« AnteriorContinuar »
in worshipping Minerva, who was the tutelar goddess of the whole country; whereas the other deities had only certain districts assigned them, and in these they were inferior to Minerva, the supreme governess. And this difference in religion was very ancient, being of no less duration than the commonwealth itself. For when Theseus had prevailed on the people to leave their country residences, and unite themselves in one city, they thought it would be impious and unpardonable to desert the gods of their ancestors; they there. fore judged it only a becoming respect to their tutelar deities, to pay them the same honours, and frequent the same places, they had formerly done.
These Demoi were of very great use in preserving accuracy in their legal processes, by enabling those, who had the management of them, to refer with precision to particular persons. They were a hundred and seventy-four in number. To enumerate them would be as tedious as unnecessary in this epitome.
Of the Sojourners and Servants in Athens.
The second description of inhabitants in Attica, were styled foreigners, being such persons as were allowed by the council of Areopagus, to settle in Attica, on being registered. They differed from the citizens, in not being free of the city; but either coming from another city themselves, or being descended from such as did; and also from those who were termed strangers, for these only engaged lodgings for a short time, and were mere temporary visitors; whereas the foreigners were settled residents. These foreigners were permitted to dwell in the city, and follow their respective occupations without molestation, but could not be admitted to any public office; to give their votes in the assemblies; nor to have any share in the government. In the theatres, they were to be silent spectators, without intermeddling. They were not allowed
to take any part in state affairs, but patiently to submit to the decrees enacted by the citizens, and to observe all the laws and customs of the country. For this reason, Aristophanes, in Suidas, compares them to chaff, as being an unprofitable and useless part of the commonwealth.
“ The sojourners, if I may speak my mind,
Are, as it were, the city's chaff and scum.”
They were not allowed to transact any business in their own names, but were obliged to make choice of some citizen, to whose care and protection they would commit themselves; and it was the duty of these citizens to defend them from all violence and oppression. This is intimated in Terence's Eunuchus, where Thais puts herself into the hands of Phædria's family.
66 My brother's good success in his amour
Doth glad my soul; for Thais now's his own;
Those to whom these aliens thus committed themselves, were allowed to demand several services of them; which if they failed to perform, or neglected to choose a patron, they were liable to an action, by which their goods were confiscated.
In consideration of the privileges allowed them, the commonwealth required them to perform several duties; for instance, in the Panathenæa, a festival celebrated in honour of Minerva, the men were obliged to carry certain vessels, scaphæ, which means little ships, intimating their foreign extraction; the women carried vessels of water, or umbrellas, to defend the free women from the weather. This last custom commenced after Xerxes, and the Persians had been driven out of Greece, when the Athenians becoming insolent with success, set a greater value on the freedom of their city, than they had formerly done. Besides this, the men paid an annual tribute of twelve, or as others say, ten drachms; and the women who had no sons, were liable to a tax of six drachms; but such as had sons that paid, were exempted. This tribute was exacted not only from those that dwelt in Athens, but of all who settled in any town of Attica. About the time of Xerxes's invasion of Greece, Themistocles having, by eminent services, raised himself to great power in the commonwealth, prevailed so far upon the Athenians, that they remitted this exaction, and continued the sojourners in the enjoyment of their privileges, without requiring any such acknowledgment from them. How long they enjoyed this immunity is not known, but it is certain they did not keep it long; probably, it was taken from them, and the act repealed, as soon as Themistocles fell into disgrace. Upon non-payment of this imposition, the delinquent was inmediately seized by the taxmasters, and carried away to the market, set apart for that purpose, where they were exposed for sale by the revenue officers. Such would have been the fate of the famous philosopher, Zenocrates, as Plutarch informs us, had not Lycurgus rescued him out of the hands of the officers; but according to Diogenes Laertus, he was actually sold, for want of money to pay this tribute, but was redeemed by Demetrius the Phalerean, who, because he would not violate the laws of the city, yet could not endure to see so great and useful · a man reduced to so miserable a condition, paid the tax, and restored him his liberty.
But this class of men were incapable of any preferment, or of bearing any office in the commonwealth, yet they were not wholly without encouragement to the practice of virtue, and to the performance of acts that were honourable to themselves and serviceable to the public'; for such as so signalized themselves were seldom neglected or suffered to go unrewarded, but were taken into public consideration; and, by a special edict of the people, honoured with an immunity from all imposts, laws, and other duties, except such as were required of the free-born citizens.
We are now to treat of the third and most numerous class of the inhabitants of Athens; viz. the servants; of which there were two sorts. The first consisted of those, who, through poverty, were compelled to serve for wages; being free-born citizens, but having no voice in public affairs, not possessing sufficient property to entitle them to that privilege. This was the most respectable order of servants, and the least dependant, for they could change their 'masters, or quit servitude altogether, as they judged most proper. The second sort of servants were such, as were wholly in the power and at the disposal of their masters, who had as good a title to them, as to their land and estates, of which they formed a part. So absolute was the authority of the masters over servants of this class, that they could employ them in the most wretched drudgeries, and treat them with every cruelty and indignity, and punish them even with death itself, without being liable to be called to any account for their cruelty: and what added to the misery of their condition was, that they had no hopes of obtaining their own freedom, or procuring it for their posterity; and all the inheritance they could leave their children was, a similar state of poverty, suffering, and degradation.
To what misery this unfortunate class of people were subjected may be seen in the conduct of Cato the censor, towards his slaves; who, when they were so feeble with age as to be past their labour, drove them away to seek their living where they could, or suffered them to starve to death in his own house. This cruelty was not confined to a few individuals, it was the common practice of the whole country. It was accounted an unsufferable piece of impudence for a servant to imitate the freemen in any thing, or to affect to be like them in any part of their behaviour. In those cities, where the people let their hair grow long, it was an unpardonable offence for a servant to have long hair. The comedian alludes to this in the following passage,
“ Then you, disdaining your own state, affect
To wear long hair like freemen.”
One distinction in the dress of the slave was, that the freemen's coats had two sleeves to them, the slaves only one. Another piece of cruelty and injustice toward's this class of men was, that they were denied the liberty of pleading for themselves, or of being witnesses in any cause; yet it was customary to extort confessions from them by tortures, and these were often so violent, that the slave either died or was rendered unserviceable to his master; he, therefore, who required a slave for this purpose, was obliged to indemnify his owner for the value of the slave. Slaves were not allowed to be present at the worship of some of their deities, to whom their presence was thought to be offensive, and that the worship would be polluted by it: and at Athens, they were excluded from the worship of the Eumenidæ, and at Rome, from that of Hercules.
The manner in which the slaves were educated, differed as much from that of the free-born children, as their subsequent treatment differed; the former were brought up in ignorance of every thing that had a tendency to exalt the human character, and tutored in the occupations for which they were destined by stripes and cruelty. Yet there were in this class some, who being happily under the dominion of milder and more considerate masters, and being endowed with superior talents, gave the most unequivocal proofs, that wisdom and true nobility of mind are not confined to either rank or fortune. Of this number were. Æsop, the author of the fables; Acman, the poet; and Epictetus, the famous moralist; of whose poverty and servile condition, the Puet speaks thus,
« The gods to me great favours do dispense,
Tito in bondage crippled, and in indigence."
The Athenians held this condition of life in such sovereign contempt, that they thought it a degradation of the free-born citizens to allow a slave to be called by any name in use among freemen; but if any presumed to name a slave after the name of persons of