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Philofophical Dissertations on the Greeks. Translated from the
French of M. de Pauw. 2 Vols. 8vo. 125. Boards. Faulder. 1793. M De Pauw's EfTays on the Americans, the Ægyptians,
V. and the Greeks, are well known. We have often met this author in our progress, and have found him lively but inaccurate ; pleasant but fanciful; more calculated to entertain than inftru&. The present work, when first published in 1787, fell into our hands; but it seemed neither sufficiently interesting nor important to claim our attention, while urged, within our contracted limits, to notice various, truly valuable works. The period of the original publication, and the charader of the author, will not even at this time allow of any very extensive detail.--Yet the present is the best of M. de Pauw's labours; less deformed by his fancies, less warped by system, less delusive from admiration or dislike. The picture of Greece is by no means flattering: it is homely, but a faithful likenefs, and the author fees often with clearness through the splendid rays, with which antiquarian superstition has illuminated the history of Greece.-The translation we can say, is executed with great fidelity, and even with that polished clegance best adapted to the subject, which requires not ada ventitious ornament, but admits not of negligence or haite. As we cannot with propriety at this time examine the work at length, we shall select such extracts as will give the beft idea of the Greeks according to M. Pauw's representation.
The country of which we have received such flattering accounts in different works, deserved not always great commendation.
• However subject the generality of Greece may have been to mocks of earthquakes, yet during upwards of two thousand years tiey 'have produced no visible alteration in the form of Attica; its figure is still that of a triangle with two sides bordered by the sea, and a base united with the continent.
· This fpace did not exceed two hundred and fifty square miles; and consisted entirely of rugged mountains, interfected by profound vallies, where the rivers formed cascades, or rolled along with such rapidity that they could not be navigated. Their waters, always troubled, were tinged with various substances least capable of refift. ing the violence of their courses, and many of them swelled by the sudden thaw of snow defcended in torrents from the cliffs at the return of spring; but diminishing with the cause, were scarcely to be traced during the heat of summer.'
· The southern part of Attica most evidently discovers the con: sequences of such a revolution; and its actual itate is perfectly con
formable formable with the observations communicated by Plato. The whole coast presents only one group of projecting rocks; and their prodigious mass, has been capable of resisting those billows, which still, during the tempeits, break against them with a hoarse and dreadful noise ; while all the promontory of Sunium whitenis with the foam of an irritated ocean. Nothing is seen around but those vast beds of fand and gravel, called by the Athenians the Phellean plains, and destined to eternal fterility.
• This country presented itself to navigators under an aspect equally hideous and melancholy; but towards the north of Attica the foil became infinitely richer in vegetation, better clothed with verdure, and particularly adapted for the vine and the olive. Even the summits of the most elevated mountains, such as Parnes and Brilessus, were crowned with ever-green oaks, with cypresses, and particularly with those pyramidal firs, which still embellish the land scapes on the higher parts of Greece. But as the Athenians from time immemorial had possessed both silver and copper mines, thať branch of industry, carried to excess, consumed so much fuel, that they were compelled, for the construction of their fleets, to depend on the forests of Thrace and Macedonia. An excessive scarcity of wood was afterwards experienced there ; and a similar calamity awaits every nation at once engaged, like the Athenians, in refining metals, and in navigation.
o As Attica abounded in saline sources and bitter plants, it was more favourable for rearing goats than any other domestic animals. At one time, indeed, the fourth part of the inhabitants existed solely by their flocks; and, in the days of Solon, they were more numerous than labourers. Agriculture did not at first extend beyond those vallies which were well watered; but industry afterwards, excited by necessity, converted the very sides of the mountains into plantations and gardens. Bulwarks of masonry were constructed there to preserve the soil from the ravages of the torrents; and the activity of vegetation was promoted by frequent artificial showers. This painful kind of labour gave occupation to multitudes of mercenaries, as well as Naves ; and it was in this manner that Cleanthes earned his bread with more greatness and dignity than Diogenes, who begged, or Aristippus, who feasted with tyrants.
The loil of Attica, from its light and porous nature, absorbed the humidity, and had not consistence enough to produce any kind of grain in plenty, except barley. On this account, the Athenians were under the constant necessity of purchasing their food from strangers, and often at the hands of their very enemies.!
It was not in Athens that the luxury and the taste of the Athenians was displayed. A democratic government destroys every mark of superiority ;'and, even at Rome, the palace of Auguftus was the house only of the fenator Hortensius.
"On entering the city, says Dicearchus, no person would imagine himself at Athens : the itreets, he adds, are strikingly irregular, the town is generally badly provided with water; and although some houses appear more convenient than others, yet all of them are wretched. Only, when arrived at the theatre, continues he, and on discovering :he grand temple of Minerva, that incertitude begins to vanish, which was produced by the excessive disproportion between the real state of things, and the splendour of their reputasion.
• The enlightened and impartial Greek, who makes this acknowledgement, was the disciple of Aristotle, and wrote fome years after the death of Alexander. His teftimony Mould remove therefore the prejudices of those pretenders to learning, who still imagine seriously, that no town in the universe ever equalled Athens in beauty.
• It has been already remarked, that the constitution of a popular government opposed invincible obstacles to the pomp of the Athenians, by preventing them from raising palaces in the capital, During the prosperous days of the republic, says Demosthenes, the houses of Themistocles, and Aristides, undistinguished by the smalleft appearance of superiority, bore a perfect resemblance to those of their neighbours.
• The nobility of Attica conceived naturally an averfion to inhabit such a city; and chose to domineer in some solitary spot, or in the smallest village, rather than be confounded with what they called an imperious populace, whose glory consisted in repressing all other pride but its own.'
• As to the real extent of Athens, it is certain that the ramparts, Gxty ftadia, or nearly seven miles in circumference, exceeded much what would have been necessary, had the nation, in time of war, pofTefled any other place of refuge. On such distretling occasions, inhabitants from the country, who had no dwellings, constructed in the openeft places a number of huts, resembling in figure the hives of bees. Aristophanes, who had seen these miferable sheds during the Peloponnesian war, compares them to those earthen urns, called casks, which were in use among the Greeks. All these circumstances took place previous to the days of Diogenes the cynic, whose history, written without judgment, has been read without reflection.
• Exclusive of those dwellings, ere&ted for the moment, all the houses in Athens did not exceed ten thousand; and thus the total number of inhabitants may be determined at fifty thousand, including both Naves and strangers. It would be absurd to imagine a more numerous population, where the dimensions of the buildings were so inconfiderable, and their value in general so trifiing, that the fmallest lodging in any of the great towns of Europe could not be purchased on the farne terms. In perusing the Greek orators, who
had such frequent opportunities of appraising estates and inheritançes, it appears that the value of a house in Athens was generally about half an attic talent, or ninety pounds sterling, Numbers of them however could not be sold even for that sum, as may be judged from what Dicearchus has recorded of their mean appearance.'
.No kind of public edifices were more common at this port, than those galleries surrounded with colonnades, called in their language Stoa, and named by us Porticos. Never did the imagination of ancient architects suggest any form more pleating to the eyes of the Greeks, who often lavished the most expensive decorations on those favourite buildings, which were destined to various purposes. There the Athenians walked, displayed their merchandizgis kept schools, recited verses, and adıninistered justice. This paflion for porticos prevailed even in the finalleit towns, and became more tuinous, as such gratifications did not adalit of a previous calcularion ; for no architect could determine the exact value of rare productions, either in painting or sculpture. . .:. It is now úniversally ailowed, that the beautiful effect of these colonnades must have been greatly diminished by the shade of so many trees planted by the Greeks in the very centre of their towns. From this desire of preserving at least the image of a country life, Athens was encumbered with plane-trees; and the shade of the olive concealed the monuments of Megara from the view of travellers. At Chalcis in Eubæa, this extravagance prevailed so far, that every winding was lined by a forest, which spread itself over the public places, and involved the streets in continual darkness. : It is now an easy matter, even for the illiterate reader, to form a very accurate idea of the interior of a Greek town, where four things were indispensable, a theatre, a temple, a portico, and a grove. The houses of the inhabitants, barely large enough for dhelter, appeared to be only an accessary part; and the scarcity of duel in Greece would not admit of communicating a necellary de gree of heat to spacious apartments.' - The internal parts of the houses did not display more luxury than the external. Few houses were furnished at a greater expence than 1000 drachmæ, about thirty pounds sterling. It is a remark of some ingenuity, though not wholly new, that the riches of Greece were not greatly augmented by the spoils of the Persians, for these were deposited in the temples, but by the commerce with Tyre, which after the decline of the Perfian power was opened exclusively to the Grecians, until, in works of ingenuity, they excelled their former competitors. But the country feats were the scenes of the Grecian splendour, where, secluded from the citizens, who boasted of their equality, the higher classes could enjoy every luxury, which
'.. a.art art or commerce could furnish. Luxuries, which constantly extended their power, and at last impoverislied the nation. The latter part of the first volume, on the commerce and finances of the Athenians, is particularly valuable.
As we have stated in our former quotations, fome parts in which M. de Pauw seemed to excell, we shall also notice a few of his mistakes, his fuperficial views, his fancies, and his prejudices. One of these is attributing the force of the vocal fibres of the inhabitants of Arcadia, to the humidity of the foil which produced the reeds; one of the idlelt fancics that ever milled a philosopher; and a supposition so improbable, that even Montesquieu, the great defender of a similar system, would have blushed at it. This, though the most glaring, is not the only error of this kind.
The private reader of the infamous Frederick, may be suspected of no great partiality for any religious fyftem. M. Pauw suffers, however, his prejudices to be too conspicuous, and his observations, on the religion of Greece, are too puerile to dce serve refutation. To suppose the oracle at Dodona, to have arisen from the efculent acorn, is a fancy which would have degraded a much meaner author.
. One of the most learned critics of this century, who has endeavoured to trace the origin of the Greeks, supposes that they once inhabited the region between the Caspian and black Sea, in descend. ing from the prodigious heights of Asia. These cmigrants advanced afterwards to the west, and fixed themselves first in Chaonia and Thesprotia, around the mount Tmerus, fince fanzous for the oracle of Dodona. In those parts the different hords, deftitute of all ideas relative to arts or agriculture, were forced to depend. for fubfiitence on the chace, or on the produce of the oak and beech. The fpecies of acorn, which Virgil, by ny of excellence, calls glandem chaoniam, still exposed for sale among the fruits and rot-herbs of the Spanish markets. In Pliny's time, it was introduced at the deserts of the Spaniards, who are now the only gludivorous nation in Europe.
• This explains clearly the religious refred profered by the arciest Grecks for certain trees, to the really prophetic in all the force of the term. When their branches were thinly garnified with fiais, it was easy to predi&t an unfortunate sistı!, and a long sinine with all its concomitant miseries, where no resources could be drawn from agriculture. Even alimentary feeds could not always have been procured for the purposes of tillage; and it is probable that goats were not then domeiticated, any more than tbe indigenous builhoes of Thesprotia, Macedonia, Thelali, and some other countries of Greece.
• The reason, why the oracle of Dodona originates from a vene. ration for the oak and becch, can no longer for proble:naticanin C.R. N. ARR. (XI.) ilust, 1794.