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are often reminded of them by the classic poets. But Homer would never have described the jousts which Achilles claimed for the memory and repose of Patroclus,-nor Virgil the gymnastic rites which Eneas offered to the shade of Anchises at Drepanum on the anniversary of his funeral, had they done violence to the sentiments or usages of the peoples for whom they wrote. Their art and taste would have precluded such a license. Low down as the æra of Alexander the Great, we find the existence of the custom. The dying conqueror alluding to it, and foreboding the quarrels that flowed from the strife to be his successor, said, “I anticipate a bloody competition at my funeral games."
He emulated the more cruel part of these observances by sacrificing innumerable victims to the Manes of Hephæstion, as the Phthian chief had immolated the Trojans on the pile of his friend. The magnificence of his own obsequies required a preparation of two years; and we learn from the grief of his mother Olympias that he should so long remain unburied, how general was the conviction that the peace of the soul depended upon the fact of early and befitting sepulture. The phrase employed concerning Polydorus,—"animamque sepulcro condimus,"* - we compose his soul in the grave,-carries the idea to the extreme importance of these offices. It is related of Socratest that, when President of the people, he refused his sanction to the sentence which condemned the nine captains to death for neglecting to pay the funeral rites to the dead, after the naval engagement at the Arginusian islands, only because it was impossible from the storm. Not merely was the troubled spirit of the uninterred supposed to wander a hundred years on the banks of Styx,—but it was imagined that vengeance was dear and due to the warrior still. Therefore, after the most sanguinary engagements, not a difficulty was felt in allowing a truce for each party to carry off its dead. How perfect are the pleadings of Priam for the body of Hector,-'Exlwg xsilcı axrans—and Achilles yields, and withal grants the supplicated twelve days for the mourning and the burial rites. It is only on the poetic conceit that he has become
+ Mem. Xen: lib. i.
Æneid : lib. iii.
a bird of song,-free as the air, and deathless as the elements, that Horace can resist his nature, though he rather betrays its instincts, when he deprecates,
“ Absint inani funere næniæ,
Mitte supervacuos honores."*
And then, too, often a savage immolation took place of the captives to the spectral host which, it was believed, still hovered round the scene. In the Ajax of Sophocles, the Atridæ refuse his body burial, until Teucrus and Ulysses overrule their relentless hate. We revolt at the sacrifice of the four youthful captives to the ghost of Pallas, the son of Evander, +—for which the poet is obliged to apologise, but which, if not very common, would never have been introduced at all, and least of all ascribed to his hero. Indeed, the farther we descend, the more appalling is the spectacle. The Roman gladiators seem to have their origin in this cruel institution. They were at first entirely compelled to their mutual butchery. Their name, bustiarii, marks that their frightful occupation was related to the burning pile of the dead. This tribute was not only presented at the more solemn funerals, the Indictiva,-but when wretches at last took up the mercenary business of this slaughter, even private persons exhibited them for the honour of their deceased friends. It became a universal opinion that the disembodied spirit was gratified by a libation of blood. Horace, in his third Satire of the second book, says, that if the heirs of Staberius had not engraved the sum he left them on his tomb, they were condemned to engage a hundred pairs of gladiators for the pleasure of the people,-an association which, it is equally clear, is of a mortuary character. In the Lex Tullia, made by Cicero when Consul, it is ordained that no one should exhibit shows of gladiators for two years before he stood candidate for office, unless it was devolved upon him by the Testament of a friend : a further proof how prolonged was the original design of these shows. The same orator, in his ninth Philippic, pleading for Lib. ii., Carm. 20.
+ Eneid : lib. X.
the funereal honours of his deceased friend Servius Sulpicius, who had died in discharging an embassy to Antony,-moves the Conscript Fathers to carry the resolution, to please to decree, “ Statuam pedestrem æneam in Rostris statui, circumque eam statuam locum ludis gladiatoribusque, liberos posterosque ejus quoquoversus pedes quinque habere.” And this inhumanity is the more flagrant, because, though many of the gladiators were as vile as their calling, yet there were those who groaned beneath its bondage. It was common to confine them previous to their combats, which says little to prove their readiness for the task. About four-score who, with other six hundred, were shut up to grace the triumph of Probus, overpowered their guards, filled the capital with alarm, cut their own passage through the crowds that thronged its streets, preferring to be mowed down by the soldiery to being the gazingstock and sport of the amphitheatre. Similar escapes were attempted at Præneste, and from the army of Otho, in the dreadful conflict of the two legions at the Po.* How natural are the care and daring of Antigone for the exposed remains of Eteocles ! How detestable, merciless as absurd, are the deliberate executions of conquered kings and princesses, scornfully directed by the unrelenting Victor, to complete his triumph through the Forum, and to solemnise his sacrifice in the Capitol !
In these enormities we discern the abuse of a custom which was intended to have an analogic meaning. The age of heroes soon became that of demigods. The games around their tumuli shadowed their might and dint. They were strictly, in the first instances, commemorative. Hence the remark of Pericles already quoted. But when the dead received their apotheosis, worship was added to commemoration. There was a tutelary to propitiate, and a power to adore. It passed from the character of a typic and laudatory festival to a more reverent and religious ceremony. It still swelled to a higher import. For the celebration of the demigod was felt to be derogatory from the honours required by the supernal deities. To them these institutes were soon primarily dedicated, while their
first patrons were to satisfy themselves with an inclusive and inferior homage. Scruples might be raised, dialectics might be argued, distinctions might be taken,—and some convenient reference to a dovrea and a halperc might ease every difficulty and still every doubt.
It will be my present duty, not to vindicate every thing belonging to the Olympic Games, but to narrate their history, and explain their intentions. And the preliminary statements will serve so far the matter of their defence as to extricate them from the supposition of encouraging the horrid guilt of human sacrifices, and the vindictive oblation of prisoners and gladiators (the latter either coerced or hireling) to the angry ghosts of armies and private citizens, -all of whom were imagined to pass away as angrily as Penelope's screaming suitors, or to break forth as indignantly as Turnus' exasperated shade.
This, however, only would be relevant if these Games can be proved Funereal. Of this there can be no doubt, whatever historical original we give to them. That of Iphitus and Lycurgus, will render them a series of actions descriptive of the labours and combats of Hercules, to whom Pausanias informs us the Eleans were enjoined to offer sacrifice. That of the Alcmenan Hercules, will explain them as expiatory tributes to the Eleans against whom, and their ungrateful king, he had warred, but whom he was afterwards desirous to appease. That of the Idean Hercules, though lost in legendary mystery, will unfold them as representations of fame and posthumous renown paid to his Sire of Crete, the Jupiter whom he had assisted against the Titans, had co-operated with against Saturn, and had probably laid in his grave: a grave which the shepherds of Ida, long after the days of Minos, were simple and honest enough to show. And this is the more intelligible, for one of the names of Jupiter is Palæstes; and fable at least records that Hercules was by some accounted impious for engaging in a good stand-up wrestling match with his father at the risk of parricide. We cannot but remember, also, that the Mythological Heaven of the heroes admitted the continuation of their
gymnastic delights. It was filled with mews, intersected with courses, or laid out in arenæ.
* Pars in gramineis exercent membra palæstris ;
Contendunt ludo, et fulvâ luctantur arenâ :
Quæ gratia currům
The subject of this Essay is very interesting, not unuseful, illustrative of the most wonderful people which ever existed, deciphering many peculiarities of their national temperament, opening a passage to the heart of their idolatry,—besides constituting a splendid observance which survived kings and kingdoms, and filled a notation of more than a thousand years. It is pertinent to historical letters, and classic studies : it can be made to pourtray and impress the course of each duty and the encounter of each ill !
If I may crave indulgence for any heaviness of the style, or any minuteness of the detail, in this discussion,-it should be recollected that accuracy is every thing in such questions : moreover,
claim credit for the utmost pains-taking and research in my power.
It will often be necessary to cite the opinions, allusions, and statements of Grecian and Latin authors: the greater part is mine own selection, while others, which were suggested to me, I have always attempted to verify. Knowing that Gilbert West was the chief modern writer on these Games, I forbore to examine him until my principal materials were collected : I then read him with much advantage, and some mortification, for I soon found that proofs and descriptions which were, until then, regarded by me as fortunate and hard-gained treasures, had been ascertained and seized by him before. I cheerfully, however, remit the reader to that author, that he may try the extent of my obligations to him.
Memorials are necessary to the civilization of a people : there must be annals and registers. This may be done by dif
• Æneid : lib. vi. lin. 642.