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THE RISE OF HISTORICAL CRITICISMCHAPTER IHISTORICAL criticism nowhere occurs as an isolated fact in thecivilisation or literature of any people. It is part of thatcomplex working towards freedom which may be described as therevolt against authority. It is merely one facet of thatspeculative spirit of an innovation, which in the sphere of actionproduces democracy and revolution, and in that of thought is theparent of philosophy and physical science; and its importance as afactor of progress is based not so much on the results it attains,as on the tone of thought which it represents, and the method bywhich it works.Being thus the resultant of forces essentially revolutionary, it isnot to be found in the ancient world among the material despotismsof Asia or the stationary civilisation of Egypt. The claycylinders of Assyria and Babylon, the hieroglyphics of thepyramids, form not history but the material for history.The Chinese annals, ascending as they do to the barbarous forestlife of the nation, are marked with a soberness of judgment, afreedom from invention, which is almost unparalleled in thewritings of any people; but the protective spirit which is thecharacteristic of that people proved as fatal to their literatureas to their commerce. Free criticism is as unknown as free trade.While as regards the Hindus, their acute, analytical and logicalmind is directed rather to grammar, criticism and philosophy thanto history or chronology. Indeed, in history their imaginationseems to have run wild, legend and fact are so indissolubly mingledtogether that any attempt to separate them seems vain. If weexcept the identification of the Greek Sandracottus with the IndianChandragupta, we have really no clue by which we can test the truthof their writings or examine their method of investigation.It is among the Hellenic branch of the Indo-Germanic race thathistory proper is to be found, as well as the spirit of historicalcriticism; among that wonderful offshoot of the primitive Aryans,whom we call by the name of Greeks and to whom, as has been wellsaid, we owe all that moves in the world except the blind forces ofnature.For, from the day when they left the chill table-lands of Tibet andjourneyed, a nomad people, to AEgean shores, the characteristic oftheir nature has been the search for light, and the spirit ofhistorical criticism is part of that wonderful Aufklarung orillumination of the intellect which seems to have burst on theGreek race like a great flood of light about the sixth century B.C.
LESPRIT DUN SIECLE NE NAIT PAS ET NE MEURT PAS E JOUR FIXE, andthe first critic is perhaps as difficult to discover as the firstman. It is from democracy that the spirit of criticism borrows itsintolerance of dogmatic authority, from physical science thealluring analogies of law and order, from philosophy the conceptionof an essential unity underlying the complex manifestations ofphenomena. It appears first rather as a changed attitude of mindthan as a principle of research, and its earliest influences are tobe found in the sacred writings.For men begin to doubt in questions of religion first, and then inmatters of more secular interest; and as regards the nature of thespirit of historical criticism itself in its ultimate development,it is not confined merely to the empirical method of ascertainingwhether an event happened or not, but is concerned also with theinvestigation into the causes of events, the general relationswhich phenomena of life hold to one another, and in its ultimatedevelopment passes into the wider question of the philosophy ofhistory.Now, while the workings of historical criticism in these twospheres of sacred and uninspired history are essentiallymanifestations of the same spirit, yet their methods are sodifferent, the canons of evidence so entirely separate, and themotives in each case so unconnected, that it will be necessary fora clear estimation of the progress of Greek thought, that we shouldconsider these two questions entirely apart from one another. Ishall then in both cases take the succession of writers in theirchronological order as representing the rational order - not thatthe succession of time is always the succession of ideas, or thatdialectics moves ever in the straight line in which Hegel conceivesits advance. In Greek thought, as elsewhere, there are periods ofstagnation and apparent retrogression, yet their intellectualdevelopment, not merely in the question of historical criticism,but in their art, their poetry and their philosophy, seems soessentially normal, so free from all disturbing externalinfluences, so peculiarly rational, that in following in thefootsteps of time we shall really be progressing in the ordersanctioned by reason.CHAPTER IIAT an early period in their intellectual development the Greeksreached that critical point in the history of every civilisednation, when speculative invades the domain of revealed truth, whenthe spiritual ideas of the people can no longer be satisfied by thelower, material conceptions of their inspired writers, and when menfind it impossible to pour the new wine of free thought into theold bottles of a narrow and a trammelling creed.From their Aryan ancestors they had received the fatal legacy of amythology stained with immoral and monstrous stories which stroveto hide the rational order of nature in a chaos of miracles, and to
mar by imputed wickedness the perfection of Gods nature - a veryshirt of Nessos in which the Heracles of rationalism barely escapedannihilation. Now while undoubtedly the speculations of Thales,and the alluring analogies of law and order afforded by physicalscience, were most important forces in encouraging the rise of thespirit of scepticism, yet it was on its ethical side that the Greekmythology was chiefly open to attack.It is difficult to shake the popular belief in miracles, but no manwill admit sin and immorality as attributes of the Ideal heworships; so the first symptoms of a new order of thought are shownin the passionate outcries of Xenophanes and Heraclitos against theevil things said by Homer of the sons of God; and in the story toldof Pythagoras, how that he saw tortured in Hell the two foundersof Greek theology, we can recognise the rise of the Aufklarung asclearly as we see the Reformation foreshadowed in the INFERNO ofDante.Any honest belief, then, in the plain truth of these stories soonsuccumbed before the destructive effects of the A PRIORI ethicalcriticism of this school; but the orthodox party, as is its custom,found immediately a convenient shelter under the aegis of thedoctrine of metaphors and concealed meanings.To this allegorical school the tale of the fight around the wallsof Troy was a mystery, behind which, as behind a veil, were hiddencertain moral and physical truths. The contest between Athena andAres was that eternal contest between rational thought and thebrute force of ignorance; the arrows which rattled in the quiver ofthe Far Darter were no longer the instruments of vengeance shotfrom the golden bow of the child of God, but the common rays of thesun, which was itself nothing but a mere inert mass of burningmetal.Modern investigation, with the ruthlessness of Philistine analysis,has ultimately brought Helen of Troy down to a symbol of the dawn.There were Philistines among the Greeks also who saw in the [Greektext which cannot be reproduced] a mere metaphor for atmosphericpower.Now while this tendency to look for metaphors and hidden meaningsmust be ranked as one of the germs of historical criticism, yet itwas essentially unscientific. Its inherent weakness is clearlypointed out by Plato, who showed that while this theory will nodoubt explain many of the current legends, yet, if it is to beappealed to at all, it must be as a universal principle; a positionhe is by no means prepared to admit.Like many other great principles it suffered from its disciples,and furnished its own refutation when the web of Penelope wasanalysed into a metaphor of the rules of formal logic, the warprepresenting the premises, and the woof the conclusion.Rejecting, then, the allegorical interpretation of the sacredwritings as an essentially dangerous method, proving either toomuch or too little, Plato himself returns to the earlier mode ofattack, and re-writes history with a didactic purpose, laying down
certain ethical canons of historical criticism. God is good; Godis just; God is true; God is without the common passions of men.These are the tests to which we are to bring the stories of theGreek religion.God predestines no men to ruin, nor sends destruction on innocentcities; He never walks the earth in strange disguise, nor has tomourn for the death of any well-beloved son. Away with the tearsfor Sarpedon, the lying dream sent to Agamemnon, and the story ofthe broken covenant! (Plato, REPUBLIC, Book ii. 380; iii. 388,391.)Similar ethical canons are applied to the accounts of the heroes ofthe days of old, and by the same A PRIORI principles Achilles isrescued from the charges of avarice and insolence in a passagewhich may be recited as the earliest instance of that whitewashingof great men, as it has been called, which is so popular in ourown day, when Catiline and Clodius are represented as honest andfar-seeing politicians, when EINE EDLE UND GUTE NATUR is claimedfor Tiberius, and Nero is rescued from his heritage of infamy as anaccomplished DILETTANTE whose moral aberrations are more thanexcused by his exquisite artistic sense and charming tenor voice.But besides the allegorising principle of interpretation, and theethical reconstruction of history, there was a third theory, whichmay be called the semi-historical, and which goes by the name ofEuhemeros, though he was by no means the first to propound it.Appealing to a fictitious monument which he declared that he haddiscovered in the island of Panchaia, and which purported to be acolumn erected by Zeus, and detailing the incidents of his reign onearth, this shallow thinker attempted to show that the gods andheroes of ancient Greece were mere ordinary mortals, whoseachievements had been a good deal exaggerated and misrepresented,and that the proper canon of historical criticism as regards thetreatment of myths was to rationalise the incredible, and topresent the plausible residuum as actual truth.To him and his school, the centaurs, for instance, those mythicalsons of the storm, strange links between the lives of men andanimals, were merely some youths from the village of Nephele inThessaly, distinguished for their sporting tastes; the livingharvest of panoplied knights, which sprang so mystically from thedragons teeth, a body of mercenary troops supported by the profitson a successful speculation in ivory; and Actaeon, an ordinarymaster of hounds, who, living before the days of subscription, waseaten out of house and home by the expenses of his kennel.Now, that under the glamour of myth and legend some substratum ofhistorical fact may lie, is a proposition rendered extremelyprobable by the modern investigations into the workings of themythopoeic spirit in post-Christian times. Charlemagne and Roland,St. Francis and William Tell, are none the less real personagesbecause their histories are filled with much that is fictitious andincredible, but in all cases what is essentially necessary is someexternal corroboration, such as is afforded by the mention ofRoland and Roncesvalles in the chronicles of England, or (in the
sphere of Greek legend) by the excavations of Hissarlik. But torob a mythical narrative of its kernel of supernatural elements,and to present the dry husk thus obtained as historical fact, is,as has been well said, to mistake entirely the true method ofinvestigation and to identify plausibility with truth.And as regards the critical point urged by Palaiphatos, Strabo, andPolybius, that pure invention on Homers part is inconceivable, wemay without scruple allow it, for myths, like constitutions, growgradually, and are not formed in a day. But between a poetsdeliberate creation and historical accuracy there is a wide fieldof the mythopoeic faculty.This Euhemeristic theory was welcomed as an essentiallyphilosophical and critical method by the unscientific Romans, towhom it was introduced by the poet Ennius, that pioneer ofcosmopolitan Hellenicism, and it continued to characterise the toneof ancient thought on the question of the treatment of mythologytill the rise of Christianity, when it was turned by such writersas Augustine and Minucius Felix into a formidable weapon of attackon Paganism. It was then abandoned by all those who still bent theknee to Athena or to Zeus, and a general return, aided by thephilosophic mystics of Alexandria, to the allegorising principle ofinterpretation took place, as the only means of saving the deitiesof Olympus from the Titan assaults of the new Galilean God. Inwhat vain defence, the statue of Mary set in the heart of thePantheon can best tell us.Religions, however, may be absorbed, but they never are disproved,and the stories of the Greek mythology, spiritualised by thepurifying influence of Christianity, reappear in many of thesouthern parts of Europe in our own day. The old fable that theGreek gods took service with the new religion under assumed nameshas more truth in it than the many care to discover.Having now traced the progress of historical criticism in thespecial treatment of myth and legend, I shall proceed toinvestigate the form in which the same spirit manifested itself asregards what one may term secular history and secular historians.The field traversed will be found to be in some respects the same,but the mental attitude, the spirit, the motive of investigationare all changed.There were heroes before the son of Atreus and historians beforeHerodotus, yet the latter is rightly hailed as the father ofhistory, for in him we discover not merely the empirical connectionof cause and effect, but that constant reference to Laws, which isthe characteristic of the historian proper.For all history must be essentially universal; not in the sense ofcomprising all the synchronous events of the past time, but throughthe universality of the principles employed. And the greatconceptions which unify the work of Herodotus are such as evenmodern thought has not yet rejected. The immediate government ofthe world by God, the nemesis and punishment which sin and prideinvariably bring with them, the revealing of Gods purpose to Hispeople by signs and omens, by miracles and by prophecy; these are
to Herodotus the laws which govern the phenomena of history. He isessentially the type of supernatural historian; his eyes are everstrained to discern the Spirit of God moving over the face of thewaters of life; he is more concerned with final than with efficientcauses.Yet we can discern in him the rise of that HISTORIC SENSE which isthe rational antecedent of the science of historical criticism, the[Greek text which cannot be reproduced], to use the words of aGreek writer, as opposed to that which comes either [Greek textwhich cannot be reproduced].He has passed through the valley of faith and has caught a glimpseof the sunlit heights of Reason; but like all those who, whileaccepting the supernatural, yet attempt to apply the canons ofrationalism, he is essentially inconsistent. For the betterapprehension of the character of this historic sense in Herodotusit will be necessary to examine at some length the various forms ofcriticism in which it manifests itself.Such fabulous stories as that of the Phoenix, of the goat-footedmen, of the headless beings with eyes in their breasts, of the menwho slept six months in the year ([Greek text which cannot bereproduced]), of the wer-wolf of the Neuri, and the like, areentirely rejected by him as being opposed to the ordinaryexperience of life, and to those natural laws whose universalinfluence the early Greek physical philosophers had already madeknown to the world of thought. Other legends, such as the sucklingof Cyrus by a bitch, or the feather-rain of northern Europe, arerationalised and explained into a womans name and a fall of snow.The supernatural origin of the Scythian nation, from the union ofHercules and the monstrous Echidna, is set aside by him for themore probable account that they were a nomad tribe driven by theMassagetae from Asia; and he appeals to the local names of theircountry as proof of the fact that the Kimmerians were the originalpossessors.But in the case of Herodotus it will be more instructive to pass onfrom points like these to those questions of general probability,the true apprehension of which depends rather on a certain qualityof mind than on any possibility of formulated rules, questionswhich form no unimportant part of scientific history; for it mustbe remembered always that the canons of historical criticism areessentially different from those of judicial evidence, for theycannot, like the latter, be made plain to every ordinary mind, butappeal to a certain historical faculty founded on the experience oflife. Besides, the rules for the reception of evidence in courtsof law are purely stationary, while the science of historicalprobability is essentially progressive, and changes with theadvancing spirit of each age.Now, of all the speculative canons of historical criticism, none ismore important than that which rests on psychological probability.Arguing from his knowledge of human nature, Herodotus rejects thepresence of Helen within the walls of Troy. Had she been there, hesays, Priam and his kinsmen would never have been so mad ([Greek
text which cannot be reproduced]) as not to give her up, when theyand their children and their city were in such peril (ii. 118); andas regards the authority of Homer, some incidental passages in hispoem show that he knew of Helens sojourn in Egypt during thesiege, but selected the other story as being a more suitable motivefor an epic. Similarly he does not believe that the Alcmaeonidaefamily, a family who had always been the haters of tyranny ([Greektext which cannot be reproduced]), and to whom, even more than toHarmodios and Aristogeiton, Athens owed its liberty, would everhave been so treacherous as to hold up a shield after the battle ofMarathon as a signal for the Persian host to fall on the city. Ashield, he acknowledges, was held up, but it could not possiblyhave been done by such friends of liberty as the house of Alcmaeon;nor will he believe that a great king like Rhampsinitus would havesent his daughter [Greek text which cannot be reproduced].Elsewhere he argues from more general considerations ofprobability; a Greek courtesan like Rhodopis would hardly have beenrich enough to build a pyramid, and, besides, on chronologicalgrounds the story is impossible (ii. 134).In another passage (ii. 63), after giving an account of theforcible entry of the priests of Ares into the chapel of the godsmother, which seems to have been a sort of religious faction fightwhere sticks were freely used ([Greek text which cannot bereproduced]), I feel sure, he says, that many of them died fromgetting their heads broken, notwithstanding the assertions of theEgyptian priests to the contrary. There is also somethingcharmingly naive in the account he gives of the celebrated Greekswimmer who dived a distance of eighty stadia to give hiscountrymen warning of the Persian advance. If, however, he says,I may offer an opinion on the subject, I would say that he came ina boat.There is, of course, something a little trivial in some of theinstances I have quoted; but in a writer like Herodotus, who standson the borderland between faith and rationalism, one likes to noteeven the most minute instances of the rise of the critical andsceptical spirit of inquiry.How really strange, at base, it was with him may, I think, be shownby a reference to those passages where he applies rationalistictests to matters connected with religion. He nowhere, indeed,grapples with the moral and scientific difficulties of the GreekBible; and where he rejects as incredible the marvellousachievements of Hercules in Egypt, he does so on the expressgrounds that he had not yet been received among the gods, and sowas still subject to the ordinary conditions of mortal life ([Greektext which cannot be reproduced]).Even within these limits, however, his religious conscience seemsto have been troubled at such daring rationalism, and the passage(ii. 45) concludes with a pious hope that God will pardon him forhaving gone so far, the great rationalistic passage being, ofcourse, that in which he rejects the mythical account of thefoundation of Dodona. How can a dove speak with a human voice?he asks, and rationalises the bird into a foreign princess.
Similarly he seems more inclined to believe that the great storm atthe beginning of the Persian War ceased from ordinary atmosphericcauses, and not in consequence of the incantations of the MAGIANS.He calls Melampos, whom the majority of the Greeks looked on as aninspired prophet, a clever man who had acquired for himself theart of prophecy; and as regards the miracle told of the AEginetanstatues of the primeval deities of Damia and Auxesia, that theyfell on their knees when the sacrilegious Athenians strove to carrythem off, any one may believe it, he says, who likes, but as formyself, I place no credence in the tale.So much then for the rationalistic spirit of historical criticism,as far as it appears explicitly in the works of this great andphilosophic writer; but for an adequate appreciation of hisposition we must also note how conscious he was of the value ofdocumentary evidence, of the use of inscriptions, of the importanceof the poets as throwing light on manners and customs as well as onhistorical incidents. No writer of any age has more vividlyrecognised the fact that history is a matter of evidence, and thatit is as necessary for the historian to state his authority as itis to produce ones witnesses in a court of law.While, however, we can discern in Herodotus the rise of an historicsense, we must not blind ourselves to the large amount of instanceswhere he receives supernatural influences as part of the ordinaryforces of life. Compared to Thucydides, who succeeded him in thedevelopment of history, he appears almost like a mediaeval writermatched with a modern rationalist. For, contemporary though theywere, between these two authors there is an infinite chasm ofthought.The essential difference of their methods may be best illustratedfrom those passages where they treat of the same subject. Theexecution of the Spartan heralds, Nicolaos and Aneristos, duringthe Peloponnesian War is regarded by Herodotus as one of the mostsupernatural instances of the workings of nemesis and the wrath ofan outraged hero; while the lengthened siege and ultimate fall ofTroy was brought about by the avenging hand of God desiring tomanifest unto men the mighty penalties which always follow uponmighty sins. But Thucydides either sees not, or desires not tosee, in either of these events the finger of Providence, or thepunishment of wicked doers. The death of the heralds is merely anAthenian retaliation for similar outrages committed by the oppositeside; the long agony of the ten years siege is due merely to thewant of a good commissariat in the Greek army; while the fall ofthe city is the result of a united military attack consequent on agood supply of provisions.Now, it is to be observed that in this latter passage, as well aselsewhere, Thucydides is in no sense of the word a sceptic asregards his attitude towards the truth of these ancient legends.Agamemnon and Atreus, Theseus and Eurystheus, even Minos, aboutwhom Herodotus has some doubts, are to him as real personages asAlcibiades or Gylippus. The points in his historical criticism ofthe past are, first, his rejection of all extra-natural
interference, and, secondly, the attributing to these ancientheroes the motives and modes of thought of his own day. Thepresent was to him the key to the explanation of the past, as itwas to the prediction of the future.Now, as regards his attitude towards the supernatural he is at onewith modern science. We too know that, just as the primeval coal-beds reveal to us the traces of rain-drops and other atmosphericphenomena similar to those of our own day, so, in estimating thehistory of the past, the introduction of no force must be allowedwhose workings we cannot observe among the phenomena around us. Tolay down canons of ultra-historical credibility for the explanationof events which happen to have preceded us by a few thousand years,is as thoroughly unscientific as it is to intermingle preternaturalin geological theories.Whatever the canons of art may be, no difficulty in history is sogreat as to warrant the introduction of a spirit of spirit [Greektext which cannot be reproduced], in the sense of a violation ofthe laws of nature.Upon the other point, however, Thucydides falls into ananachronism. To refuse to allow the workings of chivalrous andself-denying motives among the knights of the Trojan crusade,because he saw none in the faction-loving Athenian of his own day,is to show an entire ignorance of the various characteristics ofhuman nature developing under different circumstances, and to denyto a primitive chieftain like Agamemnon that authority founded onopinion, to which we give the name of divine right, is to fall intoan historical error quite as gross as attributing to Atreus thecourting of the populace ([Greek text which cannot be reproduced])with a view to the Mycenean throne.The general method of historical criticism pursued by Thucydideshaving been thus indicated, it remains to proceed more into detailas regards those particular points where he claims for himself amore rational method of estimating evidence than either the publicor his predecessors possessed.So little pains, he remarks, do the vulgar take in theinvestigation of truth, satisfied with their preconceivedopinions, that the majority of the Greeks believe in a Pitanatecohort of the Spartan army and in a double vote being theprerogative of the Spartan kings, neither of which opinions has anyfoundation in fact. But the chief point on which he lays stress asevincing the uncritical way with which men receive legends, eventhe legends of their own country, is the entire baselessness ofthe common Athenian tradition in which Harmodios and Aristogeitonwere represented as the patriotic liberators of Athens from thePeisistratid tyranny. So far, he points out, from the love offreedom being their motive, both of them were influenced by merelypersonal considerations, Aristogeiton being jealous of Hipparchosattention to Harmodios, then a beautiful boy in the flower of Greekloveliness, while the latters indignation was aroused by an insultoffered to his sister by the prince.Their motives, then, were personal revenge, while the result of
their conspiracy served only to rivet more tightly the chains ofservitude which bound Athens to the Peisistratid house, forHipparchos, whom they killed, was only the tyrants youngerbrother, and not the tyrant himself.To prove his theory that Hippias was the elder, he appeals to theevidence afforded by a public inscription in which his name occursimmediately after that of his father, a point which he thinks showsthat he was the eldest, and so the heir. This view he furthercorroborates by another inscription, on the altar of Apollo, whichmentions the children of Hippias and not those of his brothers;for it was natural for the eldest to be married first; andbesides this, on the score of general probability he points outthat, had Hippias been the younger, he would not have so easilyobtained the tyranny on the death of Hipparchos.Now, what is important in Thucydides, as evinced in the treatmentof legend generally, is not the results he arrived at, but themethod by which he works. The first great rationalistic historian,he may be said to have paved the way for all those who followedafter him, though it must always be remembered that, while thetotal absence in his pages of all the mystical paraphernalia of thesupernatural theory of life is an advance in the progress ofrationalism, and an era in scientific history, whose importancecould never be over-estimated, yet we find along with it a totalabsence of any mention of those various social and economicalforces which form such important factors in the evolution of theworld, and to which Herodotus rightly gave great prominence in hisimmortal work. The history of Thucydides is essentially one-sidedand incomplete. The intricate details of sieges and battles,subjects with which the historian proper has really nothing to doexcept so far as they may throw light on the spirit of the age, wewould readily exchange for some notice of the condition of privatesociety in Athens, or the influence and position of women.There is an advance in the method of historical criticism; there isan advance in the conception and motive of history itself; for inThucydides we may discern that natural reaction against theintrusion of didactic and theological considerations into thesphere of the pure intellect, the spirit of which may be found inthe Euripidean treatment of tragedy and the later schools of art,as well as in the Platonic conception of science.History, no doubt, has splendid lessons for our instruction, justas all good art comes to us as the herald of the noblest truth.But, to set before either the painter or the historian theinculcation of moral lessons as an aim to be consciously pursued,is to miss entirely the true motive and characteristic both of artand history, which is in the one case the creation of beauty, inthe other the discovery of the laws of the evolution of progress:IL NE FAUT DEMANDER DE LART QUE LART, DU PASSE QUE LE PASSE.Herodotus wrote to illustrate the wonderful ways of Providence andthe nemesis that falls on sin, and his work is a good example ofthe truth that nothing can dispense with criticism so much as amoral aim. Thucydides has no creed to preach, no doctrine toprove. He analyses the results which follow inevitably from
certain antecedents, in order that on a recurrence of the samecrisis men may know how to act.His object was to discover the laws of the past so as to serve as alight to illumine the future. We must not confuse the recognitionof the utility of history with any ideas of a didactic aim. Twopoints more in Thucydides remain for our consideration: histreatment of the rise of Greek civilisation, and of the primitivecondition of Hellas, as well as the question how far can he be saidreally to have recognised the existence of laws regulating thecomplex phenomena of life.CHAPTER IIITHE investigation into the two great problems of the origin ofsociety and the philosophy of history occupies such an importantposition in the evolution of Greek thought that, to obtain anyclear view of the workings of the critical spirit, it will benecessary to trace at some length their rise and scientificdevelopment as evinced not merely in the works of historiansproper, but also in the philosophical treatises of Plato andAristotle. The important position which these two great thinkersoccupy in the progress of historical criticism can hardly be over-estimated. I do not mean merely as regards their treatment of theGreek Bible, and Platos endeavours to purge sacred history of itsimmorality by the application of ethical canons at the time whenAristotle was beginning to undermine the basis of miracles by hisscientific conception of law, but with reference to these two widerquestions of the rise of civil institutions and the philosophy ofhistory.And first, as regards the current theories of the primitivecondition of society, there was a wide divergence of opinion inHellenic society, just as there is now. For while the majority ofthe orthodox public, of whom Hesiod may be taken as therepresentative, looked back, as a great many of our own day stilldo, to a fabulous age of innocent happiness, a BELL ETE DELLAURO, where sin and death were unknown and men and women were likeGods, the foremost men of intellect such as Aristotle and Plato,AEschylus and many of the other poets (1) saw in primitive man afew small sparks of humanity preserved on the tops of mountainsafter some deluge, without an idea of cities, governments orlegislation, living the lives of wild beasts in sunless caves,their only law being the survival of the fittest.And this, too, was the opinion of Thucydides, whose ARCHAEOLOGIA asit is contains a most valuable disquisition on the early conditionof Hellas, which it will be necessary to examine at some length.Now, as regards the means employed generally by Thucydides for theelucidation of ancient history, I have already pointed out howthat, while acknowledging that it is the tendency of every poet toexaggerate, as it is of every chronicler to seek to be attractive
at the expense of truth; he yet assumes in the thoroughlyeuhemeristic way, that under the veil of myth and legend there doesyet exist a rational basis of fact discoverable by the method ofrejecting all supernatural interference as well as anyextraordinary motives influencing the actors. It is in completeaccordance with this spirit that he appeals, for instance, to theHomeric epithet of [Greek text which cannot be reproduced], asapplied to Corinth, as a proof of the early commercial prosperityof that city; to the fact of the generic name HELLENES notoccurring in the ILIAD as a corroboration of his theory of theessentially disunited character of the primitive Greek tribes; andhe argues from the line Oer many islands and all Argos ruled, asapplied to Agamemnon, that his forces must have been partiallynaval, for Agamemnons was a continental power, and he could nothave been master of any but the adjacent islands, and these wouldnot be many but through the possession of a fleet.Anticipating in some measure the comparative method of research, heargues from the fact of the more barbarous Greek tribes, such asthe AEtolians and Acarnanians, still carrying arms in his own day,that this custom was the case originally over the whole country.The fact, he says, that the people in these parts of Hellas arestill living in the old way points to a time when the same mode oflife was equally common to all. Similarly, in another passage, heshows how a corroboration of his theory of the respectablecharacter of piracy in ancient days is afforded by the honour withwhich some of the inhabitants of the continent still regard asuccessful marauder, as well as by the fact that the question,Are you a pirate? is a common feature of primitive society asshown in the poets; and finally, after observing how the old Greekcustom of wearing belts in gymnastic contests still survived amongthe more uncivilised Asiatic tribes, he observes that there aremany other points in which a likeness may be shown between the lifeof the primitive Hellenes and that of the barbarians to-day.As regards the evidence afforded by ancient remains, while adducingas a proof of the insecure character of early Greek society thefact of their cities (2) being always built at some distance fromthe sea, yet he is careful to warn us, and the caution ought to beborne in mind by all archaeologists, that we have no right toconclude from the scanty remains of any city that its legendarygreatness in primitive times was a mere exaggeration. We are notjustified, he says, in rejecting the tradition of the magnitudeof the Trojan armament, because Mycenae and the other towns of thatage seem to us small and insignificant. For, if Lacedaemon was tobecome desolate, any antiquarian judging merely from its ruinswould be inclined to regard the tale of the Spartan hegemony as anidle myth; for the city is a mere collection of villages after theold fashion of Hellas, and has none of those splendid publicbuildings and temples which characterise Athens, and whose remains,in the case of the latter city, would be so marvellous as to leadthe superficial observer into an exaggerated estimate of theAthenian power. Nothing can be more scientific than thearchaeological canons laid down, whose truth is strikinglyillustrated to any one who has compared the waste fields of theEurotas plain with the lordly monuments of the Athenian acropolis.(3)
On the other hand, Thucydides is quite conscious of the value ofthe positive evidence afforded by archaeological remains. Heappeals, for instance, to the character of the armour found in theDelian tombs and the peculiar mode of sepulture, as corroborationof his theory of the predominance of the Carian element among theprimitive islanders, and to the concentration of all the templeseither in the Acropolis, or in its immediate vicinity, to the nameof [Greek text which cannot be reproduced] by which it was stillknown, and to the extraordinary sanctity of the spring of waterthere, as proof that the primitive city was originally confined tothe citadel, and the district immediately beneath it (ii. 16). Andlastly, in the very opening of his history, anticipating one of themost scientific of modern methods, he points out how in earlystates of civilisation immense fertility of the soil tends tofavour the personal aggrandisement of individuals, and so to stopthe normal progress of the country through the rise of factions,that endless source of ruin; and also by the allurements it offersto a foreign invader, to necessitate a continual change ofpopulation, one immigration following on another. He exemplifieshis theory by pointing to the endless political revolutions thatcharacterised Arcadia, Thessaly and Boeotia, the three richestspots in Greece, as well as by the negative instance of theundisturbed state in primitive time of Attica, which was alwaysremarkable for the dryness and poverty of its soil.Now, while undoubtedly in these passages we may recognise the firstanticipation of many of the most modern principles of research, wemust remember how essentially limited is the range of theARCHAEOLOGIA, and how no theory at all is offered on the widerquestions of the general conditions of the rise and progress ofhumanity, a problem which is first scientifically discussed in theREPUBLIC of Plato.And at the outset it must be premised that, while the study ofprimitive man is an essentially inductive science, resting ratheron the accumulation of evidence than on speculation, among theGreeks it was prosecuted rather on deductive principles.Thucydides did, indeed, avail himself of the opportunities affordedby the unequal development of civilisation in his own day inGreece, and in the places I have pointed out seems to haveanticipated the comparative method. But we do not find laterwriters availing themselves of the wonderfully accurate andpicturesque accounts given by Herodotus of the customs of savagetribes. To take one instance, which bears a good deal on modernquestions, we find in the works of this great traveller the gradualand progressive steps in the development of the family life clearlymanifested in the mere gregarious herding together of theAgathyrsi, their primitive kinsmanship through women in common, andthe rise of a feeling of paternity from a state of polyandry. Thistribe stood at that time on that borderland between umbilicalrelationship and the family which has been such a difficult pointfor modern anthropologists to find.The ancient authors, however, are unanimous in insisting that thefamily is the ultimate unit of society, though, as I have said, aninductive study of primitive races, or even the accounts given of
them by Herodotus, would have shown them that the [Greek text whichcannot be reproduced] of a personal household, to use Platosexpression, is really a most complex notion appearing always in alate stage of civilisation, along with recognition of privateproperty and the rights of individualism.Philology also, which in the hands of modern investigators hasproved such a splendid instrument of research, was in ancient daysstudied on principles too unscientific to be of much use.Herodotus points out that the word ERIDANOS is essentially Greek incharacter, that consequently the river supposed to run round theworld is probably a mere Greek invention. His remarks, however, onlanguage generally, as in the case of PIROMIS and the ending of thePersian names, show on what unsound basis his knowledge of languagerested.In the BACCHAE of Euripides there is an extremely interestingpassage in which the immoral stories of the Greek mythology areaccounted for on the principle of that misunderstanding of wordsand metaphors to which modern science has given the name of adisease of language. In answer to the impious rationalism ofPentheus - a sort of modern Philistine - Teiresias, who may betermed the Max Muller of the Theban cycle, points out that thestory of Dionysus being inclosed in Zeus thigh really arose fromthe linguistic confusion between [Greek text which cannot bereproduced] and [Greek text which cannot be reproduced].On the whole, however - for I have quoted these two instances onlyto show the unscientific character of early philology - we may saythat this important instrument in recreating the history of thepast was not really used by the ancients as a means of historicalcriticism. Nor did the ancients employ that other method, used tosuch advantage in our own day, by which in the symbolism andformulas of an advanced civilisation we can detect the unconscioussurvival of ancient customs: for, whereas in the sham capture ofthe bride at a marriage feast, which was common in Wales till arecent time, we can discern the lingering reminiscence of thebarbarous habit of exogamy, the ancient writers saw only thedeliberate commemoration of an historical event.Aristotle does not tell us by what method he discovered that theGreeks used to buy their wives in primitive times, but, judging byhis general principles, it was probably through some legend or mython the subject which lasted to his own day, and not, as we woulddo, by arguing back from the marriage presents given to the brideand her relatives. (4)The origin of the common proverb worth so many beeves, in whichwe discern the unconscious survival of a purely pastoral state ofsociety before the use of metals was known, is ascribed by Plutarchto the fact of Theseus having coined money bearing a bulls head.Similarly, the Amathusian festival, in which a young man imitatedthe labours of a woman in travail, is regarded by him as a riteinstituted in Ariadnes honour, and the Carian adoration ofasparagus as a simple commemoration of the adventure of the nymphPerigune. In the first of these WE discern the beginning ofagnation and kinsmanship through the father, which still lingers in
the couvee of New Zealand tribes: while the second is a relic ofthe totem and fetish worship of plants.Now, in entire opposition to this modern inductive principle ofresearch stands the philosophic Plato, whose account of primitiveman is entirely speculative and deductive.The origin of society he ascribes to necessity, the mother of allinventions, and imagines that individual man began deliberately toherd together on account of the advantages of the principle ofdivision of labour and the rendering of mutual need.It must, however, be borne in mind that Platos object in thiswhole passage in the REPUBLIC was, perhaps, not so much to analysethe conditions of early society as to illustrate the importance ofthe division of labour, the shibboleth of his political economy, byshowing what a powerful factor it must have been in the mostprimitive as well as in the most complex states of society; just asin the LAWS he almost rewrites entirely the history of thePeloponnesus in order to prove the necessity of a balance of power.He surely, I mean, must have recognised himself how essentiallyincomplete his theory was in taking no account of the origin offamily life, the position and influence of women, and other socialquestions, as well as in disregarding those deeper motives ofreligion, which are such important factors in early civilisation,and whose influence Aristotle seems to have clearly apprehended,when he says that the aim of primitive society was not merely lifebut the higher life, and that in the origin of society utility isnot the sole motive, but that there is something spiritual in itif, at least, spiritual will bring out the meaning of thatcomplex expression [Greek text which cannot be reproduced].Otherwise, the whole account in the REPUBLIC of primitive man willalways remain as a warning against the intrusion of A PRIORIspeculations in the domain appropriate to induction.Now, Aristotles theory of the origin of society, like hisphilosophy of ethics, rests ultimately on the principle of finalcauses, not in the theological meaning of an aim or tendencyimposed from without, but in the scientific sense of functioncorresponding to organ. Nature maketh no thing in vain is thetext of Aristotle in this as in other inquiries. Man being theonly animal possessed of the power of rational speech is, heasserts, by nature intended to be social, more so than the bee orany other gregarious animal.He is [Greek text which cannot be reproduced], and the nationaltendency towards higher forms of perfection brings the armedsavage who used to sell his wife to the free independence of afree state, and to the [Greek text which cannot be reproduced],which was the test of true citizenship. The stages passed throughby humanity start with the family first as the ultimate unit.The conglomeration of families forms a village ruled by thatpatriarchal sway which is the oldest form of government in theworld, as is shown by the fact that all men count it to be theconstitution of heaven, and the villages are merged into the state,and here the progression stops.
For Aristotle, like all Greek thinkers, found his ideal within thewalls of the [Greek text which cannot be reproduced], yet perhapsin his remark that a united Greece would rule the world we maydiscern some anticipation of that federal union of free statesinto one consolidated empire which, more than the [Greek textwhich cannot be reproduced], is to our eyes the ultimately perfectpolity.How far Aristotle was justified in regarding the family as theultimate unit, with the materials afforded to him by Greekliterature, I have already noticed. Besides, Aristotle, I mayremark, had he reflected on the meaning of that Athenian law which,while prohibiting marriage with a uterine sister, permitted it witha sister-german, or on the common tradition in Athens that beforethe time of Cecrops children bore their mothers names, or on someof the Spartan regulations, could hardly have failed to see theuniversality of kinsmanship through women in early days, and thelate appearance of monandry. Yet, while he missed this point, incommon, it must be acknowledged, with many modern writers, such asSir Henry Maine, it is essentially as an explorer of inductiveinstances that we recognise his improvement on Plato. The treatise[Greek text which cannot be reproduced], did it remain to us in itsentirety, would have been one of the most valuable landmarks in theprogress of historical criticism, and the first scientific treatiseon the science of comparative politics.A few fragments still remain to us, in one of which we findAristotle appealing to the authority of an ancient inscription onthe Disk of Iphitus, one of the most celebrated Greekantiquities, to corroborate his theory of the Lycurgean revival ofthe Olympian festival; while his enormous research is evinced inthe elaborate explanation he gives of the historical origin ofproverbs such as [Greek text which cannot be reproduced], ofreligious songs like the [Greek text which cannot be reproduced] ofthe Botticean virgins, or the praises of love and war.And, finally, it is to be observed how much wider than Platos histheory of the origin of society is. They both rest on apsychological basis, but Aristotles recognition of the capacityfor progress and the tendency towards a higher life shows how muchdeeper his knowledge of human nature was.In imitation of these two philosophers, Polybius gives an accountof the origin of society in the opening to his philosophy ofhistory. Somewhat in the spirit of Plato, he imagines that afterone of the cyclic deluges which sweep off mankind at stated periodsand annihilate all pre-existing civilisation, the few survivingmembers of humanity coalesce for mutual protection, and, as in thecase with ordinary animals, the one most remarkable for physicalstrength is elected king. In a short time, owing to the workingsof sympathy and the desire of approbation, the moral qualitiesbegin to make their appearance, and intellectual instead of bodilyexcellence becomes the qualification for sovereignty.Other points, as the rise of law and the like, are dwelt on in asomewhat modern spirit, and although Polybius seems not to have
employed the inductive method of research in this question, orrather, I should say, of the hierarchical order of the rationalprogress of ideas in life, he is not far removed from what thelaborious investigations of modern travellers have given us.And, indeed, as regards the working of the speculative faculty inthe creation of history, it is in all respects marvellous how thatthe most truthful accounts of the passage from barbarism tocivilisation in ancient literature come from the works of poets.The elaborate researches of Mr. Tylor and Sir John Lubbock havedone little more than verify the theories put forward in thePROMETHEUS BOUND and the DE NATURA RERUM; yet neither AEschylus norLucretias followed in the modern path, but rather attained to truthby a certain almost mystic power of creative imagination, such aswe now seek to banish from science as a dangerous power, though toit science seems to owe many of its most splendid generalities. (5)Leaving then the question of the origin of society as treated bythe ancients, I shall now turn to the other and the more importantquestion of how far they may he said to have attained to what wecall the philosophy of history.Now at the outset we must note that, while the conceptions of lawand order have been universally received as the governingprinciples of the phenomena of nature in the sphere of physicalscience, yet their intrusion into the domain of history and thelife of man has always been met with a strong opposition, on theground of the incalculable nature of two great forces acting onhuman action, a certain causeless spontaneity which men call freewill, and the extra-natural interference which they attribute as aconstant attribute to God.Now, that there is a science of the apparently variable phenomenaof history is a conception which WE have perhaps only recentlybegun to appreciate; yet, like all other great thoughts, it seemsto have come to the Greek mind spontaneously, through a certainsplendour of imagination, in the morning tide of theircivilisation, before inductive research had armed them with theinstruments of verification. For I think it is possible to discernin some of the mystic speculations of the early Greek thinkers thatdesire to discover what is that invariable existence of whichthere are variable states, and to incorporate it in some oneformula of law which may serve to explain the differentmanifestations of all organic bodies, MAN INCLUDED, which is thegerm of the philosophy of history; the germ indeed of an idea ofwhich it is not too much to say that on it any kind of historicalcriticism, worthy of the name, must ultimately rest.For the very first requisite for any scientific conception ofhistory is the doctrine of uniform sequence: in other words, thatcertain events having happened, certain other events correspondingto them will happen also; that the past is the key of the future.Now at the birth of this great conception science, it is true,presided, yet religion it was which at the outset clothed it in itsown garb, and familiarised men with it by appealing to their heartsfirst and then to their intellects; knowing that at the beginning
of things it is through the moral nature, and not through theintellectual, that great truths are spread.So in Herodotus, who may be taken as a representative of theorthodox tone of thought, the idea of the uniform sequence of causeand effect appears under the theological aspect of Nemesis andProvidence, which is really the scientific conception of law, onlyit is viewed from an ETHICAL standpoint.Now in Thucydides the philosophy of history rests on theprobability, which the uniformity of human nature affords us, thatthe future will in the course of human things resemble the past, ifnot reproduce it. He appears to contemplate a recurrence of thephenomena of history as equally certain with a return of theepidemic of the Great Plague.Notwithstanding what German critics have written on the subject, wemust beware of regarding this conception as a mere reproduction ofthat cyclic theory of events which sees in the world nothing butthe regular rotation of Strophe and Antistrophe, in the eternalchoir of life and death.For, in his remarks on the excesses of the Corcyrean Revolution,Thucydides distinctly rests his idea of the recurrence of historyon the psychological grounds of the general sameness of mankind.The sufferings, he says, which revolution entailed upon thecities were many and terrible, such as have occurred and alwayswill occurs as long as human nature remains the same, though in aseverer or milder form, and varying in their symptoms according tothe variety of the particular cases.In peace and prosperity states and individuals have bettersentiments, because they are not confronted with imperiousnecessities; but war takes away the easy supply of mens wants, andso proves a hard taskmaster, which brings most mens characters toa level with their fortunes.CHAPTER IVIT is evident that here Thucydides is ready to admit the variety ofmanifestations which external causes bring about in their workingson the uniform character of the nature of man. Yet, after all issaid, these are perhaps but very general statements: the ordinaryeffects of peace and war are dwelt on, but there is no realanalysis of the immediate causes and general laws of the phenomenaof life, nor does Thucydides seem to recognise the truth that ifhumanity proceeds in circles, the circles are always widening.Perhaps we may say that with him the philosophy of history ispartly in the metaphysical stage, and see, in the progress of thisidea from Herodotus to Polybius, the exemplification of the ComtianLaw of the three stages of thought, the theological, the
metaphysical, and the scientific: for truly out of the vaguenessof theological mysticism this conception which we call thePhilosophy of History was raised to a scientific principle,according to which the past was explained and the future predictedby reference to general laws.Now, just as the earliest account of the nature of the progress ofhumanity is to be found in Plato, so in him we find the firstexplicit attempt to found a universal philosophy of history uponwide rational grounds. Having created an ideally perfect state,the philosopher proceeds to give an elaborate theory of the complexcauses which produce revolutions, of the moral effects of variousforms of government and education, of the rise of the criminalclasses and their connection with pauperism, and, in a word, tocreate history by the deductive method and to proceed from A PRIORIpsychological principles to discover the governing laws of theapparent chaos of political life.There have been many attempts since Plato to deduce from a singlephilosophical principle all the phenomena which experiencesubsequently verifies for us. Fichte thought he could predict theworld-plan from the idea of universal time. Hegel dreamed he hadfound the key to the mysteries of life in the development offreedom, and Krause in the categories of being. But the onescientific basis on which the true philosophy of history must restis the complete knowledge of the laws of human nature in all itswants, its aspirations, its powers and its tendencies: and thisgreat truth, which Thucydides may be said in some measure to haveapprehended, was given to us first by Plato.Now, it cannot be accurately said of this philosopher that eitherhis philosophy or his history is entirely and simply A PRIORI. ONEST DE SON SIECLE MEME QUAND ON Y PROTESTE, and so we find in himcontinual references to the Spartan mode of life, the Pythagoreansystem, the general characteristics of Greek tyrannies and Greekdemocracies. For while, in his account of the method of forming anideal state, he says that the political artist is indeed to fix hisgaze on the sun of abstract truth in the heavens of the purereason, but is sometimes to turn to the realisation of the idealson earth: yet, after all, the general character of the Platonicmethod, which is what we are specially concerned with, isessentially deductive and A PRIORI. And he himself, in thebuilding up of his Nephelococcygia, certainly starts with a [Greektext which cannot be reproduced], making a clean sweep of allhistory and all experience; and it was essentially as an A PRIORItheorist that he is criticised by Aristotle, as we shall see later.To proceed to closer details regarding the actual scheme of thelaws of political revolutions as drawn out by Plato, we must firstnote that the primary cause of the decay of the ideal state is thegeneral principle, common to the vegetable and animal worlds aswell as to the world of history, that all created things are fatedto decay - a principle which, though expressed in the terms of amere metaphysical abstraction, is yet perhaps in its essencescientific. For we too must hold that a continuous redistributionof matter and motion is the inevitable result of the nominalpersistence of Force, and that perfect equilibrium is as impossible
in politics as it certainly is in physics.The secondary causes which mar the perfection of the Platonic cityof the sun are to be found in the intellectual decay of the raceconsequent on injudicious marriages and in the Philistine elevationof physical achievements over mental culture; while thehierarchical succession of Timocracy and Oligarchy, Democracy andTyranny, is dwelt on at great length and its causes analysed in avery dramatic and psychological manner, if not in that sanctionedby the actual order of history.And indeed it is apparent at first sight that the Platonicsuccession of states represents rather the succession of ideas inthe philosophic mind than any historical succession of time.Aristotle meets the whole simply by an appeal to facts. If thetheory of the periodic decay of all created things, he urges, bescientific, it must be universal, and so true of all the otherstates as well as of the ideal. Besides, a state usually changesinto its contrary and not to the form next to it; so the idealstate would not change into Timocracy; while Oligarchy, more oftenthan Tyranny, succeeds Democracy. Plato, besides, says nothing ofwhat a Tyranny would change to. According to the cycle theory itought to pass into the ideal state again, but as a fact one Tyrannyis changed into another as at Sicyon, or into a Democracy as atSyracuse, or into an Aristocracy as at Carthage. The example ofSicily, too, shows that an Oligarchy is often followed by aTyranny, as at Leontini and Gela. Besides, it is absurd torepresent greed as the chief motive of decay, or to talk of avariceas the root of Oligarchy, when in nearly all true oligarchiesmoney-making is forbidden by law. And finally the Platonic theoryneglects the different kinds of democracies and of tyrannies.Now nothing can be more important than this passage in AristotlesPOLITICS (v. 12.), which may he said to mark an era in theevolution of historical criticism. For there is nothing on whichAristotle insists so strongly as that the generalisations fromfacts ought to be added to the data of the A PRIORI method - aprinciple which we know to be true not merely of deductivespeculative politics but of physics also: for are not the residualphenomena of chemists a valuable source of improvement in theory?His own method is essentially historical though by no meansempirical. On the contrary, this far-seeing thinker, rightlystyled IL MAESTRO DI COLOR CHE SANNO, may be said to haveapprehended clearly that the true method is neither exclusivelyempirical nor exclusively speculative, but rather a union of bothin the process called Analysis or the Interpretation of Facts,which has been defined as the application to facts of such generalconceptions as may fix the important characteristics of thephenomena, and present them permanently in their true relations.He too was the first to point out, what even in our own day isincompletely appreciated, that nature, including the development ofman, is not full of incoherent episodes like a bad tragedy, thatinconsistency and anomaly are as impossible in the moral as theyare in the physical world, and that where the superficial observerthinks he sees a revolution the philosophical critic discerns
merely the gradual and rational evolution of the inevitable resultsof certain antecedents.And while admitting the necessity of a psychological basis for thephilosophy of history, he added to it the important truth that man,to be apprehended in his proper position in the universe as well asin his natural powers, must be studied from below in thehierarchical progression of higher function from the lower forms oflife. The important maxim, that to obtain a clear conception ofanything we must study it in its growth from the very beginning,is formally set down in the opening of the POLITICS, where, indeed,we shall find the other characteristic features of the modernEvolutionary theory, such as the Differentiation of Function andthe Survival of the Fittest explicitly set forth.What a valuable step this was in the improvement of the method ofhistorical criticism it is needless to point out. By it, one maysay, the true thread was given to guide ones steps through thebewildering labyrinth of facts. For history (to use terms withwhich Aristotle has made us familiar) may be looked at from twoessentially different standpoints; either as a work of art whose[Greek text which cannot be reproduced] or final cause is externalto it and imposed on it from without; or as an organism containingthe law of its own development in itself, and working out itsperfection merely by the fact of being what it is. Now, if weadopt the former, which we may style the theological view, we shallbe in continual danger of tripping into the pitfall of some APRIORI conclusion - that bourne from which, it has been truly said,no traveller ever returns.The latter is the only scientific theory and was apprehended in itsfulness by Aristotle, whose application of the inductive method tohistory, and whose employment of the evolutionary theory ofhumanity, show that he was conscious that the philosophy of historyis nothing separate from the facts of history but is contained inthem, and that the rational law of the complex phenomena of life,like the ideal in the world of thought, is to be reached throughthe facts, not superimposed on them - [Greek text which cannot bereproduced].And finally, in estimating the enormous debt which the science ofhistorical criticism owes to Aristotle, we must not pass over hisattitude towards those two great difficulties in the formation of aphilosophy of history on which I have touched above. I mean theassertion of extra-natural interference with the normal developmentof the world and of the incalculable influence exercised by thepower of free will.Now, as regards the former, he may be said to have neglected itentirely. The special acts of providence proceeding from Godsimmediate government of the world, which Herodotus saw as mightylandmarks in history, would have been to him essentially disturbingelements in that universal reign of law, the extent of whoselimitless empire he of all the great thinkers of antiquity was thefirst explicitly to recognise.Standing aloof from the popular religion as well as from the deeper
conceptions of Herodotus and the Tragic School, he no longerthought of God as of one with fair limbs and treacherous facehaunting wood and glade, nor would he see in him a jealous judgecontinually interfering in the worlds history to bring the wickedto punishment and the proud to a fall. God to him was theincarnation of the pure Intellect, a being whose activity was thecontemplation of his own perfection, one whom Philosophy mightimitate but whom prayers could never move, to the sublimeindifference of whose passionless wisdom what were the sons of men,their desires or their sins? While, as regards the otherdifficulty and the formation of a philosophy of history, theconflict of free will with general laws appears first in Greekthought in the usual theological form in which all great ideas seemto be cradled at their birth.It was such legends as those of OEdipus and Adrastus, exemplifyingthe struggles of individual humanity against the overpowering forceof circumstances and necessity, which gave to the early Greeksthose same lessons which we of modern days draw, in somewhat lessartistic fashion, from the study of statistics and the laws ofphysiology.In Aristotle, of course, there is no trace of supernaturalinfluence. The Furies, which drive their victim into sin first andthen punishment, are no longer viper-tressed goddesses with eyesand mouth aflame, but those evil thoughts which harbour within theimpure soul. In this, as in all other points, to arrive atAristotle is to reach the pure atmosphere of scientific and modernthought.But while he rejected pure necessitarianism in its crude form asessentially a REDUCTIO AD ABSURDUM of life, he was fully consciousof the fact that the will is not a mysterious and ultimate unit offorce beyond which we cannot go and whose special characteristic isinconsistency, but a certain creative attitude of the mind whichis, from the first, continually influenced by habits, education andcircumstance; so absolutely modifiable, in a word, that the goodand the bad man alike seem to lose the power of free will; for theone is morally unable to sin, the other physically incapacitatedfor reformation.And of the influence of climate and temperature in forming thenature of man (a conception perhaps pressed too far in modern dayswhen the race theory is supposed to be a sufficient explanationof the Hindoo, and the latitude and longitude of a country the bestguide to its morals(6)) Aristotle is completely unaware. I do notallude to such smaller points as the oligarchical tendencies of ahorse-breeding country and the democratic influence of theproximity of the sea (important though they are for theconsideration of Greek history), but rather to those wider views inthe seventh book of his POLITICS, where he attributes the happyunion in the Greek character of intellectual attainments with thespirit of progress to the temperate climate they enjoyed, andpoints out how the extreme cold of the north dulls the mentalfaculties of its inhabitants and renders them incapable of socialorganisation or extended empire; while to the enervating heat ofeastern countries was due that want of spirit and bravery which
then, as now, was the characteristic of the population in thatquarter of the globe.Thucydides has shown the causal connection between politicalrevolutions and the fertility of the soil, but goes a step fartherand points out the psychological influences on a peoples characterexercised by the various extremes of climate - in both cases thefirst appearance of a most valuable form of historical criticism.To the development of Dialectic, as to God, intervals of time areof no account. From Plato and Aristotle we pass direct toPolybius.The progress of thought from the philosopher of the Academe to theArcadian historian may be best illustrated by a comparison of themethod by which each of the three writers, whom I have selected asthe highest expression of the rationalism of his respective age,attained to his ideal state: for the latter conception may be in ameasure regarded as representing the most spiritual principle whichthey could discern in history.Now, Plato created his on A PRIORI principles; Aristotle formed hisby an analysis of existing constitutions; Polybius found hisrealised for him in the actual world of fact. Aristotle criticisedthe deductive speculations of Plato by means of inductive negativeinstances, but Polybius will not take the Cloud City of theREPUBLIC into account at all. He compares it to an athlete who hasnever run on Constitution Hill, to a statue so beautiful that itis entirely removed from the ordinary conditions of humanity, andconsequently from the canons of criticism.The Roman state had attained in his eyes, by means of the mutualcounteraction of three opposing forces, (7) that stable equilibriumin politics which was the ideal of all the theoretical writers ofantiquity. And in connection with this point it will be convenientto notice here how much truth there is contained in the accusationoften brought against the ancients that they knew nothing of theidea of Progress, for the meaning of many of their speculationswill be hidden from us if we do not try and comprehend first whattheir aim was, and secondly why it was so.Now, like all wide generalities, this statement is at leastinaccurate. The prayer of Platos ideal City - [Greek text whichcannot be reproduced], might be written as a text over the door ofthe last Temple to Humanity raised by the disciples of Fourier andSaint-Simon, but it is certainly true that their ideal principlewas order and permanence, not indefinite progress. For, settingaside the artistic prejudices which would have led the Greeks toreject this idea of unlimited improvement, we may note that themodern conception of progress rests partly on the new enthusiasmand worship of humanity, partly on the splendid hopes of materialimprovements in civilisation which applied science has held out tous, two influences from which ancient Greek thought seems to havebeen strangely free. For the Greeks marred the perfect humanism ofthe great men whom they worshipped, by imputing to them divinityand its supernatural powers; while their science was eminentlyspeculative and often almost mystic in its character, aiming at
culture and not utility, at higher spirituality and more intensereverence for law, rather than at the increased facilities oflocomotion and the cheap production of common things about whichour modern scientific school ceases not to boast. And lastly, andperhaps chiefly, we must remember that the plague spot of allGreek states, as one of their own writers has called it, was theterrible insecurity to life and property which resulted from thefactions and revolutions which ceased not to trouble Greece at alltimes, raising a spirit of fanaticism such as religion raised inthe middle ages of Europe.These considerations, then, will enable us to understand first howit was that, radical and unscrupulous reformers as the Greekpolitical theorists were, yet, their end once attained, no modernconservatives raised such outcry against the slightest innovation.Even acknowledged improvements in such things as the games ofchildren or the modes of music were regarded by them with feelingsof extreme apprehension as the herald of the DRAPEAU ROUGE ofreform. And secondly, it will show us how it was that Polybiusfound his ideal in the commonwealth of Rome, and Aristotle, likeMr. Bright, in the middle classes. Polybius, however, is notcontent merely with pointing out his ideal state, but enters atconsiderable length into the question of those general laws whoseconsideration forms the chief essential of the philosophy ofhistory.He starts by accepting the general principle that all things arefated to decay (which I noticed in the case of Plato), and that asiron produces rust and as wood breeds the animals that destroy it,so every state has in it the seeds of its own corruption. He isnot, however, content to rest there, but proceeds to deal with themore immediate causes of revolutions, which he says are twofold innature, either external or internal. Now, the former, depending asthey do on the synchronous conjunction of other events outside thesphere of scientific estimation, are from their very characterincalculable; but the latter, though assuming many forms, alwaysresult from the over-great preponderance of any single element tothe detriment of the others, the rational law lying at the base ofall varieties of political changes being that stability can resultonly from the statical equilibrium produced by the counteraction ofopposing parts, since the more simple a constitution is the more itis insecure. Plato had pointed out before how the extreme libertyof a democracy always resulted in despotism, but Polybius analysesthe law and shows the scientific principles on which it rests.The doctrine of the instability of pure constitutions forms animportant era in the philosophy of history. Its specialapplicability to the politics of our own day has been illustratedin the rise of the great Napoleon, when the French state had lostthose divisions of caste and prejudice, of landed aristocracy andmoneyed interest, institutions in which the vulgar see onlybarriers to Liberty but which are indeed the only possible defencesagainst the coming of that periodic Sirius of politics, the [Greektext which cannot be reproduced].There is a principle which Tocqueville never wearies of explaining,and which has been subsumed by Mr. Herbert Spencer under that
general law common to all organic bodies which we call theInstability of the Homogeneous. The various manifestations of thislaw, as shown in the normal, regular revolutions and evolutions ofthe different forms of government, (8) are expounded with greatclearness by Polybius, who claimed for his theory, in theThucydidean spirit, that it is a [Greek text which cannot bereproduced], not a mere [Greek text which cannot be reproduced],and that a knowledge of it will enable the impartial observer (9)to discover at any time what period of its constitutional evolutionany particular state has already reached and into what form it willbe next differentiated, though possibly the exact time of thechanges may be more or less uncertain. (10)Now in this necessarily incomplete account of the laws of politicalrevolutions as expounded by Polybius enough perhaps has been saidto show what is his true position in the rational development ofthe Idea which I have called the Philosophy of History, becauseit is the unifying of history. Seen darkly as it is through theglass of religion in the pages of Herodotus, more metaphysical thanscientific with Thucydides, Plato strove to seize it by the eagle-flight of speculation, to reach it with the eager grasp of a soulimpatient of those slower and surer inductive methods whichAristotle, in his trenchant criticism of his greater master, showedwere more brilliant than any vague theory, if the test ofbrilliancy is truth.What then is the position of Polybius? Does any new method remainfor him? Polybius was one of those many men who are born too lateto be original. To Thucydides belongs the honour of being thefirst in the history of Greek thought to discern the supreme calmof law and order underlying the fitful storms of life, and Platoand Aristotle each represents a great new principle. To Polybiusbelongs the office - how noble an office he made it his writingsshow - of making more explicit the ideas which were implicit in hispredecessors, of showing that they were of wider applicability andperhaps of deeper meaning than they had seemed before, of examiningwith more minuteness the laws which they had discovered, andfinally of pointing out more clearly than any one had done therange of science and the means it offered for analysing the presentand predicting what was to come. His office thus was to gather upwhat they had left, to give their principles new life by a widerapplication.Polybius ends this great diapason of Greek thought. When thePhilosophy of history appears next, as in Plutarchs tract on WhyGods anger is delayed, the pendulum of thought had swung back towhere it began. His theory was introduced to the Romans under thecultured style of Cicero, and was welcomed by them as thephilosophical panegyric of their state. The last notice of it inLatin literature is in the pages of Tacitus, who alludes to thestable polity formed out of these elements as a constitution easierto commend than to produce and in no case lasting. Yet Polybiushad seen the future with no uncertain eye, and had prophesied therise of the Empire from the unbalanced power of the ochlocracyfifty years and more before there was joy in the Julian householdover the birth of that boy who, born to power as the champion ofthe people, died wearing the purple of a king.
No attitude of historical criticism is more important than themeans by which the ancients attained to the philosophy of history.The principle of heredity can be exemplified in literature as wellas in organic life: Aristotle, Plato and Polybius are the linealancestors of Fichte and Hegel, of Vico and Cousin, of Montesquieuand Tocqueville.As my aim is not to give an account of historians but to point outthose great thinkers whose methods have furthered the advance ofthis spirit of historical criticism, I shall pass over thoseannalists and chroniclers who intervened between Thucydides andPolybius. Yet perhaps it may serve to throw new light on the realnature of this spirit and its intimate connection with all otherforms of advanced thought if I give some estimate of the characterand rise of those many influences prejudicial to the scientificstudy of history which cause such a wide gap between these twohistorians.Foremost among these is the growing influence of rhetoric and theIsocratean school, which seems to have regarded history as an arenafor the display either of pathos or paradoxes, not a scientificinvestigation into laws.The new age is the age of style. The same spirit of exclusiveattention to form which made Euripides often, like Swinburne,prefer music to meaning and melody to morality, which gave to thelater Greek statues that refined effeminacy, that overstrainedgracefulness of attitude, was felt in the sphere of history. Therules laid down for historical composition are those relating tothe aesthetic value of digressions, the legality of employing morethan one metaphor in the same sentence, and the like; andhistorians are ranked not by their power of estimating evidence butby the goodness of the Greek they write.I must note also the important influence on literature exercised byAlexander the Great; for while his travels encouraged the moreaccurate research of geography, the very splendour of hisachievements seems to have brought history again into the sphere ofromance. The appearance of all great men in the world is followedinvariably by the rise of that mythopoeic spirit and that tendencyto look for the marvellous, which is so fatal to true historicalcriticism. An Alexander, a Napoleon, a Francis of Assisi and aMahomet are thought to be outside the limiting conditions ofrational law, just as comets were supposed to be not very long ago.While the founding of that city of Alexandria, in which Western andEastern thought met with such strange result to both, diverted thecritical tendencies of the Greek spirit into questions of grammar,philology and the like, the narrow, artificial atmosphere of thatUniversity town (as we may call it) was fatal to the development ofthat independent and speculative spirit of research which strikesout new methods of inquiry, of which historical criticism is one.The Alexandrines combined a great love of learning with anignorance of the true principles of research, an enthusiasticspirit for accumulating materials with a wonderful incapacity touse them. Not among the hot sands of Egypt, or the Sophists of
Athens, but from the very heart of Greece rises the man of geniuson whose influence in the evolution of the philosophy of history Ihave a short time ago dwelt. Born in the serene and pure air ofthe clear uplands of Arcadia, Polybius may be said to reproduce inhis work the character of the place which gave him birth. For, ofall the historians - I do not say of antiquity but of all time -none is more rationalistic than he, none more free from any beliefin the visions and omens, the monstrous legends, the grovellingsuperstitions and unmanly craving for the supernatural ([Greektext that cannot be reproduced](11)) which he himself is compelledto notice as the characteristics of some of the historians whopreceded him. Fortunate in the land which bore him, he was no lessblessed in the wondrous time of his birth. For, representing inhimself the spiritual supremacy of the Greek intellect and alliedin bonds of chivalrous friendship to the world-conqueror of hisday, he seems led as it were by the hand of Fate to comprehend,as has been said, more clearly than the Romans themselves thehistorical position of Rome, and to discern with greater insightthan all other men could those two great resultants of ancientcivilisation, the material empire of the city of the seven hills,and the intellectual sovereignty of Hellas.Before his own day, he says, (12) the events of the world wereunconnected and separate and the histories confined to particularcountries. Now, for the first time the universal empire of theRomans rendered a universal history possible. (13) This, then, isthe august motive of his work: to trace the gradual rise of thisItalian city from the day when the first legion crossed the narrowstrait of Messina and landed on the fertile fields of Sicily to thetime when Corinth in the East and Carthage in the West fell beforethe resistless wave of empire and the eagles of Rome passed on thewings of universal victory from Calpe and the Pillars of Herculesto Syria and the Nile. At the same time he recognised that thescheme of Romes empire was worked out under the aegis of Godswill. (14) For, as one of the Middle Age scribes most truly says,the [Greek text which cannot be reproduced] of Polybius is thatpower which we Christians call God; the second aim, as one may callit, of his history is to point out the rational and human andnatural causes which brought this result, distinguishing, as weshould say, between Gods mediate and immediate government of theworld.With any direct intervention of God in the normal development ofMan, he will have nothing to do: still less with any idea ofchance as a factor in the phenomena of life. Chance and miracles,he says, are mere expressions for our ignorance of rational causes.The spirit of rationalism which we recognised in Herodotus as avague uncertain attitude and which appears in Thucydides as aconsistent attitude of mind never argued about or even explained,is by Polybius analysed and formulated as the great instrument ofhistorical research.Herodotus, while believing on principle in the supernatural, yetwas sceptical at times. Thucydides simply ignored thesupernatural. He did not discuss it, but he annihilated it byexplaining history without it. Polybius enters at length into thewhole question and explains its origin and the method of treating