Page images

one of their greatest monarchs, they neither inquired who, nor how numerous, but where their enemies were; and, as they chiefly aimed at a glorious victory or death, they were feldom known to conquer by ftratagem or furprife, but by dint of fighting, and in the open field.

The Hiftory of LYCURGUS.


HIS great patriot and lawgiver was the fon of Polydectes, the fixth King of the Eurytionian line, but by a fecond wife. However, his elder brother dying without children, the right of fucceffion remained in him; and he accordingly took the administration upon him; waiting, however, to fee whether his fifterin-law was with child. This Princefs, finding herself pregnant, acquainted him with it privately; and with a promife, that, if he would marry her, she would take fome effectual method to deftroy the embryo. Lycurgus, though fhocked at the propofal; yet gave her fome diftant hopes that he would comply with it; but withal used all proper means to prevent her miscarrying, till the time of her delivery was come; when he fent for fome perfons of note to be prefent at her labour. She was foon after brought to bed of fon; the news of which being fent to him, whilft he was at fupper with fome noble Spartans, he came immediately, and, taking the child in his arms, faid to those who were prefent, This is your King; laid him on a chair of state, and gave him the name of Charilaus. This generous

action did not, however, fatisfy all the Spartans: the incenfed Queen, by the help of her brother Leonidas, perfuaded many of them, that he was only acting a game, in order to feize, and make himself the more fure of the crown, by the death of the young Prince. To prevent therefore fo vile an infinuation, and fo far from his intention, from gaining credit, Lycurgus withdrew himfelf into a voluntary exile; from which he returned not, till Charilaus was married, and had a fon to fucceed him. This laft action, having at once put an end to all those unjust furmifes which had been raised by his enemies, and procured him the esteem of all thofe who wifhed well to their country, he met with lefs difficulty in the profecution of his more glorious defign, of new modelling the government. Another circumftance which facilitated this change was, that, during his abfence, fuch depravity of manners and corruption in the government had crept into that miferable eftate that not only his friends, but even thofe who had been his most zealous enemies, were glad to repeat their embaffies, to intreat him to come back, and fave their country from ruin.

THESE were the inevitable confequences of that fatal divifion of the regal authority between two competitors; which, however, Lycurgus took a quite different method of remedying, than by confining it again to either of the lines; which might have proved too dangerous a task. He contented himself, therefore, with reducing their authority, by conftituting a fenate endued with the fupreme power in all civil matters, and leaving to the King, F 2 befides

befides the title and honour, only the manage ment of military and religious affairs. Thus was the Spartan monarchy changed into a commonwealth, after it had continued in the fame line 610 years.

The laws of SOLON, the Athenian lawgiver.

HE general frame of the republick being fettled, he gave the Athenians next a body of laws, of which we have ftill fome remaining. These were fo much efteemed, that the Romans fent ambaffadors to Athens, to tranfcribe them for the use of their state. As thefe tranfcribed laws became the bafis of the Roman Jurifprudence, which has fince been received almoft throughout Europe, under the name of the civil law; we may with reason affirm, that many of Solon's conftitutions are yet in force. Such as are afcribed to him by antient authors, we fhall give a concife account of in this place.

WE fhall begin with one of the most extraordinary ftatutes enacted by this lawgiver, and which has given politicians the most trouble to understand. We are obliged to A. Gellius, for preferving to us the very words of this law. It was thus:. "If, through difcord "or diffention, any fedition or infurrection "rend the people into two parties, fo that "with exafperated minds they take arms, and "fight against each other; he who, at fuch a "time, and in fuch a cafe, fhall not engage "himself in one fide or other, but shall en

deavour to retire and separate himself from "the evils fallen on his country, let fuch a





" one, lofing houses, country and estate, be "fent out an exile." Plutarch explains the reafon of it, as does the author firft cited; who highly commends it, and fays, That though, at first fight, it may feem dangerous to the publick peace, yet in truth it was calculated to fupport it; for the wife and juft, as well as the envious and wicked, being obliged to chuse fome fide, matters were eafily accommodated; whereas, if the latter only, as is generally the cafe with other cities, had the management of factions, they would, for private reafons, be continually kept up, to the great hurt, if not the utter ruin, of the state.

THE rules which Solon gave for beftowing. of heiresses have been very harshly cenfured. We will put them together, that the reader may fee the general intent of the legiflator. The next of kin to an heiress may require her in marriage, and she may likewife require him ; if he refufes, let him pay five hundred drachms. for her dowry. If he who poffeffeth fuch an inheritrix by law, as her lord and mafter, be Impotent, let it be lawful for her to admit any of her husband's nearest kindred, and let him who hath married an heiress be obliged to visit her thrice a month at leaft. The intent of thefe injunctions was, that neither a rich heif-efs might carry the eftate out of her family,. nor a poor one be in danger of marrying be-low her birth. As to the law allowing a woman to have recourfe to fome of her husband's relations, it might poffibly have been made, to prevent perfons, who knew themfelves to be impotent, from marrying fuch heireffes, and. depriving the next relation of his due...


F 3

HE enacted, that a bride should bring no more with her than three gowns, and fome flight houfhold-goods of little value; and that the bride and bridegroom should be fhut into a room together, and there eat a quince the bride likewife brought an earthen pan, wherein barley was parched, to the houfe of her hufband. The meaning of all this was, that Solon defired, as much as in him lay, to render marriage no longer a mercenary business, but a contract of minds, founded upon mutual affection. The eating of the quince implied, that: their discourses ought to be pleasant to each other; that fruit making the breath fweet.. The earthen vessel, which was called phrogeteon, fignified, that she undertook the bufinefs of the houfe, and would do her part towards providing for the family.

HE ordained, that none fhould revile the dead, even though provoked by the children of the deceased. This law procured him great. applause, and had certainly in it much both of· humanity and policy. He directed, that none fhould revile any living perfon at facred fo-lemnities, in the courts of justice, or at publick fpectacles, on pain of paying three drachmæ to the perfon reviled, and two more to the publick treafury. He likewife made a law against flander. This great man knew very well, that a general law against anger could never be put in execution: he therefore contented himself with providing, that the paffions of private men should not dishonour religious ceremonies, the juftice of the state, or publick diverfions; and that no paffion fhould excufe calumny.


« PreviousContinue »