« PreviousContinue »
ART. III.-1. Historical Researches into the Politics, Intercourse
and Trade of the Carthaginians, Æthiopians, and Egyptians.
By A. H. L. HEEREN. Translated from the German. Oxford. 2. History of Egypt, from the Earliest Times to the Conquest of
the Arabs, A.D. 640. By SAMUEL SHARPE. London.
THE first of these volumes sheds a copious and valuable light on the history of a state interesting to modern scholars from its long and giant struggle with the colossal force of Rome; the ruling principles of whose government, both in its home and foreign policy, survive to us in the record of events that convulsed the ancient world ; while its social state and domestic usages, its literature, manners, and private life, lie enshrouded in a mist, dark as the clouds through which obscurely loom the legendary traditions of the early history of Rome. The genius of Athens still irradiates the paths of philosophy and art, and constitutes a glorious element in the intellect of the human race; the influence of Roman law is still visibly impressed upon the civil . codes of modern Europe; but Carthage has left to posterity no such brilliant inheritance. Still are her annals far from unfruitful of political instruction to the historical student. In her we see the embodiment and representative of national principles directly antagonistic to those of her great rival. An empire of immense wealth, based upon commercial monopoly, and supported by hireling valour; à dominion, the final cause of which was almost solely the accumulation of treasure; not, as with the Roman, the pride of a boundless sovereignty, and the diffusion of a common nationality.
The Carthaginian devotion to commerce as the main element of their national prosperity, naturally resulted at once from the origin of the state—the daughter of the Merchant Queen ; and from the geographical position of their city on the shores of that vast continent over which the main channels of ancient commerce flowed. For the trade of Greece and Italy, (if we may pause on the threshold of our subject, briefly to review the relations of trade in the two master states of antiquity,) down to the time of the Roman Empire, seems to have been restricted almost entirely to the interchange of necessaries. At Athens, the highest classes, even in the age of Pericles, were mainly devoted to agricultural pursuits; and Thucydides records the impatience with which they submitted to a compulsory city life during the Peloponnesian war, as a characteristic trait of their rural tastes. Accordingly, we find their principal merchants and manufacturers among the resident aliens; and the general freedom of industry which the latter class enjoyed, was perhaps a result of the low estimate in which their occupation was held, and of the little jealousy which its emoluments encountered from the genuine Athenians. Retail trade in particular was accounted the reverse of honourable; a prejudice undoubtedly founded on a false principle of political economy, deliberately countenanced both by Aristotle' and Cicero, and betrayed in those casual allusions of Athenian literature, which are far deeper indications of national sentiment than the grave condemnation of a philosophical treatise. We may search in vain for any recognition of commercial wealth as the sinews of the national revenue; and the general relation of public and private prosperity, a relation most accurately defined in periods of high commercial advancement and activity, is very vaguely conceived in their literature, and asserted in their practice. The mental and physical powers of the sons of Athens (παρά δύναμιν τολμηται και παρα γνώμην κινδυνευται) were constantly overstrained, partly in great and noble exertions, partly in vain and profligate waste; and their financial embarrassments found a precarious relief, not so much in taxation on the profits of domestic industry, as in foreign subsidies, indiscriminate plunder, and unwarrantable captures of neutral and even friendly vessels, extortionate exactions from subject confederates, and forced and voluntary contributions levied on Athenian citizens.
More conclusive evidence of the ruinous tendency of these measures, and of the low ebb to which commerce had retreated, need scarcely be looked for than in the statements of Isocrates, that, after the ruin with which Athenian extortion had overwhelmed the allies, peace, trade, and agriculture, and an increase of merchants and resident aliens, were the only remedies ; and in the dangerous proposals of Xenophon, for the social and political elevation of the only class devoted to the pursuits of trade.
And this aversion to mercantile habits was in strict sympathy with the sentiments of the most eminent legislators and philo
" A. Pol, v. Cicero (De Officiis) calls them sordidi; nihil enim proficiunt, nisi admodum mentiuntur.'
2 Boëchk's Public Econ. of Athens, book iv. ch. xxi.
sophers of antiquity. Aristotle,' in his ideal sketch of a perfect state, considering the advantages and disadvantages of a maritime situation, weighs the facilities it affords for aggression and defence, and the advantages of commerce in the more varied and abundant supply of the comforts and luxuries of life, against the prejudice to which civil order is liable from excessive populousness (a vice in his opinion inseparable from great commercial states), the violation of the due proportion of the several grades of society by the predominance of the mercantile class, and of political and religious unity by the promiscuous influx of foreigners, with foreign rites, foreign morality, and foreign institutions. Political greatness he had measured not absolutely, by the amount of population in the mass, but relatively, by the proportion of the more to the less honourable classes for a great state and a populous state,' he says, ' are
; 'not the same; and that state cannot be great where the 'artizans are numerous, and the citizens who bear arms but few.' And he consents to a maritime site only on the condition, that the heterogeneous crowds that fill the ports shall be debarred from intercourse with the citizens by intervening walls and separate habitations. Commerce, he adds, must be limited to the supply of the state's necessities; to encourage it beyond this limit for the sake of revenue, or to build a harbour capacious enough to render the city a general emporium, is a proof of sordid avarice, and a prostitution of the higher to the lower ends of political society.
In the miniature republics of antiquity, consisting frequently of a single city with a few dependent towns, surrounded by a mere slip of territory compared to the ample dimensions of modern European kingdoms—the elements of the body politic, the influences determinative of national character, must evidently have been of a far less complex nature than those we are compelled to sift in the investigation of political problems of our own day. With a far smaller number of counteracting agencies, any single element of the constitution would have far more powerfully effected the equipoise of the state, than it could be allowed to do amid the vast and tangled array of interests and professions, that constitute the anomalous and complicated system of our own age and country. We need not therefore ridicule Aristotle's apprehension of the mischievous effects of the predominance of the commercial classes ; an apprehension deeply grounded in the constitution and tendencies of the mercantile and agricultural bodies respectively; and probably kindred in conception to a well-known passage of our own
1 A. Pol. lib. vii.
Coleridge, where, defining the constitution of a state by the equilibrium of the two main antagonistic powers, or opposite interests, those of permanence and progression, he identifies the agricultural with the former, the mercantile with the latter, of these principles.
Cicero, in a passage of much interest, discusses this same question of the desirability of a maritime site, with a view to national permanence and strength. After mentioning the comparative exposure of cities founded on the coast to the danger of sudden surprises, he proceeds as follows :
Maritime cities are also liable to a corruption of public morality; for they are infected with new languages and doctrines, and not only foreign merchandise, but foreign notions also are imported, so that nothing in ancestral institutions can remain inviolate. The inhabitants of these cities do not remain long at home, but are hurried afar on the wings of hope and expectation, and even when their bodies are at home, yet their minds are abroad and wandering. And, indeed, no other cause conduced in so great a degree to the final ruin of Carthage and of Corinth, after they had long been undermined, than this wandering and dispersion of their citizens, when they had abandoned agriculture and the exercise of arms for the love of commerce and of navigation. What shall I say [he adds] of the isles of Greece, which, surrounded by the waves are almost afloat themselves, together with the institutions and morality of the states?'
That deep and extensive demoralization was the natural fruit of the revolutions caused by foreign intermixture in national institutions and religion, no one, we believe, will doubt, who considers the intimate connexion of public and private morality among the ancients with their religious worship and civil institutions. The fall introduced an element of disharmony into all the relations of man, whether to his Creator or to his fellowcreatures. A consequence of this disharmony was the breach of the natural law of universal love and sympathy, the providential remedy for which we may recognise in that partial law of association, which, while it intensified patriotism and the feeling of a common life in the members of individual states, intensified also the vital distinctions, whether of religion, race, or law. Thus each nation had its peculiar deities : and these differed not more widely in their names than in their attributes. So that, according to the conceptions which each nation had framed for itself of the Divine nature, they had in the objects of their adoration a moral image of purity or the reverse, upon the model of which each citizen might mould his own habits of life, and ideas of right and wrong. A correct estimate of the reality and width of such differences, and of the magnitude of
i De Rep. ii. 4.
the results they involved ; a contrast of the comparative purity of the early Roman theology with the Oriental worship recorded in Herodotus, with the Bacchanalia, and the licentiousness of the votaries of Isis in the later days of the empire: will show how utterly alien from the narrowness of mere sectarian bigotry was that most rigid principle of Roman policy, the exclusion of foreign worship, and the maintenance in its full integrity of an hereditary national religion: a principle that breathes no less in the appeal of Camillus to the public watchwords, the Æqualia Urbi Sacra,' 'traditasque per manus religiones,' than in the prohibitory statutes of the old republican legislation, ' Peregrinos Deos ne colunto,' 'Nulla Vitiorum sacra solennia sunto:' in the jealousy shown in combining its strict assertion with the toleration requisite in a conquering state, by enrolling the deities of the vanquished, by a formal act of the senate, in the Roman Pantheon : and in the long-continued efforts of the senate to check the popular fancy for new objects of religious worship, and to retain, amid the arbitrary innovations of imperial caprice, the departing image of religious unity. We may doubt, indeed, whether the state of Roman society in the days of Juvenal, when the tide of popular licentiousness had long overswept the barriers of ancestral practice and tradition; or that of Alexandria under the Ptolemies, would furnish the more melancholy testimony to the demoralization arising from the promiscuous fusion of Western and Oriental ideas, of creeds and principles the most varied and repugnant.
Second only to the influence of religion upon the morality of the ancients, was that exercised by the positive laws and civil institutions of particular states. Law,' says Pindar, 'is the sovereign of all men;' and in the distinctive features of the Spartan character,-in their low estimate of marriage, in their exaltation of social above domestic ties, and of the warrior caste above all civil grades, in the higher authority and loftier obligations of positive law than of conscience,-it is impossible not to recognise the lasting impression stamped upon the national character by the laws of Lycurgus; an impression the more deep and pervading from the searching intrusiveness of those laws into the privacy of domestic life :
* Particular races (says Dr. Arnold,'] had particular customs which affected the relations of domestic and of public life. Amongst some polygamy was allowed, amongst others forbidden; some held infanticide to be an atrocious crime, others ordained it in certain cases by law. Practices and
· Preface to Thucyd. vol. iii.