Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

as to suppress a desire of superfluous things, and who Xerxes. confines the wants of life within the narrowest limits; besides its freeing him from a thousand importunate cares, and leaving him so much master of his time, as to devote it entirely to the publick ; it also approaches him, in some measure, to the Deity, who is wholly void of cares or wants. There was no man in the assembly, but, at his leaving it, would have chose to be Aristides, though so poor, rather than Callias with all his riches.

Plutarch gives us, in a few words, Plato's glorious testimony of Aristides's virtue, for which he looks upon him as infinitely superior to all the illustrious men his contemporaries. Themistocles, Cimnon, and Pericles, (says he) filled indeed their city with splená did edifices, with porticos, statues, rich ornaments, and other vain superfluities of that kind; but Aristides did all that lay in his power to enrich every part of it with virtue: Now, to raise a city to true happiness, it must be made virtuous, not rich.

Plutarch takes notice of another circumstance in Aristides's life, which, though of the simplest kind, reflects the greatest honour on him, and may serve as an excellent lesson. It is in the beautiful treatise, in which he enquires, whether it is proper for old men to concern themselves with affairs of govern

and where he points out admirably well, the various services they may do the state, even in an advanced age.

We are not to fancy, says he, that all publick services require great motion and hurry, such as to harangue the people, to preside in the government, or to head armies : An old man, whose mind is informed with wisdom, may, without going abroad, exercise a kind of magistracy in it, which though secret and obscure, is not therefore the less important; and that is, in training up youth by good counsel, teaching them the various springs of policy, and how to act in publick affairs. Aristides, adds

Pag. 795, 797

Xerxes. Plutarch, was not always in office, but was always

useful to it. His house was a publick school of virtue, wisdom, and policy. It was open to all young Athenians, who were lovers of virtue, and these used to consult him as an oracle. He gave them the kindest reception, heard them with patience, instructed them with familiarity; and endeavoured, above all things, to animate their courage, and inspire them with confidence. It is observed particularly that Cimon, afterwards so famous, was obliged to him for this important service.

Plutarch * divided the life of statesmen into three ages. In the first, he would have them learn the principles of government ; in the second, reduce them to practice; and in the third, instruct others.

History does not mention the exact time when, nor place where, Aristides died; but then it pays a glorious testimony to his memory, when it assures us, that this great man, who had possessed the highest employments in the republick, and had the absolute disposal of its treasures, died poor, and did not leave money enough to defray the expences of his funeral; so that the government was obliged to bear the charge of it, and to maintain his family. His daughters were married, and Lysimachus his son was subsisted at the expence of the Prytaneum; which also gave the daughter of the latter, after his death, the pension with which those were honoured who had been victorious at the Olympick games. Plutarch relates on this occasion, the liberality of the Athenians in favour of the posterity of Aristogiton their deliverer, who was fallen to decay; and he adds, that even in his time, (almost six hundred years after) the same goodness and liberality still subsisted :

d Plut. in Arist. p. 331, 335.

• He applies on this occasion the custom used in Rome, where the Vestals spent the first ten years in learning their office, and this was a kind of noviciate; the next ten years they employed in the exercise of their functions, and the last ten in instructing the young novices in them.

It was glorious for the city, to have preserved for so Xerxes. many centuries its generosity and gratitude; and a strong motive to animate individuals, who were assured that their children would enjoy the rewards which death might prevent them from receiving! It was delightful to see the remote posterity of the defenders and deliverers of the commonwealth, who had inherited nothing from their ancestors but the glory of their actions, maintained for so many ages at the expence of the publick, in consideration of the services their families had rendered. They lived in this manner with much more honour, and called up the remembrance of their ancestors with much greater splendor, than a multitude of citizens, whose fathers had been studious only of leaving them great estates, which generally do not long survive those who raised them, and often leave their posterity nothing but the odious remembrance of the injustice and oppression by which they were acquired.

The greatest honour which the ancients have done Aristides, is in bestowing on him the glorious title of the Just. He gained it, not by one particular action, but by the whole tenor of his conduct and actions. Plutarch makes a reflection on this occasion, which being very remarkable, I think it incumbent on me not to omit.

Among the several virtues of Aristides, says this judicious author, that for which he was most renowned, was his justice; because this virtue is of most general use; its benefits extending to a greater number of persons; as it is the foundation, and in a manner the soul of every publick office and employment. Hence it was that Aristides, though in low circumstances, and of mean extraction, merited the title of Just; a title, says Plutarch, truly royal, or rather truly divine; but one of which princes are seldom ambitious, because generally ignorant of its beauty and excellency. They chuse rather to be called

Plut. in vit. Arist. p. 321, 322.

I say,

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Xerxes. 5 the conquerors of cities, and the thunderbolts of

war; and sometimes even eagles and lions; prefer-
ring the vain honour of pompous titles, which con.
vey no other idea but violence and slaughter, to the
solid glory of those expressive of goodness and vir-
tue. They do not know, continues Plutarch, that of
the three chief attributes of the Deity, of whoin
kings boast themselves the image, I mean, immorta-
lity, power, and justice; that of these three attributes,

the first of which excites our admiration and
desire, the second fills us with dread and terror, and
the third inspires us with love and respect; this last
only is truly and personally communicated to man,
and is the only one that can conduct him to the other
two; it being impossible for man to become truly

immortal and powerful, but by being just. A. M. Before I resume the sequel of this history, it may

3532. not be improper to observe, that it was about this A. Rom. period the fame of the Greeks, still more renowned

for the wisdom of their polity than the glory of their
victories, induced the Romans to have recourse to
their lights and knowledge. Rome, formed under
kings, was in want of such laws, as were necessary
for the good government of a commonwealth. * For
this purpose the Romans sent deputies to copy the
laws of the citics of Greece, and particularly of
Athens, which were still better adapted to the popu-
lar government that had been established after the
expulsion of the kings. On this model, the ten
magistrates, called Decemviri, and who were invested
with absolute authority, were created : These di-
gested the laws of the twelve tables, which are the
basis of the Roman law.

302.

& Poliorcetos, Cerauni Nicanorcs.
* Missi legati Athenas, jussique inclitas leges Solonis describere, of che
crum (iræcise civitałun insiilutii, mares, juraque noscere.

Decem la-
bularun leges perlotaz sunt (quibus adjectæ postcada ] qui nunc quo,ize
in hoc immunso aliarum si per alias pricatarum legun cumulo, 10.8 CI
publisi priza!ique est juise Liv. l. ill. n. 31, & 34.

Sect. XVIII. Death of Xerxes, killed by Artabanus.

His character.

h

THE

HE ill success of Xerxes in his expedition A. M. against the Greeks, and which continued afterwards, 3531. at length discouraged him. Renouncing all thoughts - 1473. of war and conquest, he abandoned himself entirely to luxury and ease, and was studious of nothing but his pleasures. Artabanus, a native of Hyrcania, captain of his guards, and who had long been one of his chief favourites, found that this dissolute conduct had drawn upon him the contempt of his subjects. He therefore imagined that this would be a favourable opportunity to conspire against his sovereign ; and his ambition was so vast, that he flattered himself with the hopes of succeeding him in the throne '. It is very likely, that he was excited to the commission of this crime, from another motive. Xerxes had commanded him to murder Darius, his eldest son, but for what cause history is silent. As this order had been given at a banquet, and when the company was heated with wine, he did not doubt but that Xerxes would forget it, and therefore was not in haste to obey it: However, he was mistaken, for the king complained upon that account, which made Artabanus dread his resentment, and therefore he resolved to prevent him. Accordingly he prevailed upon Mithridates, one of the eunuchs of the palace, and great chamberlain, to engage in his conspiracy; and by his means entered the chamber where the king lay, and murdered him in his sleep. He then went immediately to Artaxerxes, the third son of Xerxes. He informed him of the murder, charging Darius his eldest brother with it ; as if impatience to ascend the throne had prompted him to that exe

i Arist.

h Ctes. c. ii. Diod. 1. xi. p. 52. Justin. l. iii. c. 1. Polit. I. v. c. 10. p. 404.

• This was not the Artabanus uncle to Xerxes,

« PoprzedniaDalej »