The Ancient Library

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mention the king Theopompus as the author of this magistracy. (Plut. Lye. 7; Arist. Pol. v. 9.) But neither of the two statements is correct. The office of ephors was common to several Doric states. They were originally officers of police, exercised a civil jurisdiction in minor cases (Mull. Dor. iii. 7), and were doubtlessly coeval with the first origin of the Spartan state.

Such considerations have induced modern critics to examine more carefully the truth of every se­parate statement, in order thus to arrive at a more correct notion of the influence of the individual mind of a lawgiver on the spirit of the Spartan constitution. Some critics have gone quite to the extreme, and, placing Lycurgus in the same category with Theseus or Romulus, have entirely denied his historical existence, alleging the authority of Hel-lanicus, the most ancient writer on Sparta, who ascribes the Spartan institutions to Procles and Eurysthenes, without even mentioning the name of Lycurgus. (Strab. viii. p. 366.) Other reasons alleged for this view are contained in the divine honours paid to Lycurgus at Sparta, and the sig­nificant name of Eunomus, his father, nephew, or brother, according to different accounts. We are not inclined to go all the length of this argument ; we allow with the soberest modern historians the reality of Lycurgus, but in order to limit the ex­aggerations of the ancients, we adduce the follow­ing considerations, which tend to show that by far the greater part of the regulations which are com­monly ascribed to Lycurgus arose, independently of him, by the spontaneous development of the commonwealth of Sparta.

1. It is a general and obvious remark, that people have a propensity to ascribe to prominent individuals the sayings and doings of a great many less celebrated persons, and to make these indi­viduals the representatives of whole ages. This propensity is more especially peculiar to an age of primitive simplicity, ignorance, and poetry. , A prosaical, analysing, scientific research, dispels such delusions. longer imagine that Romulus selected out of his motley crowd of fugitives some few whom he made patricians, nor that he devised the division of the people into tribes and curiae, nor that Numa invented religious rites wholly anomalous with the existing institutions; we know now that the twelve tables of the decemvirs con­tained little, if anything^ that was new, and only reduced to a concise, fixed form the laws which were formerly only partially and imperfectly written down. If we lived in an age similar to the early period of Grecian history, there can be no doubt that the Code Napoleon would soon be regarded in the same light in which the ancients regarded the legislation of Lycurgus. It would be considered to have entirely emanated from one individual mind, without having any connection with previous institutions. Such being the case, we naturally hesitate before we admit all that we hear about the legislation of Lycurgus.

2. Our doubts will be reasonably confirmed by the observation, that the chief part of that reform which is ascribed to Lycurgus consists not in de­finite regulations concerning the functions of the various magistrates, the administration, criminal or civil law, in short, the purely political organisation of the state; but in the peculiar direction he is said to have given to the nature of private life, to the manners and customs, modes of thinking and


feeling of his countrymen. Now it is evident that the power of any individual lawgiver must in this point be very limited, since these things are only the outward appearance of a nation's character, which it would be just as easy to alter by legal enactments as a negro lawgiver might by the same means change the black colour of his countrymen or their woolly hair. No power on earth could induce the population of any town or village in modern Europe to adopt the manner of life of the ancient Spartans, granting that this were otherwise possible ; and we are equally positive in asserting that the influence of Lycurgus on the character of his countrymen, however great it may have been, could never materially alter their peculiar mode of life.

3. The difficulty of influencing a political com­munity in almost every concern of public and private life by legal enactments is still further in­creased, if we consider the means at the disposal of a lawgiver in the time of Lycurgus. We know well the difficulty there is in putting in force a single new law. What could Lycurgus have done without all the means of modern times, with­out a nicely arranged administration, without even the art of writing ? This art, although existing at that time, was not used for fixing and preserving the laws of Lycurgus. A particular rhetra forbade the use of it. (Plut. Lye. 13.) The laws were trans­mitted by word of mouth, and existed only in the memory and hearts of the citizens. Is it possible that a great number of them could originate at once? We know a few of the rhetrae ascribed to Lycurgus. They lay down simply the broad fun­damental features of the constitution. All the detail, it appears, was left to be regulated by the prevailing sentiment among the Spartans.

4. What we have said with regard to the tend­ency of all the institutions of Sparta, viz. that their object was to keep down a large subject population, and that they were necessary for this purpose, is at the same time an argument for doubting the influence of Lycurgus. Sparta as­sumed from the time of the invasion of Peloponnesus the attitude of a conqueror. The Helots existed before the time of Lycurgus, and consequently also the contrivances of the Spartan state to keep them in subjection. The only thing that we can allow is, that before the time of Lycurgus these insti­tutions were in a state of development, and varying at various times and occasions; and that they were finally settled in the reform which the whole state underwent through Lycurgus. We hear of disorders that prevailed at Sparta, of quarrels be­tween the community (people) and the king (Plut. Lye. 2), of the tyranny of king Charilaus (Arist. Pol. v. 10. § 3), which was put an end to by the establishment of an aristocracy ; at the same time we read of an equal division of land, so opposed to the spirit of aristocracy. The easiest explanation of these traditions is that given by bishop Thirlwall (Hist, of Gr. vol. i. p. 297), that the quarrels were not among the Spartans themselves, but between them and the Laconian provincials, many of whom were only recently subjected, or still independent. " It seems not improbable that it was reserved for Lycurgus finally to settle the relative position of the several classes " (p. 300). This theory appears the more correct, as it is evident from the com­parison of other Dorian states in Peloponnesus and Crete, that the peculiar character of the Dorian

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