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were ruined by it. The man who could calculate an eclipse was wedged in with people who thought that the sun or moon when obscured was bewitched; Strepsiades's pleasure might be spoilt by the near neighbourhood of his creditors; and Euelpides, who dropped on his knees on seeing a kite, be close to Diagoras the Melian, who knelt not even to Jupiter.
The social, intellectual, and perhaps also the moral changes, which affected Athenians during the long life of Euripides, may be partly gathered from the Greek orators, as well as from the satirical comedians. Isocrates, referring to "the good old times "—often, as respects superior virtue or wisdom, a counterpart of the "oldest inhabitant"—and comparing his own generation with that of Marathon and Salamis, points out the causes of backsliding. "Then," says the orator, "our young men did not waste their days in the gamblinghouse, nor with music girls, nor in the assemblies, in which whole days are now consumed. Then did they shun the Agora, or if they passed through its haunts, it was with modest and timorous forbearance; then to contradict an elder was a greater offence than nowadays to offend a parent; then not even a servant would have been seen to eat or drink within a tavern." It was this golden or this dreamland age for which Aristophanes sighs in his comedy of " The Clouds," deploring the degeneracy of the young men in his time, when sophists were in the room of statesmen, and the gymnasium was empty and the law courts were filled. Into the mouth of old Athens, addressing the young one, are put the following verses :—
"Oh listen to me, and so shall you be stout-hearted and
fresh as a daisy; Not ready to chatter on every matter, nor bent over books
till you're hazy: No splitter of straws, no dab at the laws, making black seem
white so cunning; But wandering down outside the town, and over the green
meadow running, Bide, wrestle, and play with your fellows so gay, like so
many birds of a feather, All breathing of youth, good-humour, and truth, in the time
of the jolly spring-weather, In the jolly spring-time, when the poplar and lime dishevel
their tresses together." *
Such were Athens, its people, and its theatre, when Euripides was boy and man: we now proceed to inquire what manner of person he was himself.
* The extract from the Areopagitic oration of Isocrates is taken from Bulwer's 'Athens—its Rise and Fall,'vol. ii. ch. 5, p. 577; the translation of Aristophanes from a most wise and beautiful little book, entitled 1 Euphranor, a Dialogue on Youth' (1851).
LIFE OF EURIPIDES.
"How about Euripides?
—Browning: "Balaustion's Adventure."
The received date of the birth of Euripides is the year 480 B.o. He -was accordingly forty-five years junior to iEschylus, and fifteen years younger than Sophocles. This difference in their respective ages is not unimportant as regards their very different views of dramatic art. His birthplace was the island of Salamis, where his mother, with other Athenian women, and with men too old, or children too young, for the defence of their native city, was taking refuge, and he came into the world on the day of the great sea-fight that has immortalised its name. Of his father Mnesarchus little is known; but it may be supposed he was a person of good station and property, since he could afford his son a liberal and expensive education, such as at that time was within reach of only wealthy families. His mother Clito, thanks to the poet's enemies, is better known to us. Probably she was not of the same social grade as her husband; a "metic" perhaps, or half-caste, with pure Athenian blood on one side only. But that Clito was ever a herb-woman, kept a greengrocer's stall, or hawked fruit and flowers about the streets, is doubtless a tale devised by her son's ill-wishers. Demosthenes, the orator's father, was a master cutler, and, as his son's suit against his knavish guardians shows, drove a brisk trade in swords, spearheads, knives, and shears; but it does not therefore follow that either the orator or his sire hammered on the anvil or blew the bellows themselves.* In democratic Athens there was at all times a prejudice in favour of high birth, and one of the most effective arrows in Demosthenes's quiver against ^schines was, that his rival had once been a player, that his father was a low fellow, and his mother a dancer, a fortune-teller, and an altogether disreputable person. Clito and her husband very possibly owned some garden-ground near Athens, and its produce may have for a time supplied a convenient addition to their income. The Persians can hardly have been twice quartered on Attic soil without affecting seriously the rents or dividends of its owners, and thus the parents of Euripides may have been glad to sell their vegetables.t To represent Clito as
* "Bleared with the glowing mass, the luckless sire
—Juvenal, Sat. x., Gifford.
t One account reverses the story: according to it, Clito was "a person of quality," and Mnesarchus not a gentleman but a shopkeeper, or at least "in business."
Tending her own wares was an irresistible temptation to comic dramatists, indifferent whom they used for mirth and laughter, whether it were a Pericles or a Cleon.
Like many fathers before him and since, Mnesarchus was puzzled about his son's proper calling in life; and so, as modern parents often consult some sound divine about the choice of a school for their lads, he took counsel of those who understood what the stars or birds of the air forebode as to the destiny of mortals. But either there was a mistake in casting the boy's nativity, or else the birds lied; for both they and the stars advised Mnesarchus to train up his child in the way of boxing and wrestling. So far this muscular education was successful; it enabled the young Euripides to gain a prize or two in the ring, but at local matches only, for though entered for the Olympian games, he was not allowed to put on either the gloves or the belt. There was some informality—he was too young or too old—and he was struck from the lists. It is remarkable, in connection with this period of his life—at the time of his rejection by the Olympic managers he is said to have been about seventeen years of age—that, in his plays, Euripides has never a good word for prophets and soothsayers; while, as for athletes, he denounces them as the most useless and brutal of men. His aversion to them may have arisen from these youthful misadventures. His proper vocation was yet to seek; and until he found it, he seems to have been rather devious in his pursuits, since, among other arts, he studied that of painting, and