Imágenes de páginas

of the soul after death. He contended that the body is a very subordinate part of man; that it immured, as in a prison, the soaring spirit, and for a time prevented its entering the blissful regions ; but that death liberated the immortal prisoner, and introduced it to new and perpetual scenes of bliss or wo. From these principles he argued the importance of attending to the interests of this imperishable part of man, rather than to be solicitous about his present condition. In Socrates, we behold, in those early ages, a martyr for the testimony of a good conscience.

But when Grecian philosophy branched out into innumerable speculations, and the wildest, reveries of imagination were indulged; every

faculty of the mind was involved-in a labyrinth of uncertainties. Tytler justly observes of their hypothesis, that they “ afforded little else than a picture of the imbecility and caprice of the human mind. Teachers, instead of experiment and observation, satisfied themselves with constructing theories, and these wanting facts for their basis, served only to perplex the understanding, and to retard equally the advancement of sound morality, and the progress of useful knowledge. The metaphysical notions of the Eleatic sect were perfectly unintelligible.” At length from confu

sion of ideas, resulted the doctrine of the Scepties, that universal doubt was the only true wisdom. Could any thing more strongly evince the bewildered state of the buman intellect, or be more degrading to the understanding of man.



WE left the Grecian states under the influence of Persian gold, turning their arms against each other; every city bad a desire to domineer over the rest, though incapable of preserving order among its own members. Their distractions and weakness presented an opportunity to one state, which before this was little regarded, to raise itself above the rest. A prince of abilities, with a genius for war, was all that was wanting to take advantage of the feeble distracted state of Greece ; and such a one was Philip, king of Macedon. Of an aspiring genius, super-eminent understanding, improved by extensive education, and trained to war under Epaminondas, the first general of the age, he soon obtained an ascendancy over the other Grecian states, and united them in his schemes of aggrandizement. He had only to touch one spring, to rouse all Greece to arms. A proposal to invade the Persians, procured an immediate concert and union of their forces, that they might retaliate for the sufferings Xerxes brought upon them. Philip was on the point of entering Asia with a powerful army, when his own folly defeated his projects. Intoxicated with power, he determined, at the celebration of the marriage of his daughter Cleopatra, to exhibit such a scene of splendour and magnificence, as had never before been seen in Greece. His courtiers and officers were paying to him little less than divine honours; he was surrounded by his guards and the gazing multitudes, when he was publicly assassinated by Pausanias, a nobleman, to whom he had refused to do justice. How uncertain are the prospects of human glory and greatness !

History upbraids Philip with being guilty of vices unworthy of a man of honour. His conduct showed that interest was the main spring of all his actions. His superior abilities were employed in all the subtilties of an artful policy to accomplish his purposes.

Sensible of the advantages to be derived from education, he engaged Aristotle, the greatest philosopher of the age, to be the preceptor of his son. 'Historians tell us, that every action of the youth of Alexander, announced the greatness which he was afterwards to attain. The instruction of his father, added to the lessons of Aristotle, formed his mind to politics and war, philosophy and learning; but it is said, his lovo of military honours did not prevent his distinguishing what was most worthy his pursuit.

When Alexander ascended the throne, at twenty years of age, all the nations whom his father had brought into subjection, thought they had regained their liberty, and took up arms against him. But in one campaign, he made himself master of all Greece ; and he was made generalissimo of all their forces.

Historians say, that according to all the rules of prudence, it was extremely rash in Alexander to attempt the conquest of Asia, with means com. paratively so small as those he had. But he saw the incapacity of the prince, whose crown he wanted to seize, under pretence of being reveng. ed for the many insults which had been offered to the Greeks. The empire of Cyrus had been for a long time in a tottering state. sive grandeur was a leading cause of its destruc. tion. The errors of their mode of government, the slavery of their people, and the depravity of their princes, all contributed to hasten its fall. The Satraps, governors of provinces, were at too great a distance from the court, and lived like so many independent kings. A multitude of nations who had nothing in common but slavery, formed one great body; but being without union,

Its exces

« AnteriorContinuar »