صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

elder brothers touch them, but are quite cold, when the youngest seizes them, indicates that the youngest is, by the will of the gods, appointed to the kingly dignity.

There is a well known passage in the Antigone of Sophocles,” in which the sentinel appointed to prevent the interment of the body of Polynices asserts his innocence, when the body has disappeared, and says,

[ocr errors]

These words point so plainly to the sentinel's offering to prove his innocence by holding redhotiron, and walking through fire, calling on the gods (beo); 6pxopotsiy,) that any other explanation, such as making the sentinel allude to torture, or offer generally to endure the severest pain, appears to us incorrect. The Scholiast remarks on this passage . . . . . eiðao. of Öpvöovteq xai triotel; 336vre; 168000; 3aord'ety zai top 5tepfatvery to\g Tâp of Šváx006 to &gaptuat, Govto xai év točtot; ui, 3)'ssiv.” Grimm brings forward from the late Byzantine period anothersert that ordeals were as common among the Greeks and Romans, and as deeply rooted in their feelings, or as much a kind of judicial usage as, according to Grimm, they were among the Germans and in India, yet we think we have shewn that it would be very rash to say that the idea was entirely foreign to them.

83 264. foll.

* Hermann, in his Lehrbuch der gottesdienstlichen Alterthümer der Griechen, § 23, 10, acknowledges the allusion in Sophocles to ordeal by fire. Erfurdt, in his Note on the passage, refers to the Commentators on Horace, Epod. xvi. 17, foll. There the poet says,

Velut profugit execrata civitas
Agros atque Lares proprios habitan-
daque fana

Apris reliquit et rapacibus lupis, &c.

The story here alluded to is to be found in Herodot. 1.165. ThePhocaeans having resolved to emigrate from their homes, uttered dreadful curses against all who should remain, and threw masses of iron into the sea, swearing that they would not return to their fatherland before that iron should again come to the light of day. Thus Horace uses it

in verse 25, foll. There is no similarity
between this story and the passage in
Sophocles, and we do not see why Er-
furdt referred to it. We find in it a
symbolical action, but no ordeal. The
aú?eos wioneous serves there a different
purpose, and is not red-hot. In Plu-
tarch's Aristides, c. 25, we find only a
confirmation of an oath, as is justly re-
marked by a scholiast on the passage in
Sophocles. In the AEneid, xi. 784, foll.
Aruns prays,
Summe defim, sancti custos Soractis
Quem primi colimus, cui pineus ardor
Pascitur, et medium freti pietate per
Cultores multa premimus vestigia pruna,
The whole extract proves that this
is no ordeal. The worshippers of the
god walk, trusting in his protection, over

[ocr errors]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

38 x1. 89. * Solinus, in his description of the | curiosities of Sardinia, mentions springs possessed of salutary properties in cases of disease of the eye, and adds, Sed qui (fontes) oculis medentur, et coarguendis valent furibus. Nam quisquis sacramento raptum negat, lumina aquis attrectat. Ubi perjurium non est, cernit clarius; si perfidia abnuit, detegitur facinus caecitate, et captus oculis admissum tenebris fatetur. With this may be compared the description of the owe exia, near Tyana, given by Philostratus, cit. Apollon. I. 6, comp. Ammian. Marcellin. xxiii.6, and that of the £etae ixtyxov in Philostratus, l. c. 111. | c. 14.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

* Pausan. viii. c. 17, 18; Strabo viii. * viii. 12. p. 389; Plin. Nat. Hist. 11. 106, xxxi. * De Ismeniae et Ismenes Amor. x1. 19. pp. 494, 512, 518. ed. Teucher.

* Pausan. xiii. 18. Comp. Niebuhr's Vorträge, l.c. i. p. 435.




THE highest productions of genius, as they are in themselves objects of the greatest interest, and sources of the best enjoyment, so they form the great centres and turning points of historical disquisition. Mighty causes, whatever their class, they exert a predominant influence on contemporary and succeeding generations, and the scrutiny of their relation to anterior times, engages the student by every motive of instruction and curiosity.

In the most perfect works of genius, history culminates, but when the most perfect are at the same time, by the accidents of ages, the earliest preserved, the difficulty and interest of the inquiry are enhanced together, and the elucidation of their origin taxes all the resources of the most refined analysis.

Such, and so situated in history, are the Homeric Epics; monuments of human progress, at a stage where progress was most momentous, and its conditions most obscure, they are at once the earliest and most perfect poetic compositions bequeathed to us by antiquity. It is not too much to say, that the people capable of producing and appreciating such works was, by the genial originality and capacity of education so evinced, equal to any career, to the achievement of any step in civilization, since made by the race. At the date of these poems, in one section of the species, all the preliminary work for the discipline of the independent and adult intellect of man had been successfully gone through, and the fortunes of progressive humanity were finally assured. Here, then, lies the great problem of the history of Greece; the Homeric poems and their conditions assumed, no difficulty of consequence remains in accounting for all forms and stages of Greek development, and its consequence,—the abiding manifestation of the civilized elements of society as distinguished from, and dominating, the merely barbarian. The Greek historian, therefore, is bound not to assume, but to apply himself to the task of accounting for, these crowning productions of imaginative and intellectual activity and moral experience. This is not the work of one man, nor of one generation; directly and indirectly it has been advanced by a vast application of industry and sagacity, but opinion approaches unanimity but tardily, and students who have rendered best service at one point, have frequently done damage by discrediting the acquisitions of competitors at others; for the rest, as the discussion is now left, there is perhaps more excuse for recurring to it than there would be had either more or less been settled. Isolated as the poems stand in time, with a chasm between them and the utmost verge of history, and dark chaos beyond, our first chance of obtaining some glimpse of the form and nature of the materials of the poet, and thus the antecedent stages by which he and his audience had been advanced so far, is the examination and comparison of various parts of the poems themselves, which, from variety of subject and extensive plan, may well lead us to hope for decisive indications. And few critics have denied that such are not entirely wanting, that, notwithstanding the power of poetical genius in using and metamorphosing its adopted materials, vestiges of an earlier creation and fragments of anterior formations remain detectable by contrast of character, or incongruousness of structure, from whatever cause admitted by the poet, whether in carelessness, indifference, or by design. These incongruities, however, thus assumed as instructive, are, it must be said, open to another construction; they may be interpreted, and have been, not as relics of an earlier, but intrusions of a later age, confounded with spurious interpolations or completions of another hand. To such liabilities all ancient literature is exposed, and the most ancient can scarcely claim exemption; the two classes must, therefore, be characterised, and their limits ascertained. This is no easy task in itself; and in a short time the extension of the charge of spuriousness

« السابقةمتابعة »