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DISASSOCIATION IN SOCRATES AND EURIPIDES
In the satires of Aristophanes the older ideals are seen in strong contrast to the new. Formerly men were of strong physique, and heroic in duty to the city-state in peace and war. Eschylus sang the love of country. The virtues were social in character, such as endurance in war, devotion to family, the giving of wealth to equip galleys for war. Heroes were men of action. Now, under the leadership of dramatists like Euripides and philosophers like Socrates, men think and do not act. The new virtues are individual in character, such as intellectual analysis and wit. Private wealth has taken the place of sacrifice in war; romantic love has superseded devotion to the family; discussion has taken the place of action. Men cultivate strong bodies for athletic display, not for service of the state. Instead of the symmetrically developed men of action, Aristophanes sees paunchy, puffing gentlemen sitting with Socrates, spinning out fine phrases and wrestling with fine-drawn quibbles.
In Plato's Apology Socrates states that he left the sphere of public life with its political parties, its demands of trained speech in the assembly, its military duties, because he could not have survived in public
life without sacrificing the fundamental principles of his teaching. He therefore dealt privately, he says, with individuals. Men do not want to examine themselves; they do not want to be continually under obligation to give an account of their lives.
This means that Socrates practically worked outside the official organization of the city-state. In the old days one could survive only through the state, but Socrates finds that to depart from the voice of conscience is worse than many deaths. No evil, he says, can happen to a good man. The soul in Socrates is bigger than the old city-state. He became the spokesman of an inner world which made itself independent of the foundations of the state. The city-state, by excluding Socrates, proved itself to be external to the newer inner life.
The moral supremacy of the reason speaking through Socrates brought to an end the external authority of the gods and the blood bond of the old ethnic morality. This was the greatest definite advance in the moral life of the race; it was the first great turning point in the evolution of human conduct. It was paralleled by Buddhism in India and the rise of the doctrine of individual responsibility in Deuteronomy, in Jeremiah, and in Ezekiel. A new moral order stood face to face with the old; the morality of kinship and custom was opposed to a newer ideal independent of birth, the morality of the "heart" and the will. When Solon, according to Plutarch, told Croesus that being fabulously wealthy was inferior to being loyal to one's place in society, being the father of good children, owning a competent estate, and dying
valiantly for one's country, he voiced the ideal of the old Greek morality. How different, on the other hand, is the ideal set forth in the speech of Alcibiades in Plato's Symposium in which we are told that Socrates ignored beauty, wealth, and honorable station, and made men care for the needs of their soul! Out of a background of philosophic criticism, political reformation, and the growth of a religion of personal experience, we see looming upon the horizon of history a new moral order, an order resting not on birth and "status" but on individual experience and achievement. The movement of enlightenment which culminated in the Socratic teaching did for the ethical thought of Greece what the teaching of the later prophets did for the moral development of Israel. It substituted will and reason for force and tradition; it brought the individual to self-consciousness; it disclosed the principles of objective morality within the individual's inner constitution and in this way replaced the older ethnic morality with a reflective morality as universal as the race itself. In the teaching of Socrates the old moral order was brought face to face with a new world. The Greek moral consciousness had outgrown its childhood of tradition and authority; it had reached the stage of racial adolescence. Blind obedience to a patriarchal family, a patrician city-state, a racial religion, was a thing of the past.
There is another great seer whose name Greek history has associated with that of Socrates; we refer to the great dramatist Euripides. In Eschylus the individual is thoroughly unified with the spirit of the state. The Greek soul, in the dramas of Eschylus, is at home
in the life of the city-state at its best. In Sophocles conflicts arise between the individual and the state. In Antigone, for example, the mind is torn with loyalties that are mutually antagonistic. The demands of the city-state conflict with the inner conscience of the individual. The inner conscience is declared to be higher than the voice of the state. In Euripides this struggle has been passed; the inner conscience is supremely independent of the old order of things. Euripides speaks of the delight of sitting alone and musing, which he calls a "deadly happiness." This quality in Euripides is responsible for his being called an individualist. Like Jeremiah he is given to introspection. He insists as did the Hebrew prophet on the distinction between the heart and outward deeds. In his Clouds Aristophanes states the case for Euripides by saying that Euripides taught the Athenians to think things through. Formerly folk were unsuspecting and religious in a conservative fashion. Each was "happy in his sheep-like way." Euripides taught not so much loyalty to the state as happiness and lofty friendship. During a pitiable crisis in his affairs the Hippolytus of Euripides exclaims:
Would I could stand and watch this thing, and see
And here is the essence of Euripides' teaching. The Greek mind in Euripides turns in on itself; it outgrows the old city-state. The soul of Euripides is too cosmopolitan, too individual, too universal, to be at home in the old order. How free and untrammeled
is the movement of the mind in the following words:1
Whoe'er can know
As the long days go,
That to live is happy, hath found his Heaven!
How different is this world from that of Eschylus! How far from the traditional Greek patriarchal family the sympathies of Euripides are may be seen in the fact that woman is spoken of in his lines as a deadly thing, as a "poison-flower"! In the old days to bring a second wife into the home was not only proper but for the sake of offspring might be a moral duty since each individual has his or her being only in and through the patriarchal family system. But Euripides has his Theseus assure his wife that no other woman shall take her place when she is dead. The Orphic idea of purity, of abstinence from the eating of flesh, finds a voice in Euripides.
Of course Euripides was called an individualist.
Sprang there from thy father's blood
Thy little soul all lonely?
exclaims the Nurse to Phædra who is helplessly struggling with the darts of Aphrodite! In other words, are your gods, she asks, other than those that rule in the common human breast? Full of thyself as ever, with no thought of them that gave thee birth, exclaims Theseus to his son Hippolytus. How different from the old days when golden speech was the medium of a glorious public consciousness are the words of Hip
'The quotations from Euripides are from Gilbert Murray's translation of the Baccha and the Hippolytus.