineering, having reference to the practical wants of men,
command talent, and lead to certain reward. In Athens, rhetoric,
mathematics, and natural history supplanted rhapsodies and speculations
on God and Providence. Renown and wealth could be secured only by
readiness and felicity of speech, and that was most valued which brought
immediate recompense, like eloquence. Men began to practise eloquence as
an art, and to employ it in furthering their interests. They made
special pleadings, since it was their object to gain their point at any
expense of law and justice. Hence they taught that nothing was immutably
right, but only so by convention. They undermined all confidence in
truth and religion by teaching its uncertainty. They denied to men even
the capability of arriving at truth. They practically affirmed the cold
and cynical doctrine that there is nothing better for a man than that he
should eat and drink. _Cui bono?_ this, the cry of most men in periods
of great outward prosperity, was the popular inquiry. Who will show us
any good?--how can we become rich, strong, honorable?--this was the
spirit of that class of public teachers who arose in Athens when art and
eloquence and wealth and splendor were at their height in the fifth
century before Christ, and when the elegant Pericles was the leader of
fashion and of political power.

These men were the Sophists,--rhetorical men, who taught the children of
the rich; worldly men, who sought honor and power; frivolous men,
trifling with philosophical ideas; sceptical men, denying all certainty
in truth; men who as teachers added nothing to the realm of science, but
who yet established certain dialectical rules useful to later
philosophers. They were a wealthy, powerful, honored class, not much
esteemed by men of thought, but sought out as very successful teachers
of rhetoric, and also generally selected as ambassadors on difficult
missions. They were full of logical tricks, and contrived to throw
ridicule upon profound inquiries. They taught also mathematics,
astronomy, philology, and natural history with success. They were
polished men of society; not profound nor religious, but very brilliant
as talkers, and very ready in wit and sophistry. And some of them were
men of great learning and talent, like Democritus, Leucippus, and
Gorgias. They were not pretenders and quacks; they were sceptics who
denied subjective truths, and labored for outward advantage. They taught
the art of disputation, and sought systematic methods of proof. They
thus prepared the way for a more perfect philosophy than that taught by
the Ionians, the Pythagoreans, or the Eleatics, since they showed the
vagueness of such inquiries, conjectural rather than scientific. They
had no doctrines in common. They were the barristers of their age,
_paid_ to make the "worse appear the better reason;" yet not teachers of
immorality any more than the lawyers of our day,--men of talents, the
intellectual leaders of society. If they did not advance positive
truths, they were useful in the method they created. They had no
hostility to truth, as such; they only doubted whether it could be
reached in the realm of psychological inquiries, and sought to apply
knowledge to their own purposes, or rather to distort it in order to
gain a case. They are not a class of men whom I admire, as I do the old
sages they ridiculed, but they were not without their use in the
development of philosophy. The Sophists also rendered a service to
literature by giving definiteness to language, and creating style in
prose writing. Protagoras investigated the principles of accurate
composition; Prodicus busied himself with inquiries into the
significance of words; Gorgias, like Voltaire, gloried in a captivating
style, and gave symmetry to the structure of sentences.

The ridicule and scepticism of the Sophists brought out the great powers
of Socrates, to whom philosophy is probably more indebted than to any
man who ever lived, not so much for a perfect system as for the impulse
he gave to philosophical inquiries, and for his successful exposure of
error. He inaugurated a new era. Born in Athens in the year 470 B.C.,
the son of a poor sculptor, he devoted his life to the search after
truth for its own sake, and sought to base it on immutable foundations.
He was the mortal enemy of the Sophists, whom he encountered, as Pascal
did the Jesuits, with wit, irony, puzzling questions, and remorseless
logic. It is true that Socrates and his great successors Plato and
Aristotle were called "Sophists," but only as all philosophers or wise
men were so called. The Sophists as a class had incurred the odium of
being the first teachers who received pay for the instruction they
imparted. The philosophers generally taught for the love of truth. The
Sophists were a natural and necessary and very useful development of
their time, but they were distinctly on a lower level than the
Philosophers, or _lovers_ of wisdom.

Like the earlier philosophers, Socrates disdained wealth, ease, and
comfort,--but with greater devotion than they, since he lived in a more
corrupt age, when poverty was a disgrace and misfortune a crime, when
success was the standard of merit, and every man was supposed to be the
arbiter of his own fortune, ignoring that Providence who so often
refuses the race to the swift, and the battle to the strong. He was what
in our time would be called eccentric. He walked barefooted, meanly
clad, and withal not over cleanly, seeking public places, disputing with
everybody willing to talk with him, making everybody ridiculous,
especially if one assumed airs of wisdom or knowledge,--an exasperating
opponent, since he wove a web around a man from which he could not be
extricated, and then exposed him to ridicule in the wittiest city of the
world. He attacked everybody, and yet was generally respected, since it
was _errors_ rather than persons, _opinions_ rather than vices, that he
attacked; and this he did with bewitching eloquence and irresistible
fascination, so that though he was poor and barefooted, a Silenus in
appearance, with thick lips, upturned nose, projecting eyes, unwieldy
belly, he was sought by Alcibiades and admired by Aspasia. Even
Xanthippe, a beautiful young woman, very much younger than he, a woman
fond of the comforts and pleasures of life, was willing to marry him,
although it is said that she turned out a "scolding wife" after the _res
angusta domi_ had disenchanted her from the music of his voice and the
divinity of his nature. "I have heard Pericles," said the most
dissipated and voluptuous man in Athens, "and other excellent orators,
but was not moved by them; while this Marsyas--this Satyr--so affects me
that the life I lead is hardly worth living, and I stop my ears as from
the Sirens, and flee as fast as possible, that I may not sit down and
grow old in listening to his talk."

Socrates learned his philosophy from no one, and struck out an entirely
new path. He declared his own ignorance, and sought to convince other
people of theirs. He did not seek to reveal truth so much as to expose
error. And yet it was his object to attain correct ideas as to moral
obligations. He proclaimed the sovereignty of virtue and the
immutability of justice. He sought to delineate and enforce the
practical duties of life. His great object was the elucidation of
morals; and he was the first to teach ethics systematically from the
immutable principles of moral obligation. Moral certitude was the lofty
platform from which he surveyed the world, and upon which, as a rock,
he rested in the storms of life. Thus he was a reformer and a moralist.
It was his ethical doctrines which were most antagonistic to the age and
the least appreciated. He was a profoundly religious man, recognized
Providence, and believed in the immortality of the soul. He did not
presume to inquire into the Divine essence, yet he believed that the
gods were omniscient and omnipresent, that they ruled by the law of
goodness, and that in spite of their multiplicity there was unity,--a
supreme Intelligence that governed the world. Hence he was hated by the
Sophists, who denied the certainty of arriving at any knowledge of God.
From the comparative worthlessness of the body he deduced the
immortality of the soul. With him the end of life was reason and
intelligence. He deduced the existence of God from the order and harmony
of Nature, belief in which was irresistible. He endeavored to connect
the moral with the religious consciousness, and thus to promote the
practical welfare of society. In this light Socrates stands out the
grandest personage of Pagan antiquity,--as a moralist, as a teacher of
ethics, as a man who recognized the Divine.

So far as he was concerned in the development of Greek philosophy
proper, he was inferior to some of his disciples, Yet he gave a
turning-point to a new period when he awakened the _idea_ of knowledge,
and was the founder of the method of scientific inquiry, since he
pointed out the legitimate bounds of inquiry, and was thus the precursor
of Bacon and Pascal. He did not attempt to make physics explain
metaphysics, nor metaphysics the phenomena of the natural world; and he
reasoned only from what was generally assumed to be true and invariable.
He was a great pioneer of philosophy, since he resorted to inductive
methods of proof, and gave general definiteness to ideas. Although he
employed induction, it was his aim to withdraw the mind from the
contemplation of Nature, and to fix it on its own phenomena,--to look
inward rather than outward; a method carried out admirably by his pupil
Plato. The previous philosophers had given their attention to external
nature; Socrates gave up speculations about material phenomena, and
directed his inquiries solely to the nature of knowledge. And as he
considered knowledge to be identical with virtue, he speculated on
ethical questions mainly, and the method which he taught was that by
which alone man could become better and wiser. To know one's self,--in
other words, that "the proper study of mankind is man,"--he proclaimed
with Thales. Cicero said of him, "Socrates brought down philosophy from
the heavens to the earth." He did not disdain the subjects which chiefly
interested the Sophists,--astronomy, rhetoric, physics,--but he chiefly
discussed moral questions, such as, What is piety? What is the just and
the unjust? What is temperance? What is courage? What is the character
fit for a citizen?--and other ethical points, involving practical human

These questions were discussed by Socrates in a striking manner, and by
a method peculiarly his own. "Professing ignorance, he put perhaps this
question: What is law? It was familiar, and was answered offhand.
Socrates, having got the answer, then put fresh questions applicable to
specific cases, to which the respondent was compelled to give an answer
inconsistent with the first, thus showing that the definition was too
narrow or too wide, or defective in some essential condition. The
respondent then amended his answer; but this was a prelude to other
questions, which could only be answered in ways inconsistent with the
amendment; and the respondent, after many attempts to disentangle
himself, was obliged to plead guilty to his inconsistencies, with an
admission that he could make no satisfactory answer to the original
inquiry which had at first appeared so easy." Thus, by this system of
cross-examination, he showed the intimate connection between the
dialectic method and the logical distribution of particulars into
species and genera. The discussion first turns upon the meaning of some
generic term; the queries bring the answers into collision with various
particulars which it ought not to comprehend, or which it ought to
comprehend, but does not. Socrates broke up the one into many by his
analytical string of questions, which was a mode of argument by which he
separated _real_ knowledge from the _conceit_ of knowledge, and led to
precision in the use of definitions. It was thus that he exposed the
false, without aiming even to teach the true; for he generally professed
ignorance on his part, and put himself in the attitude of a learner,
while by his cross-examinations he made the man from whom he apparently
sought knowledge to appear as ignorant as himself, or, still worse,
absolutely ridiculous.

Thus Socrates pulled away all the foundations on which a false science
had been erected, and indicated the mode by which alone the true could
be established. Here he was not unlike Bacon, who pointed out the way
whereby science could be advanced, without founding any school or
advocating any system; but the Athenian was unlike Bacon in the object
of his inquiries. Bacon was disgusted with ineffective _logical_
speculations, and Socrates with ineffective _physical_ researches. He
never suffered a general term to remain undetermined, but applied it at
once to particulars, and by questions the purport of which was not
comprehended. It was not by positive teaching, but by exciting
scientific impulse in the minds of others, or stirring up the analytical
faculties, that Socrates manifested originality. It was his aim to force
the seekers after truth into the path of inductive generalization,
whereby alone trustworthy conclusions could be formed. He thus struck
out from his own and other minds that fire which sets light to original
thought and stimulates analytical inquiry. He was a religious and
intellectual missionary, preparing the way for the Platos and Aristotles
of the succeeding age by his severe dialectics. This was his mission,
and he declared it by talking. He did not lecture; he conversed. For
more than thirty years he discoursed on the principles of morality,
until he arrayed against himself enemies who caused him to be put to
death, for his teachings had undermined the popular system which the
Sophists accepted and practised. He probably might have been acquitted
if he had chosen to be, but he did not wish to live after his powers of
usefulness had passed away.

The services which Socrates rendered to philosophy, as enumerated by
Tennemann, "are twofold,--negative and positive. _Negative_, inasmuch as
he avoided all vain discussions; combated mere speculative reasoning on
substantial grounds; and had the wisdom to acknowledge ignorance when
necessary, but without attempting to determine accurately what is
capable and what is not of being accurately known. _Positive_, inasmuch
as he examined with great ability the ground directly submitted to our
understanding, and of which man is the centre."

Socrates cannot be said to have founded a school, like Xenophanes. He
did not bequeath a system of doctrines. He had however his disciples,
who followed in the path which he suggested. Among these were
Aristippus, Antisthenes, Euclid of Megara, Phaedo of Elis, and Plato,
all of whom were pupils of Socrates and founders of schools. Some only
partially adopted his method, and each differed from the other. Nor can
it be said that all of them advanced science. Aristippus, the founder of
the Cyreniac school, was a sort of philosophic voluptuary, teaching that
pleasure is the end of life. Antisthenes, the founder of the Cynics, was
both virtuous and arrogant, placing the supreme good in virtue, but
despising speculative science, and maintaining that no man can refute
the opinions of another. He made it a virtue to be ragged, hungry, and
cold, like the ancient monks; an austere, stern, bitter, reproachful
man, who affected to despise all pleasures,--like his own disciple
Diogenes, who lived in a tub, and carried on a war between the mind and
body, brutal, scornful, proud. To men who maintained that science was
impossible, philosophy is not much indebted, although they were
disciples of Socrates. Euclid--not the mathematician, who was about a
century later--merely gave a new edition of the Eleatic doctrines, and
Phaedo speculated on the oneness of "the good."

It was not till Plato arose that a more complete system of philosophy
was founded. He was born of noble Athenian parents, 429 B.C., the year
that Pericles died, and the second year of the Peloponnesian War,--the
most active period of Grecian thought. He had a severe education,
studying mathematics, poetry, music, rhetoric, and blending these with
philosophy. He was only twenty when he found out Socrates, with whom he
remained ten years, and from whom he was separated only by death. He
then went on his travels, visiting everything worth seeing in his day,
especially in Egypt. When he returned he began to teach the doctrines of
his master, which he did, like him, gratuitously, in a garden near
Athens, planted with lofty plane-trees and adorned with temples and
statues. This was called the Academy, and gave a name to his system of
philosophy. It is this only with which we have to do. It is not the
calm, serious, meditative, isolated man that I would present, but _his
contribution_ to the developments of philosophy on the principles of his
master. Surely no man ever made a richer contribution to this department
of human inquiry than Plato. He may not have had the originality or
keenness of Socrates, but he was more profound. He was pre-eminently a
great thinker, a great logician, skilled in dialectics; and his
"Dialogues" are such perfect exercises of dialectical method that the
ancients were divided as to whether he was a sceptic or a dogmatist. He
adopted the Socratic method and enlarged it. Says Lewes:--

"Analysis, as insisted on by Plato, is the decomposition of the whole
into its separate parts,--is seeing the one in many.... The individual
thing was transitory; the abstract idea was eternal. Only concerning the
latter could philosophy occupy itself. Socrates, insisting on proper
definitions, had no conception of the classification of those
definitions which must constitute philosophy. Plato, by the introduction
of this process, shifted philosophy from the ground of inquiries into
man and society, which exclusively occupied Socrates, to that of

Plato was also distinguished for skill in composition. Dionysius of
Halicarnassus classes him with Herodotus and Demosthenes in the
perfection of his style, which is characterized by great harmony and
rhythm, as well as by a rich variety of elegant metaphors.

Plato made philosophy to consist in the discussion of general terms, or
abstract ideas. General terms were synonymous with real existences, and
these were the only objects of philosophy. These were called _Ideas_;
and ideas are the basis of his system, or rather the subject-matter of
dialectics. He maintained that every general term, or abstract idea, has
a real and independent existence; nay, that the mental power of
conceiving and combining ideas, as contrasted with the mere impressions
received from matter and external phenomena, is the only real and
permanent existence. Hence his writings became the great fountain-head
of the Ideal philosophy. In his assertion of the real existence of so
abstract and supersensuous a thing as an idea, he probably was indebted
to Pythagoras, for Plato was a master of the whole realm of
philosophical speculation; but his conception of _ideas_ as the essence
of being is a great advance on that philosopher's conception of
_numbers_. He was taught by Socrates that beyond this world of sense
there is the world of eternal truth, and that there are certain
principles concerning which there can be no dispute. The soul apprehends
the idea of goodness, greatness, etc. It is in the celestial world that
we are to find the realm of ideas. Now, God is the supreme idea. To know
God, then, should be the great aim of life. We know him through the
desire which like feels for like. The divinity within feels its affinity
with the divinity revealed in beauty, or any other abstract idea. The
longing of the soul for beauty is _love_. Love, then, is the bond which
unites the human with the divine. Beauty is not revealed by harmonious
outlines that appeal to the senses, but is _truth_; it is divinity.
Beauty, truth, love, these are God, whom it is the supreme desire of the
soul to comprehend, and by the contemplation of whom the mortal soul
sustains itself. Knowledge of God is the great end of life; and this
knowledge is effected by dialectics, for only out of dialectics can
correct knowledge come. But man, immersed in the flux of sensualities,
can never fully attain this knowledge of God, the object of all rational
inquiry. Hence the imperfection of all human knowledge. The supreme good
is attainable; it is not attained. God is the immutable good, and
justice the rule of the universe. "The vital principle of Plato's
philosophy," says Ritter, "is to show that true science is the knowledge
of the good, is the eternal contemplation of truth, or ideas; and though
man may not be able to apprehend it in its unity, because he is subject
to the restraints of the body, he is nevertheless permitted to recognize
it imperfectly by calling to mind the eternal measure of existence by
which he is in his origin connected." To quote from Ritter again:--

"When we review the doctrines of Plato, it is impossible to deny that
they are pervaded with a grand view of life and the universe. This is
the noble thought which inspired him to say that God is the constant and
immutable good; the world is good in a state of becoming, and the human
soul that in and through which the good in the world is to be
consummated. In his sublimer conception he shows himself the worthy
disciple of Socrates.... While he adopted many of the opinions of his
predecessors, and gave due consideration to the results of the earlier
philosophy, he did not allow himself to be disturbed by the mass of
conflicting theories, but breathed into them the life-giving breath of
unity. He may have erred in his attempts to determine the nature of
good; still he pointed out to all who aspire to a knowledge of the
divine nature an excellent road by which they may arrive at it."

That Plato was one of the greatest lights of the ancient world there can
be no reasonable doubt. Nor is it probable that as a dialectician he has
ever been surpassed, while his purity of life and his lofty inquiries
and his belief in God and immortality make him, in an ethical point of
view, the most worthy of the disciples of Socrates. He was to the Greeks
what Kant was to the Germans; and these two great thinkers resemble each
other in the structure of their minds and their relations to society.

The ablest part of the lectures of Archer Butler, of Dublin, is devoted
to the Platonic philosophy. It is at once a criticism and a eulogium. No
modern writer has written more enthusiastically of what he considers the
crowning excellence of the Greek philosophy. The dialectics of Plato,
his ideal theory, his physics, his psychology, and his ethics are most
ably discussed, and in the spirit of a loving and eloquent disciple.
Butler represents the philosophy which he so much admires as a
contemplation of, and a tendency to, the absolute and eternal good. As
the admirers of Ralph Waldo Emerson claim that he, more than any other
man of our times, entered into the spirit of the Platonic philosophy, I
introduce some of his most striking paragraphs of subdued but earnest
admiration of the greatest intellect of the ancient Pagan world, hoping
that they may be clearer to others than they are to me:--

These sentences [of Plato] contain the culture of nations; these are
the corner-stone of schools; these are the fountain-head of literatures.
A discipline it is in logic, arithmetic, taste, symmetry, poetry,
language, rhetoric, ontology, morals, or practical wisdom. There never
was such a range of speculation. Out of Plato come all things that are
still written and debated among men of thought. Great havoc makes he
among our originalities. We have reached the mountain from which all
these drift-bowlders were detached.... Plato, in Egypt and in Eastern
pilgrimages, imbibed the idea of one Deity, in which all things are
absorbed. The unity of Asia and the detail of Europe, the infinitude of
the Asiatic soul and the defining, result-loving, machine-making,
surface-seeking, opera-going Europe Plato came to join, and by contact
to enhance the energy of each. The excellence of Europe and Asia is in
his brain. Metaphysics and natural philosophy expressed the genius of
Europe; he substricts the religion of Asia as the base. In short, a
balanced soul was born, perceptive of the two elements.... The physical
philosophers had sketched each his theory of the world; the theory of
atoms, of fire, of flux, of spirit,--theories mechanical and chemical in
their genius. Plato, a master of mathematics, studious of all natural
laws and causes, feels these, as second causes, to be no theories of the
world, but bare inventories and lists. To the study of Nature he
therefore prefixes the dogma,--'Let us declare the cause which led the
Supreme Ordainer to produce and compose the universe. He was good; ...
he wished that all things should be as much as possible like

Plato ... represents the privilege of the intellect,--the power,
namely, of carrying up every fact to successive platforms, and so
disclosing in every fact a germ of expansion.... These expansions, or
extensions, consist in continuing the spiritual sight where the horizon
falls on our natural vision, and by this second sight discovering the
long lines of law which shoot in every direction.... His definition of
ideas as what is simple, permanent, uniform, and self-existent, forever
discriminating them from the notions of the understanding, marks an era
in the world.

The great disciple of Plato was Aristotle, and he carried on the
philosophical movement which Socrates had started to the highest limit
that it ever reached in the ancient world. He was born at Stagira, 384
B.C., and early evinced an insatiable thirst for knowledge. When Plato
returned from Sicily Aristotle joined his disciples at Athens, and was
his pupil for seventeen years. On the death of Plato, he went on his
travels and became the tutor of Alexander the Great, and in 335 B.C.
returned to Athens after an absence of twelve years, and set up a school
in the Lyceum. He taught while walking up and down the shady paths which
surrounded it, from which habit he obtained the name of the Peripatetic,
which has clung to his name and philosophy. His school had a great
celebrity, and from it proceeded illustrious philosophers, statesmen,
historians, and orators. Aristotle taught for thirteen years, during
which time he composed most of his greater works. He not only wrote on
dialectics and logic, but also on physics in its various departments.
His work on "The History of Animals" was deemed so important that his
royal pupil Alexander presented him with eight hundred talents--an
enormous sum--for the collection of materials. He also wrote on ethics
and politics, history and rhetoric,--pouring out letters, poems, and
speeches, three-fourths of which are lost. He was one of the most
voluminous writers of antiquity, and probably is the most learned man
whose writings have come down to us. Nor has any one of the ancients
exercised upon the thinking of succeeding ages so wide an influence. He
was an oracle until the revival of learning. Hegel says:--

"Aristotle penetrated into the whole mass, into every department of the
universe of things, and subjected to the comprehension its scattered
wealth; and the greater number of the philosophical sciences owe to him
their separation and commencement."

He is also the father of the history of philosophy, since he gives an
historical review of the way in which the subject has been hitherto
treated by the earlier philosophers. Says Adolph Stahr:--

"Plato made the external world the region of the incomplete and bad, of
the contradictory and the false, and recognized absolute truth only in
the eternal immutable ideas. Aristotle laid down the proposition that
the idea, which cannot of itself fashion itself into reality, is
powerless, and has only a potential existence; and that it becomes a
living reality only by realizing itself in a creative manner by means of
its own energy."

There can be no doubt as to Aristotle's marvellous power of
systematizing. Collecting together all the results of ancient
speculation, he so combined them into a co-ordinate system that for a
thousand years he reigned supreme in the schools. From a literary point
of view, Plato was doubtless his superior; but Plato was a poet, making
philosophy divine and musical, while Aristotle's investigations spread
over a far wider range. He differed from Plato chiefly in relation to
the doctrine of ideas, without however resolving the difficulty which
divided them. As he made matter to be the eternal ground of phenomena,
he reduced the notion of it to a precision it never before enjoyed, and
established thereby a necessary element in human science. But being
bound to matter, he did not soar, as Plato did, into the higher regions
of speculation; nor did he entertain as lofty views of God or of
immortality. Neither did he have as high an ideal of human life; his
definition of the highest good was a perfect practical activity in a
perfect life.

With Aristotle closed the great Socratic movement in the history of
speculation. When Socrates appeared there was a general prevalence of
scepticism, arising from the unsatisfactory speculations respecting
Nature. He removed this scepticism by inventing a new method of
investigation, and by withdrawing the mind from the contemplation of
Nature to the study of man himself. He bade men to look inward. Plato
accepted his method, but applied it more universally. Like Socrates,
however, ethics were the great subject of his inquiries, to which
physics were only subordinate. The problem he sought to solve was the
way to live like the Deity; he would contemplate truth as the great aim
of life. With Aristotle, ethics formed only one branch of attention; his
main inquiries were in reference to physics and metaphysics. He thus, by
bringing these into the region of inquiry, paved the way for a new epoch
of scepticism.

Both Plato and Aristotle taught that reason alone can form science; but,
as we have said, Aristotle differed from his master respecting the
theory of ideas. He did not deny to ideas a _subjective_ existence, but
he did deny that they have an objective existence. He maintained that
individual things alone _exist_; and if individuals alone exist, they
can be known only by _sensation_. Sensation thus becomes the basis of
knowledge. Plato made _reason_ the basis of knowledge, but Aristotle
made _experience_ that basis. Plato directed man to the contemplation of
Ideas; Aristotle, to the observation of Nature. Instead of proceeding
synthetically and dialectically like Plato, he pursues an analytic
course. His method is hence inductive,--the derivation of certain
principles from a sum of given facts and phenomena. It would seem that
positive science began with Aristotle, since he maintained that
experience furnishes the principles of every science; but while his
conception was just, there was not at that time a sufficient amount of
experience from which to generalize with effect. It is only a most
extensive and exhaustive examination of the accuracy of a proposition
which will warrant secure reasoning upon it. Aristotle reasoned without
sufficient certainty of the major premise of his syllogisms.

Aristotle was the father of logic, and Hegel and Kant think there has
been no improvement upon it since his day. This became to him the real
organon of science. "He supposed it was not merely the instrument of
thought, but the instrument of investigation." Hence it was futile for
purposes of discovery, although important to aid processes of thought.
Induction and syllogism are the two great features of his system of
logic. The one sets out from particulars already known to arrive at a
conclusion; the other sets out from some general principle to arrive at
particulars. The latter more particularly characterized his logic, which
he presented in sixteen forms, the whole evincing much ingenuity and
skill in construction, and presenting at the same time a useful
dialectical exercise. This syllogistic process of reasoning would be
incontrovertible, if the _general_ were better known than the
_particular_; but it is only by induction, which proceeds from the world
of experience, that we reach the higher world of cognition. Thus
Aristotle made speculation subordinate to logical distinctions, and his
system, when carried out by the mediaeval Schoolmen, led to a spirit of
useless quibbling. Instead of interrogating Nature they interrogated
their own minds, and no great discoveries were made. From want of proper
knowledge of the conditions of scientific inquiry, the method of
Aristotle became fruitless for him; but it was the key by which future
investigators were enabled to classify and utilize their vastly greater
collection of facts and materials.

Though Aristotle wrote in a methodical manner, his writings exhibit
great parsimony of language. There is no fascination in his style. It is
without ornament, and very condensed. His merit consisted in great
logical precision and scrupulous exactness in the employment of terms.

Philosophy, as a great system of dialectics, as an analysis of the power
and faculties of the mind, as a method to pursue inquiries, culminated
in Aristotle. He completed the great fabric of which Thales laid the
foundation. The subsequent schools of philosophy directed attention to
ethical and practical questions, rather than to intellectual phenomena.
The Sceptics, like Pyrrho, had only negative doctrines, and held in
disdain those inquiries which sought to penetrate the mysteries of
existence. They did not believe that absolute truth was attainable by
man; and they attacked the prevailing systems with great plausibility.
They pointed out the uncertainty of things, and the folly of striving to
comprehend them.

The Epicureans despised the investigations of philosophy, since in their
view these did not contribute to happiness. The subject of their
inquiries was happiness, not truth. What will promote this? was the
subject of their speculation. Epicurus, born 342 B.C., contended that
pleasure was happiness; that pleasure should be sought not for its own
sake, but with a view to the happiness of life obtained by it. He taught
that happiness was inseparable from virtue, and that its enjoyments
should be limited. He was averse to costly pleasures, and regarded
contentedness with a little to be a great good. He placed wealth not in
great possessions, but in few wants. He sought to widen the domain of
pleasure and narrow that of pain, and regarded a passionless state of
life as the highest. Nor did he dread death, which was deliverance from
misery, as the Buddhists think. Epicurus has been much misunderstood,
and his doctrines were subsequently perverted, especially when the arts
of life were brought into the service of luxury, and a gross materialism
was the great feature of society. Epicurus had much of the spirit of a
practical philosopher, although very little of the earnest cravings of a
religious man. He himself led a virtuous life, because he thought it
was wiser and better and more productive of happiness to be virtuous,
not because it was his duty. His writings were very voluminous, and in
his tranquil garden he led a peaceful life of study and enjoyment. His
followers, and they were numerous, were led into luxury and
effeminacy,--as was to be expected from a sceptical and irreligious
philosophy, the great principle of which was that whatever is pleasant
should be the object of existence. Sir James Mackintosh says:--

"To Epicurus we owe the general concurrence of reflecting men in
succeeding times in the important truth that men cannot be happy without
a virtuous frame of mind and course of life,--a truth of inestimable
value, not peculiar to the Epicureans, but placed by their exaggerations
in a stronger light; a truth, it must be added, of less importance as a
motive to right conduct than to the completeness of moral theory, which,
however, it is very far from solely constituting. With that truth the
Epicureans blended another position,--that because virtue promotes
happiness, every act of virtue must be done in order to promote the
happiness of the agent. Although, therefore, he has the merit of having
more strongly inculcated the connection of virtue with happiness, yet
his doctrine is justly charged with indisposing the mind to those
exalted and generous sentiments without which no pure, elevated, bold,
or tender virtues can exist."

The Stoics were a large and celebrated sect of philosophers; but they
added nothing to the domain of thought,--they created no system, they
invented no new method, they were led into no new psychological
inquiries. Their inquiries were chiefly ethical; and since ethics are a
great part of the system of Greek philosophy, the Stoics are well worthy
of attention. Some of the greatest men of antiquity are numbered among
them,--like Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius. The philosophy they
taught was morality, and this was eminently practical and also elevated.

The founder of this sect, Zeno, was born, it is supposed, on the island
of Cyprus, about the year 350 B.C. He was the son of wealthy parents,
but was reduced to poverty by misfortune. He was so good a man, and so
profoundly revered by the Athenians, that they intrusted to him the keys
of their citadel. He lived in a degenerate age, when scepticism and
sensuality were eating out the life and vigor of Grecian society, when
Greek civilization was rapidly passing away, when ancient creeds had
lost their majesty, and general levity and folly overspread the land.
Deeply impressed with the prevailing laxity of morals and the absence of
religion, he lifted up his voice more as a reformer than as an inquirer
after truth, and taught for more than fifty years in a place called the
_Stoa_, "the Porch," which had once been the resort of the poets. Hence
the name of his school. He was chiefly absorbed with ethical questions,
although he studied profoundly the systems of the old philosophers. "The
Sceptics had attacked both perception and reason. They had shown that
perception is after all based upon appearance, and appearance is not a
certainty; and they showed that reason is unable to distinguish between
appearance and certainty, since it had nothing but phenomena to build
upon, and since there is no criterion to apply to reason itself." Then
they proclaimed philosophy a failure, and without foundation. But Zeno,
taking a stand on common-sense, fought for morality, as did Buddha
before him, and long after him Reid and Beattie, when they combated the
scepticism of Hume.

Philosophy, according to Zeno and other Stoics, was intimately connected
with the duties of practical life. The contemplation, meditation, and
thought recommended by Plato and Aristotle seemed only a covert
recommendation of selfish enjoyment. The wisdom which it should be the
aim of life to attain is virtue; and virtue is to live harmoniously with
Nature. To live harmoniously with Nature is to exclude all personal
ends; hence pleasure is to be disregarded, and pain is to be despised.
And as all moral action must be in harmony with Nature the law of
destiny is supreme, and all things move according to immutable fate.
With the predominant tendency to the universal which characterized their
system, the Stoics taught that the sage ought to regard himself as a
citizen of the world rather than of any particular city or state. They
made four things to be indispensable to virtue,--a knowledge of _good_
and _evil_, which is the province of the reason; _temperance_, a
knowledge of the due regulation of the sensual passions; _fortitude_, a
conviction that it is good to suffer what is necessary; and _justice_,
or acquaintance with what ought to be to every individual. They made
_perfection_ necessary to virtue; hence the severity of their system.
The perfect sage, according to them, is raised above all influence of
external events; he submits to the law of destiny; he is exempt from
desire and fear, joy or sorrow; he is not governed even by what he is
exposed to necessarily, like sorrow and pain; he is free from the
restraints of passion; he is like a god in his mental placidity. Nor
must the sage live only for himself, but for others also; he is a member
of the whole body of mankind. He ought to marry, and to take part in
public affairs; but he is to attack error and vice with uncompromising
sternness, and will never weakly give way to compassion or forgiveness.
Yet with this ideal the Stoics were forced to admit that virtue, like
true knowledge, although theoretically attainable is practically beyond
the reach of man. They were discontented with themselves and with all
around them, and looked upon all institutions as corrupt. They had a
profound contempt for their age, and for what modern society calls
"success in life;" but it cannot be denied that they practised a lofty
and stern virtue in their degenerate times. Their God was made subject
to Fate; and he was a material god, synonymous with Nature. Thus their
system was pantheistic. But they maintained the dignity of reason, and
sought to attain to virtues which it is not in the power of man fully
to reach.

Zeno lived to the extreme old age of ninety-eight, although his
constitution was not strong. He retained his powers by great
abstemiousness, living chiefly on figs, honey, and bread. He was a
modest and retiring man, seldom mingling with a crowd, or admitting the
society of more than two or three friends at a time. He was as plain in
his dress as he was frugal in his habits,--a man of great decorum and
propriety of manners, resembling noticeably in his life and doctrines
the Chinese sage Confucius. And yet this good man, a pattern to the
loftiest characters of his age, strangled himself. Suicide was not
deemed a crime by his followers, among whom were some of the most
faultless men of antiquity, especially among the Romans. The doctrines
of Zeno were never popular, and were confined to a small though
influential party.

With the Stoics ended among the Greeks all inquiry of a philosophical
nature worthy of especial mention, until centuries later, when
philosophy was revived in the Christian schools of Alexandria, where the
Hebrew element of faith was united with the Greek ideal of reason. The
struggles of so many great thinkers, from Thales to Aristotle, all ended
in doubt and in despair. It was discovered that all of them were wrong,
or rather partial; and their error was without a remedy, until "the
fulness of time" should reveal more clearly the plan of the great temple
of Truth, in which they were laying foundation stones.

The bright and glorious period of Greek philosophy was from Socrates to
Aristotle. Philosophical inquiries began about the origin of things, and
ended with an elaborate systematization of the forms of thought, which
was the most magnificent triumph that the unaided intellect of man ever
achieved. Socrates does not found a school, nor elaborate a system. He
reveals most precious truths, and stimulates the youth who listen to his
instructions by the doctrine that it is the duty of man to pursue a
knowledge of himself, which is to be sought in that divine reason which
dwells within him, and which also rules the world. He believes in
science; he loves truth for its own sake; he loves virtue, which
consists in the knowledge of the good.

Plato seizes the weapons of his great master, and is imbued with his
spirit. He is full of hope for science and humanity. With soaring
boldness he directs his inquiries to futurity, dissatisfied with the
present, and cherishing a fond hope of a better existence. He speculates
on God and the soul. He is not much interested in physical phenomena; he
does not, like Thales, strive to find out the beginning of all things,
but the highest good, by which his immortal soul may be refreshed and
prepared for the future life, in which he firmly believes. The sensible
is an impenetrable empire; but ideas are certitudes, and upon these he
dwells with rapt and mystical enthusiasm,--a great poetical rhapsodist,
severe dialectician as he is, believing in truth and beauty
and goodness.

Then Aristotle, following out the method of his teachers, attempts to
exhaust experience, and directs his inquiries into the outward world of
sense and observation, but all with the view of discovering from
phenomena the unconditional truth, in which he too believes. But
everything in this world is fleeting and transitory, and therefore it is
not easy to arrive at truth. A cold doubt creeps into the experimental
mind of Aristotle, with all his learning and his logic.

The Epicureans arise. Misreading or corrupting the purer teaching of
their founder, they place their hopes in sensual enjoyment. They
despair of truth.

But the world will not be abandoned to despair. The Stoics rebuke the
impiety which is blended with sensualism, and place their hopes on
virtue. Yet it is unattainable virtue, while their God is not a moral
governor, but subject to necessity.

Thus did those old giants grope about, for they did not know the God who
was revealed unto the more spiritual sense of Abraham, Moses, David, and
Isaiah. And yet with all their errors they were the greatest benefactors
of the ancient world. They gave dignity to intellectual inquiries, while
by their lives they set examples of a pure morality.

* * * * *

The Romans added absolutely nothing to the philosophy of the Greeks. Nor
were they much interested in any speculative inquiries. It was only the
ethical views of the old sages which had attraction or force to them.
They were too material to love pure subjective inquiries. They had
conquered the land; they disdained the empire of the air.

There were doubtless students of the Greek philosophy among the Romans,
perhaps as early as Cato the Censor. But there were only two persons of
note in Rome who wrote philosophy, till the time of Cicero,--Aurafanius
and Rubinus,--and these were Epicureans.

Cicero was the first to systematize the philosophy which contributed so
greatly to his intellectual culture, But even he added nothing; he was
only a commentator and expositor. Nor did he seek to found a system or a
school, but merely to influence and instruct men of his own rank. Those
subjects which had the greatest attraction for the Grecian schools
Cicero regarded as beyond the power of human cognition, and therefore
looked upon the practical as the proper domain of human inquiry. Yet he
held logic in great esteem, as furnishing rules for methodical
investigation. He adopted the doctrine of Socrates as to the pursuit of
moral good, and regarded the duties which grow out of the relations of
human society as preferable to those of pursuing scientific researches.
He had a great contempt for knowledge which could lead neither to the
clear apprehension of certitude nor to practical applications. He
thought it impossible to arrive at a knowledge of God, or the nature of
the soul, or the origin of the world; and thus he was led to look upon
the sensible and the present as of more importance than inconclusive
inductions, or deductions from a truth not satisfactorily established.

Cicero was an eclectic, seizing on what was true and clear in the
ancient systems, and disregarding what was simply a matter of
speculation. This is especially seen in his treatise "De Finibus Bonorum
et Malorum," in which the opinions of all the Grecian schools
concerning the supreme good are expounded and compared. Nor does he
hesitate to declare that the highest happiness consists in the knowledge
of Nature and science, which is the true source of pleasure both to gods
and men. Yet these are but hopes, in which it does not become us to
indulge. It is the actual, the real, the practical, which pre-eminently
claims attention,--in other words, the knowledge which will furnish man
with a guide and rule of life. Even in the consideration of moral
questions Cicero is pursued by the conflict of opinions, although in
this department he is most at home. The points he is most anxious to
establish are the doctrines of God and the soul. These are most fully
treated in his essay "De Natura Deorum," in which he submits the
doctrines of the Epicureans and the Stoics to the objections of the
Academy. He admits that man is unable to form true conceptions of God,
but acknowledges the necessity of assuming one supreme God as the
creator and ruler of all things, moving all things, remote from all
mortal mixture, and endued with eternal motion in himself. He seems to
believe in a divine providence ordering good to man, in the soul's
immortality, in free-will, in the dignity of human nature, in the
dominion of reason, in the restraint of the passions as necessary to
virtue, in a life of public utility, in an immutable morality, in the
imitation of the divine.

Thus there is little of original thought in the moral theories of
Cicero, which are the result of observation rather than of any
philosophical principle. We might enumerate his various opinions, and
show what an enlightened mind he possessed; but this would not be the
development of philosophy. His views, interesting as they are, and
generally wise and lofty, do not indicate any progress of the science.
He merely repeats earlier doctrines. These were not without their
utility, since they had great influence on the Latin fathers of the
Christian Church. He was esteemed for his general enlightenment. He
softened down the extreme views of the great thinkers before his day,
and clearly unfolded what had become obscured. He was a critic of
philosophy, an expositor whom we can scarcely spare.

If anybody advanced philosophy among the Romans it was Epictetus, and
even he only in the realm of ethics. Quintius Sextius, in the time of
Augustus, had revived the Pythagorean doctrines. Seneca had recommended
the severe morality of the Stoics, but added nothing that was not
previously known.

The greatest light among the Romans was the Phrygian slave Epictetus,
who was born about fifty years after the birth of Jesus Christ, and
taught in the time of the Emperor Domitian. Though he did not leave any
written treatises, his doctrines were preserved and handed down by his
disciple Arrian, who had for him the reverence that Plato had for
Socrates. The loftiness of his recorded views has made some to think
that he must have been indebted to Christianity, for no one before him
revealed precepts so much in accordance with its spirit. He was a Stoic,
but he held in the highest estimation Socrates and Plato. It is not for
the solution of metaphysical questions that he was remarkable. He was
not a dialectician, but a moralist, and as such takes the highest ground
of all the old inquirers after truth. With him, as to Cicero and Seneca,
philosophy is the wisdom of life. He sets no value on logic, nor much on
physics; but he reveals sentiments of great simplicity and grandeur. His
great idea is the purification of the soul. He believes in the severest
self-denial; he would guard against the siren spells of pleasure; he
would make men feel that in order to be good they must first feel that
they are evil. He condemns suicide, although it had been defended by the
Stoics. He would complain of no one, not even as to injustice; he would
not injure his enemies; he would pardon all offences; he would feel
universal compassion, since men sin from ignorance; he would not easily
blame, since we have none to condemn but ourselves. He would not strive
after honor or office, since we put ourselves in subjection to that we
seek or prize; he would constantly bear in mind that all things are
transitory, and that they are not our own. He would bear evils with
patience, even as he would practise self-denial of pleasure. He would,
in short, be calm, free, keep in subjection his passions, avoid
self-indulgence, and practise a broad charity and benevolence. He felt
that he owed all to God,--that all was his gift, and that we should thus
live in accordance with his will; that we should be grateful not only
for our bodies, but for our souls and reason, by which we attain to
greatness. And if God has given us such a priceless gift, we should be
contented, and not even seek to alter our external relations, which are
doubtless for the best. We should wish, indeed, for only what God wills
and sends, and we should avoid pride and haughtiness as well as
discontent, and seek to fulfil our allotted part.

Such were the moral precepts of Epictetus, in which we see the nearest
approach to Christianity that had been made in the ancient world,
although there is no proof or probability that he knew anything of
Christ or the Christians. And these sublime truths had a great
influence, especially on the mind of the most lofty and pure of all the
Roman emperors, Marcus Aurelius, who _lived_ the principles he had
learned from the slave, and whose "Thoughts" are still held in

Thus did the philosophic speculations about the beginning of things
lead to elaborate systems of thought, and end in practical rules of
life, until in spirit they had, with Epictetus, harmonized with many of
the revealed truths which Christ and his Apostles laid down for the
regeneration of the world. Who cannot see in the inquiries of the old
Philosopher,--whether into Nature, or the operations of mind, or the
existence of God, or the immortality of the soul, or the way to
happiness and virtue,--a magnificent triumph of human genius, such as
has been exhibited in no other department of human science? Nay, who
does not rejoice to see in this slow but ever-advancing development of
man's comprehension of the truth the inspiration of that Divine Teacher,
that Holy Spirit, which shall at last lead man into all truth?

We regret that our limits preclude a more extended view of the various
systems which the old sages propounded,--systems full of errors yet also
marked by important gains, but, whether false or true, showing a
marvellous reach of the human understanding. Modern researches have
discarded many opinions that were highly valued in their day, yet
philosophy in its methods of reasoning is scarcely advanced since the
time of Aristotle, while the subjects which agitated the Grecian schools
have been from time to time revived and rediscussed, and are still
unsettled. If any intellectual pursuit has gone round in perpetual
circles, incapable apparently of progression or rest, it is that
glorious study of philosophy which has tasked more than any other the
mightiest intellects of this world, and which, progressive or not, will
never be relinquished without the loss of what is most valuable in
human culture.

* * * * *


For original authorities in reference to the matter of this chapter,
read Diogenes Laertius's Lives of the Philosophers; the Writings of
Plato and Aristotle; Cicero, De Natura Deorum, De Oratore, De Officiis,
De Divinatione, De Finibus, Tusculanae Disputationes; Xenophon,
Memorabilia; Boethius, De Consolatione Philosophiae; Lucretius.

The great modern authorities are the Germans, and these are very
numerous. Among the most famous writers on the history of philosophy are
Brucker, Hegel, Brandis, I.G. Buhle, Tennemann, Hitter, Plessing,
Schwegler, Hermann, Meiners, Stallbaum, and Spiegel. The History of
Ritter is well translated, and is always learned and suggestive.
Tennemann, translated by Morell, is a good manual, brief but clear. In
connection with the writings of the Germans, the great work of the
French Cousin should be consulted.

The English historians of ancient philosophy are not so numerous as the
Germans. The work of Enfield is based on Brucker, or is rather an
abridgment. Archer Butler's Lectures are suggestive and able, but
discursive and vague. Grote has written learnedly on Socrates and the
other great lights. Lewes's Biographical History of Philosophy has the
merit of clearness, and is very interesting, but rather superficial. See
also Thomas Stanley's History of Philosophy, and the articles in Smith's
Dictionary on the leading ancient philosophers. J. W. Donaldson's
continuation of K. O. Mueller's History of the Literature of Ancient
Greece is learned, and should be consulted with Thompson's Notes on
Archer Butler. Schleiermacher, on Socrates, translated by Bishop
Thirlwall, is well worth attention. There are also fine articles in the
Encyclopaedias Britannica and Metropolitana.


470-399 B.C.


To Socrates the world owes a new method in philosophy and a great
example in morals; and it would be difficult to settle whether his
influence has been greater as a sage or as a moralist. In either light
he is one of the august names of history. He has been venerated for more
than two thousand years as a teacher of wisdom, and as a martyr for the
truths he taught. He did not commit his precious thoughts to writing;
that work was done by his disciples, even as his exalted worth has been
published by them, especially by Plato and Xenophon. And if the Greek
philosophy did not culminate in him, yet he laid down those principles
by which only it could be advanced. As a system-maker, both Plato and
Aristotle were greater than he; yet for original genius he was probably
their superior, and in important respects he was their master. As a good
man, battling with infirmities and temptations and coming off
triumphantly, the ancient world has furnished no prouder example.

He was born about 470 or 469 years B.C., and therefore may be said to
belong to that brilliant age of Grecian literature and art when Prodicus
was teaching rhetoric, and Democritus was speculating about the doctrine
of atoms, and Phidias was ornamenting temples, and Alcibiades was giving
banquets, and Aristophanes was writing comedies, and Euripides was
composing tragedies, and Aspasia was setting fashions, and Cimon was
fighting battles, and Pericles was making Athens the centre of Grecian
civilization. But he died thirty years after Pericles; so that what is
most interesting in his great career took place during and after the
Peloponnesian war,--an age still interesting, but not so brilliant as
the one which immediately preceded it. It was the age of the
Sophists,--those popular but superficial teachers who claimed to be the
most advanced of their generation; men who were doubtless accomplished,
but were cynical, sceptical, and utilitarian, placing a high estimate on
popular favor and an outside life, but very little on pure subjective
truth or the wants of the soul. They were paid teachers, and sought
pupils from the sons of the rich,--the more eminent of them being
Protagoras, Gorgias, Hippias, and Prodicus; men who travelled from city
to city, exciting great admiration for their rhetorical skill, and
really improving the public speaking of popular orators. They also
taught science to a limited extent, and it was through them that
Athenian youth mainly acquired what little knowledge they had of
arithmetic and geometry. In loftiness of character they were not equal
to those Ionian philosophers, who, prior to Socrates, in the fifth
century B.C., speculated on the great problems of the material
universe,--the origin of the world, the nature of matter, and the source
of power,--and who, if they did not make discoveries, yet evinced great
intellectual force.

It was in this sceptical and irreligious age, when all classes were
devoted to pleasure and money-making, but when there was great
cultivation, especially in arts, that Socrates arose, whose
"appearance," says Grote, "was a moral phenomenon."

He was the son of a poor sculptor, and his mother was a midwife. His
family was unimportant, although it belonged to an ancient Attic _gens_.
Socrates was rescued from his father's workshop by a wealthy citizen who
perceived his genius, and who educated him at his own expense. He was
twenty when he conversed with Parmenides and Zeno; he was twenty-eight
when Phidias adorned the Parthenon; he was forty when he fought at
Potidaea and rescued Alcibiades. At this period he was most
distinguished for his physical strength and endurance,--a brave and
patriotic soldier, insensible to heat and cold, and, though temperate in
his habits, capable of drinking more wine, without becoming
intoxicated, than anybody in Athens. His powerful physique and sensual
nature inclined him to self-indulgence, but he early learned to restrain
both appetites and passions. His physiognomy was ugly and his person
repulsive; he was awkward, obese, and ungainly; his nose was flat, his
lips were thick, and his neck large; he rolled his eyes, went
barefooted, and wore a dirty old cloak. He spent his time chiefly in the
market-place, talking with everybody, old or young, rich or
poor,--soldiers, politicians, artisans, or students; visiting even
Aspasia, the cultivated, wealthy courtesan, with whom he formed a
friendship; so that, although he was very poor,--his whole property
being only five minae (about fifty dollars) a year,--it would seem he
lived in "good society."

The ancient Pagans were not so exclusive and aristocratic as the
Christians of our day, who are ambitious of social position. Socrates
never seemed to think about his social position at all, and uniformly
acted as if he were well known and prominent. He was listened to because
he was eloquent. His conversation is said to have been charming, and
even fascinating. He was an original and ingenious man, different from
everybody else, and was therefore what we call "a character."

But there was nothing austere or gloomy about him. Though lofty in his
inquiries, and serious in his mind, he resembled neither a Jewish
prophet nor a mediaeval sage in his appearance. He looked rather like a
Silenus,--very witty, cheerful, good-natured, jocose, and disposed to
make people laugh. He enjoined no austerities or penances. He was very
attractive to the young, and tolerant of human infirmities, even when he
gave the best advice. He was the most human of teachers. Alcibiades was
completely fascinated by his talk, and made good resolutions.

His great peculiarity in conversation was to ask questions,--sometimes
to gain information, but oftener to puzzle and raise a laugh. He sought
to expose ignorance, when it was pretentious; he made all the quacks and
shams appear ridiculous. His irony was tremendous; nobody could stand
before his searching and unexpected questions, and he made nearly every
one with whom he conversed appear either as a fool or an ignoramus. He
asked his questions with great apparent modesty, and thus drew a mesh
over his opponents from which they could not extricate themselves. His
process was the _reductio ad absurdum_. Hence he drew upon himself the
wrath of the Sophists. He had no intellectual arrogance, since he
professed to know nothing himself, although he was conscious of his own
intellectual superiority. He was contented to show that others knew no
more than he. He had no passion for admiration, no political ambition,
no desire for social distinction; and he associated with men not for
what they could do for him, but for what he could do for them. Although
poor, he charged nothing for his teachings. He seemed to despise riches,
since riches could only adorn or pamper the body. He did not live in a
cell or a cave or a tub, but among the people, as an apostle. He must
have accepted gifts, since his means of living were exceedingly small,
even for Athens.

He was very practical, even while he lived above the world, absorbed in
lofty contemplations. He was always talking with such as the
skin-dressers and leather-dealers, using homely language for his
illustrations, and uttering plain truths. Yet he was equally at home
with poets and philosophers and statesmen. He did not take much interest
in that knowledge which was applied merely to rising in the world.
Though plain, practical, and even homely in his conversation, he was not
utilitarian. Science had no charm to him, since it was directed to
utilitarian ends and was uncertain. His sayings had such a lofty, hidden
wisdom that very few people understood him: his utterances seemed either
paradoxical, or unintelligible, or sophistical. "To the mentally proud
and mentally feeble he was equally a bore." Most people probably thought
him a nuisance, since he was always about with his questions, puzzling
some, confuting others, and reproving all,--careless of love or hatred,
and contemptuous of all conventionalities. So severely dialectical was
he that he seemed to be a hair-splitter. The very Sophists, whose
ignorance and pretension he exposed, looked upon him as a quibbler;
although there were some--so severely trained was the Grecian mind--who
saw the drift of his questions, and admired his skill. Probably there
are few educated people in these times who could have understood him any
more easily than a modern audience, even of scholars, could take in one
of the orations of Demosthenes, although they might laugh at the jokes
of the sage, and be impressed with the invectives of the orator.

And yet there were defects in Socrates. He was most provokingly
sarcastic; he turned everything to ridicule; he remorselessly punctured
every gas-bag he met; he heaped contempt on every snob; he threw stones
at every glass house,--and everybody lived in one. He was not quite just
to the Sophists, for they did not pretend to teach the higher life, but
chiefly rhetoric, which is useful in its way. And if they loved applause
and riches, and attached themselves to those whom they could utilize,
they were not different from most fashionable teachers in any age. And
then Socrates was not very delicate in his tastes. He was too much
carried away by the fascinations of Aspasia, when he knew that she was
not virtuous,--although it was doubtless her remarkable intellect which
most attracted him, not her physical beauty; since in the "Menexenus"
(by many ascribed to Plato) he is made to recite at length one of her
long orations, and in the "Symposium" he is made to appear absolutely
indelicate in his conduct with Alcibiades, and to make what would be
abhorrent to us a matter of irony, although there was the severest
control of the passions.

To me it has always seemed a strange thing that such an ugly, satirical,
provoking man could have won and retained the love of Xanthippe,
especially since he was so careless of his dress, and did so little to
provide for the wants of the household. I do not wonder that she scolded
him, or became very violent in her temper; since, in her worst tirades,
he only provokingly laughed at her. A modern Christian woman of society
would have left him. But perhaps in Pagan Athens she could not have got
a divorce. It is only in these enlightened and progressive times that
women desert their husbands when they are tantalizing, or when they do
not properly support the family, or spend their time at the clubs or in
society,--into which it would seem that Socrates was received, even the
best, barefooted and dirty as he was, and for his intellectual gifts
alone. Think of such a man being the oracle of a modern salon, either in
Paris, London, or New York, with his repulsive appearance, and
tantalizing and provoking irony. But in artistic Athens, at one time, he
was all the fashion. Everybody liked to hear him talk. Everybody was
both amused and instructed. He provoked no envy, since he affected
modesty and ignorance, apparently asking his questions for information,
and was so meanly clad, and lived in such a poor way. Though he provoked
animosities, he had many friends. If his language was sarcastic, his
affections were kind. He was always surrounded by the most gifted men of
his time. The wealthy Crito constantly attended him; Plato and Xenophon
were enthusiastic pupils; even Alcibiades was charmed by his
conversation; Apollodorus and Antisthenes rarely quitted his side; Cebes
and Simonides came from Thebes to hear him; Isocrates and Aristippus
followed in his train; Euclid of Megara sought his society, at the risk
of his life; the tyrant Critias, and even the Sophist Protagoras,
acknowledged his marvellous power.

But I cannot linger longer on the man, with his gifts and peculiarities.
More important things demand our attention. I propose briefly to show
his contributions to philosophy and ethics.

In regard to the first, I will not dwell on his method, which is both
subtle and dialectical. We are not Greeks. Yet it was his method which
revolutionized philosophy. That was original. He saw this,--that the
theories of his day were mere opinions; even the lofty speculations of
the Ionian philosophers were dreams, and the teachings of the Sophists
were mere words. He despised both dreams and words. Speculations ended
in the indefinite and insoluble; words ended in rhetoric. Neither dreams
nor words revealed the true, the beautiful, and the good,--which, to his
mind, were the only realities, the only sure foundation for a
philosophical system.

So he propounded certain questions, which, when answered, produced
glaring contradictions, from which disputants shrank. Their conclusions
broke down their assumptions. They stood convicted of ignorance, to
which all his artful and subtle questions tended, and which it was his
aim to prove. He showed that they did not know what they affirmed. He
proved that their definitions were wrong or incomplete, since they
logically led to contradictions; and he showed that for purposes of
disputation the same meaning must always attach to the same word, since
in ordinary language terms have different meanings, partly true and
partly false, which produce confusion in argument. He would be precise
and definite, and use the utmost rigor of language, without which
inquirers and disputants would not understand each other. Every
definition should include the whole thing, and nothing else; otherwise,
people would not know what they were talking about, and would be forced
into absurdities.

Thus arose the celebrated "definitions,"--the first step in Greek
philosophy,--intending to show what _is_, and what _is not_. After
demonstrating what is not, Socrates advanced to the demonstration of
what is, and thus laid a foundation for certain knowledge: thus he
arrived at clear conceptions of justice, friendship, patriotism,
courage, and other certitudes, on which truth is based. He wanted only
positive truth,--something to build upon,--like Bacon and all great
inquirers. Having reached the certain, he would apply it to all the
relations of life, and to all kinds of knowledge. Unless knowledge is
certain, it is worthless,--there is no foundation to build upon.
Uncertain or indefinite knowledge is no knowledge at all; it may be very
pretty, or amusing, or ingenious, but no more valuable for philosophical
research than poetry or dreams or speculations.

How far the "definitions" of Socrates led to the solution of the great
problems of philosophy, in the hands of such dialecticians as Plato and
Aristotle, I will not attempt to enter upon here; but this I think I am
warranted in saying, that the main object and aim of Socrates, as a
teacher of philosophy, were to establish certain elemental truths,
concerning which there could be no dispute, and then to reason from
them,--since they were not mere assumptions, but certitudes, and
certitudes also which appealed to human consciousness, and therefore
could not be overthrown. If I were teaching metaphysics, it would be
necessary for me to make clear this method,--the questions and
definitions by which Socrates is thought to have laid the foundation of
true knowledge, and therefore of all healthful advance in philosophy.
But for my present purpose I do not care so much what his _method_ was
as what his _aim_ was.

The aim of Socrates, then, being to find out and teach what is definite
and certain, as a foundation of knowledge,--having cleared away the
rubbish of ignorance,--he attached very little importance to what is
called physical science. And no wonder, since science in his day was
very imperfect. There were not facts enough known on which to base sound
inductions: better, deductions from established principles. What is
deemed most certain in this age was the most uncertain of all knowledge
in his day. Scientific knowledge, truly speaking, there was none. It was
all speculation. Democritus might resolve the material universe--the
earth, the sun, and the stars--into combinations produced by the motion
of atoms. But whence the original atoms, and what force gave to them
motion? The proudest philosopher, speculating on the origin of the
universe, is convicted of ignorance.

Much, has been said in praise of the Ionian philosophers; and justly,
so far as their genius and loftiness of character are considered. But
what did they discover? What truths did they arrive at to serve as
foundation-stones of science? They were among the greatest intellects of
antiquity. But their method was a wrong one. Their philosophy was based
on assumptions and speculations, and therefore was worthless, since they
settled nothing. Their science was based on inductions which were not
reliable, because of a lack of facts. They drew conclusions as to the
origin of the universe from material phenomena. Thales, seeing that
plants are sustained by dew and rain, concluded that water was the first
beginning of things. Anaximenes, seeing that animals die without air,
thought that air was the great primal cause. Then Diogenes of Crete,
making a fanciful speculation, imparted to air an intellectual energy.
Heraclitus of Ephesus substituted fire for air. None of the illustrious
Ionians reached anything higher, than that the first cause of all things
must be intelligent. The speculations of succeeding philosophers, living
in a more material age, all pertained to the world of matter which they
could see with their eyes. And in close connection with speculations
about matter, the cause of which they could not settle, was indifference
to the spiritual nature of man, which they could not see, and all the
wants of the soul, and the existence of the future state, where the
soul alone was of any account. So atheism, and the disbelief of the
existence of the soul after death, characterized that materialism.
Without God and without a future, there was no stimulus to virtue and no
foundation for anything. They said, "Let us eat and drink, for
to-morrow we die,"--the essence and spirit of all paganism.

Socrates, seeing how unsatisfactory were all physical inquiries, and
what evils materialism introduced into society, making the body
everything and the soul nothing, turned his attention to the world
within, and "for physics substituted morals." He knew the uncertainty of
physical speculation, but believed in the certainty of moral truths. He
knew that there was a reality in justice, in friendship, in courage.
Like Job, he reposed on consciousness. He turned his attention to what
afterwards gave immortality to Descartes. To the scepticism of the
Sophists he opposed self-evident truths. He proclaimed the sovereignty
of virtue, the universality of moral obligation. "Moral certitude was
the platform from which he would survey the universe." It was the ladder
by which he would ascend to the loftiest regions of knowledge and of
happiness. "Though he was negative in his means, he was positive in his
ends." He was the first who had glimpses of the true mission of
philosophy,--even to sit in judgment on all knowledge, whether it
pertains to art, or politics, or science; eliminating the false and
retaining the true. It was his mission to separate truth from error. He
taught the world how to weigh evidence. He would discard any doctrine
which, logically carried out, led to absurdity. Instead of turning his
attention to outward phenomena, he dwelt on the truths which either God
or consciousness reveals. Instead of the creation, he dwelt on the
Creator. It was not the body he cared for so much as the soul. Not
wealth, not power, not the appetites were the true source of pleasure,
but the peace and harmony of the soul. The inquiry should be, not what
we shall eat, but how shall we resist temptation; how shall we keep the
soul pure; how shall we arrive at virtue; how shall we best serve our
country; how shall we best educate our children; how shall we expel
worldliness and deceit and lies; how shall we walk with God?--for there
is a God, and there is immortality and eternal justice: these are the
great certitudes of human life, and it is only by these that the soul
will expand and be happy forever.

Thus there was a close connection between his philosophy and his ethics.
But it was as a moral teacher that he won his most enduring fame. The
teacher of wisdom became subordinate to the man who lived it. As a
living Christian is nobler than merely an acute theologian, so he who
practises virtue is greater than the one who preaches it. The dissection
of the passions is not so difficult as the regulation of the passions.
The moral force of the soul is superior to the utmost grasp of the
intellect. The "Thoughts" of Pascal are all the more read because the
religious life of Pascal is known to have been lofty. Augustine was the
oracle of the Middle Ages, from the radiance of his character as much as
from the brilliancy and originality of his intellect. Bernard swayed
society more by his sanctity than by his learning. The useful life of
Socrates was devoted not merely to establish the grounds of moral
obligation, in opposition to the false and worldly teaching of his day,
but to the practice of temperance, disinterestedness, and patriotism. He
found that the ideas of his contemporaries centred in the pleasure of
the body: he would make his body subservient to the welfare of the soul.
No writer of antiquity says so much of the soul as Plato, his chosen
disciple, and no other one placed so much value on pure subjective
knowledge. His longings after love were scarcely exceeded by Augustine
or St. Theresa,--not for a divine Spouse, but for the harmony of the
soul. With longings after love were, united longings after immortality,
when the mind would revel forever in the contemplation of eternal ideas
and the solution of mysteries,--a sort of Dantean heaven. Virtue became
the foundation of happiness, and almost a synonym for knowledge. He
discoursed on knowledge in its connection with virtue, after the
fashion of Solomon in his Proverbs. Happiness, virtue, knowledge: this
was the Socratic trinity, the three indissolubly connected together, and
forming the life of the soul,--the only precious thing a man has, since
it is immortal, and therefore to be guarded beyond all bodily and
mundane interests. But human nature is frail. The soul is fettered and
bewildered; hence the need of some outside influence, some illumination,
to guard, or to restrain, or guide. "This inspiration, he was persuaded,
was imparted to him from time to time, as he had need, by the monitions
of an internal voice which he called [Greek: daimonion], or daemon,--not
a personification, like an angel or devil, but a divine sign or
supernatural voice." From youth he was accustomed to obey this
prohibitory voice, and to speak of it,--a voice "which forbade him to
enter on public life," or to take any thought for a prepared defence on
his trial. The Fathers of the Church regarded this daemon as a devil,
probably from the name; but it is not far, in its real meaning, from the
"divine grace" of St. Augustine and of all men famed for Christian
experience,--that restraining grace which keeps good men from folly
or sin.

Socrates, again, divorced happiness from pleasure,--identical things,
with most pagans. Happiness is the peace and harmony of the soul;
pleasure comes from animal sensations, or the gratification of worldly
and ambitious desires, and therefore is often demoralizing. Happiness
is an elevated joy,--a beatitude, existing with pain and disease, when
the soul is triumphant over the body; while pleasure is transient, and
comes from what is perishable. Hence but little account should be made
of pain and suffering, or even of death. The life is more than meat, and
virtue is its own reward. There is no reward of virtue in mere outward
and worldly prosperity; and, with virtue, there is no evil in adversity.
One must do right because it is right, not because it is expedient: he
must do right, whatever advantages may appear by not doing it. A good
citizen must obey the laws, because they are laws: he may not violate
them because temporal and immediate advantages are promised. A wise man,
and therefore a good man, will be temperate. He must neither eat nor
drink to excess. But temperance is not abstinence. Socrates not only
enjoined temperance as a great virtue, but he practised it. He was a
model of sobriety, and yet he drank wine at feasts,--at those glorious
symposia where he discoursed with his friends on the highest themes.
While he controlled both appetites and passions, in order to promote
true happiness,--that is, the welfare of the soul,--he was not
solicitous, as others were, for outward prosperity, which could not
extend beyond mortal life. He would show, by teaching and example, that
he valued future good beyond any transient joy. Hence he accepted
poverty and physical discomfort as very trifling evils. He did not
lacerate the body, like Brahmans and monks, to make the soul independent
of it. He was a Greek, and a practical man,--anything but
visionary,--and regarded the body as a sacred temple of the soul, to be
kept beautiful; for beauty is as much an eternal idea as friendship or
love. Hence he threw no contempt on art, since art is based on beauty.
He approved of athletic exercises, which strengthened and beautified the
body; but he would not defile the body or weaken it, either by lusts or
austerities. Passions were not to be exterminated but controlled; and
controlled by reason, the light within us,--that which guides to true
knowledge, and hence to virtue, and hence to happiness. The law of
temperance, therefore, is self-control.

Courage was another of his certitudes,--that which animated the soldier
on the battlefield with patriotic glow and lofty self-sacrifice. Life is
subordinate to patriotism. It was of but little consequence whether a
man died or not, in the discharge of duty. To do right was the main
thing, because it was right. "Like George Fox, he would do right if the
world were blotted out."

The weak point, to my mind, in the Socratic philosophy, considered in
its ethical bearings, was the confounding of virtue with knowledge, and
making them identical. Socrates could probably have explained this
difficulty away, for no one more than he appreciated the tyranny of
passion and appetite, which thus fettered the will; according to St.
Paul, "The evil that I would not, that I do." Men often commit sin when
the consequences of it and the nature of it press upon the mind. The
knowledge of good and evil does not always restrain a man from doing
what he knows will end in grief and shame. The restraint comes, not from
knowledge, but from divine aid, which was probably what Socrates meant
by his daemon,--a warning and a constraining power.

"Est Deus in nobis, agitante calescimus illo."

But this is not exactly the knowledge which Socrates meant, or Solomon.
Alcibiades was taught to see the loveliness of virtue and to admire it;
but _he_ had not the divine and restraining power, which Socrates called
an "inspiration," and others would call "grace." Yet Socrates himself,
with passions and appetites as great as Alcibiades, restrained
them,--was assisted to do so by that divine Power which he recognized,
and probably adored. How far he felt his personal responsibility to this
Power I do not know. The sense of personal responsibility to God is one
of the highest manifestations of Christian life, and implies a
recognition of God as a personality, as a moral governor whose eye is
everywhere, and whose commands are absolute. Many have a vague idea of
Providence as pervading and ruling the universe, without a sense of
personal responsibility to Him; in other words, without a "fear" of Him,
such as Moses taught, and which is represented by David as "the
beginning of wisdom,"--the fear to do wrong, not only because it is
wrong, but also because it is displeasing to Him who can both punish and
reward. I do not believe that Socrates had this idea of God; but I do
believe that he recognized His existence and providence. Most people in
Greece and Rome had religious instincts, and believed in supernatural
forces, who exercised an influence over their destiny,--although they
called them "gods," or divinities, and not _the_ "God Almighty" whom
Moses taught. The existence of temples, the offices of priests, and the
consultation of oracles and soothsayers, all point to this. And the
people not only believed in the existence of these supernatural powers,
to whom they erected temples and statues, but many of them believed in a
future state of rewards and punishments,--otherwise the names of Minos
and Rhadamanthus and other judges of the dead are unintelligible.
Paganism and mythology did not deny the existence and power of
gods,--yea, the immortal gods; they only multiplied their number,
representing them as avenging deities with human passions and frailties,
and offering to them gross and superstitious rites of worship. They had
imperfect and even degrading ideas of the gods, but acknowledged their
existence and their power. Socrates emancipated himself from these
degrading superstitions, and had a loftier idea of God than the people,
or he would not have been accused of impiety,--that is, a dissent from
the popular belief; although there is one thing which I cannot
understand in his life, and cannot harmonize with his general
teachings,--that in his last hours his last act was to command the
sacrifice of a cock to Aesculapius.

But whatever may have been his precise and definite ideas of God and
immortality, it is clear that he soared beyond his contemporaries in his
conceptions of Providence and of duty. He was a reformer and a
missionary, preaching a higher morality and revealing loftier truths
than any other person that we know of in pagan antiquity; although there
lived in India, about two hundred years before his day, a sage whom they
called Buddha, whom some modern scholars think approached nearer to
Christ than did Socrates or Marcus Aurelius. Very possibly. Have we any
reason to adduce that God has ever been without his witnesses on earth,
or ever will be? Why could he not have imparted wisdom both to Buddha
and Socrates, as he did to Abraham, Moses, and Paul? I look upon
Socrates as one of the witnesses and agents of Almighty power on this
earth to proclaim exalted truth and turn people from wickedness. He
himself--not indistinctly--claimed this mission.

Think what a man he was: truly was he a "moral phenomenon." You see a
man of strong animal propensities, but with a lofty soul, appearing in a
wicked and materialistic--and possibly atheistic--age, overturning all
previous systems of philosophy, and inculcating a new and higher law of
morals. You see him spending his whole life,--and a long life,--in
disinterested teachings and labors; teaching without pay, attaching
himself to youth, working in poverty and discomfort, indifferent to
wealth and honor, and even power, inculcating incessantly the worth and
dignity of the soul, and its amazing and incalculable superiority to all
the pleasures of the body and all the rewards of a worldly life. Who
gave to him this wisdom and this almost superhuman virtue? Who gave to
him this insight into the fundamental principles of morality? Who, in
this respect, made him a greater light and a clearer expounder than the
Christian Paley? Who made him, in all spiritual discernment, a wiser man
than the gifted John Stuart Mill, who seems to have been a candid
searcher after truth? In the wisdom of Socrates you see some higher
force than intellectual hardihood or intellectual clearness. How much
this pagan did to emancipate and elevate the soul! How much he did to
present the vanities and pursuits of worldly men in their true light!
What a rebuke were his life and doctrines to the Epicureanism which was
pervading all classes of society, and preparing the way for ruin! Who
cannot see in him a forerunner of that greater Teacher who was the
friend of publicans and sinners; who rejected the leaven of the
Pharisees and the speculations of the Sadducees; who scorned the riches
and glories of the world; who rebuked everything pretentious and
arrogant; who enjoined humility and self-abnegation; who exposed the
ignorance and sophistries of ordinary teachers; and who propounded to
_his_ disciples no such "miserable interrogatory" as "Who shall show us
any good?" but a higher question for their solution and that of all
pleasure-seeking and money-hunting people to the end of time,--"What
shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"

It very rarely happens that a great benefactor escapes persecution,
especially if he is persistent in denouncing false opinions which are
popular, or prevailing follies and sins. As the Scribes and Pharisees,
who had been so severely and openly exposed in all their hypocrisies by
our Lord, took the lead in causing his crucifixion, so the Sophists and
tyrants of Athens headed the fanatical persecution of Socrates because
he exposed their shallowness and worldliness, and stung them to the
quick by his sarcasms and ridicule. His elevated morality and lofty
spiritual life do not alone account for the persecution. If he had let
persons alone, and had not ridiculed their opinions and pretensions,
they would probably have let him alone. Galileo aroused the wrath of
the Inquisition not for his scientific discoveries, but because he
ridiculed the Dominican and Jesuit guardians of the philosophy of the
Middle Ages, and because he seemed to undermine the authority of the
Scriptures and of the Church: his boldness, his sarcasms, and his
mocking spirit were more offensive than his doctrines. The Church did
not persecute Kepler or Pascal. The Athenians may have condemned
Xenophanes and Anaxagoras, yet not the other Ionian philosophers, nor
the lofty speculations of Plato; but they murdered Socrates because they
hated him. It was not pleasant to the gay leaders of Athenian society to
hear the utter vanity of their worldly lives painted with such unsparing
severity, nor was it pleasant to the Sophists and rhetoricians to see
their idols overthrown, and they themselves exposed as false teachers
and shallow pretenders. No one likes to see himself held up to scorn and
mockery; nobody is willing to be shown up as ignorant and conceited. The
people of Athens did not like to see their gods ridiculed, for the
logical sequence of the teachings of Socrates was to undermine the
popular religion. It was very offensive to rich and worldly people to be
told that their riches and pleasures were transient and worthless. It
was impossible that those rhetoricians who gloried in words, those
Sophists who covered up the truth, those pedants who prided themselves
on their technicalities, those politicians who lived by corruption,
those worldly fathers who thought only of pushing the fortunes of their
children, should not see in Socrates their uncompromising foe; and when
he added mockery and ridicule to contempt, and piqued their vanity, and
offended their pride, they bitterly hated him and wished him out of the
way. My wonder is that he should have been tolerated until he was
seventy years of age. Men less offensive than he have been burned alive,
and stoned to death, and tortured on the rack, and devoured by lions in
the amphitheatre. It is the fate of prophets to be exiled, or slandered,
or jeered at, or stigmatized, or banished from society,--to be subjected
to some sort of persecution; but when prophets denounce woes, and utter
invectives, and provoke by stinging sarcasms, they have generally been
killed. No matter how enlightened society is, or tolerant the age, he
who utters offensive truths will be disliked, and in some way punished.

So Socrates must meet the fate of all benefactors who make themselves
disliked and hated. First the great comic poet Aristophanes, in his
comedy called the "Clouds," held him up to ridicule and reproach, and
thus prepared the way for his arraignment and trial. He is made to utter
a thousand impieties and impertinences. He is made to talk like a man
of the greatest vanity and conceit, and to throw contempt and scorn on
everybody else. It is not probable that the poet entered into any formal
conspiracy against him, but found him a good subject of raillery and
mockery, since Socrates was then very unpopular, aside from his moral
teachings, for being declared by the oracle of Delphi the wisest man in
the world, and for having been intimate with the two men whom the
Athenians above all men justly execrated,--Critias, the chief of the
Thirty Tyrants whom Lysander had imposed, or at least consented to,
after the Peloponnesian war; and Alcibiades, whose evil counsels had led
to an unfortunate expedition, and who in addition had proved himself a
traitor to his country.

Public opinion being now against him, on various grounds he is brought
to trial before the Dikastery,--a board of some five hundred judges,
leading citizens of Athens. One of his chief accusers was Anytus,--a
rich tradesman, of very narrow mind, personally hostile to Socrates
because of the influence the philosopher had exerted over his son, yet
who then had considerable influence from the active part he had taken in
the expulsion of the Thirty Tyrants. The more formidable accuser was
Meletus,--a poet and a rhetorician, who had been irritated by Socrates'
terrible cross-examinations. The principal charges against him were,
that he did not admit the gods acknowledged by the republic, and that he
corrupted the youth of Athens.

In regard to the first charge, it could not be technically proved that
he had assailed the gods, for he was exact in his legal worship; but
really and virtually there was some foundation for the accusation, since
Socrates was a religious innovator if ever there was one. His lofty
realism _was_ subversive of popular superstitions, when logically
carried out. As to the second charge, of corrupting youth, this was
utterly groundless; for he had uniformly enjoined courage, and
temperance, and obedience to the laws, and patriotism, and the control
of the passions, and all the higher sentiments of the soul But the
tendency of his teachings was to create in young men contempt for all
institutions based on falsehood or superstition or tyranny, and he
openly disapproved some of the existing laws,--such as choosing
magistrates by lot,--and freely expressed his opinions. In a narrow and
technical sense there was some reason for this charge; for if a young
man came to combat his father's business or habits of life or general
opinions, in consequence of his own superior enlightenment, it might be
made out that he had not sufficient respect for his father, and thus was
failing in the virtues of reverence and filial obedience.

Considering the genius and innocence of the accused, he did not make an
able defence; he might have done better. It appeared as if he did not
wish to be acquitted. He took no thought of what he should say; he made
no preparation for so great an occasion. He made no appeal to the
passions and feelings of his judges. He refused the assistance of
Lysias, the greatest orator of the day. He brought neither his wife nor
children to incline the judges in his favor by their sighs and tears.
His discourse was manly, bold, noble, dignified, but without passion and
without art. His unpremeditated replies seemed to scorn an elaborate
defence. He even seemed to rebuke his judges, rather than to conciliate
them. On the culprit's bench he assumed the manners of a teacher. He
might easily have saved himself, for there was but a small majority
(only five or six at the first vote) for his condemnation. And then he
irritated his judges unnecessarily. According to the laws he had the
privilege of proposing a substitution for his punishment, which would
have been accepted,--exile for instance; but, with a provoking and yet
amusing irony, he asked to be supported at the public expense in the
Prytaneum: that is, he asked for the highest honor of the republic. For
a condemned criminal to ask this was audacity and defiance.

We cannot otherwise suppose than that he did not wish to be acquitted.
He wished to die. The time had come; he had fulfilled his mission; he
was old and poor; his condemnation would bring his truths before the
world in a more impressive form. He knew the moral greatness of a
martyr's death. He reposed in the calm consciousness of having rendered
great services, of having made important revelations. He never had an
ignoble love of life; death had no terrors to him at any time. So he was
perfectly resigned to his fate. Most willingly he accepted the penalty
of plain speaking, and presented no serious remonstrances and no
indignant denials. Had he pleaded eloquently for his life, he would not
have fulfilled his mission. He acted with amazing foresight; he took the
only course which would secure a lasting influence. He knew that his
death would evoke a new spirit of inquiry, which would spread over the
civilized world. It was a public disappointment that he did not defend
himself with more earnestness. But he was not seeking applause for his
genius,--simply the final triumph of his cause, best secured by

So he received his sentence with evident satisfaction; and in the
interval between it and his execution he spent his time in cheerful but
lofty conversations with his disciples. He unhesitatingly refused to
escape from his prison when the means would have been provided. His last
hours were of immortal beauty. His friends were dissolved in tears, but
he was calm, composed, triumphant; and when he lay down to die he
prayed that his migration to the unknown land might be propitious. He
died without pain, as the hemlock produced only torpor.

His death, as may well be supposed, created a profound impression. It
was one of the most memorable events of the pagan world, whose greatest
light was extinguished,--no, not extinguished, since it has been shining
ever since in the "Memorabilia" of Xenophon and the "Dialogues" of
Plato. Too late the Athenians repented of their injustice and cruelty.
They erected to his memory a brazen statue, executed by Lysippus. His
character and his ideas are alike immortal. The schools of Athens
properly date from his death, about the year 400 B.C., and these schools
redeemed the shame of her loss of political power. The Socratic
philosophy, as expounded by Plato, survived the wrecks of material
greatness. It entered even into the Christian schools, especially at
Alexandria; it has ever assisted and animated the earnest searchers
after the certitudes of life; it has permeated the intellectual world,
and found admirers and expounders in all the universities of Europe and
America. "No man has ever been found," says Grote, "strong enough to
bend the bow of Socrates, the father of philosophy, the most original
thinker of antiquity." His teachings gave an immense impulse to
civilization, but they could not reform or save the world; it was too
deeply sunk in the infamies and immoralities of an Epicurean life. Nor
was his philosophy ever popular in any age of our world. It never will
be popular until the light which men hate shall expel the darkness which
they love. But it has been the comfort and the joy of an esoteric
few,--the witnesses of truth whom God chooses, to keep alive the virtues
and the ideas which shall ultimately triumph over all the forces
of evil.

* * * * *


The direct sources are chiefly Plato (Jowett's translation) and
Xenophon. Indirect sources: chiefly Aristotle, Metaphysics; Diogenes
Laertius's Lives of Philosophers; Grote's History of Greece; Brandis's
Plato, in Smith's Dictionary; Ralph Waldo Emerson's Representative Men;
Cicero on Immortality; J. Martineau, Essay on Plato; Thirlwall's History
of Greece. See also the late work of Curtius; Ritter's History of
Philosophy; F.D. Maurice's History of Moral Philosophy; G. H. Lewes'
Biographical History of Philosophy; Hampden's Fathers of Greek
Philosophy; J.S. Blackie's Wise Men of Greece; Starr King's Lecture on
Socrates; Smith's Biographical Dictionary; Ueberweg's History of
Philosophy; W.A. Butler's History of Ancient Philosophy; Grote's


500-430 B.C.


I suppose there is no subject, at this time, which interests cultivated
people in favored circumstances more than Art. They travel in Europe,
they visit galleries, they survey cathedrals, they buy pictures, they
collect old china, they learn to draw and paint, they go into ecstasies
over statues and bronzes, they fill their houses with bric-a-brac, they
assume a cynical criticism, or gossip pedantically, whether they know
what they are talking about or not. In short, the contemplation of Art
is a fashion, concerning which it is not well to be ignorant, and about
which there is an amazing amount of cant, pretension, and borrowed
opinions. Artists themselves differ in their judgments, and many who
patronize them have no severity of discrimination. We see bad pictures
on the walls of private palaces, as well as in public galleries, for
which fabulous prices are paid because they are, or are supposed to be,
the creation of great masters, or because they are rare like old books
in an antiquarian library, or because fashion has given them a
fictitious value, even when these pictures fail to create pleasure or
emotion in those who view them. And yet there is great enjoyment, to
some people, in the contemplation of a beautiful building or statue or
painting,--as of a beautiful landscape or of a glorious sky. The ideas
of beauty, of grace, of grandeur, which are eternal, are suggested to
the mind and soul; and these cultivate and refine in proportion as the
mind and soul are enlarged, especially among the rich, the learned, and
the favored classes. So, in high civilizations, especially material, Art
is not only a fashion but a great enjoyment, a lofty study, and a theme
of general criticism and constant conversation.

It is my object, of course, to present the subject historically, rather
than critically. My criticisms would be mere opinions, worth no more
than those of thousands of other people. As a public teacher to those
who may derive some instruction from my labors and studies, I presume to
offer only reflections on Art as it existed among the Greeks, and to
show its developments in an historical point of view.

The reader may be surprised that I should venture to present Phidias as
one of the benefactors of the world, when so little is known about him,
or can be known about him. So far as the man is concerned, I might as
well lecture on Melchizedek, or Pharaoh, or one of the dukes of Edom.
There are no materials to construct a personal history which would be
interesting, such as abound in reference to Michael Angelo or Raphael.
Thus he must be made the mere text of a great subject. The development
of Art is an important part of the history of civilization. The
influence of Art on human culture and happiness is prodigious. Ancient
Grecian art marks one of the stepping-stones of the race. Any man who
largely contributed to its development was a world-benefactor.

Now, history says this much of Phidias: that he lived in the time of
Pericles,--in the culminating period of Grecian glory,--and ornamented
the Parthenon with his unrivalled statues; which Parthenon was to Athens
what Solomon's Temple was to Jerusalem,--a wonder, a pride, and a glory.
His great contribution to that matchless edifice was the statue of
Minerva, made of gold and ivory, forty feet in height, the gold of which
alone was worth forty-four talents,--about fifty-thousand dollars,--an
immense sum when gold was probably worth more than twenty times its
present value. All antiquity was unanimous in its praise of this statue,
and the exactness and finish of its details were as remarkable as the
grandeur and majesty of its proportions. Another of the famous works of
Phidias was the bronze statue of Minerva, which was the glory of the
Acropolis, This was sixty feet in height. But even this yielded to the
colossal statue of Zeus or Jupiter in his great temple at Olympia,
representing the figure in a sitting posture, forty feet high, on a
throne made of gold, ebony, ivory, and precious stones. In this statue
the immortal artist sought to represent power in repose, as Michael
Angelo did in his statue of Moses. So famous was this majestic statue,
that it was considered a calamity to die without seeing it; and it
served as a model for all subsequent representations of majesty and
repose among the ancients. This statue, removed to Constantinople by
Theodosius the Great, remained undestroyed until the year 475 A.D.

Phidias also executed various other works,--all famous in his
day,--which have, however, perished; but many executed under his
superintendence still remain, and are universally admired for their
grace and majesty of form. The great master himself was probably vastly
superior to any of his disciples, and impressed his genius on the age,
having, so far as we know, no rival among his contemporaries, as he has
had no successor among the moderns of equal originality and power,
unless it be Michael Angelo. His distinguished excellence was simplicity
and grandeur; and he was to sculpture what Aeschylus was to tragic
poetry,--sublime and grand, representing ideal excellence, Though his
works have perished, the ideas he represented still live. His fame is
immortal, though we know so little about him. It is based on the
admiration of antiquity, on the universal praise which his creations
extorted even from the severest critics in an age of Art, when the best
energies of an ingenious people were directed to it with the absorbing
devotion now given to mechanical inventions and those pursuits which
make men rich and comfortable. It would be interesting to know the
private life of this great artist, his ardent loves and fierce
resentments, his social habits, his public honors and triumphs,--but
this is mere speculation. We may presume that he was rich, flattered,
and admired,--the companion of great statesmen, rulers, and generals;
not a persecuted man like Dante, but honored like Raphael; one of the
fortunate of earth, since he was a master of what was most valued in
his day.

But it is the work which he represents--and still more comprehensively
Art itself in the ancient world--to which I would call your attention,
especially the expression of Art in buildings, in statues, and
in pictures.

"Art" is itself a very great word, and means many things; it is applied
to style in writing, to musical compositions, and even to effective
eloquence, as well as to architecture, sculpture, and painting. We
speak of music as artistic,--and not foolishly; of an artistic poet, or
an artistic writer like Voltaire or Macaulay; of an artistic
preacher,--by which we mean that each and all move the sensibilities and
souls and minds of men by adherence to certain harmonies which accord
with fixed ideas of grace, beauty, and dignity. Eternal ideas which the
mind conceives are the foundation of Art, as they are of Philosophy. Art
claims to be creative, and is in a certain sense inspired, like the
genius of a poet. However material the creation, the spirit which gives
beauty to it is of the mind and soul. Imagination is tasked to its
utmost stretch to portray sentiments and passions in the way that makes
the deepest impression. The marble bust becomes animated, and even the
temple consecrated to the deity becomes religious, in proportion as
these suggest the ideas and sentiments which kindle the soul to
admiration and awe. These feelings belong to every one by nature, and
are most powerful when most felicitously called out by the magic of the
master, who requires time and labor to perfect his skill. Art is
therefore popular, and appeals to every one, but to those most who live
in the great ideas on which it is based. The peasant stands awe-struck
before the majestic magnitude of a cathedral; the man of culture is
roused to enthusiasm by the contemplation of its grand proportions, or
graceful outlines, or bewitching details, because he sees in them the
realization of his ideas of beauty, grace, and majesty, which shine
forever in unutterable glory,--indestructible ideas which survive all
thrones and empires, and even civilizations. They are as imperishable as
stars and suns and rainbows and landscapes, since these unfold new
beauties as the mind and soul rest upon them. Whenever, then, man
creates an image or a picture which reveals these eternal but
indescribable beauties, and calls forth wonder or enthusiasm, and
excites refined pleasures, he is an artist. He impresses, to a greater
or less degree, every order and class of men. He becomes a benefactor,
since he stimulates exalted sentiments, which, after all, are the real
glory and pride of life, and the cause of all happiness and virtue,--in
cottage or in palace, amid hard toils as well as in luxurious leisure.
He is a self-sustained man, since he revels in ideas rather than in
praises and honors. Like the man of virtue, he finds in the adoration of
the deity he worships his highest reward. Michael Angelo worked
preoccupied and rapt, without even the stimulus of praise, to advanced
old age, even as Dante lived in the visions to which his imagination
gave form and reality. Art is therefore not only self-sustained, but
lofty and unselfish. It is indeed the exalted soul going forth
triumphant over external difficulties, jubilant and melodious even in
poverty and neglect, rising above all the evils of life, revelling in
the glories which are impenetrable, and living--for the time--in the
realm of deities and angels. The accidents-of earth are no more to the
true artist striving to reach and impersonate his ideal of beauty and
grace, than furniture and tapestries are to a true woman seeking the
beatitudes of love. And it is only when there is this soul longing to
reach the excellence conceived, for itself alone, that great works have
been produced. When Art has been prostituted to pander to perverted
tastes, or has been stimulated by thirst for gain, then inferior works
only have been created. Fra Angelico lived secluded in a convent when he
painted his exquisite Madonnas. It was the exhaustion of the nervous
energies consequent on superhuman toils, rather than the luxuries and
pleasures which his position and means afforded, which killed Raphael at

The artists of Greece did not live for utilities any more than did the
Ionian philosophers, but in those glorious thoughts and creations which
were their chosen joy. Whatever can be reached by the unaided powers of
man was attained by them. They represented all that the mind can
conceive of the beauty of the human form, and the harmony of
architectural proportions, In the realm of beauty and grace modern
civilization has no prouder triumphs than those achieved by the artists
of Pagan antiquity. Grecian artists have been the teachers of all
nations and all ages in architecture, sculpture, and painting. How far
they were themselves original we cannot tell. We do not know how much
they were indebted to Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Assyrians, but in real
excellence they have never been surpassed. In some respects, their works
still remain objects of hopeless imitation: in the realization of ideas
of beauty and form, they reached absolute perfection. Hence we have a
right to infer that Art can flourish under Pagan as well as Christian
influences. It was a comparatively Pagan age in Italy when the great
artists arose who succeeded Da Vinci, especially under the patronage of
the Medici and the Medicean popes. Christianity has only modified Art by
purifying it from sensual attractions. Christianity added very little to
Art, until cathedrals arose in their grand proportions and infinite
details, and until artists sought to portray in the faces of their
Saints and Madonnas the seraphic sentiments of Christian love and
angelic purity. Art even declined in the Roman world from the second
century after Christ, in spite of all the efforts of Christian emperors.
In fact neither Christianity nor Paganism creates it; it seems to be
independent of both, and arises from the peculiar genius and
circumstances of an age. Make Art a fashion, honor and reward it, crown
its great masters with Olympic leaves, direct the energies of an age or
race upon it, and we probably shall have great creations, whether the
people are Christian or Pagan. So that Art seems to be a human creation,
rather than a divine inspiration. It is the result of genius, stimulated
by circumstances and directed to the contemplation of ideal excellence.

Much has been written on those principles upon which Art is supposed to
be founded, but not very satisfactorily, although great learning and
ingenuity have been displayed. It is difficult to conceive of beauty or
grace by definitions,---as difficult as it is to define love or any
other ultimate sentiment of the soul. "Metaphysics, mathematics, music,
and philosophy," says Cleghorn, "have been called in to analyze, define,
demonstrate, or generalize," Great critics, like Burke, Alison, and
Stewart, have written interesting treatises on beauty and taste. "Plato
represents beauty as the contemplation of the mind. Leibnitz maintained
that it consists in perfection. Diderot referred beauty to the idea of
relation. Blondel asserted that it was in harmonic proportions. Leigh
speaks of it as the music of the age." These definitions do not much
assist us. We fall back on our own conceptions or intuitions, as
probably did Phidias, although Art in Greece could hardly have attained
such perfection without the aid which poetry and history and philosophy
alike afforded. Art can flourish only as the taste of the people
becomes cultivated, and by the assistance of many kinds of knowledge.
The mere contemplation of Nature is not enough. Savages have no art at
all, even when they live amid grand mountains and beside the
ever-changing sea. When Phidias was asked how he conceived his Olympian
Jove, he referred to Homer's poems. Michael Angelo was enabled to paint
the saints and sibyls of the Sistine Chapel from familiarity with the
writings of the Jewish prophets. Isaiah inspired him as truly as Homer
inspired Phidias. The artists of the age of Phidias were encouraged and
assisted by the great poets, historians, and philosophers who basked in
the sunshine of Pericles, even as the great men in the Court of
Elizabeth derived no small share of their renown from her glorious
appreciation. Great artists appear in clusters, and amid the other
constellations that illuminate the intellectual heavens. They all
mutually assist each other. When Rome lost her great men, Art declined.
When the egotism of Louis XIV. extinguished genius, the great lights in
all departments disappeared. So Art is indebted not merely to the
contemplation of ideal beauty, but to the influence of great ideas
permeating society,--such as when the age of Phidias was kindled with
the great thoughts of Socrates, Democritus, Thucydides, Euripides,
Aristophanes, and others, whether contemporaries or not; a sort of
Augustan or Elizabethan age, never to appear but once among the
same people.

Now, in reference to the history or development of ancient Art, until it
culminated in the age of Pericles, we observe that its first expression
was in architecture, and was probably the result of religious
sentiments, when nations were governed by priests, and not distinguished
for intellectual life. Then arose the temples of Egypt, of Assyria, of
India. They are grand, massive, imposing, but not graceful or beautiful.
They arose from blended superstition and piety, and were probably
erected before the palaces of kings, and in Egypt by the dynasty that
builded the older pyramids. Even those ambitious and prodigious
monuments, which have survived every thing contemporaneous, indicate the
reign of sacerdotal monarchs and artists who had no idea of beauty, but
only of permanence. They do not indicate civilization, but
despotism,--unless it be that they were erected for astronomical
purposes, as some maintain, rather than as sepulchres for kings. But
this supposition involves great mathematical attainments. It is
difficult to conceive of such a waste of labor by enlightened princes,
acquainted with astronomical and mathematical knowledge and mechanical
forces, for Herodotus tells us that one hundred thousand men toiled on
the Great Pyramid during forty years. What for? Surely it is hard to
suppose that such a pile was necessary for the observation of the polar
star; and still less probably was it built as a sepulchre for a king,
since no covered sarcophagus has ever been found in it, nor have even
any hieroglyphics. The mystery seems impenetrable.

But the temples are not mysteries. They were built also by sacerdotal
monarchs, in honor of the deity. They must have been enormous, perhaps
the most imposing ever built by man: witness the ruins of Karnac--a
temple designated by the Greeks as that of Jupiter Ammon---with its
large blocks of stone seventy feet in length, on a platform one thousand
feet long and three hundred wide, its alleys over a mile in length lined
with colossal sphinxes, and all adorned with obelisks and columns, and
surrounded with courts and colonnades, like Solomon's temple, to
accommodate the crowds of worshippers as well as priests. But these
enormous structures were not marked by beauty of proportion or fitness
of ornament; they show the power of kings, not the genius of a nation.
They may have compelled awe; they did not kindle admiration. The emotion
they called out was such as is produced now by great engineering
exploits, involving labor and mechanical skill, not suggestive of grace
or harmony, which require both taste and genius. The same is probably
true of Solomon's temple, built at a much later period, when Art had
been advanced somewhat by the Phoenicians, to whose assistance it seems
he was much indebted. We cannot conceive how that famous structure
should have employed one hundred and fifty thousand men for eleven
years, and have cost what would now be equal to $200,000,000, from any
description which has come down to us, or any ruins which remain, unless
it were surrounded by vast courts and colonnades, and ornamented by a
profuse expenditure of golden plates,--which also evince both power and
money rather than architectural genius.

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest