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TIE COLLEGE SYSTEM AT ATHENS.
BY W. W. CAPES, M.A.
SOME scholars may be inclined to call in question the term which has been chosen for the heading of this chapter; may doubt if there was any thing at Athens which could answer to the college life of modern times. Indeed, it must be owned that formal history is nearly silent on the subject; that ancient writers take little notice of it; and such evidences as we have are drawn almost entirely from a series of inscriptions on the marble tablets, which were covered with the ruins and the dust of ages, till one after another came to light in recent days, to add fresh pages to the story of the past. Happily, they are both numerous and lengthy,
be already pieced together in an order which extends for centuries. They are known to Epigraphic students as the records which deal with the socalled Ephebi; with the youths, that is, just passing into manhood, for whom a special discipline was provided by the State, to fit them for the responsibilities of active life. It was a National system with a manysided training; the teachers were members of the Civil Service; the registers were public documents, and, as such, belonged to the Archives of the State. The earlier inscriptions of the series date from the period of Macedonian ascendency, but in much earlier times there had been forms of public drill prescribed for the Ephebi. It had been an ancient usage that the youths who had just entered on their nineteenth year should appear, in the presence of their kinsfolk and their neighbors, to have their names put on the Civic Roll, to be armed in public with a shield and spear, and to be then escorted to a temple where the solemn oath was taken of loyal service to their country and their gods. 'I swear,' so ran the words, 'not to bring disgrace upon these arms, nor to desert my comrade in the fight. I will do battle for the common weal, for the religion of my fathers. I will obey those who bear rule, and the laws which are in force, and all that the sovereign people shall decree.' The young champions so pledged were bound awhile to special forms of military duty; they were drafted into companies of National guards, and patrolled the country districts, or were posted in outlying forts in defensive service on the frontier, till their two years of probation had expired.
• University Life in Ancient Athens. By W. W. Capes, M.A., Reader in Ancient History in Oxford University. New York: Harper & Brothers. 1877.
Such were the forms which lasted on through the old days of inde. pendence, when every citizen must be a soldier, and the first claim which Athens made was that her children should defend her. But in the later days of Macedonian rule, when she enjoyed only a faint show of freedom, she no longer demanded as a rigbt the personal service of her sons, and soon changed, in the case of the Ephebi, the essential character of her educational routine.
1. The name did not henceforth include the whole rising manhood of the State. All who feared the loss of time or want of means, all who thought the drill too irksome, could stand aside when they reached the fitting age, and not enroll themselves in what was now a corps of Volun. teers. The poorer classes, as we may suppose, dropped out, and betook themselves at once to active life; only the well to do aspired to such a finish to a liberal training.
2. It served no longer as a' test of purity of birth or civic rights. We find from a decree, which, if genuine, dates even from the days of Pericles, that the young men of Cos were allowed by special favor to share the discipline of the Athenian Ephebi. Soon afterward others were admitted on all sides. The aliens who had gained a competence as merchants or as bankers found their sons welcomed in the ranks of the old. est families of Athens; strangers flocked thither from different countries, not only from the isles of Greece, and from the coasts of the Ægean, but as Hellenic culture made its way through the Far East, students even of Semitic race were glad to enroll their names upon the college registers, where we may still see them with the marks of their several nationalities affixed.
3. The young men were no longer, like soldiers upon actual service, beginning already the real work of life, and on that account, perhaps, the term was shortened from two years to one; but the old associations lasted on for ages, even in realistic Athens, which in early politics at least had made so clean a sweep. The outward forms were still preserved, the soldier's drill was still enforced, and, though many another feature had been added, the whole institution bore upon its face the look rather of a military college than of a training-school for a scholar or a statesman.
The college year began somewhat later than the opening of the civil year, and it was usual for all the students to matriculate together; that is, to enter formally their names upon the registers, which were copied afterward upon the marble tablets, of which large fragments have survived. That done, they were expected to take part, with their officers and tutors, in a religious ceremonial held in the Guildhall of the city, which even in its name reminds us of our stated services at the opening of Term.
For the Athenian government laid special stress upon religious influence in education ; they insisted that the young men should be trained to reverence the guardian powers of the State. The documents before us.emphasize the hope that they would grow to orderly and pious man. hood; and, with all their large tolerance of Non-conformist systems, the rulers had no scruple in prescribing the religion of the State. The creeds of-Paganism were too wide and too elastic to cause anxiety to any tender conscience, and the votaries of Syrian gods: could join without misgiving in the ritual of Hellenic worship. Even to the last days of the heathen world, Athens was the stronghold of religious feeling. Old associations, lingered round its venerable walls, and linked themselves to great historia names, as in our modern Oxford, till those even owned the glamour of. the ancient city, whose reason had rebelled, against its outworn dogmas. We may read, therefore, of a long round of special times, like the holy seasons and the saints' days of our modern calendars, wbich were all of interest to the young men at college, not as holidays from earnest work, but as days of ceremonial observance. At some they walked in military guise, like Hungarian students at the Stephansfest, marching through the strects of Pesth with their swords buckled to their sides; at some they moved in slow procession with their lighted torches, like an academic club of Germany; at other times they joined in a thanksgiving, service or State prayers for a victory won centuries before, like that of Marathon, engaging in mimic contests to revive the excitement of the past; while, in honor of the triumphs won upon the sea at Salamis, they raced over the waters, and made processions with their boats, as in later ages on the Isis or the Cam. Ia most of these, as on other State occasions, they wore the same official dress which distinguished them from all besides. "To put the gown on,' or, as we should say, 'to be a. gownsman,' was the phrase which stood for being a member of the college; and the gown, too, was of black, as commonly among ourselves.
But Philostratus tells us, by the way, that a change was made from black to wbite at the prompting of Herodes Atticus, the munificent and learned subject of the Antonines, who was for many years the presiding genius of the University of Athens. The fragment of an inseription lately found cariously confirms and sopplements the writer's statement. Herodes, it would seem, did not only introduce the more auspicious color, but defrayed himself the expenses of the charge, and is represented in the contemporary document as saying, 'While I am living you shall never want white robes.' Some may possibly remember the attempt made nearly twenty years ago to introduce a seemlier form of gown for use among the Commoners of Oxford; but no Herodes Oxoniensis volun, teered to meet the objection of expense, and so make the change easier for slender purses.
The members of the college are spoken of as 'friends' and 'messe mates;' and it is probable that some form of conventual life prevailed among them, without which the drill and supervision, which are constantly implied in the inscriptions, could scarcely have been enforced by the officials. But we know nothing of any public buildings for their use save the gymnasia, which in all Greek towns were the centers of educa
tional routine, and of which there were several well known at Athens. Drawing, as they did, their name from the bodily exercises for which they had been first provided, and serving in this respect for men as well ; as boys, they were used also for the culture of the mind. Public lecturers of every kind resorted to them, philosophy sought to gain a hearing in their halls, and rival systems even took their names from buildings such as these, where they catered for the intellect, while trainers a few yards off were drilling the body in the laws of healthy work. One such especially, the Diogeneum, served as a center of stirring college life. The president, who had the charge of it, is one of the officials often mentioned. Here probably they had a college library, as also certainly in another called the Ptolemæum. In such gymnasia a variety of trainers were employed to call out the physical powers in the full energy of of balanced life. Here the youths qualified themselves as marksmen in the use of the javelin and the bow, and a separate instructor was appointed in each case. Here, too, they were practiced in the drill which was to fit them for their grand parades, at which the public would look on, and the Chief Minister of State preside. Athletic sports of every kind found in such scenes a natural home. They were encouraged, almost prescribed in this case, by the government, which showed a lively interest in what was done. Here, too, the students fell into their ranks as volunteers, and marched out to form an escort for some distinguished stranger who fathored Athens with a risit. Or they formed themselves into a guard of honor, and kept order in the sittings of the National Assemblies, listening meantime to the course of the debates, and gaining betimes an insight into the business of public life, and a personal acquain. tance with the prominent statesmen of the day. But they had their livelier spectacles at times. They went to the theater to see the play together, and there they had, we read, their proper places kept for them in a sort of undergraduates' gallery.
They had their lectures also to attend, in their own gymnasia, or in other buildings of the kind; for they were not allowed to slight the chances of intellectual progress in the eager love of races, sports, and volunteering. Some sort of certificate of attendance at the courses was seemingly required.
But in this respect, at least, the college did not try to monopolize the education of its students. It had, indeed, its own tutors or instructors, but they were kept for humbler drill ; it did not even for a long time keep an organist or choir-master of its own; it sent its students out for teaching in philosophy and rhetoric and grammar, or, in a word, for all the larger and more liberal studies. Nor did it favor any special set of tenets to the exclusion of the rest. It encouraged impartially all the schools of higher thought. One document which we possess speaks approvingly of the young men's attendance in the lecture hall of a professor who expounded seemingly the Stoic system, but it goes on to note that they were present also at the courses given by Platonists and Aris
totelians alike. The context even would imply that they went together in a body, attended by their Head, and listened to the lectures of all the professors; or, as the inscriptions more than once record, of all the philosophers who taught their theories in public. The college had no fear, it seems, of critical inquiry and free thought, though it may, perhaps, bave overtasked the receptive powers of its students. One only of the great historic systems was ignored, perhaps as likely to be pushed too far by inexperienced minds to some extreme of dangerous license, or rank impatience of control. No mention is ever made of the theories of Epicurus, which were judged, probably, unfit for the youths who were still “in statu pupillari.' The appetite for knowledge thus excited could be ill satisfied with a few months of lectures ; but, though the discipline so far described lasted only for a year, there was nothing to prevent. them from carrying on their interest in high thought. As students unattached, they might linger for years round the same lecture halls, busy themselves with the same unsolved problems, and in their turn hold conferences on great occasions, or aspire to fill some public Chair of Morals or Philology.
The term, indeed, was far too short for such a multifarious training, which was at once gymnastic, martial, intellectual, and moral; but many even in those days were reluctant, it would seem, to postpone the active work of life in the interests of higher culture.
As it is, the names of the old families figure most upon the registers; for there were other forms of outlay, besides the expenditure of valuable time, to deter the less opulent of the middle classes. We read nothing indeed of college dues, or of the sums paid for battels by the students; and more than once the authorities are praised in the inscriptions for lowering, if not remitting altogether, certain charges. It is possible that the expense was partly met by a grant of public money, or by some form of endowment; and the mention that recurs of the sacrifices in the memory of past benefactors seems to point to this conclusion, while it reminds us of the Bidding Prayer in which we hear the names of the pious founders of old time. But of the accounts, which were to be audited each year in public by some officials of the State, it is most likely that the payments of the young men themselves formed an important item.
Nor did their expenses end with those for board or for tuition. Each must pay his quota to provide a hundred volumes yearly for the college library, which was stored, as we have seen, in a gymnasium. Their piety must be attested by liberal offerings to the Mother of the Gods and Dionysus, and sometimes, too, to other powers. Nor was it left to them to give at their free will ; but a decree is quoted which defined the amount to be expended, somewhat as a few years back at Oxford the chapel offertory was charged in college battels. Each generation left behind it year by year the pieces of gold and silver plate which, duly emblazoned doubtless with their names, were stored up—not in the college buttery, but in the treasury of some temple. Four costly goblets of the