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the laws were merely local and arbitrary, nor did they generally agree in the same definition or distribution of justice; to remedy these evils he enlarged his capital, assembled the people from all parts, fixed them to a residence in Athens, and established general courts of law and justice, where all his subjects might resort to decide their properties, or compose their wrongs, by stated rules and insti. tutes, expounded and administered by judges competent to their vocation.
These are services beneficial to mankind, the actions of a patriot king and legislator, infinitely superior to the extermination of boars or bulls, the unravelling a labyrinth, or conflicting with a wrestler. One should have thought that the rambling spirit of Theseus might henceforward have subsided, and, if Hercules had not been upon earth, this would probably have been the case, and he would have descended to posterity one of the greatest characters in ancient history; but the expedition against the Amazons drew him out upon fresh and foolish adventures, and, though his friendship and his amours may have furnished pleasing tales and fables to Hesiod and others, the historian will do well to pass over this period of his life in silence and regret.
It suffices to relate that Menestheus took advantage of his absence, and established himself so firmly in power, that Theseus on his return finding it impossible to dispossess him of his usurped authority, retired to Scyros, and there either put a voluntary end to his life, or was destroyed by Lycomedes.
In the reign of Menestheus the famous siege of Troy, memorable to all ages, was undertaken by the joint forces of all the Grecian principalities: the combined fleets assembled at Athens, and took their final departure from that port: Agamemnon conducted a hundred ships from Mycenæ, Menelaus sixty from Sparta, and Menestheus joined with fifty: the latter excelled all the generals of Greece, Nestor only excepted, in military science for arranging and disposing troops in order of battle. Homer has left this testimony in his favour, and the authority is as indisputable as the record is immor. tal; the town was taken in the last year of Menestheus's life and reign; he died in the Island of Melos, and being one of the chiefs inclosed in the Trojan horse, had a leading share in the capture and destruction of that celebrated city.
No chief like thee, Menestheus, Greece could yield,
Th’extended wings of battle to display,
The expedition of the Greeks against Troy has supplied a subject to an heroic poem, which remains the wonder of all time and the unrivalled standard of the epic art. It must be owned no poet ever made a happier choice, for what could be more interesting to a Grecian reader, than the recital of an action founded in justice and terminated in success? The event itself was magnificent; a coalition of the Grecian states in vindication of an injured prince, who was one of their number. Had it recorded the expedition of one great monarch against another, it is easy to comprehend how much that brilliant variety of character, which now gives such dramatic lustre to the composition, would have lost by the nature of such a subject ; whereas the emulation of the rival leaders constitutes that compound action, that striking contrast and discrimination of character, which render the Iliad so peculiarly enchanting. The justice of the undertaking fortifies the poet with a moral, which secures the good opinion of his readers, and interests them cordially in his cause; it is so permanent a pledge for their good wishes, that it enables him to throw into the scale of the Trojans every episode of pity, every ornament of magnanimity and valour, which can beautify his poem, without the danger of creating false prejudices in behalf of the offenders; in short, we can mourn for Hector, and not regret the victory of Achilles.
If Homer found these incidents ready to his hands, their combination was supremely happy; if he created them, his invention was almost miraculous. The period at which he wrote was no less fortunate, being neither too remote to impair the interest of his subject, nor so near the time of the action as to confine his fancy to the limits of strict historical truth. So wonderful an assemblage of parts meet in this great work, that there is not a passion in the human breast but will find its ruling interest gratified by the perusal ; and it is so happily contrived, that the combination of those parts, mul. titudinous as they are, never violates the uniformity of design; the subject remains simple and entire; our ideas never stray from the main object of the poem, though they are continually carried out upon excursions through the regions of earth and heaven upon the strongest pinions of fancy. The manner in which Homer employs his deities, with the machinery that accompanies them, gives an amazing brilliancy to the picturesque and descriptive powers of the poem; the virtues, vices, prejudices, passions of those imaginary beings set them on a level with human nature so far as to give us an interest in their situations, which a juster representation of superior essences could not impart; while their immortality and power are engines in the poet's hand, whose inAuence is unlimited by the laws of Nature; these extraordinary personages, at the same time that they take a part very essential to the action of the drama, bring about the incidents by those sudden and supernatural means, which mortal heroes of the most romantic sort could not so readily effect. This is an advantage on the part of a Heathen poet, for which the Christian writer has no substitute; for those moderns, who, in order to create surprise, have invented capricious beings to produce extravagant events above the reach of human powers, and below the dignity of divine, violate our reason, whilst they struggle to amuse our fancy; but the Pagan theorist can find a deity for every purpose, without giving scandal to the believer, or revolting the philosopher.
Amongst the numberless excellences of the Iliad, there is none more to be admired than the correct precision with which Homer draws his characters, and preserves them uniformly through the poem; an excellence, in which Virgil and the Roman poets in general are greatly his inferiors : with Homer's heroes we have more than historical acquaintance, we are made intimate with their habits and manners, and whenever he withdraws them for a time, we are certain upon the next meeting to recognize and acknowledge the same characteristic traces that separate each individual so decidedly from all others. -But it is time to return to our history.
After the death of Menestheus the crown of Athens returned into the family of Theseus, and Demophoon his son, who also was present at the siege of Troy, succeeded to his inheritance: Oxynthes, Aphidas, and Thymetes reigned in succession after Demophoon, and the line of the Erichthidæ expired in the person of Thymætes. This was a remarkable revolution, for that family had possessed the throne of Athens for a period of four hundred and twenty-nine years. The monarchy, properly so called, was now drawing to its conclusion; Melanthus, who succeeded to Thymctes, was a Messenian and a descendant from Neleus; he had been expelled from Messene by the Heraclidæ, and had taken refuge in the Athenian state ; he obtained the crown by very honourable means ; Thymætes, being challenged to single combat by Xanthus, King of Bæotia, declined the challenge; Melanthus accepted it in his stead, slew Xanthus, and obtained the crown of Athens in reward for his success : at his death it devolved to his son Codrus. The manner in which this prince devoted himself to death for his country scarce needs a recital; but it is not generally known that Codrus was in advanced when this event took place, and, moreover, that the Athenians urged him to the deed upon the report of Cleomantis, a citizen of Delphi, who made them acquainted with the answer of the oracle touching the conditions on which victory was to be obtained. The Athenians, having prevailed with Codrus to embrace the fatal conditions of their deliverance, sacrificed their aged monarch, and, impressed with the persuasion that Apollo would verify his prediction, fought and overcame their enemy.
Codrus being dead, the government of Athens underwent a material revolution; for the popular party pretending a respect to his memory, put forward a decree prohibiting any other person to reign in Athens by the title of King; the change, however, for the present was more nominal than essential, for