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Peloponnesian war preferred their fields, villages, and small towns to the attractions of the city. The statement of the historian is confirmed by the great comic poet of the time. Aristophanes, with a wholesome hatred of unjust and unnecessary wars, frequently sets before the spectators how much the worse they were for dwelling within walls, and for leaving their oliveyards and vineyards, their meadows and cornland, where informers ceased from troubling, and booted and bearded soldiers were at rest.
The enforced removal of the country population into the capital can hardly have failed to produce a change, and that not a salutary one, in the character of the Athenians, even if the pestilence had not sapped the foundations of morals by loosening domestic ties, by rendering the sick and even the strong reckless of the morrow, and thousands at once irreligious and superstitious. Such levity and despair as were exhibited by the Parisians under the Eeign of Terror, prevailed in Athens during the worst days of the plague. Even the general breaking up of homes, and the want of customary occupations, had evil results for the peasant turned townsman. For some hundreds of farmers and labourers the small towns and hill-forts of the country may have afforded shelter during the almost yearly inroads of the Peloponnesian host; yet the bulk of the rural population was compelled to move, with such goods and chattels as were portable, into the narrow space of the city—the Long Walls or the harbours; where, if they did not suffer from want of food, they were indifferently lodged. War is ever "work of waste and ruin." If the land were tilled at all, the green corn was taken by the enemy for horse-fodder; fruittrees were cut down for fuel or fencing of camps; villages and homesteads, when no longer wanted by the Dorian invader, were wantonly destroyed. In place of the rich tillage, woodland, or pasturage which greeted the eyes of spectators from the walls or the citadel, there presented itself a wide and various scene of desolation. All that an Athenian, during many weeks in the year, could call his own, was the sea. He yearned for his bee-hives, his garden, his oil-vats and wine-press, his fig-trees, his sheep and kine. A sorry exchange was it for him, his wife and children! Even his recreations were lost to him. He missed the chat of the market-place and the rural holiday. The city fountains did not compensate to him for the clear stream he had left behind; and his imprisonment was the more irksome because the hated Dorian was trampling on the graves of his kindred. Small comfort to him was such employment as the city supplied or demanded of him. Hard-handed ploughmen or vine-dressers were made to stand sentinels on the walls, or clapped on board a ship of war; or they sweltered in the law courts as jurymen, or listened ignorantly or apathetically to brawling orators in the assembly. He who, until that annual flight of locusts came to plague the land, had been a busy man, was now often an idle one; and weary is a life of enforced leisure. Possibly also he and the town-bred Athenians may not always have been on the best terras. Great mockers, unless they are much belied, were those town-folks. His clouted shoon and ill-fitting tunic may have cost the peasant, or even the country gentleman, uncomfortable hours, and perhaps led him to break the heads of city wits, or to get his own head broken by them. Town amusements were never much to his liking. The music, vocal and instrumental, which he would hear at the Odeum — the Athenian opera-house—might be all very fine; but, for his part, give him the pipe and tabor, the ballads and minstrels, of his deserted village. Then as to the playhouse: the performances there were not to his taste. A farce at a wake, acted on boards and tressels, a wellknown hymn sung to the rural deities, pleased him far more than comedies of which he did not catch the drift, or tragedies that scared him by their furies and ghosts, and perhaps gave him bad dreams. The sudden infusion of a new element into the mass of a people cannot fail to affect it materially, whether for good or ill; and such a wholesale migration as this reacted on the townsmen themselves. Some civic virtues they might easily exchange for some rural vices. Cooped as the Athenians, urban and rustic, were within the walls, ill-housed, and often idle, with few if any sanitary or police regulations, we need not history to inform us that Athens came forth from the pestilence the worse in some respects for its visitation.
And besides these changes from without, others of a less palpable but more subtle kind were, in the age of Euripides, affecting the national character, and with it also the spirit, and in a measure the form, of the national drama. "It was a period of great intellectual activity; and the simple course of education under which the conquerors of Salamis and Marathon had been reared no longer satisfied the wants of the noble, wealthy, and aspiring part of the Athenian youth. Their learning had not gone beyond the rudiments of music, and such a knowledge of their own language as enabled them to enjoy the works of their writers, and to express their own thoughts with ease and propriety; and they bestowed at least as much care on the training of the body as on the cultivation of the mind. But in the next generation the speculations of the Ionian and Eleatic schools began to attract attention at Athens: the presence of several celebrated philosophers, and the example of Pericles, made them familiar to a gradually widening circle; and they furnished occasion for the discussion of a variety of questions intimately connected with subjects of the highest practical moment."* The latter half of Euripides's life was passed, as we may judge even from the sober Xenophon, as well as from the witty Aristophanes, among a generation of remarkable loquacity, in which the young aspired to know a little of every subject, thought themselves fit to hold the state-rudder, and justified in looking down upon their less learned or more modest elders. Every young man, indeed, who aspired to become a statesman, must be an adept in rhetorical arts, since no one could pretend to pilot the ship who could not persuade, or at least cajole, his fellow-citizens. If, on the other hand, he wished to be a public lecturer—that is to say, a philosopher—plain Pythagorean rules for the conduct of life, or Solon's * Bishop Thirlwall's Hist, of Greece, iv. 268.
elegiac maxims, no longer sufficed. Such old truisms would not bring him a single pupil or hearer. He must be able, and was always ready, to probe the very foundations of truth and law; to argue on any subject; to change his opinions as often as it suited himself;—in short, to be supreme in talk, however shallow he might be in knowledge. To what extent Euripides fell in with the new philosophy will be considered in another chapter.
Let not, however, the English reader suppose that young Athens had it all its own way; that the ancient spirit was quite dead; or that philosophy was merely a game of riddles, and ethics little better than the discovery that there is " neither transgression nor sin." Had it been so, Plato, in the next generation, would have addressed empty benches in his Academy; and at a still later period, Demosthenes have failed to inspire his hearers with either that deliberate valour or that spirit of self-sacrifice which they displayed in their struggles with "the man of Macedon." In spite of some grave defects or some superficial blemishes, the Athens that crowned or refused to crown Euripides was the home of a noble and generous people, easily led astray, but still willing to return to the right path; not impatient of reproof, and sincere, if somewhat sudden, in its repentance. Her citizens were a strange mixture of refinement and coarseness, of intelligence and ignorance. For intellect and taste, no city, ancient or modern, has ever made for its members so varied and sumptuous a provision as she afforded to her children, 'her friends, and the