The Spartan Tradition in European Thought

By Elizabeth Rawson | Go to book overview

II
KINGS AND EPHORS

OUTSIDE Italy the issues were different. Men were mostly faced, not with the choice between despotism or a republic, but with settling the precise amount of power to be wielded either, in the newly centralized monarchies, by the king or, in the Empire, by the emperor over the princes or the princes over the cities. Furthermore, the Reformation exacerbated the old question of relations between Church and ruler and introduced the possibility of a difference of faith between ruler and subject. Must the Protestant obey his prince against his conscience or his Church? Was the Catholic justified in rebellion against a heretic?

Political discussion therefore turned largely on rights and duties, supremacy and allegiance; and it continued to be, or once more became, to a great extent theological as well as legal in outlook. But Greek history was now well known and provided evidence, authority, or ornament in varying measure. Sparta's significance of course continues to lie in her kings, limited by law and in particular by the power of the ephors. What is in origin little more than a casual comparison slides with some writers into a form of authorization; and at last becomes so regular as almost to constitute the veritable definition of the theory it indicates.

Luther finally advocated complete obedience to authority, which he regarded as of divine institution. Calvin also stressed the necessity of obedience, and if he intimated that where obedience to man involved disobedience to God its claim failed, he never permitted active resistance. Yet he was, unwittingly, the source of much anti-absolutist thought. He suggested in a famous passage of the Institutes that in those countries where special representatives of the people have been set up to protect its rights, these may even have a duty to check and control the chief magistrate. Such representatives had been the ephors in Sparta, the tribunes in Rome, the demarchs in Athens, and were, perhaps, in modern monarchies, the Orders or Estates.1

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1
J. Calvin, Institutes IV. 31.

-158-

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The Spartan Tradition in European Thought
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • FOREWORD TO PAPERBACK EDITION v
  • Preface vii
  • ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS viii
  • Contents ix
  • List of Plates x
  • I INTRODUCTION 1
  • 2 - The Growth of Laconism 12
  • 3 - The Fourth Century in Greece 33
  • 4 - Laconism in the West 56
  • 5 - Plato and Aristotle 61
  • 6 - Laconism in the Hellenistic Age 81
  • 7 - Laconism Exported 94
  • 8 - Under the Empire 107
  • 9 - The Middle Ages 116
  • 10 - Sparta Rediviva 130
  • II - Kings and Ephors 158
  • 12 - In Utopia and Among the Savages 170
  • 13 - The Revolutionary Period in England 186
  • 14 - Spartans on the Stage 202
  • France in the Eighteenth Century(i) 220
  • 16 - France in the Eighteenth Century (ii) 242
  • 7 - The French Revolution and Its Aftermath 268
  • 18 - Italy in the Eighteenth Century 301
  • 19 - Sparta in Germany 306
  • 20 - England: from the Whigs to the Liberals 344
  • APPENDIX NOTE ON THE UNITED STATES 368
  • INDEX OF NAMES 371
  • INDEX OF SUBJECTS 387
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