Page:The Outline of History Vol 1.djvu/386

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of aims, realizing the inevitable tragedy of individual self-seeking, and feeling its way blindly towards some linking and subordinating idea to save it from the pains and accidents of mere individuality. The gods, the god-king, the idea of the tribe, the idea of the city; here are ideas that have claimed and held for a time the devotion of men, ideas in which they have a little lost their individual selfishness and escaped to the realization of a more enduring life. Yet, as our wars and disasters prove, none of these greater ideas have yet been great enough. The gods have failed to protect, the tribe has proved itself vile and cruel, the city ostracized one's best and truest friends, the god-king made a beast of himself....

As we read over the speculative literature of this great period of the Greeks, we realize three barriers set about the Greek mind, from which it rarely escaped, but from which we now perhaps are beginning to escape.

The first of these limitations was the obsession of the Greek mind by the idea of the city as the ultimate state. In a world in which empire had followed empire, each greater than its predecessor, in a world through which men and ideas drove ever more loosely and freely, in a world visibly unifying even then, the Greeks, because of their peculiar physical and political circumstances, were still dreaming impossibly of a compact little city state, impervious to outer influences, valiantly secure against the whole world. Plato's estimate of the number of citizens in a perfect state varied between 1000 (the Republic) and 5040 (the Laws) citizens.[1] This state was to go to war and hold its own against other cities of the same size. And this was not a couple of generations after the hosts of Xerxes had crossed the Hellespont!

  1. "For the proper administration of justice and for the distribution of authority it is necessary that the citizens be acquainted with each other's characters, so that, where this cannot be, much mischief ensues, both in the use of authority and in the administration of justice; for it is not just to decide arbitrarily, as must be the case with excessive population." Aristotle's Politics, quoted by Wheeler, who adds, "Aristotle comes to the conclusion that the natural 'limit to the size of the state must be found in the capability of being easily taken in at a glance.'" But Murray notes that the word Eusunopton means also "capable of being comprehended as a unity"—a very different and wider idea.