صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

Xenophon, was far more noble than the Roman instinct. The spring that impelled the Asiatic conquerors was thirst for fame and love of splendour; the soul of the Carthaginian conquests was covetousness and pelf, or advantages in trade ; finally of the Scythians, that is, of all who lived and thought as nomads, we might say, that they went forth to conquest only through necessity and the want of adequate support for life, or through the absence of sufficient occupation. The Romans strove for boundless might, and honour, and rule ; hence the greatness of the Roman empire ; for every effort, surpassing the mero sensual present, to realize the idea of lasting posthumous renown, and the glory of one's native country, is sublime in the individual ; how much more so then the public enthusiasm of an entire people ? As every organic force, when its interior development is completed, and the material rudiments of life have been perfectly formed, feels an instinctive impulse to propagate itself, and form a congener out of itself ; so with the Greeks, from that moment when their collective civilization, the universal validity and high importance of which they themselves did not know or recognize scientifically, though they very definitely felt it, had reached its highest point of attainment; from that moment, I repeat, was manifested the instinct of diffusing this spirit universally, of moulding all nations after the Greek ideal. From that moment there was universal peace and fraternity among all the Greeks; everlasting war against all the neighbouring barbarians and tyrants was the favourite wish of the whole people, it was the common-place theme of all the sophists and political orators, because it was the prevalent idea of that period, and of the whole Hellenic race.

Alexander made the beginning, or at least had the grand design of raising the falsely civilized Asiatics to a truly humane culture. If now the Hellenic mind could never entirely pervade Asia, which continent, at a later period, rejected it again utterly, debased as that mind had become, as an element foreign to it from the beginning; nevertheless, the more general diffusion of a real civilization, the foundation of which, Alexander, young as he was, knew how to lay so rapidly and enduringly, was not lost for the development of humanity, and it evidences in its founder a comprehensive ness and a power of communicating genuine civilization, in

[merged small][ocr errors]

comparison with which the action of the Roman conqueror appears only rude and uncouth. We find this real culture, as likewise the mind and sense for it, in general, solely among Grecian rulers and conquerors, the first and worthiest of whom Alexander both was and continued to be.

He knew how to unite and identify in himself the royal leader of the Macedonians, the free chief of the system of the Grecian free states, and the Asiatic sovereign of the great Persian empire, in the most perfect manner. Whilst he formed an epoch in the art of war, while he gave to trade an entirely new direction, disseminated over Asia Grecian colonial cities, sent forth voyages of discovery, by which the limits of geographical science and natural history were immeasurably enlarged, he investigated, as a worthy pupil of Aristotle, in conjunction with philosophers, the nature of true civilization, the character of the strange Asiatic races, and the most appropriate mode of treating them. In grace of deportment and of mind a second Alcibiades, he adorned the path itself of his conquests to such an extent with the real Grecian beauty of art and life, with gymnastic games and musical festivities, that it resembled more a joyous procession of Bacchus than a desolating war. That also was especially peculiar to him, what we might aptly term the faculty for giving political vitality and creating organically. The power and the tact, not merely to attach men to himself, but also to unite them among themselves in a new political creation; to communicate and impart to the being thus united and new formed, a life of its own, independent of its creator, and in general to propagate his own creative spirit among his adherents,--this I repeat was peculiar to him. It is well known how skilfully he understood the art of transforming the customs and manners of the Asiatics and the Greeks, of mingling and blending them. His propensity to build cities was nearly carried to excess, and was not free from Greek vanity, for in the opinion of the Greeks it was finer and more sacred to be the author of a political being, the founder of a people (kolorns), than to be victor in the public games. As a host of philosophers and orators proceeded from the schools of Socrates and Isocrates by their plastic master-minds, so was the camp of Alexander a seminary for kings. His successors and scholars were royal personages, both by their energy and mind,

boldness and subtlety, beauty and dignity of forni. They seemed, says an ancient writer, to have been called, not from one distinct people, but from the whole human race. The least of them would have been still worthy of disputing as a general with Cæsar the prize of victory.

We only reproduce here two more features of Alexander's higher moral character. He is the only known conqueror of whom the report has been handed down to us, that he could sincerely repent the faults he had committed in anger. His bitter repentance for the murder of Clitus may remind us of the grief with which Timoleon did not, as a Greek sophist allegos, desecrate his great action, but rather testified the sacred purity of his motives. The hopeless despondency, into which Alexander sank towards the end of his life, which he gave utterance to in such varied and violent ways, is in this respect very remarkable, profoundly disclosing to us the innermost nature of his moral faculties and aspirations. There is in this sublime discontent, which only the death of a beloved friend gave rise to in Alexander, something wonderfully affecting, and on the other hand something also great, that captivates us; a living instance and proof, as it were, that man has only the choice between contented mediocrity and restless exaltedness. What is greater than, amid the most wanton exuberance of everything that can possibly be desired, to long still unsatisfied after something higher and divine, that is unattainable? That is more than Ilerda and Dyrrhachium ! There was also suffused throughout the entire life and being of Brutus, as ancient historians tell us, a melancholy of a kindred nature, by which the rigidity of his virtue is for our eye softened down to moral beauty. Such a feeling was wholly alien to Cæsar. His material weariness of life was a mere satiety in the superabundance of all earthly possessions ; and precisely at this terminating point of his career does it become most strikingly visille and evident, what a general deficiency there was of any aspiration towards an invisible higher something and a divine idea in all his grand acts and deeds. Who would not prefer being the unsatisfied Alexander, who remained imperfect, than the fortunate Cæsar, who reached the final goal of his desires, but who the while resembled Catiline, and was obliged to hate Cato ?

Cæsar himself openly admitted his reseinblance to Catiline,



when he was reproached with having promoted some men of the very lowest extraction to the highest places of honour, inasmuch as he replied, that if assassins and robbers had been serviceable to him in the maintenance of his power and dignity, he would reward even such persons as these in the very same manner. It was universally believed that he had, on a certain occasion, despatched by poison a hired suborner, because the project failed. In his first consulship he stole three thousand pounds of gold from the Capitol, and placed the same quantity of gilt ore in its place; he sold alliances and bartered away kingdoms. He often plundered temples and consecrated places; he destroyed innocent cities for the mere sake of booty. He only defrayed, by these and similar spoliations, the expenses of civil war, and the expenditure required for his triumphs, for his public spectacles and works.

Cato, who wished rather to be than to appear good, who in all things acted with strict morality, in accordance with old Ronian virtue, because he, in conformity with his character, could not act otherwise, was quite equal to and a match for Cæsar in greatness of soul, though of an antithetical nature. Cæsar heartily hated him for it, since he could not despise him. The commencement of their open feud was that great day, when the thunders of Catonian eloquence dashed in pieces and crushed the half triumphant treacherous council of the crafty Cæsar concerning the Catiline conspirators, and filled the sinking senate with the old Roman enthusiasm. How paltry it was in the victor to display the image of this man in his triumph, who by a voluntary death, properly speaking, in the higher sense had triumphed over him, for the information of a witness in other things not over worthy of belief, is credible in this instance, that the death of Cato really vexed Cæsar, because it deprived him of an expected triumph, although he made no allusion whatever to it, until he at last broke out into the exclamation that cost him nothing of his mild views, which he declared he had entertained with respect to hini. It is still more petty, that even when dictator, like a vacant quarrelsome speaker, he wrote invectives against him, which were so pitiful that even the republicans wished to publish them, in order by that means to exalt by so much the more

the fame of Cato, and to render ridiculous Cæsar's design of censuring Cato.

Alexander gave to the age he lived in a direction perfectly appropriate, nay, the very best possible one even for the Greek mental culture, and its diffusion over Asia. He had no share in the horrors committed by the despots who succeeded him, and no blame attaches to him; they were totally opposed to his great nature. Cæsar did not profit by the fall of old free Rome to shape it into something better; he only burried it on and prepared it for still worse, for the very worst; for other unworthy tyrants, succeeding him, enjoyed the fruits of his deeds. The whole amount of his Herculean labours was in the end only a further contribution to the fortunes of Augustus. Cæsar would have overcome legions of men, such as Sylla and Augustus were, in that ample sense of the word ; but in the inore refined art of ruling, he was a mere tyro compared with Augustus, who knew how, with such masterly skill, to be the concealed monarch of a seeming republic. In the organic genius of a legislator, ho was very far surpassed by even Sylla, who, it is true, was an absolute dictator, but still only such in a perfectly republican spirit and sense. For a republican imperator, Cæsar was too tyrannical; for an absolute despotic monarch, too republican, too free and careless in his own manners and life.

This was not in a manner the consequence of an accidental false step, which would have drawn on the others unavoidably after it. It was not his crossing the Rubicon at the outset almost of his public life. It was, on the contrary, an original incapability and defect in his being to enable him to perform the mighty task of that period with the requisite consummation. He was naturally disposed to be tyrannical, and full of monarchical pride ; but without the inward worth appropriate to such a form, without the moral restraint and strictness over himself. At a very early age, in the funeral oration he delivered over his father's sister Julia, he boasted of his supposed royal race and eulogized the exaltedness of such a descent. Such expressions were very unwise and unseemly for the citizen of a free state, for a party chief in the Roman world of that time, and could only lead to such a catastrophe. This, however, is easily forgotten, so long as the god of the day

« السابقةمتابعة »