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The History.of Ancient Greece, its Colonies, and Conquests ; from
the earliest Accounts till the Division of the Macedonian Empire in the East. Including the History of Literature, Philosophy, and the Fine Arts. In Two Volumes. By John Gillies, LL.D., 4to. 21. 25. in Boards. Cadell. Herever learning diffuses its influence, the transactions
of ancient Greece will continue to be regarded as the most interesting in the annals of human kind. So great is the fplendour which illuminates this department of history; that it has excited the admiration of all succeeding ages of the world. Nor even at present, when the subjects of historical narrative are multiplied beyond the example of former times; seems any to be more happily adapted to the purpofes of literary gratification. Both in our own and in foreign coun.. tries, the history of Greece has lately employed the exertion of several writers; and we now behold an additional candidates for the public favour, in this gymnasium, if we may use such a term, of historical abilities.
On a subject fo often treated, however, it would be vain to expect any novelty from a writer, the moit industrious in his researches. If he draws his materials from authentic sources of information ; if, in dubious circumstances, he weighs with judgment the clashing testimony of different hiltorians; if he arranges the various parts of the subject with order and per-, fpicuity; if he preserves a just proportion in the delineation of the several objects, and animates the whole with a uniform vigour of style and sentiment; he performs whatever can afford gratification to the most inquisitive reader of history, or is necessary to obtain the approbation of impartial criticism. VOL. XXI. March, 1786.
Dr. Gillies commences his history with A View of the Prob gress of Civilization and Power in Greece, preceding the Trojan War. It is not surprising, that on a subject of so remote antiquity we should meet with little fatisfactory information, when, after a lapse of several centuries from this period, all the efforts of the diligent Thucydides proved insufficient to investigate, with any precision, the state of his country, during a long revolution of ages antecedent to the time in which he lived. Our author observes in a note, and the remark cannot be invalidated by any positive authority, that, admitting the common chronology, there is reason to believe that the scattered fragments of Greciarz history were preserved during thirteen centuries by oral tradition. With the use of alphabetic writing, compositions in profe began not earlier than about fix centuries preceding the Christian æra ; and though before this time, many transactions might be celebrated by the bards, who are known to have been numerous in ancient Greece, yet those rhapsodies, however founded in atchievements which had really existed, were too much. blended with fiction ever to be received impiicitly as documents for historical narrative. But, dark as is the cloud which hangs over this portion of Grecian history, the materials, it is cera tain, are more copious than confiftent; and to reduce them to order and perfpicuity, is what those who are best acquainted with the dificulty and dryness of the fehject, will admit to be not an enviable task.
After reciting the history of ihe Trojan war, the author takes a concise view of the religion, government, arts, manners, and character of the ancient Greeks; and in the same chapter he makes some observations on the rank of women in the heroic ages, concerniog which we think his remarks are well founded.
• Two circumstances chicily kale rendered it difficult to ex. plain the rank and condition of women in the heroic ages. The Greek word denoting a wife, is borrowed from a quality which equally applies to a concubine, and the fame term is used indif. ferently to express both. But the women who in ancient Greece fubmitted to the infamy of proititution, were generally captives taken in war, who were reduced by the cruel right of arms to the miserable condition of servitude. Hence it has been erroreoufiy inferred, that in ancient Greece, wives as well as concubines were the flaves of their husbands. This mistaken notion it has been attempted to confirm, not only by infifting on the humiliating condition of the fair sex in the later ages of Greece, but by expressly afferting, that, in ancient times,
they were purchased by their husbands. But this is to support one error by another. Before entering into the state of wedlock, it was customary for a man to make a mutual exchange of presents with his intended father-in-law. The Greeks had particular terms to express the present which he bestowed; as well as that which he received. The former, which has no corresponding term in the modern languages, is translated by the more general word “ price," which has given rise to the false notion of the purchase and servitude of women; but the latter, which may with propriety be translated “ dower," was given as a provi: fion for the wife, both during marriage and after its dissolution, and was sufficient to deliver her from that supposed state of dependence on the husband, which never had any existence but in the imagination of the fyftematic writers of the present age."
We cannot help expressing a wish that our author had taken a more comprehensive view of the manners and customs of the ancient Greeks, than we find he has done in the course of the chapter above quoted. A delineation of some of them in particular, which he has totally omitted, would have greatly contributed towards affording a more clear and adequate idea of the genius of that celebrated people. We likewise wilh that he had attempted to trace the gradual decay of that generosity of character, which diftinguished the heroic ages, and shewn by what causes a nation, where commerce had not yet flourished to such an extent as to introduce any great degree of luxury, could degenerate so much from the magnanimous fimplicity of their ancestors. With respect to the latter of these, indeed, we meet with a few observations in a subsequent chapter, which are as follow :
• As the fingular manners and events of the heroic ages na. turally produced the lofty strains of the epic mufe, so the state of society in Greece, during the immediately succeeding periods, highly favoured the introduction of other kinds of poetry. The abolition of the royal governments gave free scope to the activity and turbulence of democracy; and the rivalships and enmities of neighbouring states, rankling in the minds of their citizens, prepared the imaginations of men for taking a malignant pleasure in works of invective and reproach. The innumerable causes of alienation, hatred, and disgust, which operated also within the bosom of each little republic, opened an inexhaustible source of satire. The competitions for civil offices, for military command, and for other places of trust, profit, or honour, all of which were conferred by the free sufe. frages of the people, occasioned irreconcilable variance between the ambitious members of the same community, and subjected the characters of men to mutual scrutiny and remark. The
sentiments of the Greeks not being perverted by the habits of flavery, nor restrained by the terrors of a despot, they boldly expressed what they freely thought; they might openly declare a just contempt; and, while they extolled in the lofty ode and swelling panegyric the heroes and patriots whom they admired, they lathed the cowards and traitors whom they despised, with all the severity of fatire.'
Our author's observations on the influence of the musical and poetical contests; related in the same chapter with the preceding extract, are likewise not unworthy of attention.
“ In explaining the influence of the Grecian solemnities, we must not forget the musical and poetical exhibitions, which, from being employed to reward the victors in the gymnastic exercises, came to be themselves thought worthy of reward. The martial lessons of Tyrtæus and Callinus admirably conspired with the effects which have already been described, encourag. ing the firm and manly virtues both by the enthusiasm with which their precepts were conveyed, and by the lively impref. fions which they gave of those objects for which it is important to contend. The courage depending on blood and nerves is uncertain and transitory in its exiitence, and even while it exifts, may be indifferently employed to purposes beneficial or deitructive. It belonged to the martial bards to determine its doubtful nature, to fix and illustrate its genuine motives, and to direct it to the proper objects of its pursuit.
The musical entercainments thus Itrengthened, refined, and exalted the manly principles inspired by all the customs and inftitutions of that warlike age. But as bravery is a hardy plant that grows in every soil, the most beneficial consequence of the arts consisted in infusing a proper mixture of softness and senfibility into the Grecian character. This is well known to be their effect in every country where they are allowed to flourish. The Greeks, in a peculiar manner, required their affiftance ; nor could it have been possible for that people, without the happy influence of the arts, to controul the barbarity naturally occafioned by their conitant employment in war, the savage cruelty introduced by the practice of domestic servitude, and the intolerable ferocity which seems effentially inherent in the nature of democratical government. Amidit these sources of degeneracy and corruption, the time and application necessary to attain proficiency in the pursuits of genius, habituated the Greeks to gentle amusements, and innocent pleasures. The honours and rewards belowed on the successful candidates for literary fame, engaged them to seek happiness and glory in the peaceful shade of retirement, as well as on the contentious Theatre of active life ; and the observations and discoveries occasionally suggelted by the free communication of sentiment,
îtrengthened and confirmed those happy prejudices which combat on the side of virtue, and enforce the practice of such rules of behaviour as are most useful and agreeable in society.
* If the musical and literary entertainments acquired such .an happy influence over the moral dispositions of the heart, they produced a ftill more confiderable effect on the intellectual faculties of the mind. It is almost impossible, in the prefent age, to conceive the full extent of their efficacy in improving the memory, animating the imagination, and correcting the judgment. As to the memory, indeed, there is a period in the progress of society preceding the introduction of writing, when the energies of this faculty have been exerted among many nations with a wonderful degree of force. Even among the barbarous Celtic inhabitants of our own iland, the Druids could repeat an incredible number of verses, containing the knowledge of their history, laws, and religion ; and a period of twenty years was required to complete the poetical studies of a candidate for the priesthood.
• But if the Greeks were equalled by other nations in the exercise of the memory, they have always been unrivalled in the delicacy of their talte, and the inimitable charms of their fancy. These excellencies, whether originally produced by natural or moral causes, or more probably by a combination of both, were, doubtless, extended and improved by emulation and habitual exercise. To this exercise the public folemnities afforded a proper field; and, in the contests of music and poetry, were displayed the opening blossoms of Grecian genius, blossoms which afterwards ripened into those fruits of philosophy and eloquence, that will form the admiration and delight of the last ages of the world.'
The public transactions of ancient Greece were so much influenced by the passions of men, that the recital of them presents us not only with the general history of the several Itates, but what is yet more instructive to a philosophical reader, with that of the human mind. In different parts of the present work, Dr. Gillies has attempted to avail himself of this obfervation ; and we frequently find him deducing moral reflections from the events which he describes. In the account which he gives of the Grecian philosophy, he has adopted the opinion of the most approved writers on the subject; as he has likewise done, in delivering the literary character of the poets and other writers, whose transcendent merits have immortalized the fame of their country.
The history of Greece, so far as it can now be collected, being already well known, we have hitherto confined our,extracts to other parts of the narrative; but before we conclude