When we agreed, O Aspasia! in the beginning of our loves, to communicate our thoughts by writing, even while we were both in Athens, and when we had many reasons for it, we little foresaw the more powerful one that has rendered it necessary of late. We never can meet again: the laws forbid it, and love itself enforces them. Let wisdom be heard by you as imperturbably, and affection as authoritatively, as ever; and remember that the sorrow of Pericles can rise but from the bosom of Aspasia. There is only one word of tenderness we could say, which we have not said oftentimes before; and there is no consolation in it. The happy never say, and never hear said, farewell.
And now at the close of my day, when every light is dim and every guest departed, let me own that these wane before me, remembering, as I do in the pride and fulness of my heart, that Athens confided her glory, and Aspasia her happiness, to me.
Have I been a faithful guardian? Do I resign them to the custody of the gods, undiminished and unimpaired? Welcome then, welcome, my last hour! After enjoying for so great a number of years, in my public and private life, what I believe has never been the lot of any other, I now extend my hand to the urn, and take without reluctance or hesitation that which is the lot of all.
--Pericles to Aspasia
Once upon a day there was a grocer who lived in Indianapolis, Indiana. The grocer's name being Heinrich Schliemann, his nationality can be inferred; and as for pedigree, it is enough to state that his ancestors did not land at either Plymouth or Jamestown. However, he was an American citizen.
Now this grocer made much moneys, for he sold groceries as were, and had a feed-barn, a hay-scales, a sommer-garten and a lunch-counter. In fact, his place of business was just the kind you would expect a strenuous man by the name of Schliemann to keep.
Soon Schliemann had men on the road, and they sold groceries as far west as Peoria and as far east as Xenia.
Schliemann grew rich, and the opening up of Schliemann's Division, where town lots were sold at auction, and Anheuser-Busch played an important part, helped his bank-balance not a little.
Schliemann grew rich: and the gentle reader being clairvoyant, now sees Schliemann weighed on his own hay-scales--and wanting everything in sight--tipping the beam at part of a ton. The expectation is that Schliemann will evolve into a large oval satrap, grow beautifully boastful and sublimely reminiscent, representing his Ward in the Common Council until pudge plus prunes him off in his prime.
But this time the reader is wrong: Schliemann was tall, slender and reserved, also taciturn. Groceries were not the goal. In fact, he had interests outside of Indianapolis, that few knew anything about. When Schliemann was thirty-eight years old he was worth half a million dollars; and instead of making his big business still bigger, he was studying Greek. It was a woman and Eros taught Schliemann Greek, and this was so letters could be written--dictated by Eros, who they do say is an awful dictator--that would not be easily construed by Hoosier "hoi polloi." Together the woman and Schliemann studied the history of Hellas.
About the year Eighteen Hundred Sixty-eight Schliemann turned all of his Indiana property into cash; and in April, Eighteen Hundred Seventy, he was digging in the hill of Hissarlik, Troad. The same faculty of thoroughness, and the ability to captain a large business--managing men to his own advantage, and theirs--made his work in Greece a success. Schliemann's discoveries at Mount Athos, Mycenę, Ithaca and Tiryns turned a searchlight upon prehistoric Hellas and revolutionized prevailing ideas concerning the rise and the development of Greek Art.
His Trojan treasures were presented to the city of Berlin. Had Schliemann given his priceless findings to Indianapolis, it would have made that city a Sacred Mecca for all the Western World--set it apart, and caused James Whitcomb Riley to be a mere side-show, inept, inconsequent, immaterial and insignificant. But alas! Indianapolis never knew Schliemann when he lived there--they thought he was a Dutch Grocer! And all the honors went to Benjamin Harrison, Governor Morton and Thomas A. Hendricks.
If the Indiana Novelists would cease their dalliance with Dame Fiction and turn to Truth, writing a simple record of the life of Schliemann, it would eclipse in strangeness all the Knighthoods that ever were in Flower, and Ben Hur would get the flag in his Crawfordsville chariot-race for fame.
Berlin gave the freedom of the city to Schliemann; the Emperor of Germany bestowed on him a Knighthood; the University voted him a Ph. D.; Heidelberg made him a D. C. L.; and Saint Petersburg followed with an LL. D.
The value of the treasure, now in the Berlin Museum, found by Schliemann exceeds by far the value of the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum.
We know, and have always known, who built the Parthenon and crowned the Acropolis; but not until Schliemann had by faith and good works removed the mountain of Hissarlik, did we know that the Troy, of which blind Homer sang, was not a figment of the poet's brain.
Schliemann showed us that a thousand years before the age of Pericles there was a civilization almost as great. Aye! more than this--he showed us that the ancient city of Troy was built upon the ruins of a city that throve and pulsed with life and pride, a thousand years or more before Thetis, the mother of Achilles, held her baby by the heel and dipped him in the River Styx.
Schliemann passed to the Realm of Shade in Eighteen Hundred Ninety, and is buried at Athens, in the Ceramicus, in a grave excavated by his own hands in a search for the grave of Pericles.
* * * * * * *
Pericles lived nearly twenty-five centuries ago. The years of his life were sixty-six--during the last thirty-one of which, by popular acclaim, he was the "First Citizen of Athens." The age in which he lived is called the Age of Pericles.
Shakespeare died less than three hundred years ago, and although he lived in a writing age, and every decade since has seen a plethora of writing men, yet writing men are now bandying words as to whether he lived at all.
Between us and Pericles lie a thousand years of night, when styli were stilled, pens forgotten, chisels thrown aside, brushes were useless, and oratory was silent, dumb. Yet we know the man Pericles quite as well as the popular mind knows George Washington, who lived but yesterday, and with whom myth and fable have already played their part.
Thucydides, a contemporary of Pericles, who outlived him by nearly half a century, wrote his life. Fortunately, Thucydides was big enough himself to take the measure of a great man. At least seven other contemporaries, whose works we have in part, wrote also of the First Citizen.
To Plutarch are we indebted for much of our knowledge of Pericles, and fortunately we are in position to verify most of Plutarch's gossipy chronicles.
The vanishing-point of time is seen in that Plutarch refers to Pericles as an "ancient"; and through the mist of years it hardly seems possible that between Plutarch and Pericles is a period of five hundred years. Plutarch resided in Greece when Paul was at Athens, Corinth and other Grecian cities. Later, Plutarch was at Miletus, about the time Saint Paul stopped there on his way to Rome to be tried for blasphemy--the same offense committed by Socrates, and a sin charged, too, against Pericles. Nature punishes for most sins, but sacrilege, heresy and blasphemy are not in her calendar, so man has to look after them. Plutarch visited Patmos where Saint John was exiled and where he wrote the Book of Revelation. Plutarch was also at "Malta by the Sea," where Saint Paul was shipwrecked; but so far as we know, he never heard of Paul nor of Him of whom, upon Mars Hill, Paul preached.
Paul bears testimony that at Athens the people spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing. They were curious as children, and had to be diverted and amused. They were the same people that Pericles had diverted, amused and used--used without their knowing it, five hundred years before.
* * * * * * *
The gentle and dignified Anaxagoras, who abandoned all his property to the State that he might be free to devote himself to thought, was the first and best teacher of Pericles. Under his tutorship--better, the companionship of this noble man--Pericles acquired that sublime self-restraint, that intellectual breadth, that freedom from superstition, which marked his character.
Superstitions are ossified metaphors, and back of every religious fallacy lies a truth. The gods of Greece were once men who fought their valiant fight and lived their day; the supernatural is the natural not yet understood--it is the natural seen through the mist of one, two, three, ten or twenty-five hundred years, when things loom large and out of proportion--and all these things were plain to Pericles. Yet he kept his inmost belief to himself, and let the mob believe whate'er it list. Morley's book on "Compromise" would not have appealed much to Pericles--his answer would have been, "A man must do what he can, and not what he would." Yet he was no vulgar demagog truckling to the caprices of mankind, nor was he a tyrant who pitted his will against the many and subdued by a show of arms. For thirty years he kept peace at home, and if this peace was once or twice cemented by an insignificant foreign war, he proved thereby that he was abreast of Napoleon, who said, "The cure for civil dissension is war abroad." Pericles stands alone in his success as a statesman. It was Thomas Brackett Reed, I believe, who said, "A statesman is a politician who is dead."
And this is a sober truth, for, to reveal the statesman, perspective is required.
Pericles built and maintained a State, and he did it, as every statesman must, by recognizing and binding to him ability. It is a fine thing to have ability, but the ability to discover ability in others is the true test. While Pericles lived, there also lived Ęschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Pythagoras, Socrates, Herodotus, Zeno, Hippocrates, Pindar, Empedocles and Democritus. Such a galaxy of stars has never been seen before nor since--unless we have it now--and Pericles was their one central sun.
Pericles was great in many ways--great as an orator, musician, philosopher, politician, financier, and great and wise as a practical leader. Lovers of beauty are apt to be dreamers, but this man had the ability to plan, devise, lay out work and carry it through to a successful conclusion. He infused others with his own animation, and managed to set a whole cityful of lazy people building a temple grander far in its rich simplicity than the world had ever seen. By his masterly eloquence and the magic of his presence, Pericles infused the Greeks with a passion for beauty and a desire to create. And no man can inspire others with the desire to create who has not taken sacred fire from the altar of the gods. The creative genius is the highest gift vouchsafed to man, and wherein man is likest God. The desire to create does not burn the heart of the serf, and only free people can respond to the greatest power ever given to any First Citizen.
In beautifying the city there was a necessity for workers in stone, brass, iron, ivory, gold, silver and wood. Six thousand of the citizens were under daily pay as jurors, to be called upon if their services were needed; most of the other male adults were soldiers. Through the genius of Pericles and his generals these men were set to work as masons, carpenters, braziers, goldsmiths, painters and sculptors. Talent was discovered where before it was supposed there was none; music found a voice; playwriters discovered actors; actors found an audience; and philosophy had a hearing. A theater was built, carved almost out of solid stone, that seated ten thousand people, and on the stage there was often heard a chorus of a thousand voices. Physical culture developed the perfect body so that the Greek forms of that time are today the despair of the human race. The recognition of the sacredness of the temple of the soul was taught as a duty; and to make the body beautiful by right exercise and by right life became a science. The sculptor must have models approaching perfection, and the exhibition of the sculptor's work, together with occasional public religious processions of naked youths, kept before the people ideals superb and splendid.
For several years everybody worked, carrying stone, hewing, tugging, lifting, carving. Up the steep road that led to the Acropolis was a constant procession carrying materials. So infused was everybody and everything with the work that a story is told of a certain mule that had hauled a cart in the endless procession. This worthy worker, "who was sustained by neither pride of ancestry nor hope of posterity," finally became galled and lame and was turned out to die. But the mule did not die--nothing dies until hope dies. That mule pushed his way back into the throng and up and down he went, filled and comforted with the thought that he was doing his work--and all respected him and made way. If this story was invented by a comic poet of the time, devised by an enemy of Pericles, we see its moral, and think no less of Pericles. To inspire a mule with a passion for work and loyalty in a great cause is no mean thing.
So richly endowed was Pericles that he was able to appreciate the best not only in men, but in literature, painting, sculpture, music, architecture and life as well. In him there was as near a perfect harmony as we have ever seen--in him all the various lines of Greek culture united, and we get the perfect man. Under the right conditions there might be produced a race of such men--but such a race never lived in Greece and never could. Greece was a splendid experiment. Greece was God's finest plaything--devised to show what He could do.
* * * * * * *
I have sometimes thought that comeliness of feature and fine physical proportions were a handicap to an orator. If a man is handsome, it is quite enough--let him act as chairman and limit his words to stating the pleasure he has in introducing the speaker. No man in a full-dress suit can sway a thousand people to mingled mirth and tears, play upon their emotions and make them remember the things they have forgotten, drive conviction home, and change the ideals of a lifetime in an hour. The man in spotless attire, with necktie mathematically adjusted, is an usher. If too much attention to dress is in evidence, we at once conclude that the attire is first in importance and the message secondary.
The orator is a man we hate, fear or love, and are curious to see. His raiment is incidental; the usher's clothes are vital. The attire of the usher may reveal the man--but not so the speaker. If our first impressions are disappointing, so much the better, provided the man is a man.
The best thing in Winston Churchill's book, "The Crisis," is his description of Lincoln's speech at Freeport. Churchill got that description from a man who was there. Where the issue was great, Lincoln was always at first a disappointment. His unkempt appearance, his awkwardness, his shrill voice--these things made people laugh, then they were ashamed because they laughed, then they pitied, next followed surprise, and before they knew it, they were being wrapped 'round by words so gracious, so fair, so convincing, so free from prejudice, so earnest and so charged with soul that they were taken captive, bound hand and foot.
Talmage, who knew his business, used to work this element of disappointment as an art. When the event was important and he wished to make a particularly good impression, he would begin in a very low, sing-song voice, and in a monotonous manner, dealing in trite nothings for five minutes or more. His angular form would seem to take on more angles and his homely face would grow more homely, if that were possible--disappointment would spread itself over the audience like a fog; people would settle back in their pews, sigh and determine to endure. And then suddenly the speaker would glide to the front, his great chest would fill, his immense mouth would open and there would leap forth a sentence like a thunderbolt.
Visitors at "The Temple," London, will recall how Joseph Parker works the matter of surprise, and often piques curiosity by beginning his sermon to two thousand people in a voice that is just above a whisper.
One of the most impressive orators of modern times was John P. Altgeld, yet to those who heard him for the first time his appearance was always a disappointment. Altgeld was so earnest and sincere, so full of his message that he scorned all the tricks of oratory, but still he must have been aware that his insignificant form and commonplace appearance were a perfect foil for the gloomy, melancholy and foreboding note of earnestness that riveted his words into a perfect whole.
Over against the type of oratory represented by Altgeld, America has produced one orator who fascinated first by his personal appearance, next exasperated by his imperturbable calm, then disappointed through a reserve that nothing could baffle, and finally won through all three, more than by his message. This man was Roscoe Conkling, he of the Hyperion curls and Jovelike front.
The chief enemy of Conkling (and he had a goodly list) was James G. Blaine, who once said of him, "He wins, like Pericles, by his grand and god-like manner--and knows it." In appearance and manner Pericles and Conkling had much in common, but there the parallel stops.
Pericles appeared only on great occasions. We are told that in twenty years he was seen on the streets of Athens only once a year, and that was in going from his house to the Assembly where he made his annual report of his stewardship. He never made himself cheap. His speeches were prepared with great care and must have been memorized. Before he spoke he prayed the gods that not a single unworthy word might escape his lips. We are told that his manner was so calm, so well poised, that during his speech his mantle was never disarranged.
In his speeches Pericles never championed an unpopular cause--he never led a forlorn hope--he never flung reasons into the teeth of a mob. His addresses were the orderly, gracious words of eulogy and congratulation. He won the approval of his constituents often against their will, and did the thing he wished to do, without giving offense. Thucydides says his words were like the honey of Hymettus--persuasion sat upon his lips.
No man wins his greatest fame in that to which he has given most of his time; it's his side issue, the thing he does for recreation, his heart's play-spell, that gives him immortality. There is too much tension in that where his all is staked. But in his leisure the pressure is removed, his heart is free and judgment may for the time take a back seat--there was where Dean Swift picked his laurels. Although Pericles was the greatest orator of his day, yet his business was not oratory. Public speaking was to him merely incidental and accidental. He doubtless would have avoided it if he could--he was a man of affairs, a leader of practical men, and he was a teacher. He held his place by a suavity, gentleness and gracious show of reasons unparalleled. In oratory it is manner that wins, not words. One virtue Pericles had in such generous measure that the world yet takes note of it, and that is his patience. If interrupted in a speech, he gave way and never answered sharply, nor used his position to the other's discomfiture. In his speeches there was no challenge, no vituperation, no irony, no arraignment. He assumed that everybody was honest, everybody just, and that all men were doing what they thought was best for themselves and others. His enemies were not rogues--simply good men who were temporarily in error. He impeached no man's motives; but went much out of his way to give due credit.
On one occasion, early in his public career, he was berated by a bully in the streets. Pericles made no answer, but went quietly about his business. The man followed him, continuing his abuse--followed him clear to the door of his house. It being dark, Pericles ordered one of his servants to procure a torch, light the man home and see that no harm befell him.
The splendor of his intellect and the sublime strength of his will are shown in that small things did not distress him. He was building the Parthenon and making Athens the wonder of the world: this was enough.
* * * * * * *
The Greeks at their best were barbarians; at their worst, slaves. The average intelligence among them was low; and the idea that they were such a wonderful people has gained a foothold simply because they are so far off. The miracle of it all is that such sublimely great men as Pericles, Phidias, Socrates and Anaxagoras should have sprung from such a barbaric folk. The men just named were as exceptional as was Shakespeare in the reign of Elizabeth. That the masses had small appreciation of these men is proven in the fact that Phidias and Anaxagoras died in prison, probably defeating their persecutors by suicide. Socrates drank the cup of hemlock, and Pericles, the one man who had made Athens immortal, barely escaped banishment and death by diverting attention from himself to a foreign war. The charge against both Pericles and Phidias was that of "sacrilege." They said that Pericles and Phidias should be punished because they had placed their pictures on a sacred shield.
Humanity's job-lot was in the saddle, and sought to wound Pericles by attacking his dearest friends: so his old teacher, Anaxagoras, was made to die; his beloved helper, Phidias, the greatest sculptor the world has ever known, suffered a like fate; and his wife, Aspasia, was humiliated by being dragged to a public trial, where the eloquence of Pericles alone saved her from a malefactor's death; and it is said that this was the only time when Pericles lost his "Olympian calm."
The son of Pericles and Aspasia was one of ten generals executed because they failed to win a certain battle. The scheme of beheading unsuccessful soldiers was not without its advantages, and in some ways is to be commended; but the plan reveals the fact that the Greeks had so little faith in their leaders that the threat of death was deemed necessary to make them do their duty. This son of Pericles was declared illegitimate by law; another law was passed declaring him legitimate: and finally his head was cut off, all as duly provided in the statutes. Doesn't this make us wonder what this world would have been without its lawmakers? The particular offense of Anaxagoras was that he said Jove occasionally sent thunder and lightning with no thought of Athens in mind. The same subject is up for discussion yet, but no special penalty is provided by the State as to conclusions.
The citizens of Greece in the time of Pericles were given over to two things which were enough to damn any individual and any nation--idleness and superstition. The drudgery was done by slaves; the idea that a free citizen should work was preposterous; to be useful was a disgrace. For a time Pericles dissipated their foolish thought, but it kept cropping out. To speak disrespectfully of the gods was to invite death, and the philosophers who dared discuss the powers of Nature or refer to a natural religion were safe only through the fact that their language was usually so garlanded with the flowers of poesy that the people did not comprehend its import.
Very early in the reign of Pericles a present of forty thousand bushels of wheat had been sent from the King of Egypt; at least it was called a present--probably it was an exacted tribute. This wheat was to be distributed among the free citizens of Athens, and accordingly when the cargo arrived there was a fine scramble among the people to show that they were free. Everybody produced a certificate and demanded wheat.
Some time before this Pericles had caused a law to be passed providing that in order to be a citizen a man must be descended from a father and a mother who were both Athenians. This law was aimed directly at Themistocles, the predecessor of Pericles, whose mother was an alien. It is true the mother of Themistocles was an alien, but her son was Themistocles. The law worked and Themistocles was declared a bastardicus and banished.
Before unloading our triremes of wheat, let the fact be stated that laws aimed at individuals are apt to prove boomerangs. "Thee should build no dark cells," said Elizabeth Fry to the King of France, "for thy children may occupy them." Some years after Pericles had caused this law to be passed defining citizenship, he loved a woman who had the misfortune to be born at Miletus. According to his own law the marriage of Pericles to this woman was not legal--she was only his slave, not his wife. So finally Pericles had to go before the people and ask for the repeal of the law that he had made, in order that his own children might be made legitimate. Little men in shovel hats and knee-breeches who hotly fume against the sin of a man marrying his deceased wife's sister are usually men whose wives are not deceased, and have no sisters.
The wheat arrived at the Piręus, and the citizens jammed the docks. The slaves wore sleeveless tunics. The Greeks were not much given to that absurd plan of cutting off heads--they simply cut off sleeves. This meant that the man was a worker--the rest affected sleeves so long that they could not work, somewhat after the order of the Chinese nobility, who wear their finger-nails so long they can not use their hands. "To kill a bird is to lose it," said Thoreau. "To kill a man is to lose him," said the Greeks.
"You should have your sleeves cut off," said some of the citizens to others, with a bit of acerbity, as they crowded the docks for their wheat.
The talk increased--it became louder.
Finally it was proposed that the distribution of wheat should be deferred until every man had proved his pedigree.
The ayes had it.
The result was that on close scrutiny five thousand supposed citizens had a blot on their 'scutcheon. The property of these five thousand men was immediately confiscated and the men sold into slavery. The total number of free men, women and children in the city of Athens was about seventy-five thousand, and of the slaves or helots about the same, making the total population of the city about one hundred fifty thousand.
We have heard so much of "the glory that was Greece, and the grandeur that was Rome," that we are, at times, apt to think the world is making progress backward. But let us all stand erect and lift up our hearts in thankfulness that we live in the freest country the world has ever known. Wisdom is not monopolized by a few; power is not concentrated in the hands of a tyrant; knowledge need not express itself in cipher; to work is no longer a crime or a disgrace.
We have superstition yet, but it is toothless: we can say our say without fear of losing our heads or our sleeves. We may lose a few customers, and some subscribers may cancel, but we are not in danger of banishment; and that attenuated form of ostracism which consists in neglecting to invite the offender to a four-o'clock tea has no terrors.
Bigotry is abroad, but it has no longer the power to throttle science; the empty threat of future punishment and the offer of reward are nothing to us, since we perceive they are offered by men who haven't these things to give. The idea of war and conquest is held by many, but concerning it we voice our thoughts and write our views; and the fact that we perceive and point out what we believe are fallacies, and brand the sins of idleness and extravagance, is proof that light is breaking in the East. If we can profit by the good that was in Greece and avoid the bad, we have the raw material here, if properly used, to make her glory fade into forgetfulness by comparison.
Do not ask that the days of Greece shall come again--we now know that to live by the sword is to die by the sword, and the nation that builds on conquest builds on sand. We want no splendor fashioned by slaves--no labor driven by the lash, nor lured on through superstitious threat of punishment and offer of reward: we recognize that to own slaves is to be one.
Ten men built Athens. The passion for beauty that these men had may be ours, their example may inspire us, but to live their lives--we will none of them! Our lives are better--the best time the world has ever seen is now; and a better yet is sure to be. The night is past and gone--the light is breaking in the East!
* * * * * * *
Womanhood was not held in high esteem in Greece. To be sure, barbaric Sparta made a bold stand for equality, and almost instituted a gynecocracy, but the usual idea was that a woman's opinion was not worth considering. Hence the caricaturists of the day made sly sport of the love of Pericles and Aspasia. These two were intellectual equals, comrades; and that all of Pericles' public speeches were rehearsed to her, as his enemies averred, is probably true. "Aspasia has no time for society; she is busy writing a speech for her lord," said Aristophanes. Socrates used to visit Aspasia, and he gave it out as his opinion that Aspasia wrote the sublime ode delivered by Pericles on the occasion of his eulogy on the Athenian dead. The popular mind could not possibly comprehend how a great man could defer to a woman in important matters, and she be at once his wife, counselor, comrade, friend. Socrates, who had been taught by antithesis, understood it.
The best minds of our day behold that Pericles was as sublimely great in his love-affairs as he was in his work as architect and statesman. Life is a whole, and every man works his love up into life--his life is revealed in his work, and his love is mirrored in his life. For myself I can not see why the Parthenon may not have been a monument to a great and sublime passion, and the statue of Athena, its chief ornament, be the sacred symbol of a great woman greatly loved.
So far as can be found, the term of "courtesan" applied by the mob to Aspasia came from the fact that she was not legally married to Pericles, and for no other reason. That their union was not legal was owing to the simple fact that Pericles, early in his career, had caused a law to be passed making marriage between an Athenian and an alien morganatic: very much as in England, for a time, the children of a marriage where one parent was a Catholic and the other a Protestant were declared by the State to be illegitimate. The act of Pericles in spreading a net for his rival and getting caught in it himself is a beautiful example of the truth of a bucolic maxim, "Chickens most generally come home to roost."
Thucydides says that for thirty years Pericles never dined away from home but once. He kept out of crowds, and was very seldom seen at public gatherings. The idea held by many was that a man who thus preferred his home and the society of a woman was either silly or bad, or both. Socrates, for instance, never went home as long as there was any other place to go, which reminds us of a certain American statesman who met a friend on the street, the hour being near midnight. "Where are you going, Bill?" asked the statesman. "Home," said Bill. "What!" said the statesman, "haven't you any place to go?" The Athenian men spent their spare time in the streets and marketplaces--this was to them what the daily paper is to us.
In his home life Pericles was simple, unpretentious and free from all extravagance. No charge could ever be brought against him that he was wasting the public money for himself--the beauty he materialized was for all. He held no court, had no carriages, equipage, nor guards; wore no insignia of office, and had no title save that of "First Citizen" given him by the people. He is the supreme type of a man who, though holding no public office, yet ruled like a monarch, and, best of all, ruled his own spirit. There is no government so near perfect as that of an absolute monarchy--where the monarch is wise and just.
* * * * * * *
Greece is a beautiful dream. Dreams do not endure, yet they are a part of life, no less than the practical deeds of the day. The glory of Greece could not last; its limit was thirty years--one generation. The splendor of Athens was built on tribute and conquest, and the lesson of it all lies in this: For thirty years Pericles turned the revenues of war into art, beauty and usefulness.
England spent more in her vain efforts to subjugate two little South African republics than Pericles spent in making Athens the Wonder of the World. If Chamberlain and Salisbury had been the avatars of Pericles and Phidias, they would have used the nine hundred millions of dollars wasted in South Africa, and the services of those three hundred thousand men, and done in England, aye! or done in South Africa, a work of harmony and undying beauty such as this tired earth had not seen since Phidias wrought and Pindar sang.
And another thing, the thirty thousand Englishmen sacrificed to the God of War, and the ten thousand Boers, dead in a struggle for what they thought was right, would now nearly all be alive and well, rejoicing in the contemplation of a harmony unparalleled and unsurpassed.
During the last year the United States has appropriated four hundred million dollars for war and war-apparatus. Since Eighteen Hundred Ninety-seven we have expended about three times the sum named for war and waste. If there had been among us a Pericles who could have used this vast treasure in irrigating the lands of the West and building Manual-Training Schools where boys and girls would be taught to do useful work and make beautiful things, we could have made ancient Greece pale into forgetfulness beside the beauty we would manifest.
When Pericles came into power there was a union of the Greek States, formed with intent to stand against Persia, the common foe. A treasure had been accumulated at Delos by Themistocles, the predecessor of Pericles, to use in case of emergency.
The ambition of Themistocles was to make Greece commercially supreme. She must be the one maritime power of the world. All the outlying islands of the Ęgean Sea were pouring their tithes into Athens and Delos that they might have protection from the threatening hordes of Persia.
Pericles saw that war was not imminent, and under the excuse of increased safety he got the accumulated treasure moved from Delos to Athens. The amount of this emergency fund, to us, would be insignificant--a mere matter of, say, two million dollars. Pericles used this money, or a portion of it at least, for beautifying Athens, and he did his wondrous work by maintaining a moderate war-tax in a time of peace, using the revenue for something better than destruction and vaunting pride.
But Pericles could not forever hold out against the mob at Athens and the hordes abroad. He might have held the hordes at bay, but disloyalty struck at him at home--his best helpers were sacrificed to superstition--his beloved helper Phidias was dead. War came--the population from the country flocked within the walls of Athens for protection. The pent-up people grew restless, sick; pestilence followed, and in ministering to their needs, trying to infuse courage into his whimpering countrymen, bearing up under the disloyalty of his own sons, planning to meet the lesser foe without, Pericles grew aweary, Nature flagged, and he was dead.
From his death dates the decline of Greece--she has been twenty-five centuries dying and is not dead even yet. To Greece we go for consolation, and in her armless and headless marbles we see the perfect type of what men and women yet may be. Copies of her Winged Victory are upon ten thousand pedestals pointing us the way.
England has her Chamberlain, Salisbury, Lord Bobs, Buller, and Kitchener; America has her rough-riders who bawl and boast, her financiers, and her promoters. In every city of America there is a Themistocles who can organize a Trust of Delos and make the outlying islands pay tithes and tribute through an indirect tax on this and that. In times of alleged danger all Kansans flock to arms and offer their lives in the interest of outraged humanity.
These things are well, but where is the Pericles who can inspire men to give in times of peace what all are willing to give in the delirium of war--that is to say, themselves?
We can Funstonize men into fighting-machines; we can set half a nation licking stamps for strife; but where is the Pericles who can infuse the populace into paving streets, building good roads, planting trees, constructing waterways across desert sands, and crowning each rock-ribbed hill with a temple consecrated to Love and Beauty! We take our mules from their free prairies, huddle them in foul transports and send them across wide oceans to bleach their bones upon the burning veldt; but where is the man who can inspire our mules with a passion to do their work, add their mite to building a temple and follow the procession unled, undriven--with neither curb nor lash--happy in the fond idea that they are a part of all the seething life that throbs, pulses and works for a Universal Good!
England is today a country tied with crape. On the lintels of her doorposts there linger yet the marks of sprinkled blood; the guttural hurrahs of her coronation are mostly evoked by beer; behind it all are fears and tears and a sorrow that will not be comforted.
"I never caused a single Athenian to wear mourning," truthfully said Pericles with his dying breath. Can the present prime ministers of earth say as much? That is the kind of leader America most needs today--a man who can do his work and make no man, woman or child wear crape.
The time is ripe for him--we await his coming.
We are sick and tired of plutocrats who struggle and scheme but for themselves; we turn with loathing from the concrete selfishness of Newport and Saratoga; the clatter of arms and the blare of battle-trumpets in time of peace are hideous to our ears--we want no wealth gained from conquest and strife.
Ours is the richest country the world has ever known. Greece was a beggar compared with Iowa and Illinois, where nothing but honest effort is making small cities great. But we need a Pericles who shall inspire us to work for truth, harmony and beauty--a beauty wrought for ourselves--and a love that shall perform such miracles that they will minister to the millions yet unborn. We need a Pericles! We need a Pericles!