« AnteriorContinuar »
a The first thing Pericles did after his being re-elected generalissimo, was to propose the abrogating of that law, which he himself had caused to be enacted against bastards, when there were legitimate children. It declared, that such only should be considered as native and legitimate Athenians, whose fathers and mothers were both natives of Athens; and it had been executed just before with the utmost rigour, For the king of Egypt having sent to Athens a present of 40,000 measures of corn to be distributed among the people, the bastards, on account of this new law, were involved in a thousand law-suits and difficulties, till then unpractised, and which had not been so much as thought of. Near 5,000 of them were condemned and sold as slaves, whilst 14,040 citizens were confirmed in their privileges, and recognized as true Athenians. It was thought very strange, that the author and promoter of this law should himself desire to have it repealed. But the Athenians were moved to compassion at the domestic calamities of Pericles; so that they permitted him to enrol his bastard in the register of the citizens of his tribe, and to let him bear his own name.
A little after he himself was infected with the pestilence. Being extremely ill, and ready to breathe his last, the principal citizens, and such of his friends as had not forsaken him, discoursing together in his bed-chamber about his rare merit, they ran over his exploits, and computed the number of his victories; for whilst he was generalissimo of the Athenians, he had erected for the glory of their city nine trophies, in memory of as many battles gained by him. They. did not imagine that Pericles heard what they were saying, because he seemed to have lost his senses; but it was far otherwise, for not a single word of their discourse had escaped him; when, breaking suddenly from his silence; “I am surprised,” says he “ that you should treasure up so well
in your memories, and extol so highly a series of actions, “ in which fortune had so great a share, and which are com
mon to me, with so many other generals; and at the same “time should forget the most glorious circumstance in my
life; I mean, my never having caused a single citizen to put on mourning.” Excellent words! which very few in high stations can declare with truth. The Athenians were deeply afflicted at his death.
The reader has doubtless observed, from what has been said of Pericles, that in him were united most qualities which constitute the great man; as those of the admiral, by his
A M. 575. Ant. J C. 429.
Plutarch does not name this king. Perhaps it was Inarus, son to Psamme. tichus king of Lybia, who had caused part of the Egyptians to take up arms against Artaxerxes, and to whom the Athenians, above 30 yours before, had sent suceours against the Persians. Thucyd. 1. i. p. 68.
skill in naval affairs; of the great captain, by his conquests and victories; of the financier, by his excellent regulations of the public revenue; of the great politician, by the extent and justness of his views, by his eloquence in public deliberations, and by the dexterity and address with which he transacted affairs; of a minister of state, by the methods he employed to increase trade and promote the arts in general; in fine, of father of his country, by the happiness he procured to every individual, and which he always had in view, as the true scope and end of his administration.
But I must not omit another characteristic which was peculiar to him. He acted with so much wisdom, moderation, disinterestedness and zeal for the public good ; he discovered, in all things, so great a superiority of talents, and gave so exalted an idea of his experience, capacity and integrity, that he acquired the confidence of all the Athenians; and fixed (in his own favour) during 40 years that he governed the Athenians, their natural fickleness and inconstancy. He suppressed that jealousy, which an extreme fondness for liberty had made them entertain against all citizens distinguished by their merit and great authority. But the most surprising cir-: cumstance is, he gained this great ascendant merely by persuasion, without employing force, mean artifices, or any of those arts which a common politician excuses in himself upon the specious pretence, that the necessity of the public affairs, and reasons of state, require them.
a Anaxagoras died the same year as Pericles. Plutarch relates a circumstance concerning him, that happened some time before, which must not be omitted. He says that this philosopher, who had voluntarily reduced himself to excessive poverty, in order that he might have the greater leisure to pursue his studies ; standing himself neglected, in his ole age, by Pericles, who, in the multiplicity of the public affairs, had not always time to think of him ; o wrapped his cloak about his head, and threw himself on the ground, in the fixed resolution to starve himself. Pericles hearing of this accidentally, ran with the utmost haste to the philosopher's house, in the deepest affliction. He conjured him, in the strongest and most movilig terms, not t, throw his life away ; adding, that it was not Anaxagoras but himself that was to be lamented, if he was so unfortunate as to lose so wise and faithful a friend ; one who was so capable of giving him wholesome counsels, in the pressing emergencies of the state. Anaxagoras then, uncovering a little of his head, spoke thus to him. “ Pericles, those who use a lamp take care to feed it
a Plut. in Pericl. p. 162 b It was the custom for those to cover their heads with their cloaks, who were reduced to despair, and resuljed to die.
“with oil.” This was a gentle, and at the same time a keen and piercing reproach. Pericles ought to have supplied his wants unasked. Many lamps are extinguished in this man, ner in a country, by the criminal negligence of those who ought to supply them.
Sect. III. The Lacedæmonians besiege Plataa. Mitylene is taken by
the Athenians. Platæ æ surrenders. The plague breaks out again in Athens.
FOURTH AND FIFTH YEARS OF THE WAR. « The most memorable transaction of the following years, was the siege of Platææ by the Lacedæmonians. This was one of the most famous sieges of antiquity, on account of the vigorous efforts of both parties; but especially for the glorious resistance made by the besieged, and their bold and industrious stratagem, by which several of them got out of the city, and by that means escaped the fury of the enemy. The Lacedæmonians besieged this place in the beginning of the third campaign. As soon as they had pitched their camp round the city, in order to lay waste the surrounding country, the Platæans sent deputies to Archidamus, who commanded on that occasion, to represent, that he could not attack them with the least shadow of justice, because that, after the famous battle of Platææ, Pausanias, the Grecian general, offering up a sacrifice in their city to Jupiter the Deliverer, in presence of all the allies, had given them their freedom to reward their valour and zeal; and therefore, that they ought not to be disturbed in the enjoyment of their liberties, since it had been granted them by a Lacedæmonian. Archidamus answered, that their demand would be very reasonable, had they not joined with the Athenians, the professed enemies to the liberty of Greece ; but that, if they would disengage themselves from their present alliance, or at least remain neuter, they then should be left in the full enjoyment of their privileges. The deputies replied, that they could not possibly come to any agreement, without the cognizance of Athens, whither their wives and their children were retired. The Lacedæmonians permitted them to send thither; when the Athenians promising solemnly to succour them to the utmost of their power, the Platæans resolved to suffer the last extremities rather than surrender : and accordingly they informed the Lacedæmonians, from their walls, that they could not comply with what was desired.
Archidamus then, after calling upon the gods to witness, a A. M. 3576. Ant, J. C. 428. Thucyd. 1. ii, p. 147-151. Diod. l. xii. p; that he did not first infringe the alliance, and was not the
cause of the calamities which might befall the Platæans, for : having refused the just and reasonable conditions offered
them, prepared for the siege. He surrounded the city with a circumvallation of trees, which were laid long-ways, very close together, with their boughs interwoven, and turned towards the city, to prevent any person from going out of it. He afterwards threw up a platform to set the batteries on; in hopes that, as so many hands were employed they should soon take the city. He therefore caused trees to be felled on mount Cithæron, and interwove them with fascines, in order to support the terrass on all sides; he then threw into it wood, earth and stones; in a word, whatever could help to fill it up. The whole army worked night and day, without the least intermission, during seventy days; one half of the soldiers reposing themselves, whilst the rest were at work.
The besieged observing that the work began to rise, threw up a wooden wall upon the walls of the city, opposite to the platform, in order that they might always out-top the besiegers; and filled the hollow of this wooden wall with the bricks they took from the rubbish of the neighbouring houses ; so that the beams of timber served in a manner as a defence to keep the wall from falling, as it was carrying up. It was covered, on the outside, with hides both raw and dry, in order to shelter the works and the workmen from the fires discharged against it. In proportion as it rose, the platform was raised also, which in this manner was carried to a great height. But the besieged made a hole in the opposite wall, in order to carry off the earth that sustained the platform; which the besiegers perceiving, they put large baskets filled with mortar, in the place of the earth which had been removed, because these could not be so easily carried off. The besieged therefore, finding their first stratagem defeated, made a mine under ground as far as the platform, in order to work under cover, and to remove from it the earth and other materials of which it was composed, and which they gave from hand to hand, as far as the city. The besiegers were a considerable time without perceiving this, till at last they found that their work did not go forward, and that the more earth they laid on, the lower it sunk. But the besieged judging that the superiority of numbers would at length prevail ; without wasting their time any longer on this work, or carrying the wall higher on the side towards the battery, contented themselves with building another within, in the form of a half-moon, both ends of which joined to the wall; in order that the besieged might retire behind it when the first wall should be forced; and so oblige the enemy to make fresh works.
In the meantime the besiegers having set up their machines (doubtless after they had filled up the ditch, though Thucydides does not say this) shook the city wall in a very terrible manner, which, though it alarmed the citizens very much, did not however discourage them. They employed every art that fortification could suggest against the enemy's batteries. They prevented the effect of the battering rams, by ropes a which turned aside their strokes. They also employed another artifice; the two ends of a great beam were made fast by long iron chains to two large pieces of timber, supported at due distance upon the wall in the nature of a balance ; so that whenever the enemy played their machine, the besieged lifted up this beam, and let it fall on the head of the battering ram, which quite deadened its force, and consequently made it of no effect.
The besiegers finding the attack did not go on successfully, and that a new wall was raised against their platform, despaired of being able to storm the place, and therefore changed the siege into a blockade. However, they first endeavoured to set fire to it, imagining that the town might easily be burnt down, as it was so small, whenever a strong wind should rise ; for they employed all the artifices imaginable, to make themselves masters of it as soon as possible, and with little expense. They therefore threw fascines into the intervals between the walls of the city and the intrenchment with which they had surrounded them; and filled these intervals in a very little time, because of the multitude of hands employed by them; in order to set fire, at the same time, to different parts of the city. They then lighted the fire with pitch and sulphur, which in a moment made such a prodigious blaze, that the like was never seen. This invention was very near carrying the city, which had baffled all others; for the besieged could not make head at once against the fire and the enemy in several parts of the town; and had the weather favoured the besiegers, as they flattered themselves it would, it had certainly been taken : but history informs us, that an exceeding heavy rain fell, which extinguished the fire.
This last effort of the besiegers having been defeated as successfully as all the rest, they now turned the siege into a blockade, and surrounded the city with a brick wall, strengthened on each side with a deep fosse. The whole army was engaged successively in this work, and when it was finished, they left a guard over half of it ; the Baotians offering to guard the rest, upon which the Lacedæmonians returned to
a The lower end of these ropes formed a variety of slip-knots, with which they catcher! the head of the battering ram, which they raised up by the keln of the machine.