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He hangs upon the skirt of one, of one
He plucks the cloak; perchance in pity some
Moisten his lips, but scarce his palate touch:
While youths with both surviving parents blest
May drive him from their feast with blows and taunts:
Then weeping to his widowed mother's arms
He flies, that orphan boy, Astyanax, etc.
It is here the lamentable condition of the orphan that strikes us so forcibly. "Who has seen the misery of men has seen nothing, one must see the misery of women; who has seen the misery of women has seen nothing, one must see the misery of children." How different, for example, do we find the Irish peasants, with whom I have already compared the Greeks, where the neighbors divide among them without complaint the children left destitute by the death or emigration of the parents, and extend their scanty fare and their wretched homestead to the orphan as to their own children. The Homeric gentleman, of whose refinement and delicate politeness we hear so much, was far removed from such generosity. We feel almost painfully the beauty of the simile, by which the poet pictures the joy of Ulysses, when, after two nights and two days in the deep, he sees land from the summit of the great rocking wave (e 394):
As when a father on the point to die
And he rejoicing swam, and yearned to feel the ground.
And again (0 523): "As when a woman weeps falling upon the body of her dear lord, who has fallen before his city, and commanding his people, in defending the town and his children from the pitiless day [of slavery]. She then, seeing him gasping in death, casts her arms about him with shrill cries. But they (the enemy) striking her with spears on the back and
shoulders, bring her into slavery, to have sorrow and misery, and her cheeks waste with piteous woe."
Little, indeed, need be said about the respect for the rights of women. As is well known, when a town was captured, the noblest and fairest ladies, whether married or not, became the property of the victors as their concubines. But a still more significant fact has not been adequately noted - that such a fate, though felt as a lamentable misfortune, was in no sense a dishonor to the Greek lady, of which she need afterwards be ashamed. In spite of all the courtliness with which ladies are treated in the Homeric poems, in spite of the refinement of their characters and the politeness of their ordinary life, the hard fact remains that they were the property of the stronger, and that they submitted to this fate without being compromised in society. Neither Briseis nor Chryseis seem the least disgraced by their residence in the Greek camp; and still worse, Helen, after living for years with Paris, is then handed over to Deiphobus, and finally taken back by Menelaus without scruple or difficulty. If we weigh carefully her appearance in the Odyssey, we shall see that her regrets are chiefly for the turmoil she has caused, and for the tears and blood wasted upon her recovery; her dignity has suffered no great shock, nor does she avoid (except in words) the eyes of men.
These facts show with great clearness how completely the law of force prevailed over the weak, and how the Homeric lady was so constrained by its iron necessity, that all delicate feeling, however ornamental to the surface of society, vanished in stern practice. The case of Penelope corroborates this view: it was hateful to her to marry one of the rude and ungentlemanly suitors, who thrust their attentions upon her in her grief. Yet if Ulysses were surely dead, there was no help, she must pass into their hands, whether she choose it or not.
Stranger and not less characteristic is the treatment of old age. The king or chief, as soon as his bodily vigor passed away, was apparently pushed aside by younger and stronger He might either maintain himself by extraordinary usefulness, like Nestor, or be supported by his children, if they chanced to be affectionate and dutiful; but except in these cases his lot was sad indeed. We hear Achilles lamenting that doubtless in his absence the neighboring chiefs are illtreating the aged Peleus, and he longs to dye his spear in their blood. We see Laertes, the father of Ulysses, exiled, appar
ently by grief and disgust, to a barren farm in the country, and spending the close of his life, not in honor and comfort, but in poverty and hardship. When these princes, who had sons that might return any day to avenge them, were treated in such a way, it is surely no strained inference to say that unprotected old age commanded very little veneration or respect among the Homeric Greeks. While therefore we find here, too, much courtliness of manner, and respectfulness of address towards the aged from their younger relations, the facts indicate that helpless women and children and worn-out men received scanty justice and little consideration. Among friends and neighbors, at peace and in good humor, they were treated with delicacy and refinement; but with the first clash of conflicting interests such considerations vanished. The age was no longer, as I have said, a believing age; the interference of the gods to protect the weak was no longer the object of a simple faith, and Greek chivalry rested on no firmer basis.
I may add, by anticipation, that at no period of Greek history can we find old age commanding that respect and reverence which has been accorded it in modern Europe. We hear, indeed, that at Sparta the strictest regulations were made as to the conduct of young men towards elders; but this seems an exceptional case, like most things at Sparta. There is a hackneyed story of an old man coming into the crowded theater at Athens, and looking in vain for a seat, till he came near the Spartan embassy, who at once stood up and made room for him. Though the whole theater applauded this act of courtesy, I am sure they did not habitually imitate it. The lyric and tragic poets, as I shall show by ample quotations in future chapters, were perpetually cursing the miseries of old age, and blessing youth, fair in poverty, fairer still in riches. Probably old Athenian gentlemen were for these reasons like old Frenchmen, who are very prone to prolong their youth by artificial means, and strive to maintain a place among their fellows which they will lose when they are confessedly of the past generation. And so in Greece, as in France, old age may have come to lack that dignity and that importance which it obtains in the British army, on our Governing Boards, and in Chinese society. The comic features in Euripides' old men, and their ridiculous attempts to dance and to fight, show the popular feeling about them to have recognized this weakness. But apart from these peculiarities of race, the feverish and agitated condition of
Greek politics, the perpetual wars and civil conflicts must have made prompt action and quick decision all-important; and so the citizens could not brook the slowness and caution of old age, which often mistakes hesitation for deliberation, and brands prompt vigor as rashness.
There yet remains the idea of loyalty - I mean hearty and unflinching allegiance to superior authority, or to the obligations taken by oath or promise. The idea is not unknown to Homer's men and women. Achilles and Penelope (more especially the latter) are in the highest sense loyal, the one to his friend Patroclus, the other to her husband Ulysses. But in the Greek camp, the chiefs in general are woefully deficient in that chivalrous quality. I will not lay stress on their want of conjugal loyalty, a point in which Menelaus, according to the scholiasts, formed an honorable but solitary exception. In those days, as in the times of the Mosaic law, absolute fidelity was expected from women, but not from men. In their own homes, indeed, scandals of this kind were avoided as the cause of ill will and domestic discomfort. It is specially observed that Laertes avoided these relations with Euryclea from respect for his wife's feelings, and the misconduct of the suitors in the same direction is specially reprobated; but when the chiefs were away at their wars, or traveling, the bard seems to expect no continence whatever. The model Ulysses may serve as an example, instar omnium.
But it is in their treatment of Agamemnon that the want of loyalty is specially prominent. Achilles is quite ready to insult him; and but for the promptings of Athene (that is, of prudence), who suggests that he may play a more lucrative game by confining himself to sulkiness and bad language, is ready even to kill him. The poet, too, clearly sympathizes with Achilles. He paints Agamemnon as a weak and inferior man, succeeding by fortune to a great kingdom, but quite unfit to govern or lead the turbulent princes whose oath had bound them to follow him to Troy. It is in fact Ulysses, Diomede, and Nestor who direct him what to do. It may be said that we might expect such insubordination in the case of an armament collected for a special purpose, and that even the mediæval knights did not escape this disgrace in the very parallel case of the Crusades. I will not, then, press the point, though Agamemnon's title to supremacy is far different from that of Godfrey de Bouillon. Take the case of Peleus, which I have already men
tioned. Take the case of Ithaca in the absence of its king: we are told repeatedly that he treated his people like a father, and yet only a few old servants seem to side with him against the worthless aspirants to the throne.
The experimentum crucis, however, is the picture of the gods in Olympus. We have here Zeus, a sort of easy-going but allpowerful Agamemnon, ruling over a number of turbulent selfwilled lesser gods, who are perpetually trying to evade and thwart his commands. At intervals he wakes up and terrifies them into submission by threats, but it is evident that he can count on no higher principle. Here, Poseidon, Ares, Aphrodite, Pallas, all are thoroughly insubordinate, and loyal to one thing only, that is, their party. Faction, as among the Greeks of Thucydides, had clearly usurped the place of principle; and we are actually presented with the strange picture of a city of gods more immoral, more faithless, and more depraved than the world of men.
This curious feature has much exercised critics, and caused many conjectures as to the real moral attitude of the epic poets. I think the most natural explanation is based upon the notorious levity and recklessness of the Ionic character, as developed in Asia Minor. We know from the lyric poets, we know from the course of history, how the pleasure-loving Ionians of Asia Minor seem to have lost all the stronger fiber that marked the Greeks of Hellas. Reveling in plenty, associating with Asiatic splendor and luxury, they very soon lost those sterner features — love of liberty, self-denying heroism, humble submission to the gods which still survived in Greece; and thus I conceive the courts at which the bards sang, enjoyed a very free and even profane handling of the gods as a racy and piquant entertainment, so that presently it was extended even to the so-called Homeric hymns, which of all Greek poetry treat the gods in the most homely and even sensual way. The Hymn to Aphrodite, detailing her amour with Anchises, and that to Hermes, detailing his theft and perjury, are exact counterparts to the lay of Demodocus, which treats both Ares and Aphrodite in the same way.
This bold and familiar attitude was narrowly connected with another leading feature in the Greeks — their realism in art. There is nothing vague, or exaggerated, or incomprehensible, tolerated by their chaste judgment and their correct taste. The figures of dogs or men, cast by Hephaestus, are