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and on the other with fighting; and it seems to have been acquitted of guilt for the reason that the gains of the pirate's life were the fruit of bravery combined with skill, and were not unequally balanced by its dangers. And piracy seems to have been practised only upon foreigners; of course such foreigners only as did not come within the range of any bond of guestship. .
Religion, however, had a considerable moral force.
The connection in the age of Homer between duty on the one side, and religious belief and reverence on the other, is well seen
(a) Negatively, by the faithlessness and ferocity of the Cyclops towards men, while he avows his contempt for Zeus and the gods.
(b) By the fact that the persons addicted to sacrifice and religious observances are with Homer the upright, and good men: such as Hector in the Iliad, and Eumaios in the Odyssey.
(c) As our word "righteous,” founded on right, and embracing morality, extends also to piety, so in Homer the corresponding word dicaios clearly embraces duty towards the gods. The Abioi, an uncivilized nation, are with him “the most righteous of men.”
(d) Conversely, the character of the theoudēs, or god-revering man, is identified with that of the stranger-loving, and opposed to that of the insolent, the savage, and the unrighteous.
(e) The wicked man cannot by sacrifices secure the fruits of his crime. Aigisthos offers them in abundance: but the gods destroy him by the hand of Orestes.
Though the outward act of sacrifice did not of necessity imply a corresponding frame of mind, yet it was of religious tendency. The ordinary offering, at the common meal, of a portion to the deity as the giver, may be compared with the "grace" among Christians. In solemn celebrations, and sometimes indeed at the private meal, prayer and thanksgiving were commonly combined with the rite.
(8) The gods, as we have already seen, were thought, in a real though incomplete measure, to be rewarders of the good, and punishers of the bad.
(h) There was a strong general belief in the efficacy of prayer, testified by its practice.
We must not deny the reality of moral distinctions in Homer upon any such ground as that he sometimes describes greatness and strength by names rather denoting virtue, and mentions, for
example, the services "which the inferior render to the good." The language even of our own day has not yet escaped from this very improper confusion. We still speak of the “better classes," and of “good society.” By him, as by us, the error is escaped in other cases: for he calls the Suitor-Princes "very inferior men." And the word agathos, or good, has unquestionably in some passages a solely moral meaning: while it is never applied to any bad man or action, however energetic or successful.
With respect to bloodshedding, the morality of the Greeks of Homer was extremely loose. To have killed a man was considered a misfortune, or at most an error in point of prudence. It was punished by a fine payable to relatives, which it was usual to accept in full satisfaction. But fugitives from their vengeance were everywhere received without displeasure or surprise. Priam, appearing unexpectedly before Achilles, is compared to a man who, having had the misfortune to slay somebody, appears on a sudden in a strange place.
The cases of such homicides are numerous in the Poems. It may be enough to observe that Patroclos, whose character is one of great gentleness, committed one in his youth without premeditation, and was therefore given over by his father Menoitios into the honorable charge of Peleus: that Ajax had received Lycophron after homicide, and "honored him as if a beloved parent”: and that Telemachos receives Theoclumenos, and gives him the place of honor, when he had simply announced himself as a fugitive from the vengeance of the powerful kindred of a man whom he had killed, without stating anything about the cause.
It is difficult however to trace in Homer the existence of an universal law of relative duty, between man and man as such. The chief restraints upon misdeeds were to be found in laws, understood but not written, and which were binding as between certain men, not between all men. These were
1. Members of a family.
The weakest point of the Homeric system of ethics is its tenderness (to say the least) for fraud under certain conditions.
This has ever been indeed a difficult chapter in the science of Ethics: it is probably one in which the human faculties will ever, or very long, remain unequal to the task of drawing at once clearly and firmly, in abstract statement, the lines of discrimination between right and wrong. In Homer, however, we seem to find the balance not doubtfully determined, but manifestly inclining the wrong way. Into the mouth of Achilles, indeed, he has put the most powerful denunciation of falsehood ever uttered by man. Pope's rendering is not quite unworthy –
“Who dares think one thing, and another tell,
My heart detests him as the gates of hell.” This, however, we may consider as in great part belonging to the single character of Achilles. It is a principle worked out in his entire conduct, without a single flaw. His soul and actions are sky-clear. Among the Homeric deities, there is nothing that approaches him in this respect. Indeed, it is especially in the region of the Immortals that we find the plague-spot planted. In Athenè, by far the loftiest of his Olympian conceptions, we find a distinct condescension, not simply to stratagem, but to fraud: and she, with Odysseus, finds a satisfaction, when they respectively allow to one another the praise of excelling all others within this department, she among the gods, he among mortal men.
At this we may not be greatly surprised; for force and energy already outweigh the moral element in the whole conception of the supernatural: and the character of Odysseus, with its many and great virtues, has a bias in this direction. But we may be much more surprised to find what we may fairly call a glorification of cunning, if not of fraud, exhibited in the character of that Greek chieftain, who next to Achilles may be thought most to approximate to the ideal of Homeric chivalry. Diomed meets the noble Glaucos on the field: they explain, and recognize as subsisting between them, the laws of hereditary guestship. The Greek then proposes the exchange of arms, which Glaucos accepts: and Diomed obtains the value of a hundred oxen in return for the value of nine.
We may, however, observe that Achilles, in whom comes out the bright blaze of perfect openness and truth, is not only the