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never was an age or country in which so profligate a contempt of the nuptial band, or so much licence and infidelity were displayed, as, at this time, were openly indulged by both sexes at Rome ; and it might have been thought by a just observer of that period, that the whole order of society, and all the bonds of husband and wife, and parent and child, and all the kindred affinities which flow from those relationships as from their source, were about to be finally subverted and dissolved.

These vices speedily generated others. They who were reproached by the satirist for the unmasqued libertinism by which they disgraced their sex, completed the scandal of their name by a rage for public spectacles of the most execrable and appalling character. They contemplated with savage delight, the sanguinary and inbuman sports of the arena ; applauded the blow, with barbarous enthusiasm, by which the favourite gladiator terminated his contest; beheld, unmoved, his brave but less fortunate competitor writhing on the sand in the agonies of death; occasionally themselves engaged with savage fury in these execrable combats; and sometimes retired, amid the plaudits of a vile populace, stained with the blood of their defeated antagonists. In the temper thus displayed there is something almost more hideous than the bold and unabashed impurity in which they indulged; but we are not astonished that they who, women only in name, had sacrificed all the decency and delicacy of the sex, should be prepared for participating with inhuman joy in scenes of barbarity and blood *

* Endromidas Tyrias, et fæmineum ceroma

Quis nescit? Vel quis non vidit vulnera pali? Quem cavat assiduis sudibus, scutoque lacessit,

Thus were women degraded and vitiated in Greece and Italy, by the conspiring influences of law, of custom, and of popular opinion. They became wives, not to exercise the household charities, the wedded affections, the maternal tendernesses, the beautiful self-devotion, with which the sex seem almost instinctively inclined to lavish themselves on the little circle of the hearth; but to serve and to obey; to become stewards and economists for husbands who rewarded them with neglect; and to give citizens to the state, which degraded and oppressed them by the injustice of its institutions. We, accordingly, recognise in them the mere instruments of private convenience and public service; till, at length, throwing aside the restraints which tyranny had imposed on them, they no longer yielded to men the monopoly of crime. All manners became proportionally tainted. Society was deprived of its best bond of connexion, in being deprived of the essential graces of decency and decorum. The veil of reserve, as in Sparta *, was considered as an absurd or useless incumbrance; and the deformity of vice was doubled by the unblushing audacity and unfeeling insolence with which it was displayed.

Atque omnes implet numeros; dignissima prorsus.
Florali matrona tuba: nisi si quid in illo
Pectore plus agitat, veræque paratur arenæ.
Quem prestare potest mulier galeata pudorem
Quæ fugit a sexu, vires amat? Hæc tamen ipsa,
Vir nollet fieri.

Juvenal, Sat. vi. 1. 245. The whole Satire is but one continued record of female depravity.

* The young women of Sparta obtained through Greece the coarse but significant appellation of Phenomerides, from the open garments which they wore, as they did that of Andromaneis, from the licentiousness of their manners. Plutarch. Comp. of Lycurgus and Numa.

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The vices of the times were not solely those of the female sex. Men were equally corrupt. The proud attachment to their country, the love of glory, the spirit of high and illustrious achievement, which had once so much embellished their character, had gradually declined. They had no household at their heart, for they had no household affection, little respect for the mother of their children, little of that family attachment which converts home into an altar of peace and love. Politicians, sensualists, lovers of public spectacles, restless or intriguing citizens, they amply indulged in the privileges which they derived from the law of marriage, and private duty was as much forgotten as public virtue. The wife was rather an inmate in the house of her husband, than a partner of his welfare, or a promoter of his happiness. The bill of divorce was a ready instrument of caprice and wantonness. Family ties were dissolvable and dissolved in a moment, for the indulgence of any new and wayward passion. Beauty, fidelity, obedience, might no more avert the shame or calamity of repudiation, than deformity, profligacy, or ill temper. All conjugal virtues might be violated, and were violated, with impunity. There was nothing to stay the torrent, and it rolled on rapidly and widely. Profligacy grew into a fashion. Men of the highest station and name set the example. Wives were conveniently borrowed and lent. The dwelling of the courtezan was the scene of resort. Vices, to which it is painful even to allude, were every where practised without shame or punishment*.

Cicer. de Nat. Deor. lib. i. c. 28. Sene Ep. xcv. Pu. erorum infelicium greges, agmina exoletorum, per uationes coloresque descripta.

Neither law, nor reputation, nor religion, interfered ; and that which they should have denounced as the last of crimes, was 'tolerated or encouraged by the guilt of their silence.

The dramatic genius of Greece caught the contagion. The comic theatre exhibits nothing of that delicacy and elegance, which a mingled and polished society of the sexes might have communicated and diffused. We discover not, on the stage, a single character of a well-bred woman, that is, of one who, to virtue and intelligence, added dignity and refinement of manners. We seek in vain for the delineation of that universal passion whose innumerable varieties of tenderness and of gaiety, of whim and caprice, of sportiveness and fascination, of tears and smiles, it is the delight of modern comedy to exhibit. If females be introduced, it is generally for the purpose of broad satire and coarse burlesque; but men, business, politics, and ribaldry, principally engross the stage. The scene displays gymnasiums, and senates, and public assemblies, and courts of law, and the collisions of sophists and of philosophers; and the dialogue is quick, witty, antagonistic, and humorous, and maintained with a freedom and a licence which spared gods as little as it did men.

But the graces of life, the conversation measured yet easy, the elegant and polished intercourse, the politeness, delicate even in its retorts, and chaste even in its vivacity, are not to be found in the scenes of the ancient drama. The poet and his auditors were alike ignorant of the courtesies and the felicities of domestic intercourse, and of the refinement of that mingled association, in which the wit and gaiety of the two sexes are indulged with freedom, but restrained by decorum and by reserve. The comic stage, therefore, whatever might have been it merits, was utterly deficient in those attractions which would have become it best. No veil was thrown over the coarseness of its characters, because that very coarseness was necessary to popular entertainment. The humour is gross but poignant, the wit licentious but caustic, the allusion broad but ludicrous. The worst things are, sometimes, unceremoniously called by their worst names.

The meanest of the human appetites or wants, are perpetually brought forward to make sport for the multitude; and a familiar and a vulgar licence, which, among the better classes of modern times, would excite only disgust or contempt, was not merely permitted, but encouraged and enjoyed, by the gay, the versatile, and the accomplished Athenian.

There never was a people who devoted themselves with so much ardor to the comic theatre, as the people of Athens*. They made their escape from the tameness of female society, to laugh at the poignant wit, or the wanton ribaldry, of an Aristophanes. They delighted in the genius which, sometimes elegant and even sublime, could descend for their gratification, to merry and licentious dialogue, to devices of frolic, to coarse example, and to vulgar obloquy and abuse. Some Aristides, accordingly, or some

* There is a singular instance on record. When the account of the signal defeat sustained by Nicias in Sicily was brought to Athens, the people were assembled in the theatre. The intelligence was announced and heard with momentary sorrow. A few tears were shed ; but the benches were not deserted for an instant; the play was speedily continued ; and the multitude, forgetting the father, brother, or friend, whom they might have lost, gave themselves up again to the gaiety and good humour which the piece was calculated to excite. Athenæ. lib. ix. 407.

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