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Athenian cosmopolitanism.

At Athens this cosmopolitanism at least assumed its noblest form. It was there that the distinction between Greek and barbarian had taken its finest edge; and it was there that the first movement was made towards effacing it. The old Greek communal feeling, now no longer in sympathy with the State, found its new seat in the schools of the philosophers, in a republic of the cultivated and the thoughtful. They formed a polity apart, of which the franchise was possible for all who could prove kinship with the Hellenic spirit. Isokrates was the prophet, as Epameinondas and Timotheos were the practical exponents, of this new and more comprehensive Hellenism which is not of the blood but of the soul. ‘Athens,’ he says, ‘has so distanced the rest of the world in power of thought and speech that her disciples have become the teachers of all other men. She has brought it to pass that the name of Greek should be thought no longer a matter of race but a matter of intelligence; and should be given to the participators in our culture rather than to the sharers of our common origin1.’

But it was not only in this ideal sense that the sympathies of Isokrates were panhellenic: he was animated by a practical patriotism for the whole of Greece, a patriotism which was vividly affected by the miseries of the time and which burned with the hope of relieving them. The special evils springing

The three special evils of the time
from the general condition of Greece were mainly three. First;—after the Peloponnesian War the wealth of the community had ceased to grow, as population had ceased to grow about fifty years sooner. The rich went on accumulating; the poor, having no means of enriching themselves by enterprise, were for the most part occupied in watching for some chance of snatching from the rich a larger fraction of the stationary total. Secondly, the Greek desire of personal distinction was manifesting itself— since the breach between Society and the State—as the egotism of unprincipled ambition. Hence the traitors and reprobates who, as Demosthenes says, were positively admired2. Thirdly, swarms of ‘men without cities,’ paupers, political exiles, malefactors, were for ever moving over the face of Greece, ready to take military service with any one who would pay them. In 401 Cyrus had found it difficult to raise ten thousand mercenaries from all Greece. In 338 ten thousand mercenaries formed a single contingent at Chaeroneia3. In his Letter to Archidamos, Isokrates draws a fearful picture of the misery caused by these roving desperadoes, ‘who speak our language, but in character are barbarians. They slay, they banish, they plunder; children are outraged; women, whom none but kinsmen had ever seen even veiled, are stripped before all eyes4.’

1 Panegyr. § 50.

2 De Fals. Legat. § 265, οὐχ ὅπως ὠργίζοντο κολάζειν ἠξίουν τοὺς ταῦτα ποιοῦντας, ἀλλ᾽ ἀπέβλεπον, ἐζήλουν, ἐτίμων, ἄνδρας ἡγοῦντο.

3 Cp. Mr G. A. Simcox's Essay cited above, § 4, pp. lxxiii—lxxxiii.

4 Ep. IX § 10.

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  • Cross-references to this page (2):
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Selections from the Attic Orators, 4.167
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Selections from the Attic Orators, 4.185
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