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sought to ruin the Areopagus, because he could not share the highest honor conferred on an Athenian.
It was in the hands of such men that the Athenian people intrusted the care of the public morals, of having the public decrees faithfully executed, and of judging in some criminal cases of a difficult and trying nature. No breathings of eloquence kindled the Areopagite's soul, except the eloquence of simple truth; no culprit's countenance, clothed with the woes of a saddened heart, in mute yet eloquent sorrow appealed to his pity and sympathy. In silence only disturbed by the brief testimony of the witness, and in darkness only relieved by the dim starlight of heaven, this magnificent court of ancient men uttered their authoritative decisions. A more impressive scene of judicial grandeur has never been witnessed on the earth. It will be readily perceived that such a tribunal, situated in the very centre of the democratic system, exerted a powerful influence in conducting Athens to the zenith of its prosperity.
The perfection of Grecian democracy was attained during the period embraced between the years 600 B. C. and 322 B. C., a period of 278 years. The boundaries of this period are the birth of Solon and the death of Demosthenes. Noble names in the arts, sciences, and in literature, preceded Solon and succeeded Demosthenes, but the bright constellations, bestudding the intellectual firmament and reverentially mentioned by the scholar, are found in the period specified. This was the age of Socrates, and Plato, and Aristotle, exhuming from the rich quarries of truth, thoughts exalted and immortal. This was the age of Hippocrates and Asclepiades, extorting from Nature her remedial secrets. This was the age of Herodotus, and Thucydides, and Xenophon, recording on imperishable tablets the achievements of nations, the glories of their rise, the fatalities of their fall. This was the age of Eschylus, and Sophocles, and Euripides, calling from the human soul its deep and pent-up emotions, by their sublime delineations of nature. This was the age of Zeuxis and
Parrhasius, the first duping the birds by his grapes painted so naturally, and the last deceiving Zeuxis himself by a picture apparently veiled with silk. This was the age of Philo and Scopas, and Phidias and Praxiteles and Ctesiphon, whose genius conceived and erected the Temple of Diana, the Acropolis with its Parthenon and Temple of Jupiter, and filled the Grecian cities with palaces and temples of the most gorgeous magnificence; whose genius wrought into lifelike perfection a thousand matchless statues of men and gods. This was the age of heroes in eloquence, when profligacy and corruption trembled before the consuming indignation of Demosthenes, when Pericles by this magic weapon swayed, for forty years, a despotic sceptre, when eloquence became so mighty as to madden the people to ostracise and slay the great and good, when it fired national indignation, and discharged terrible vengeance on its enemies.
Such was the period during which Grecian democracy reached its acme, when the genius of man placed upon it the delicate lineaments and exquisite polish of perfection. It was a superb statue chiseled into symmetry and beauty. It was the magnificent representative of life, and for a time it seemed incredible that such magnificence and beauty could be otherwise than immortal. But it was only a beautiful, lifeless image, unlike the fabled beauty which Pygmalion wrought from the rough marble, and which, at his impassioned prayer, the Goddess of Beauty inspired with life. No genial breath from Heaven gave this a beating heart, and bounding life-current, and in a short time it perished. The first great experiment in human government was completed in its fall.
Let us now trace out the second governmental experiment, Roman Law. This will be found to possess no less interest than the former, since it bears directly upon those grand evolutions in government, which it requires ages to perfect. With as much certainty, as the torchlight of history can give, we learn that about four hundred and fifty years were occupied in preparing the elements, which when combined constituted the Roman State. The Pelasgi from the southeast of Europe
and the Trojan fugitives, mingling with the petty tribes of Italy, prepared the materials for the most terrible government that has ever controlled mankind, and when at length the fabled son of Mars commenced the work, every thing was ready for genius and ambition to lay the foundation of a mighty state.
From the time when Tullus inflicted summary vengeance upon the traitor Mettus, until Cato perished in a mean African city, by his own hand, the striking characteristic of the nation was the enactment of the severest laws and the most rigid submission to them. It is this feature which claims our particular attention, since it was this which rendered Roman legions invincible, Rome the empress of nations, and inspired the hope that now the element of national immortality had been discovered. In all the outlines of this system there is nothing so beautiful and fascinating as in Grecian democracy. Beauty even in cold marble excites admiration and delight. But in this second creation, produced by the ingenious statuary from the rough materials of society, beauty is not the predominating characteristic. It is power, the power of law, which clothes its mighty limbs with brawn and muscle, placing in its hand a rod terrible to the transgressor, and freezing its very countenance into the relentlessness of justice. This characteristic is observable throughout the whole Roman polity. The child was subjected to the arbitrary power of the parent, for life and death, and the parent's decision was final; the sceptred ruler, the sacred priest, the idolized general, not being exempted. In this severe school the first stern lessons of implicit obedience to law were branded deeply into the Roman's heart. The influence of that one lesson was felt throughout the state, and perhaps contributed more than any single cause to the accumulated power of "the eternal city." In this one particular Rome may justly share with Sparta what the historian terms her "magnificent epithet," AaμasíμBoozos, tamer of men, since most truly this patriarchal despotism crushed the passions of childhood into submisson, and disciplined a nation of men obedient to law. To such an extent
was obedience to law carried that we seldom read of infuriated mobs trampling on law, and hastening in pursuit of vengeance. And when such scenes were exhibited, the laws were so interpreted and executed, that even Romans could no longer endure them.
In a state like Rome, it was essential that law should exert a perfect and absolute control over the soldiery; and here we see the perfection of obedience. The law committed to the commander despotic power, with the single check of being held answerable to his country for its correct exercise. The most fearful penalties were suspended over the soldier, and at any moment he might be hurried away to execution. Cowardice was the most disgraceful crime. To sleep, when a post had been committed to him, no matter how arduous the march or battle of the previous day, caused the soldier to be executed. Disobedience to any issued command resulted in the same condign punishment; and it is worthy of notice, that seldom does a murmur escape the criminal's fellows. So completely had the doctrine of obedience been inculcated, that the most flagrant outrages were held sacred, if they only issued from the legal tribunal. When the soldier had taken the military oath to his general, bribes and threatenings were powerless. The obligation to obey was sacred as his honor, cherished as life, and controlling as his hope of an honorable death.
Perhaps no one thing illustrated the stern adherence of the Roman soldiers to law so strikingly, as the cheerfulness with which they completed the most fatiguing marches by securing their encampment with the deep ditch and high rampart. This was a labor of hours, but was never omitted. The Roman would as quickly violate the law of nature demanding food, as the martial law commanding this laborious precaution against enemies. It was this fact which elicited the admiration of their enemy, Pyrrhus. "Megacles, the array of these barbarians is by no means barbarous: we shall see whether other circumstances will correspond with this appearance." Threats, flattery, importunity, were lighter than vanity when urged on Fabricius, the noble personation of Roman regard
for law in that age; and the magnanimous courage of an army like him, at a cost of 15,000 slain, extorted from the astonished Pyrrhus the exclamation, "If we gain such another victory, we are inevitably ruined." And whose mind has not been filled with admiration at the regard for the laws of nature shown by Fabricius, whilst warning Pyrrhus against his traitorous physician-by Camillus, scourging back to his own city the execrable wretch offering to betray his patrons' children, although those patrons were the enemies of Rome! And does the Roman General prohibit duels with the enemy on pain of death, and his own high-spirited son, exasperated by the insults offered his country, in defiance of law rush to the conflict, and return with the spoils of the slain insulter? Law must take its victim. The young hero is ordered to instant execution, that his fate may impress on all the stern nature of law, and the fearful penalty of transgressing, even nobly. Are the sons of Brutus convicted of treason? Brutus ceases to be a father, and assumes the sternness of a judge. The tears of his sons, the sympathy of his friends, the yearnings of natural affection, are completely swallowed up in his reverence for law. Law must be maintained, though it blight the dearest longings of the soul, and convert earth into the grave of all that is lovely and cherished. And even in the mad riotings of the mob may be traced the same reverence for law. The populace were roused to vengeance when Virginius, brandishing the blade dripping with the blood of his beautiful daughter, frantically shouted, "Tyrant, by this blood I devote thy head to the infernal gods!" The nation, maddened to frenzy, grasped the tardy sword of justice and smote down an infamous royalty, when Brutus, flinging aside his assumed idiocy, raised toward heaven the dagger réeking eloquently with the blood of violated innocence, and in terrible tones imprecated the curse of the gods on the fiendish violator. In these cases, the laws of nature and of Rome had been torn from their sacred pedestal, and outraged Romans only executed a just vengeance on the sacrilegious wretches who dared to lay unholy hands upon the enshrined object of a Roman's adoration!