Изображения страниц

was taken in 752, B. C., and manifestly enlarged the field of ambition to the aspiring nobles. This was followed in 714, B. C., by a still greater change in their favor. Hitherto the archonship had been confined to the Medontidæ, or descendants of Kodrus; henceforth, it was made accessible to the whole nobility.

One generation later, and the change takes place which converts the monarchy into an oligarchy. The archonship was now made annual instead of decennial, and nine archons were substituted in place of the one. This was a revolution. The headship of the state was no longer in the hands of a monarch but of oligarchs, not of one ruler but of several. And it is a remarkable fact that from this time onward to the end of the free democracy, Athens never had a Chief Magistrate—nothing corresponding to the Governor of a state, or the President of the United States, with us. This increase in the number of archons, and the establishment of annual election were made in the archonship of Kreon in 683, B. C., and never afterwards underwent any change. '. We add that this distribution of powers among the nine archons, and their annual election were equally consistent with a democracy or an oligarchy; we call the present form of government an oligarchy, because the archonship was entirely in the lands of a few noble families and not of the commonalty.

With the revolution of 683, B. C., the authentic history of Athens commences, and we pause to examine the state of things at this period.

This examination will embrace two points: the divisions and aggregations of the people, for facilitating the administration of government, and the distribution of rulers, by whom this administration is to be carried on. Ultimately, government must come into personal contact with individuals, and this can only be done through individual rulers. But the number of individuals with whom any given ruler can come into contact is limited. Indeed, it is remarkable how very few one man can govern by himself,—hardly more, in general, than a single family, and some men not even that. Hence arises the ne. cessity of divisions and subdivisions among the people, with a VOL. XVIII.


corresponding distribution of rulers. These divisions among the people may be made according to several distinct principles. The earliest, the primary, division is according to families ; the next in the order of things is according to place; then according to wealth, and so on.

The unit of the natural aggregate among the Athenians was the family; in their own language, the genos, in the Latin, the

; gens. For the sake of convenience we will use the word gens. But the gens contains notions, and that, too, essential ones, which are not contained in the family, in the modern sense of the word. The great distinction is, that the genealogy of the gens starts from a superhuman, that of the family from a human origin; and this distinction it is important to understand.

The family, in its most restricted sense, includes husband and wife, or, with reference to perpetuity, husband, wife and child, or restricting our view to its perpetuity under the name of its founder, husband, wife and son. Now, comiencing with this view of the family, we may extend it so as to embrace all the descendants of a common ancestor, or all the descendants who bear the common name, all the male descendants. Thus, to illustrate from some family that came to this country in the Mayflower, say the fainily of Elder Brewster, we might include now under the Brewster family all the descendants of Elder Brewster, or such only as bear the nanie of Brewster, all the male descendants. But in going back to ancestors, where shall we stop? Elder Brewster had a father, his father a father, and so on, according to the law of natural descent, ad infinitum. Birth, through natural descent, must either be traced back for ever without coming to a beginning, or it must have a beginning which is outside of nature. Revelation carries all back to a single pair, and that pair supernaturally created by the Author of all being. Hence, as in passing from ancestor to ancestor, the clue is soon lost in the uncertainty of the past, we are at liberty to stop where we will, and to choose as onr common ancestor any one in the remote past who suits us best. The descendants of Elder Brewster may stop with him, or go farther and fare worse. There is a clue, doubtless, if one could find it, which would carry each one back to Shem, Ham, or Japhet,

and thence to the first man. But as things are, and from our point of view, families cannot be traced back distinctly many generations, and the members that compose them are lost in an undistinguishable crowd. Even natural traits fail at length. The "divine vigor ” of the Julian eye may still exist, but we hare no proof that it came from the great Augustus. The flat nose and thick lips of Socrates are still found, but are not probably descended from him. The only one who has perinanently transmitted traits of his character is the great father of the race.

The Athenians took a different view. But before explaining this view, and in order to such explanation, we must touch upon the world of living existences as it lay in the mind of the Greeks. It had three types: gods, heroes, man-gods, swayed by all the passions, affections and impulses which pervade the mind of man, but of vastly greater powers, and exempt from mortality,-heroes, the progeny of the gods, many of whom sprung from human mothers, less than the gods, but more than man; and both gods and heroes acting side by side with man, striving with him, both harining and blessing him, and becoming the parents of human offspring through the natural physical laws of human generation. We are to conceive of the Greeks as believing in these things, however incredible and absurd they may appear to us, holding them to be existing realities; and, with such belief, we can see how wonderful the illimitable and unknown past must have appeared to them. Having failed to attain to the notion of absolnte creation, and having once admitted the reality of the birth of gods and heroes according to the laws of human generation, and of men according to the same laws, from an extra human or superhuman parentage, there was no end to the creations of an unrestrained and credulous imagination ; nor was there any difficulty in assigning a divine or heroic origin to the primitive families which constituted the origines of any particular people.

Now the Athenians held themselves to be the primitive possessors of Attica; that the original families did not emigrate from other countries, but were born on the soil. A large number of families in Attica, at the commencement of the historic era, traced themselves back to these first ancestors, whom they believed to be either gods or heroes, and whom they worshiped as divine beings. From this statement, we are enabled to see more clearly what a gens is. A gens is composed of a number of families, more or less, who trace themselves back to a common divine or heroic progenitor, and who are united in the common worship of this progenitor. Its two peculiarities were a common superhuman origin, and common rites of worship. How many gentes there were in Attica at the time we speak of we know not, but the persons belonging to them constituted the CITIZENS OF ATTICA. They formed a determinate body of people, pointed out and defined by the joint characteristics of birth on the soil and birth from a superhuman ancestry. There were other inhabitants, both slave and free, outside this body, but it was these descendants of the primitive families of Attica that made up the proper Athenian people. We shall show, in the course of our remarks, how this small and compact body expanded, until it became the great Athenian Demos of the age of Pericles. But we now turn to illustrate more particularly the nature of the Attic gens by a brief account of some of the best known.

Every hero had a myth, especially those who gave their names to particular places. One of the most interesting of these legends relates to Eleusis and the Eleusinian mysteries, and is preserved to us in the Homeric hymn to Demeter. Demeter in her search for her lost Persephone came to Eleusis, and having ordered a temple and an altar to be erected, prescribed the services and rites which were to be pe ned in her honor. These she communicated to Keleos and his daughter, together with Triptolemus, Diokles and Eumolpus. From Eumolpus, whom the latter ages called the son of Poseidon, came the family of the Eumolpidæ, and this gens, to which pertained the honor of presiding over the Eleusinian mysteries, maintained this position of honor throughout the whole historical period. The Kodridæ traced their descent from Kodrus, who was descended from folus, who was the son of Hellen, who was the son of Deucalion, and so forth. The Asklepiadæ, who were scattered throughout Greece came from Asklepius, who was either a god, or became a god. The Philaidæ traced themselves to Philæus, who was the son of Ajax, who was the son of Aeakus, who was the son of Zeus by Aegina, daughter of Asopus. The Erechtheids were from Erechtheus, who was born of the Earth, and brought up by Athene. Erectheus was identified with the god Poseidon, and called Poseidon Erechtheus. The celebrated family of the Butadæ was descended from Butes, son of Pandion, son of Erchthonius, son of Hephæstion and the Earth. A member of this gens chosen by lot always performed the functions of Poseidon Erechtheus, during the whole period of the existence of free Attica. Kreisa, daughter of Erechtheus, seduced by Apollo, gave birth to Ion, who was the father of the heroes who gave their names to the four Attic tribes, namely, Geleontes, Hopletes, Argadeis and Aegikoreis. From Phytalus, who had received Demeter as a guest, when she first fresented mankind with the fruit of the fig tree, came the ancient gens of the Phytalids. And thus it was with innumerable families. Indeed, the ancients had the advantage of us in the matter of geneaology. For there was no difficulty in finding a god for the superhuman part of the ancestral line, and not much more we should judge, as regards the human origin. But however this may be, we must remember that with the Greeks, all this was undoubted reality. Of the two parts of the genealogy, the superhuman part was as much believed in, as the human; no living Eumolpid or Erechtheid could be more a reality to them than were their half-human, half-divine progeni. tors, Eumolpus and Erechtheus. It was always a matter of great pride to trace one's self to some of these divine progenitorsas much so as to go back to the Mayflower, or the Norman Conquest. Thus, Hippocrates and Aristotle belonged to the wide-spread and renowned Asklepiads. Miltiades was of the Philaidæ. Solon belonged to the Kodridæ. Herodotus speaks of Hekatæus, the historian, as “genealogizing, and tracing his family to a god in the sixteenth degree.” (Herod. II, 143.)

The several gentes were close corporations, and possessed many privileges. Each gens had a common burial-place, and it was an indictable offense to bury a stranger in it. The

[ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »