Page images

Sophist experienced much vexation from the stupidity exhibited in achieving this enterprise by his son Atticus, whose memory was so sluggish that he could not even recollect the Christ-cross-row. To overcome this extraordinary dullness, he educated along with him twenty-four little slaves of his own age, upon whom he bestowed the names of the letters, so that young Atticus might be compelled to learn his alphabet as he played with his companions, now calling out for Omicron now for Psi. In teaching the art of writing, their practice nearly resembled our own; the master traced with what we must call a pencil (yapis), a number of characters on a tablet, and the pupil following with the pen the guidance of the faint lines before him, accustomed his fingers to perform the requisite movements with adroitness. These things were necessarily the first step in the first class of studies, which were denominated music, and comprehended every thing connected with the development of the mind; and they were carried to a certain extent before the second division called gymnastics was commenced. They reversed the plan commonly adopted among ourselves, for with them poetry preceded prose, a practice which, coöperating with their susceptible temperament, impressed upon the national mind that imaginative character for which it was preëminently distinguished. And the poets in whose works they were first initiated were of all the most poetical, the authors of lyrical and dithyrambic pieces, selections from whose verses they committed to memory, thus acquiring early a rich store of sentences and imagery ready to be adduced in argument or illustration, to furnish familiar allusions or to be woven into the texture of their style.

Arithmetic. Among the other branches of knowledge most necessary to be studied, and to which they applied themselves nearly from the outset, was arithmetic, without some inkling of which, a man, in Plato's opinion, could scarcely be a citizen at all. For, as he observes, there is no art or science which does not stand in some need of it, especially the art of war, where many combinations depend entirely on numbers. And yet Agamemnon, in some of the old tragic poets, was represented by Palamedes as wholly ignorant of calculation, so that possibly, as Socrates jocularly observes, he could not reckon his own feet. The importance attached to this branch of education, no where more apparent than in the dialogues of Plato, furnishes one proof that the Athenians were preëminently men of business, who, in all their admiration for the good and beautiful, never lost sight of those things which promote the comfort of life, and enable a man effectually to perform his ordinary duties. With the same views were geometry and astronomy pursued. For, in the Republic, Glaucon, who may be supposed to represent the popular opinion, confesses at once, upon the mention of geometry, that, as it is applicable to the business of war, it would be most useful. He could discover the superiority of the geometrician over the ignorant man in pitching a camp, in the taking of places, in contracting or expanding the ranks of an army, and all those other military movements practiced in battles, marches, or sieges. To Plato, however, this was its least recommendation. He conceived that, in the search after goodness and truth, the study of this science was especiallyfbeneficial to the mind, both because it deals in positive verities, and thus be its a love of them, and likewise superinduces the habit of seeking them through lengthened investigation, and of being satisfied with nothing less.

Astronomy. In the study of astronomy itself, a coarse and obvious utility was almost of necessity the first thing aimed at, and even in the age of Socrates, when philosophical wants were keenly felt in addition to those of the animal and civil life, there were evidently teachers who considered it necessary to justify such pursuits, by showing their bearing on the system of loss and profit. For when Socrates comes, in his ideal scheme of education, to touch on this science, Glaucon, the practical man, at once recognizes its usefulness, not only in husbandry and navigation, but in affairs military.

Music. Music was employed in the education of the Greeks to effect several purposes. First, to soothe and mollify the fierceness of the national character, and prepare the way for the lessons of the poets, which delivered amid the sounding of melodious strings, when the soul was rapt and elevated by harmony, by the excitement of numbers, by the magic of the sweetest associations, took a firm hold upon the mind, and generally retained it during life. Secondly, it enabled the citizens gracefully to perform their part in the amusements of social life, every person being in his turn called upon at entertainments to sing or play upon the lyre. Thirdly, it was necessary to enable them to join in the sacred choruses, rendered frequent by the piety of the state, and for the due performance in old age of many ofices of religion, the sacerdotal character belonging more or less to all the citizens of Athens. Fourthly, as much of the learning of a Greek was martial, and designed to fit him for defending his country, he required some knowledge of music that on the field of battle his voice might harmoniously mingle with those of his countrymen, in chanting those stirring, impetuous, and terrible melodies, called pæans, which preceded the first shock of fight.

Damon, the great Athenian musician, used to observe, that wherever the mind is susceptible of powerful emotions there will be the song and the dance, and that wherever men are free and honorable, their amusements will be liberal and decorous, where men are otherwise the contrary. Caphesias, the fluteplayer, observing one of his pupils striving to produce loud sounds, said: "Boy, that is not always good which is great; but that is great which is good.'

The teachers of music were divided into two classes: the Citharistæ, who simply played on the instrument, and the Citharædi, who accompanied themselves on the cithara with a song. Of these, the humble and poorer taught, as we have already observed, in the corners of the streets, while the abler and more fortunate opened schools of music, or gave their lessons in the private dwellings of the great. The Cithara, however, was not anciently in use at Athens, if we may credit the tradition which attributes to Phrynis its introduction from Ionia.

Drawing In the later ages of the commonwealth, drawing likewise, and the elements of art entered into the list of studies pursued by youths, partly with the view of diffusing a correct taste, and the ability to appreciate and enjoy the noble productions of the pencil and chisel, and partly, perhape from the mere love of novelty, and the desire which man always feels to en the circle of his ac quirements. Aristotle, indeed, suggests a much humbler motive, observing that a knowledge of drawing would enable men to appreciate more accurately the productions of the useful arts.


It was a law of Solon, that every Athenian should be able to read and to swim; and the whole spirit of Attic legislation, leaving the poor to the exercise of industrious and hardy occupations, tended to create among the opulent and noble a taste for field sports, horsemanship, and every martial and manly exercise. The difficulty, of course, was to render them subordinate to mental cultivation, and to blend both so cunningly together as to produce a beautiful and harmonious system of discipline, well fitted to ripen and bring to greatest perfection every power and faculty of body and mind.

The practices of the gymnasium may be traced backward to the remotest antiquity, and probably commenced among the warriors of the heroic ages, in the peaceful intervals occurring between expeditions, from the desire to amuse their leisure by mimic representations of more serious contests. At first, no doubt, the exercises, frequently performed in honor of the gods, were few and rude; but by the age of Homer, they had assumed an artificial and regular form, and comprehended nearly all such divisions of the art as prevailed in later times. Other views than those with which they were instituted, caused them to be kept up. When reflection awoke, it was perceived that in these amicable contests men acquired not only force and agility, a martial bearing, the confidence of strength, beauty, and lightness of form; but, along with them, that easy cheerfulness into which robust health naturally blossoms. In fact, so far were the legislators of Greece from designing by gymnastics to create, as Montesquieu supposes, a nation of mere athletes and combatants, that they expressly repudiate the idea, affirming that lightness, agility, a compactly knit frame, health, but chiefly a well poised and vigorous mind, were the object of this part of education. In order the better to attain this point, Plato in his republic ordains that boys be completed in their intellectual studies, which in his ideal state they were to be at the age of sixteen, before they entered the gymnasium, the exercises of which were to be the companious of simple music.

Gymnastics. Already in the Homeric age, gymnastics, though not as yet so named, constituted the principal object of education, and many branches of the art had even then been carried to a high degree of perfection. The passion for it descended unimpaired to the Spartans, whose polity, framed solely for the preservation of national independence and the acquisition of glory in war, inspired little fondness for mental pursuits, but left the youth chiefly to the influence of the gymnasia, which gradually created in them a temper of mind compounded of insensibility and ferocity, not unlike that of the North American Indians. This, however, they above all things prized; though, as has been justly observed, their exercises could in no sense be considered among the aids to intellectual cultivation.

At Athens they came later into vogue, though common in the age of Solon. When, however, this ardent and enthusiastic people commenced the study of gymnastics, admiring as they did strength and vigor of frame, when united with manly beauty, their plastic genius soon converted it into an art worthy to be enumerated am he studies of youth. In very early ages they imitated the Spartan custom of admitting even boys into the gymnasia. But this was soon abandoned, it being found more profitable first to instruct them in several of the branches of study above described, and a class of men called pædotribæ or gymnasts arose, who taught the gymnastic art privately, in subordination to their other studies, and were regarded as indispensable in the progress of education. These masters gave their instructions in the palæstræ, which generally formed a part of the gymnasia, though not always joined with those edifices, and to be carefully distinguished from them. It is not known with certainty at what age boys commenced their gymnastic exercises, though it appears probable that it was not until their grammatical and musical studies were completed, that is somewhere, perhaps, as Plato counsels, about the age of sixteen. For it was not judged advisable to engage them in too many studies at once, since in bodies not yet endowed with all their strength, over exertion was considered injurious.

The Gymnasia. The gymnasia were spacious edifices, surrounded by gardens and a sacred grove. The first entrance was by a square court, two stadia in circumference, encompassed with porticoes and buildings. On three of its sides were large halls, provided with seats, in which philosophers, rhetoricians, and sophists assembled their disciples. On the fourth were rooms for bathing and other practices of the gymnasium. The portico facing the south was double, to prevent the winter rains, driven by the winds, from penetrating into the interior. From this court you passed into an inclosure, likewise square, shaded in the middle by plane-trees. A range of colonnades extended round three of the sides. That which fronted the north had a double row of columns, to shelter those who walked there in summer from the sun. The opposite piazza was called Xystos, in the middle of which, and through its whole length, they contrived a sort of pathway, about twelve feet wide and nearly two deep, where sheltered from the weather, and separated from the spectators ranged along the sides, the yourg scholars exercised themselves in wrestling. Beyond the Xystos was a stadium for foot-races.

The principal parts of the gymnasium were, --Ist, the porticoes, furnished with seats and side buildings, where the youths met to converse. 2. The Ephebeion, that part of the edifice where the youth alone exercised. 3. The A podyterion, or undressing-room. 4. The Konisterion, or small court, in which was kept the haphe, or yellow kind of sand sprinkled by the wrestlers over their bodies after being anointed with the ceroma, or oil tempered with wax. An important part of the baggage of Alexander in his Indian expedition consisted of this fine sand for the gymnasium. 6. The Palæstra, when considered as part of the gymnasium, was simply the place set apart for wrestling: the whole of its area was covered with a deep stratum of mud. 6. The Sphæristerion,—that part of the gymnasium in which they played at ball. 7. Aleipterion or Elaiothesion, that part of the palæstra where the wrestlers anointed themselves with oil. 8. The area: the great court, and certain spaces in the porticoes, were used for running, leaping, or pitching the quoit. 9. The Xystoi have been described above. 10. The Xysta were open walks in which, during fine weather, the youths exercised themselves in running or any other guitable recreation. 11. The Balaneis or baths, where, in numerous basins, was water of variousítegrees of temperature, in which the young men bathed before apointing themes, or after their ex. ercises. 12. Behind the Xystos, and running parallel with it, lay the stadium, which, as its name implies, was usually the eighth part of a mile in length. It resembled the section of a cylinder, rounded at the ends. From the area below, where the runners performed their exercises, the sides, whether of green turf or marble, sloped upward to a considerable height, and were covered with seats, rising behind each other to the top for the accommodation of spectators.

Successive Exercises The first step in gymnastics was to accustom the youth to endure, naked, the fiercest rays of the sun and the cold of winter, to which they were exposed during their initiatory exercises. This is illustrated in a very lively manner by Lucian, where he introduces the Scythian Anacharsis anxious to escape from the scorching rays of noon to the shade of the plane-trees; while Solon, who had been educated according to the Hellenic system, stands without inconven. ience bareheaded in the sun. The step next in order was wrestling, always regarded as the principal among gymnastic contests, both from its superior utility and the great art and skill which the proper practice of it required. To the acquisition of excellence in this exercise, the palestra and the instructions of the pædotribæ were almost entirely devoted; while nearly every other branch of gymnastics was performed in the gymnasium. These, according to Lucian, were divided into two classes, one of which required for their performance a soft or muddy area, the other one of sand, or an arepa properly so called. In all these exercises, the youth were naked, and had their bodies anointed with oil.

Runners. The first or most simple exercise was the Dromos or Course, performed, as has been above observed in the area of the stadium, which, in order to present the greater difficulty to the racers, was deeply covered with soft and yielding sand. Still further to enhance the labor, the youth sometimes ran in armor, which admirably prepared them for the vicissitudes of war, for pursuit after victory, or the rapid movements of retreat. The high value which the Greeks set upon swiftness may be learned from the poems of Homer, where likewise are found the most graphic and brilliant descriptions of the several exercises. Some of these we shall here introduce from Pope's version, which in this part is peculiarly sustained and nervous. Speaking of the race between Oilean Ajax, Odysseus, and Antilochos, he says:

Ranged in a line the rendy racers stand,
Pelides points the barrier with his hand.
All start at once, Oileus led the race;
The next Ulysses, measuring pace with pace,
Behind him diligently close he sped,
As closely following as the mazy thread
The spindle follows, and displays the charms
or the fair spinster's breast and moving arms.
Graceful in motion, thus his foe he plies,
And treads each footstep ere the dust can rise ;
The glowing breath upon his shoulder plays,
Th' admiring Greeks loud acclamations raise,
To him they give their wishes, heart, and eyes,
And send their souls before him as he flies.
Now three times turned, in prospect of the goal,
The panting chief to Pallas lifts his soul ;
Assist, O Godders, (thus in thought he prayed,)
And present at his thought descends the maid;
Buoyed by her hea venly force he seems to swim,
And feels a pioion lifting every limb.

Next in the natural order, proceeding from the simplest to the most artificial
exercises, was leaping, in which the youth among the Greeks delighted to excel.
In the performance. of this exercise, they usually sprang from an artificial eleva-

« PreviousContinue »