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does she understand the objects and the end of her new life, and how she may assist him? “How could I assist you ?” said she, “and what ability have I? Everything lies in your hands; but my mother said that my duty was to be chaste and modest.” Then he proceeds to expound to her—nobly enough, toothe common interests and duties of man and wife, and unfolds to her all that she can do in the household to assist him. He tells how he gradually dissuaded her from using rouge and high-heeled boots,* and taught her order and punctuality. But of any intellectual intercourse, of any refined recreation or employment for the model wife, there is nothing. Even as to the education of children, the great Sokrates is known to have advised a friend to send his son from beneath his mother's care to be instructed by Aspasia,f a lady of brilliant intellect indeed, but of a moral character so disreputable as must have excluded her from any modern society.
It would be hard, indeed, for tragedians to draw pure and noble ideals of women in such a state of society, and it was very easy for the comic poets and the sarcastic wits of the day to complain that they could not find what they had themselves destroyed. It has been often said that slavery was the great blot in Athenian civilization. I think the degradation of women was a far deeper and more disastrous evil.* While the noblest art, the most stirring eloquence, the most divine philosophy, became the daily portion of the men of Athens, their wives, their mothers, and their sisters were not only excluded from these privileges, but treated with suspicion and contempt, and condemned to a life of mean drudgery and of hopeless insignificance. And yet I doubt whether the present age should be the first to cast a stone at the men of Athens. We do not, indeed, rudely keep our women under lock and key—we admit them to our society and to intercourse with the world ; but is there not still abroad a spirit of jealousy towards their higher education-is there not still a strong social disfavour towards their seeking to gain intellectual pre-eminence ? Still worse, are they not encouraged to adorn and to display the meanest of their perfections, and even urged by society to spend their time in frivolities and in trifles ? Surely, when all these things come to be judged by the standard of a higher civilization, the age which compelled women to live in servitude and in ignorance will be judged only one degree inferior to that which induced them to live in idleness and in dissipation.
* False hair, in the shape of artificial ringlets inserted among natural ones, is mentioned by Diphilus, Lixeirós. Menander objects to the practice of dying hair yellow.
+ Cf. Meineke, Hist. Com. Græc. p. 134.
III. There remains yet another chapter of social life among the Greeks.† We turn to an age, when we
* There is a remarkable anticipation of the most advanced modern views on female education in the 5th book of Plato's Republic ; of which there is an excellent analysis in Grote's Plato, iii. p. 199, seq.
† A very elegant and learned sketch of this epoch will be found in M. G. Guizot's “Menandre et la Société Grecque,” &c.
find them beneath the sway of the Macedonian conquerors; when the petty wars and the narrow politics of little republics sank into insignificance before the colossal duel of the East and the West; when all Greece combined was of small moment in the shock of empires. It was for nought that they had sacrificed their home-affections, their honour, their personal comforts, to a long strife for pre-eminence in their tiny peninsula : their real and permanent conquests were to be made on a far greater arena and in a widely different sphere from what they had expected. And now the tone of social life and feeling is changed at Athens. When conflicts were raging for the possession of Syria and Asia, of India and Egypt, the day for subtle diplomacy was gone ; the soldier could no longer be a citizen, but a rude mercenary, whose profession was war, and who only appeared in polite society as a vain braggart and an ignorant coxcomb. Nor had he lost the old Greek defects of doubtful courage and questionable honesty. In the witty comedy of the day, the usual butt for sarcasm is the man of valour in his own estimation, just returned with his spoils from great conquests in Asia, who thinks he can win the devotion of the graceful Attic damsels as easily as he can buy the flattery which trumpets forth his deeds in arms. “No soldier could be a gentleman,” exclaims Menander ; “not even were the Deity to endeavour to make him one.”* The citizen proper, on the contrary, is a man of elegance and refinement, gentle in his manners,
• Menander, frag, incert. 192.
and considerate to his neighbours. He is, indeed, a hopeless sceptic: he has, long since, surrendered his faith in the politics and in the destinies of his country; he treats with contempt the immortal gods and their supposed providence; he sneers at the aspirations of the philosophers to explain the mysteries of the universe ; he ridicules or laments, at least in theory, the wisdom and happiness of every sphere of life; but in practice he has learned that selfish and violent passions rend and distort the mind, and ruin even the small amount of comfort which is granted us by chance or destiny in this miserable world. Our only reasonable object is to promote our happiness, and this is, after all, best done by promoting the happiness of those around us. Consequently the comforts of home and family, which the feverish political activity of a former age had neglected and injured, become the first object of consideration. And so the great comic poet, Menander, and his friend, the great philosopher, Epicurus—in fact, the great practical teachers of the day, deserted politics and metaphysics, and made private life the object of their study and their precepts.
From the picture they have left us, we perceive that the nation had, as it were, grown old. The meekness, the gentleness, the sadness of old age and chequered experience, are there ;* but the quick
* Perhaps the love of country life, so evident in the fragments of Menander, was a consequence of this change. In the age of Perikles and Sokrates the cultivated Athenians utterly despised such a life. This must have been an important auxiliary cause in the degradation of women during that age ; for a lady can hardly share in the city business and recreation of men, while she can have no more important post than the control of a country household. It is, then, very natural, and, I think, affecting, to read in the panegyrics on country life put by Xenophon (very inconsistently) into Sokrates' mouth, that the prospect of moving out to the country was “delightful to the wife, and longed for by the children.” (Econom. v. § 10.) • Odyssey, xvii. 322. Menander, frag. incert. 179.
sense of honour and the keen love of liberty found in a former age are gone. “The gods," said Homer, "deprived a man of half his virtue in the day of slavery."* “How much better is it,” retorts Menander, almost in the words of the prodigal son, who had wasted his substance and his hopes, “ to be under a good master, than to live in poverty and free.”+ And to the same poet is due the origin of the celebrated apophthegm, “He that fights and runs away, will live to fight another day.” But with the loss of the spirit of liberty and of honour there was, as I have said, a great gain in temper and in manners. The Menandrian Greek despised that habit of bitter wrangling which had so greatly marred the beauty of Attic tragedy, and had even lowered the dignity of the Homeric heroes. As in the days of Euripides no gentleman would think of passing over an insult without an angry retort, so in these gentler days the very opposite practice is commended. “Nothing is pleasanter,” says one of the comic poets, “and more refined than to be able to bear abuse in silence; for the man who abuses is abused by his own abuse, if
| Menander, yowicei, 45.