Atheism in Pagan Antiquity
by A. B. Drachmann
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A more radical standpoint than this as regards the gods of the popular faith is not found during the Hellenistic period except among the less noted schools, and in the beginning of the period. We have already mentioned such thinkers as Strato, Theodorus, and Stilpo; chronologically they belong to the Hellenistic Age, but in virtue of their connexion with the Socratic philosophy they were dealt with in the last chapter. A definite polemical attitude towards the popular faith is also a characteristic of the Cynic school, hence, though our information is very meagre, we must speak of it a little more fully.

The Cynics continued the tendency of Antisthenes, but the school comparatively soon lost its importance. After the third century we hear no more about the Cynics until they crop up again about the year A.D. 100. But in the fourth and third centuries the school had important representatives. The most famous is Diogenes; his life, to be sure, is entangled in such a web of legend that it is difficult to arrive at a true picture of his personality. Of his attitude towards popular belief we know one thing, that he did not take part in the worship of the gods. This was a general principle of the Cynics; their argument was that the gods were "in need of nothing" (cf. above, pp. 60 and 41). If we find him accused of atheism, in an anecdote of very doubtful value, it may, if there is anything in it, be due to his rejection of worship. Of one of his successors, however, Bion of Borysthenes, we have authentic information that he denied the existence of the gods, with the edifying legend attached that he was converted before his death. But we also hear of Bion that he was a disciple of the atheist Theodorus, and other facts go to suggest that Bion united Cynic and Hedonistic principles in his mode of life—a compromise that was not so unlikely as might be supposed. Bion's attitude cannot therefore be taken as typical of Cynicism. Another Cynic of about the same period (the beginning of the third century) was Menippus of Gadara (in northern Palestine). He wrote tales and dialogues in a mixture of prose and verse. The contents were satirical, the satire being directed against the contemporary philosophers and their doctrines, and against the popular notions of the gods. Menippus availed himself partly of the old criticism of mythology and partly of the philosophical attacks on the popular conception of the gods. The only novelty was the facetious form in which he concealed the sting of serious criticism. It is impossible to decide whether he positively denied the existence of the gods, but his satire on the popular notions and its success among his contemporaries at least testifies to the weakening of the popular faith among the educated classes. In Hellas itself he seems to have gone out of fashion very early; but the Romans took him up again; Varro and Seneca imitated him, and Lucian made his name famous again in the Greek world in the second century after Christ. It is chiefly due to Lucian that we can form an idea of Menippus's literary work, hence we shall return to Cynic satire in our chapter on the age of the Roman Empire.

During our survey of Greek philosophical thought in the Hellenistic period we have only met with a few cases of atheism in the strict sense, and they all occur about and immediately after 300, though there does not seem to be any internal connexion between them. About the same time there appeared a writer, outside the circle of philosophers, who is regularly listed among the atheoi, and who has given a name to a peculiar theory about the origin of the idea of the gods, namely, Euhemerus. He is said to have travelled extensively in the service of King Cassander of Macedonia. At any rate he published his theological views in the shape of a book of travel which was, however, wholly fiction. He relates how he came to an island, Panchaia, in the Indian Ocean, and in a temple there found a lengthy inscription in which Uranos, Kronos, Zeus and other gods recorded their exploits. The substance of the tale was that these gods had once been men, great kings and rulers, who had bestowed on their peoples all sorts of improvements in civilisation and had thus got themselves worshipped as gods. It appears from the accounts that Euhemerus supposed the heavenly bodies to be real and eternal gods—he thought that Uranos had first taught men to worship them; further, as his theory is generally understood, it must be assumed that in his opinion the other gods had ceased to exist as such after their death. This accords with the fact that Euhemerus was generally characterised as an atheist.

The theory that the gods were at first men was not originated by Euhemerus, though it takes its name (Euhemerism) from him. The theory had some support in the popular faith which recognised gods (Heracles, Asclepius) who had lived as men on earth; and the opinion which was fundamental to Greek religion, that the gods had come into existence, and had not existed from eternity, would favour this theory. Moreover, Euhemerus had had an immediate precursor in the slightly earlier Hecataeus of Abdera, who had set forth a similar theory, with the difference, however, that he took the view that all excellent men became real gods. But Euhemerus's theory appeared just at the right moment and fell on fertile soil. Alexander the Great and his successors had adopted the Oriental policy by which the ruler was worshipped as a god, and were supported in this by a tendency which had already made itself felt occasionally among the Greeks in the East. Euhemerus only inverted matters—if the rulers were gods, it was an obvious inference that the gods were rulers. No wonder that his theory gained a large following. Its great influence is seen from numerous similar attempts in the Hellenistic world. At Rome, in the second century, Ennius translated his works into Latin, and as late as the time of Augustus an author such as Diodorus, in his popular history of the world, served up Euhemerism as the best scientific explanation of the origin of religion. It is characteristic, too, that both Jews and Christians, in their attacks on Paganism, reckoned with Euhemerism as a well-established theory. As every one knows, it has survived to our day; Carlyle, I suppose, being its last prominent exponent.

It is characteristic of Euhemerism in its most radical form that it assumed that the gods of polytheism did not exist; so far it is atheism. But it is no less characteristic that it made the concession to popular belief that its gods had once existed. Hereby it takes its place, in spite of its greater radicalism, on the same plane with most other ancient theories about the origin of men's notions about the gods. The gods of popular belief could not survive in the light of ancient thought, which in its essence was free-thought, not tied down by dogmas. But the philosophers of old could not but believe that a psychological fact of such enormous dimensions as ancient polytheism must have something answering to it in the objective world. Ancient philosophy never got clear of this dilemma; hence Plato's open recognition of the absurdity; hence Aristotle's delight at being able to meet the popular faith half-way in his assumption of the divinity of the heavenly bodies; hence Xenocrates's demons, the allegories of the Stoics, the ideal Epicureans of Epicurus, Euhemerus's early benefactors of mankind. And we may say that the more the Greeks got to know of the world about them the more they were confirmed in their view, for in the varied multiplicity of polytheism they found the same principle everywhere, the same belief in a multitude of beings of a higher order than man.

Euhemerus's theory is no doubt the last serious attempt in the old pagan world to give an explanation of the popular faith which may be called genuine atheism. We will not, however, leave the Hellenistic period without casting a glance at some personalities about whom we have information enough to form an idea at first hand of their religious standpoint, and whose attitude towards popular belief at any rate comes very near to atheism pure and simple.

One of them is Polybius. In the above-cited passage referring to the decline of the popular faith in the Hellenistic period, Polybius also gives his own theory of the origin of men's notions regarding the gods. It is not new. It is the theory known from the Critias fragment, what may be called the political theory. In the fragment it appears as atheism pure and simple, and it seems obvious to understand it in the same way in Polybius. That he shows a leaning towards Euhemerism in another passage where he speaks about the origin of religious ideas, is in itself not against this—the two theories are closely related and might very well be combined. But we have a series of passages in which Polybius expressed himself in a way that seems quite irreconcilable with a purely atheistic standpoint. He expressly acknowledged divination and worship as justified; in several places he refers to disasters that have befallen individuals or a whole people as being sent by the gods, or even as a punishment for impiety; and towards the close of his work he actually, in marked contrast to the tone of its beginning, offers up a prayer to the gods to grant him a happy ending to his long life. It would seem as if Polybius at a certain period of his life came under the influence of Stoicism and in consequence greatly modified his earlier views. That these were of an atheistic character seems, however, beyond doubt, and that is the decisive point in this connexion.

Cicero's philosophical standpoint was that of an Academic, i.e. a Sceptic. But—in accord, for the rest, with the doctrines of the school just at this period—he employed his liberty as a Sceptic to favour such philosophical doctrines as seemed to him more reasonable than others, regardless of the school from which they were derived. In his philosophy of religion he was more especially a Stoic. He himself expressly insisted on this point of view in the closing words of his work on the Nature of the Gods. As he was not, and made no pretence of being, a philosopher, his philosophical expositions have no importance for us; they are throughout second-hand, mostly mere translations from Greek sources. That we have employed them in the foregoing pages to throw light on the theology of the earlier, more especially the Hellenistic, philosophy, goes without saying. But his personal religious standpoint is not without interest.

As orator and statesman Cicero took his stand wholly on the side of the established Roman religion, operating with the "immortal gods," with Jupiter Optimus Maximus, etc., at his convenience. In his works on the State and the Laws he adheres decidedly to the established religion. But all this is mere politics. Personally Cicero had no religion other than philosophy. Philosophy was his consolation in adversity, or he attempted to make it so, for the result was often indifferent; and he looked to philosophy to guide him in ethical questions. We never find any indication in his writings that the gods of popular belief meant anything to him in these respects. And what is more—he assumed this off-hand to be the standpoint of everybody else, and evidently he was justified. A great number of letters from him to his circle, and not a few from his friends and acquaintances to him, have been preserved; and in his philosophical writings he often introduces contemporary Romans as characters in the dialogue. But in all this literature there is never the faintest indication that a Roman of the better class entertained, or could even be supposed to entertain, an orthodox view with regard to the State religion. To Cicero and his circle the popular faith did not exist as an element of their personal religion.

Such a standpoint is of course, practically speaking, atheism, and in this sense atheism was widely spread among the higher classes of the Graeco-Roman society about the time of the birth of Christ. But from this to theoretical atheism there is still a good step. Cicero himself affords an amusing example of how easily people, who have apparently quite emancipated themselves from the official religion of their community, may backslide. When his beloved daughter Tullia died in the year 45 B.C., it became evident that Cicero, in the first violence of his grief, which was the more overwhelming because he was excluded from political activity during Caesar's dictatorship, could not console himself with philosophy alone. He wanted something more tangible to take hold on, and so he hit upon the idea of having Tullia exalted among the gods. He thought of building a temple and instituting a cult in her honour. He moved heaven and earth to arrange the matter, sought to buy ground in a prominent place in Rome, and was willing to make the greatest pecuniary sacrifices to get a conspicuous result. Nothing came of it all, however; Cicero's friends, who were to help him to put the matter through, were perhaps hardly so eager as he; time assuaged his own grief, and finally he contented himself with publishing a consolatory epistle written by himself, or, correctly speaking, translated from a famous Greek work and adapted to the occasion. So far he ended where he should, i.e. in philosophy; but the little incident is significant, not least because it shows what practical ends Euhemerism could be brought to serve and how doubtful was its atheistic character after all. For not only was the contemplated apotheosis of Tullia in itself a Euhemeristic idea, but Cicero also expressly defended it with Euhemeristic arguments, though speaking as if the departed who were worshipped as gods really had become gods.

The attitude of Cicero and his contemporaries towards popular belief was still the general attitude in the first days of the Empire. It was of no avail that Augustus re-established the decayed State cult in all its splendour and variety, or that the poets during his reign, when they wished to express themselves in harmony with the spirit of the new regime, directly or indirectly extolled the revived orthodoxy. Wherever we find personal religious feeling expressed by men of that time, in the Epistles of Horace, in Virgil's posthumous minor poems or in such passages in his greater works where he expresses his own ideals, it is philosophy that is predominant and the official religion ignored. Virgil was an Epicurean; Horace an Eclectic, now an Epicurean, then a Stoic; Augustus had a domestic philosopher. Ovid employed his genius in writing travesties of the old mythology while at the same time he composed a poem, serious for him, on the Roman cult; and when disaster befell him and he was cast out from the society of the capital, which was the breath of life to him, he was abandoned not only by men, but also by the gods—he had not even a philosophy with which to console himself. It is only in inferior writers such as Valerius Maximus, who wrote a work on great deeds—good and evil—under Tiberius, that we find a different spirit.

Direct utterances about men's relationship to the gods, from which conclusions can be drawn, are seldom met with during this period. The whole question was so remote from the thoughts of these people that they never mentioned it except when they assumed an orthodox air for political or aesthetic reasons. Still, here and there we come across something. One of the most significant pronouncements is that of Pliny the Elder, from whom we quoted the passage about the worship of Fortune. Pliny opens his scientific encyclopedia by explaining the structure of the universe in its broad features; this he does on the lines of the physics of the Stoics, hence he designates the universe as God. Next comes a survey of special theology. It is introduced as follows: "I therefore deem it a sign of human weakness to ask about the shape and form of God. Whoever God is, if any other god (than the universe) exists at all, and in whatever part of the world he is, he is all perception, all sight, all hearing, all soul, all reason, all self." The popular notions of the gods are then reviewed, in the most supercilious tone, and their absurdities pointed out. A polite bow is made to the worship of the Emperors and its motives, the rest is little but persiflage. Not even Providence, which was recognised by the Stoics, is acknowledged by Pliny. The conclusion is like the beginning: "To imperfect human nature it is a special consolation that God also is not omnipotent (he can neither put himself to death, even if he would, though he has given man that power and it is his choicest gift in this punishment which is life; nor can he give immortality to mortals or call the dead to life; nor can he bring it to pass that those who have lived have not lived, or that he who has held honourable offices did not hold them); and that he has no other power over the past than that of oblivion; and that (in order that we may also give a jesting proof of our partnership with God) he cannot bring it about that twice ten is not twenty, and more of the same sort—by all which the power of Nature is clearly revealed, and that it is this we call God."

An opinion like that expressed here must without doubt be designated as atheism, even though it is nothing but the Stoic pantheism logically carried out. As we have said before, we rarely meet it so directly expressed, but there can hardly be any doubt that even in the time of Pliny it was quite common in Rome. At this point, then, had the educated classes of the ancient world arrived under the influence of Hellenistic philosophy.


Though the foundation of the Empire in many ways inaugurated a new era for the antique world, it is, of course, impossible, in an inquiry which is not confined to political history in the narrowest sense of the word, to operate with anything but the loosest chronological divisions. Accordingly in the last chapter we had to include phenomena from the early days of the Empire in order not to separate things which naturally belonged together. From the point of view of religious history the dividing line cannot possibly be drawn at the Emperor Augustus, in spite of his restoration of worship and the orthodox reaction in the official Augustan poetry, but rather at about the beginning of the second century. The enthusiasm of the Augustan Age for the good old times was never much more than affectation. It quickly evaporated when the promised millennium was not forthcoming, and was replaced by a reserve which developed into cynicism—but, be it understood, in the upper circles of the capital only. In the empire at large the development took its natural tranquil course, unaffected by the manner in which the old Roman nobility was effacing itself; and this development did not tend towards atheism.

The reaction towards positive religious feeling, which becomes clearly manifest in the second century after Christ, though the preparation for it is undoubtedly of earlier date, is perhaps the most remarkable phenomenon in the religious history of antiquity. This is not the place to inquire into its causes, which still remain largely unexplained; there is even no reason to enter more closely into its outer manifestations, as the thing itself is doubted by nobody. It is sufficient to mention as instances authors like Suetonius, with his naive belief in miracles, and the rhetorician Aristides, with his Asclepius-cult and general sanctimoniousness; or a minor figure such as Aelian, who wrote whole books of a pronounced, nay even fanatical, devotionalism; or within the sphere of philosophy movements like Neo-Pythagoreanism and Neo-Platonism, both of which are as much in the nature of mystic theology as attempts at a scientific explanation of the universe. It is characteristic, too, that an essentially anti-religious school like that of the Epicureans actually dies out at this time. Under these conditions our task in this chapter must be to bring out the comparatively few and weak traces of other currents which still made themselves felt.

Of the earlier philosophical schools Stoicism flowered afresh in the second century; the Emperor Marcus Aurelius himself was a prominent adherent of the creed. This later Stoicism differs, however, somewhat from the earlier. It limits the scientific apparatus which the early Stoics had operated with to a minimum, and is almost exclusively concerned with practical ethics on a religious basis. Its religion is that of ordinary Stoicism: Pantheism and belief in Providence. But, on the whole, it takes up a more sympathetic attitude towards popular religion than early Stoicism had done. Of the bitter criticism of the absurdities of the worship of the gods and of mythology which is still to be met with as late as Seneca, nothing remains. On the contrary, participation in public worship is still enjoined as being a duty; nay, more: attacks on belief in the gods—in the plain popular sense of the word—are denounced as pernicious and reprehensible. Perhaps no clearer proof could be adduced of the revolution which had taken place in the attitude of the educated classes towards popular religion than this change of front on the part of Stoicism.

Contrary to this was the attitude of another school which was in vogue at the same time as the Stoic, namely, the Cynic. Between Cynicism and popular belief strained relations had existed since early times. It is true, the Cynics did not altogether deny the existence of the gods; but they rejected worship on the ground that the gods were not in need of anything, and they denied categorically the majority of the popular ideas about the gods. For the latter were, in fact, popular and traditional, and the whole aim of the Cynics was to antagonise the current estimate of values. A characteristic instance of their manner is provided by this very period in the fragments of the work of Oenomaus. The work was entitled The Swindlers Unmasked, and it contained a violent attack on oracles. Its tone is exceedingly pungent. In the extant fragments Oenomaus addresses the god in Delphi and overwhelms him with insults. But we are expressly told—and one utterance of Oenomaus himself verifies it—that the attack was not really directed against the god, but against the men who gave oracles in his name. In his opinion the whole thing was a priestly fraud—a view which otherwise was rather unfamiliar to the ancients, but played an important part later. Incidentally there is a violent attack on idolatry. The work is not without acuteness of thought and a certain coarse wit of the true Cynical kind; but it is entirely uncritical (oracles are used which are evidently inventions of later times) and of no great significance. It is even difficult to avoid the impression that the author's aim is in some degree to create a sensation. Cynics of that day were not strangers to that kind of thing. But it is at any rate a proof of the fact that there were at the time tendencies opposed to the religious reaction.

A more significant phenomenon of the same kind is to be found in the writings of Lucian. Lucian was by education a rhetorician, by profession an itinerant lecturer and essayist. At a certain stage of his life he became acquainted with the Cynic philosophy and for some time felt much attracted to it. From that he evidently acquired a sincere contempt of the vulgar superstition which flourished in his time, even in circles of which one might have expected something better. In writings which for the greater part belong to his later period, he pilloried individuals who traded (or seemed to trade) in the religious ferment of the time, as well as satirised superstition as such. In this way he made an important contribution to the spiritual history of the age. But simultaneously he produced, for the entertainment of his public, a series of writings the aim of which is to make fun of the Olympian gods. In this work also he leant on the literature of the Cynics, but substituted for their grave and biting satire light causeries or slight dramatic sketches, in which his wit—for Lucian was really witty—had full scope. As an instance of his manner I shall quote a short passage from the dialogue Timon. It is Zeus who speaks; he has given Hermes orders to send the god of wealth to Timon, who has wasted his fortune by his liberality and is now abandoned by his false friends. Then he goes on: "As to the flatterers you speak of and their ingratitude, I shall deal with them another time, and they will meet with their due punishment as soon as I have had my thunderbolt repaired. The two largest darts of it were broken and blunted the other day when I got in a rage and flung it at the sophist Anaxagoras, who was trying to make his disciples believe that we gods do not exist at all. However, I missed him, for Pericles held his hand over him, but the bolt struck the temple of the Dioscuri and set fire to it, and the bolt itself was nearly destroyed when it struck the rock." This sort of thing abounds in Lucian, even if it is not always equally amusing and to the point. Now there is nothing strange in the fact that a witty man for once should feel inclined to make game of the old mythology; this might have happened almost at any time, once the critical spirit had been awakened. But that a man, and moreover an essayist, who had to live by the approval of his public, should make it his trade, as it were, and that at a time of vigorous religious reaction, seems more difficult to account for. Lucian's controversial pamphlets against superstition cannot be classed off-hand with his Dialogues of the Gods; the latter are of a quite different and far more harmless character. The fact is rather that mythology at this time was fair game. It was cut off from its connexion with religion—a connexion which in historical times was never very intimate and was now entirely severed. This had been brought about in part by centuries of criticism of the most varied kind, in part precisely as a result of the religious reaction which had now set in. If people turned during this time to the old gods—who, however, had been considerably contaminated with new elements—it was because they had nothing else to turn to; but what they now looked for was something quite different from the old religion. The powerful tradition which had bound members of each small community—we should say, of each township—to its familiar gods, with all that belonged to them, was now in process of dissolution; in the larger cities of the world-empire with their mixed populations it had entirely disappeared. Religion was no longer primarily a concern of society; it was a personal matter. In the face of the enormous selection of gods which ancient paganism came gradually to proffer, the individual was free to choose, as individual or as a member of a communion based upon religious, not political, sympathy. Under these circumstances the existence of the gods and their power and will to help their worshippers was the only thing of interest; all the old tales about them were more than ever myths of no religious value. On closer inspection Lucian indeed proves to have exercised a certain selection in his satire. Gods like Asclepius and Serapis, who were popular in his day, he prefers to say nothing about; and even with a phenomenon like Christianity he deals cautiously; he sticks to the old Olympian gods. Thus his derision of these constitutes an indirect proof that they had gone out of vogue, and his forbearance on other points is a proof of the power of the current religion over contemporary minds. As to ascribing any deeper religious conviction to Lucian—were it even of a purely negative kind—that is, in view of the whole character of his work, out of the question. To be sure, his polemical pamphlets against superstition show clearly, like those of Oenomaus, that the religious reaction did not run its course without criticism from certain sides; but even here it is significant that the criticism comes from a professional jester and not from a serious religious thinker.

A few words remain to be said about the two monotheistic religions which in the days of the Roman Empire came to play a great, one of them indeed a decisive, part. I have already referred to pagan society's attitude towards Judaism and Christianity, and pointed out that the adherents of both were designated and treated as atheists—the Jews only occasionally and with certain reservations, the Christians nearly always and unconditionally. The question here is, how far this designation was justified according to the definition of atheism which is the basis of our inquiry.

In the preceding pages we have several times referred to the fact that the real enemy of Polytheism is not the philosophical theology, which generally tends more or less towards Pantheism, but Monotheism. It is in keeping with this that the Jews and the Christians in practice are downright deniers of the pagan gods: they would not worship them; whereas the Greek philosophers as a rule respected worship, however far they went in their criticism of men's ideas of the gods. We shall not dwell here on this aspect of the matter; we are concerned with the theory only. Detailed expositions of it occur in numerous writings, from the passages in the Old Testament where heathenism is attacked, to the defences of Christianity by the latest Fathers of the Church.

The original Jewish view, according to which the heathen gods are real beings just as much as the God of the Jews themselves—only Jews must not worship them—is in the later portions of the Old Testament superseded by the view that the gods are only images made of wood, stone or metal, and incapable of doing either good or evil. This point of view is taken over by later Jewish authors and completely dominates them. In those acquainted with Greek thought it is combined with Euhemeristic ideas: the images represent dead men. The theory that the gods are really natural objects—elements or heavenly bodies—is occasionally taken into account too. Alongside of these opinions there appears also the view that the pagan gods are evil spirits (demons). It is already found in a few places in the Old Testament, and after that sporadically and quite incidentally in later Jewish writings; in one place it is combined with the Old Testament's account of the fallen angels. The demon-theory is not an instrument of Jewish apologetics proper, not even of Philo, though he has a complete demonology and can hardly have been ignorant of the Platonic-Stoic doctrine of demons.

Apart from the few and, as it were, incidental utterances concerning demons, the Jewish view of the pagan gods impresses one as decidedly atheistic. The god is identical with the idol, and the idol is a dead object, the work of men's hands, or the god is identical with a natural object, made by God to be sure, but without soul or, at any rate, without divinity. It is remarkable that no Jewish controversialist seriously envisaged the problem of the real view of the gods embodied in the popular belief of the ancients, namely, that they are personal beings of a higher order than man. It is inconceivable that men like Philo, Josephus and the author of the Wisdom of Solomon should have been ignorant of it. I know nothing to account for this curious phenomenon; and till some light has been thrown upon the matter, I should hesitate to assert that the Jewish conception of Polytheism was purely atheistic, however much appearance it may have of being so.

It was otherwise with Christian polemical writing. As early as St. Paul the demon-theory appears distinctly, though side by side with utterances of seemingly atheistic character. Other New Testament authors, too, designate the gods as demons. The subsequent apologists, excepting the earliest, Aristides, lay the main stress on demonology, but include for the sake of completeness idolatry and the like, sometimes without caring about or trying to conciliate the contradictions. In the long run demonology is victorious; in St. Augustine, the foremost among Christian apologists, there is hardly any other point of view that counts.

To trace the Christian demonology in detail and give an account of its various aspects is outside the scope of this essay. Its origin is a twofold one, partly the Jewish demonology, which just at the commencement of our era had received a great impetus, partly the theory of the Greek philosophers, which we have characterised above when speaking of Xenocrates. The Christian doctrine regarding demons differs from the latter, especially by the fact that it does not acknowledge good demons; they were all evil. This was the indispensable basis for the interdict against the worship of demons; in its further development the Christians, following Jewish tradition, pointed to an origin in the fallen angels, and thus effected a connexion with the Old Testament. While they at the same time retained its angelology they had to distinguish good and evil beings intermediate between god and man; but they carefully avoided designating the angels as demons, and kept them distinct from the pagan gods, who were all demons and evil.

The application of demonology to the pagan worship caused certain difficulties in detail. To be sure, it was possible to identify a given pagan god with a certain demon, and this was often done; but it was impossible to identify the Pagans' conceptions of their gods with the Christians' conceptions of demons. The Pagans, in fact, ascribed to their gods not only demoniac (diabolical) but also divine qualities, which the Christians absolutely denied them. Consequently they had to recognise that pagan worship to a great extent rested on a delusion, on a misconception of the essential character of the gods which were worshipped. This view was corroborated by the dogma of the fallen angels, which was altogether alien to paganism. By identifying them with the evil spirits of the Bible, demon-names were even obtained which differed from those of the pagan gods and, of course, were the correct ones; were they not given in Holy Writ? In general, the Christians, who possessed an authentic revelation of the matter, were of course much better informed about the nature of the pagan gods than the Pagans themselves, who were groping in the dark. Euhemerism, which plays a great part in the apologists, helped in the same direction: the supposition that the idols were originally men existed among the Pagans themselves, and it was too much in harmony with the tendency of the apologists to be left unemployed. It was reconciled with demonology by the supposition that the demons had assumed the masks of dead heroes; they had beguiled mankind to worship them in order to possess themselves of the sacrifices, which they always coveted, and by this deception to be able to rule and corrupt men. The Christians also could not avoid recognising that part of the pagan worship was worship of natural objects, in particular of the heavenly bodies; and this error of worshipping the "creation instead of the creator" was so obvious that the Christians were not inclined to resort to demonology for an explanation of this phenomenon, the less so as they could not identify the sun or the moon with a demon. The conflict of these different points of view accounts for the peculiar vacillation in the Christian conception of paganism. On one hand, we meet with crude conceptions, according to which the pagan gods are just like so many demons; they are specially prominent when pagan miracles and prophecies are to be explained. On the other hand, there is a train of thought which carried to its logical conclusion would lead to conceiving paganism as a whole as a huge delusion of humanity, but a delusion caused indeed by supernatural agencies. This conclusion hardly presented itself to the early Church; later, however, it was drawn and caused a not inconsiderable shifting in men's views and explanations of paganism.

Demonology is to such a degree the ruling point of view in Christian apologetics that it would be absurd to make a collection from these writings of utterances with an atheistic ring. Such utterances are to be found in most of them; they appear spontaneously, for instance, wherever idolatry is attacked. But one cannot attach any importance to them when they appear in this connexion, not even in apologists in whose works the demon theory is lacking. No Christian theologian in antiquity advanced, much less sustained, the view that the pagan gods were mere phantoms of human imagination without any corresponding reality.

Remarkable as this state of things may appear to us moderns, it is really quite simple, nay even a matter of course, when regarded historically. Christianity had from its very beginning a decidedly dualistic character. The contrast between this world and the world to come was identical with the contrast between the kingdom of the Devil and the kingdom of God. As soon as the new religion came into contact with paganism, the latter was necessarily regarded as belonging to the kingdom of the Devil; thus the conception of the gods as demons was a foregone conclusion. In the minds of the later apologists, who became acquainted with Greek philosophy, this conception received additional confirmation; did it not indeed agree in the main with Platonic and Stoic theory? Details were added: the Christians could not deny the pagan miracles without throwing a doubt on their own, for miracles cannot be done away with at all except by a denial on principle; neither could they explain paganism—that gigantic, millennial aberration of humanity—by merely human causes, much less lay the blame on God alone. But ultimately all this rests on one and the same thing—the supernatural and dualistic hypothesis. Consequently demonology is the kernel of the Christian conception of paganism: it is not merely a natural result of the hypotheses, it is the one and only correct expression of the way in which the new religion understood the old.


In the preceding inquiry we took as our starting-point not the ancient conception of atheism but the modern view of the nature of the pagan gods. It proved that this view was, upon the whole, feebly represented during antiquity, and that it was another view (demonology) which was transmitted to later ages from the closing years of antiquity. The inquiry will therefore find its natural conclusion in a demonstration of the time and manner in which the conception handed down from antiquity of the nature of paganism was superseded and displaced by the modern view.

This question is, however, more difficult to answer than one would perhaps think. After ancient paganism had ceased to exist as a living religion, it had lost its practical interest, and theoretically the Middle Ages were occupied with quite other problems than the nature of paganism. At the revival of the study of ancient literature, during the Renaissance, people certainly again came into the most intimate contact with ancient religion itself, but systematic investigations of its nature do not seem to have been taken up in real earnest until after the middle of the sixteenth century. It is therefore difficult to ascertain in what light paganism was regarded during the thousand years which had then passed since its final extinction. From the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, on the other hand, the material is extraordinarily plentiful, though but slightly investigated. Previous works in this field seem to be entirely wanting; at any rate it has not been possible for me to find any collective treatment of the subject, nor even any contributions worth mentioning towards the solution of the numerous individual problems which arise when we enter upon what might be called "the history of the history of religion."(1) In this essay I must therefore restrict myself to a few aphoristic remarks which may perhaps give occasion for this subject, in itself not devoid of interest, to receive more detailed treatment at some future time.

Milton, in the beginning of Paradise Lost, which appeared in 1667, makes Satan assemble all his angels for continued battle against God. Among the demons there enumerated, ancient gods also appear; they are, then, plainly regarded as devils. Now Milton was not only a poet, but also a sound scholar and an orthodox theologian; we may therefore rest assured that his conception of the pagan gods was dogmatically correct and in accord with the prevailing views of his time. In him, therefore, we have found a fixed point from which we can look forwards and backwards; as late as after the middle of the seventeenth century the early Christian view of the nature of paganism evidently persisted in leading circles.

We seldom find definite heathen gods so precisely designated as demons as in Milton, but no doubt seems possible that the general principle was accepted by contemporary and earlier authors. The chief work of the seventeenth century on ancient religion is the De Theologia Gentili of G. I. Voss; he operates entirely with the traditional view. It may be traced back through a succession of writings of the seventeenth and sixteenth centuries. They are all, or almost all, agreed that antique paganism was the work of the devil, and that idolatry was, at any rate in part, a worship of demons. From the Middle Ages I can adduce a pregnant expression of the same view from Thomas Aquinas; in his treatment of idolatry and also of false prophecy he definitely accepts the demonology of the early Church. On this point he appeals to Augustine, and with perfect right; from this it may presumably be assumed that the Schoolmen in general had the same view, Augustine being, as we know, an authority for Catholic theologians.

In mediaeval poets also we occasionally find the same view expressed. As far as I have been able to ascertain, Dante has no ancient gods among his devils, and the degree to which he had dissociated himself from ancient paganism may be gauged by the fact that in one of the most impassioned passages of his poem he addresses the Christian God as "Great Jupiter." But he allows figures of ancient mythology such as Charon, Minos and Geryon to appear in his infernal world, and when he designates the pagan gods as "false and untruthful," demonology is evidently at the back of his mind. The mediaeval epic poets who dealt with antique subjects took over the pagan gods more or less. Sometimes, as in the Romance of Troy, the Christian veneer is so thick that the pagan groundwork is but slightly apparent; in other poems, such as the adaptation of the Aeneid, it is more in evidence. In so far as the gods are not eliminated they seem as a rule to be taken over quite naively from the source without further comment; but occasionally the poet expresses his view of their nature. Thus the French adapter of Statius's Thebais, in whose work the Christian element is otherwise not prominent, cautiously remarks that Jupiter and Tisiphone, by whom his heroes swear, are in reality only devils. Generally speaking, the gods of antiquity are often designated as devils in mediaeval poetry, but at times the opinion that they are departed human beings crops up. Thus, as we might expect, the theories of ancient times still survive and retain their sway.

There is a domain in which we might expect to find distinct traces of the survival of the ancient gods in the mediaeval popular consciousness, namely, that of magic. There does not, however, seem to be much in it; the forms of mediaeval magic often go back to antiquity, but the beings it operates with are pre-eminently the Christian devils, if we may venture to employ the term, and the evil spirits of popular belief. There is, however, extant a collection of magic formulae against various ailments in which pagan gods appear: Hercules and Juno Regina, Juno and Jupiter, the nymphs, Luna Jovis filia, Sol invictus. The collection is transmitted in a manuscript of the ninth century; the formulae mostly convey the impression of dating from a much earlier period, but the fact that they were copied in the Middle Ages suggests that they were intended for practical application.

A problem, the closer investigation of which would no doubt yield an interesting result, but which does not seem to have been much noticed, is the European conception of the heathen religions with which the explorers came into contact on their great voyages of discovery. Primitive heathenism as a living reality had lain rather beyond the horizon of the Middle Ages; when it was met with in America, it evidently awakened considerable interest. There is a description of the religion of Peru and Mexico, written by the Jesuit Acosta at the close of the sixteenth century, which gives us a clear insight into the orthodox view of heathenism during the Renaissance. According to Acosta, heathenism is as a whole the work of the Devil; he has seduced men to idolatry in order that he himself may be worshipped instead of the true God. All worship of idols is in reality worship of Satan. The individual idols, however, are not identified with individual devils; Acosta distinguishes between the worship of nature (heavenly bodies, natural objects of the earth, right down to trees, etc.), the worship of the dead, and the worship of images, but says nothing about the worship of demons. At one point only is there a direct intervention of the evil powers, namely, in magic, and particularly in oracles; and here then we find, as an exception, mention of individual devils which must be imagined to inhabit the idols. The same conception is found again as late as the seventeenth century in a story told by G. I. Voss of the time of the Dutch wars in Brazil. Arcissewski, a Polish officer serving in the Dutch army, had witnessed the conjuring of a devil among the Tapuis. The demon made his appearance all right, but proved to be a native well known to Arcissewski. As he, however, made some true prognostications, Voss, as it seems at variance with Arcissewski, thinks that there must have been some supernatural powers concerned in the game.

An exceptional place is occupied by the attempt made during the Renaissance at an actual revival of ancient paganism and the worship of its gods. It proceeded from Plethon, the head of the Florentine Academy, and seems to have spread thence to the Roman Academy. The whole movement must be viewed more particularly as an outcome of the enthusiasm during the Renaissance for the culture of antiquity and more especially for its philosophy rather than its religion; the gods worshipped were given a new and strongly philosophical interpretation. But it is not improbable that the traditional theory of the reality of the ancient deities may have had something to do with it.

Simultaneously with demonology, and while it was still acknowledged in principle, there flourished more naturalistic conceptions of paganism, both in the Middle Ages and during the Renaissance. As remarked above, the way was already prepared for them during antiquity. In Thomas Aquinas we find a lucid explanation of the origin of idolatry with a reference to the ancient theory. Here we meet with the familiar elements: the worship of the stars and the cult of the dead. According to Thomas, man has a natural disposition towards this error, but it only comes into play when he is led astray by demons. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the Devil is mentioned oftener than the demons (compare Acosta's view of the heathenism of the American Indians); evidently the conception of the nature of evil had undergone a change in the direction of monotheism. In this way more scope was given for the adoption of naturalistic views in regard to the individual forms in which paganism manifested itself than when dealing with a multiplicity of demons that answered individually to the pagan gods, and we meet with systematic attempts to explain the origin of idolatry by natural means, though still with the Devil in the background.

One of these systems, which played a prominent part, especially in the seventeenth century, is the so-called Hebraism, i.e. the attempt to derive the whole of paganism from Judaism. This fashion, for which the way had already been prepared by Jewish and Christian apologists, reaches its climax, I think, with Abbot Huet, who derived all the gods of antiquity (and not only Greek and Roman antiquity) from Moses, and all the goddesses from his sister; according to him the knowledge of these two persons had spread from the Jews to other peoples, who had woven about them a web of "fables." Alongside of Hebraism, which is Euhemeristic in principle, allegorical methods of interpretation were put forward. The chief representative of this tendency in earlier times is Natalis Comes (Noel du Comte), the author of the first handbook of mythology; he directly set himself the task of allegorising all the myths. The allegories are mostly moral, but also physical; Euhemeristic interpretations are not rejected either, and in several places the author gives all three explanations side by side without choosing between them. In the footsteps of du Comte follows Bacon, in his De Sapientia Veterum; to the moral and physical allegories he adds political ones, as when Jove's struggle with Typhoeus is made to symbolise a wise ruler's treatment of a rebellion. While these attempts at interpretation, both the Euhemeristic and the allegorical, are in principle a direct continuation of those of antiquity, another method points plainly in the direction of the fantastic notions of the Middle Ages. As early as the sixteenth century the idea arose of connecting the theology of the ancients with alchemy. The idea seemed obvious because the metals were designated by the names of the planets, which are also the names of the gods. It found acceptance, and in the seventeenth century we have a series of writings in which ancient mythology is explained as the symbolical language of chemical processes.

Within the limits of the supernatural explanation the interest centred more and more in a single point: the oracles. As far back as in Aquinas, "false prophecy" is a main section in the chapter on demons, whose power to foretell the future he expressly acknowledges. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when the interest in the prediction of the future was so strong, the ancient accounts of true prognostications were the real prop of demonology. Hence demons generally play a great part in these explanations, even though in other cases the Devil fills the bill. Thus Acosta in his account of the American religions; thus Voss and numerous other writers of the seventeenth century; and it is hardly a mere accident, one would think, when Milton specially mentions Dodona and Delphi as the seats of worship of the Greek demons. Among a few of the humanists we certainly find an attempt to apply the natural explanation even here; thus Caelius Rhodiginus asserted that a great part (but not all!) of the oracular system might be explained as priestly imposture, and his slightly younger contemporary Caelius Calcagninus, in his dialogue on oracles, seems to go still further and to deny the power of predicting the future to any other being than the true God. An exceptional position is occupied by Pomponazzi, who in his little pamphlet De Incantationibus seems to wish to derive all magic, including the oracles, from natural causes, though ultimately he formally acknowledges demonology as the authoritative explanation. But these advances did not find acceptance; we find even Voss combating the view on which they were founded. It is characteristic of the power of demonology in this domain that in support of his point of view he can quote no less a writer than Machiavelli.

The author who opened battle in real earnest against demonology was a Dutch scholar, one van Dale, otherwise little known. In a couple of treatises written about the close of the seventeenth century he tried to show that the whole of idolatry (as well as the oracles in particular) was not dependent on the intervention of supernatural beings, but was solely due to imposture on the part of the priests. Van Dale was a Protestant, so he easily got over the unanimous recognition of demonology by the Fathers of the Church. The accounts of demons in the Old and New Testaments proved more difficult to deal with; it is interesting to see how he wriggles about to get round them—and it illustrates most instructively the degree to which demonology affords the only reasonable and natural explanation of paganism on the basis of early Christian belief.

Van Dale's books are learned works written in Latin, full of quotations in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and moreover confused and obscure in exposition, as is often the case with Dutch writings of that time. But a clever Frenchman, Fontenelle, took upon himself the task of rendering his work on the oracles into French in a popular and attractive form. His book called forth an answering pamphlet from a Jesuit advocating the traditional view; the little controversy seems to have made some stir in France about the year 1700. At any rate Banier, who, in the beginning of the eighteenth century, treated ancient mythology from a Euhemeristic point of view, gave some consideration to it. His own conclusion is—in 1738!—that demonology cannot be dispensed with for the explanation of the oracles. He gives his grounds for this in a very sensible criticism of van Dale's priestly fraud theory, the absurdity of which he exposes with sound arguments.

Banier is the last author to whom I can point for the demon-theory applied as an explanation of a phenomenon in ancient religion; I have not found it in any other mythologist of the eighteenth century, and even in Banier, with the exception of this single point, everything is explained quite naturally according to the best Euhemeristic models. But in the positive understanding of the nature of ancient paganism no very considerable advance had actually been made withal. A characteristic example of this is the treatment of ancient religion by such an eminent intellect as Giambattista Vico. In his Scienza Nuova, which appeared in 1725, as the foundation of his exposition of the religion of antiquity he gives a characterisation of the mode of thought of primitive mankind, which is so pertinent and psychologically so correct that it anticipates the results of more than a hundred years of research. Of any supernatural explanation no trace is found in him, though otherwise he speaks as a good Catholic. But when he proceeds to explain the nature of the ancient ideas of the gods in detail, all that it comes to is a series of allegories, among which the politico-social play a main part. Vico sees the earliest history of mankind in the light of the traditions about Rome; the Graeco-Roman gods, then, and the myths about them, become to him largely an expression of struggles between the "patricians and plebeians" of remote antiquity.

Most of the mythology of the eighteenth century is like this. The Euhemeristic school gradually gave up the hypothesis of the Jewish religion as the origin of paganism; Banier, the chief representative of the school, still argues at length against Hebraism. In its place, Phoenicians, Assyrians, Persians and, above all, Egyptians, are brought into play, or, as in the case of the Englishman Bryant, the whole of mythology is explained as reminiscences of the exploits of an aboriginal race, the Cuthites, which never existed. The allegorist school gradually rallied round the idea of the cult of the heavenly bodies as the origin of the pagan religions; as late as the days of the French Revolution, Dupuis, in a voluminous work, tried to trace the whole of ancient religion and mythology back to astronomy. On the whole the movement diverged more and more from Euhemerism towards the conception of Greek religion as a kind of cult of nature; when the sudden awakening to a more correct understanding came towards the close of the century, Euhemerism was evidently already an antiquated view. Thus, since the Renaissance, by a slow and very devious process of development, a gradual approach had been made to a more correct view of the nature of ancient religion. After the Devil had more or less taken the place of the demons, the rest of demonology, the moral allegory, Hebraism and Euhemerism were eliminated by successive stages, and nature-symbolism was reached as the final stage.

We know now that even this is not the correct explanation of the nature and origin of the conception of the gods prevailing among the ancients. Recent investigations have shown that the Greek gods, in spite of their apparent simplicity and clarity, are highly complex organisms, the products of a long process of development to which the most diverse factors have contributed. In order to arrive at this result another century of work, with many attempts in the wrong direction, has been required. The idea that the Greek gods were nature-gods really dominated research through almost the whole of the nineteenth century. If it has now been dethroned or reduced to the measure of truth it contains—for undoubtedly a natural object enters as a component into the essence of some Greek deities—this is in the first place due to the intensive study of the religions of primitive peoples, living or obsolete; and the results of this study were only applied to Greek religion during the last decade of the century. But the starting-point of modern history of religion lies much farther back: its beginnings date from the great revival of historical research which was inaugurated by Rousseau and continued by Herder. Henceforward the unhistorical methods of the age of enlightenment were abolished, and attention directed in real earnest towards the earlier stages of human civilisation.

This, however, carries us a step beyond the point of time at which this sketch should, strictly speaking, stop. For by the beginning of the eighteenth century—but not before—the negative fact which is all important in this connexion had won recognition: namely, that there existed no supernatural beings latent behind the Greek ideas of their gods, and corresponding at any rate in some degree to them; but that these ideas must be regarded and explained as entirely inventions of the human imagination.


At the very beginning of this inquiry it was emphasised that its theme would in the main be the religious views of the upper class, and within this sphere again especially the views of those circles which were in close touch with philosophy. The reason for this is of course in the first place that only in such circles can we expect to find expressed a point of view approaching to positive atheism. But we may assuredly go further than this. We shall hardly be too bold in asserting that the free-thinking of philosophically educated men in reality had very slight influence on the great mass of the population. Philosophy did not penetrate so far, and whatever degree of perception we estimate the masses to have had of the fact that the upper layer of society regarded the popular faith with critical eyes—and in the long run it could not be concealed—we cannot fail to recognise that religious development among the ancients did not tend towards atheism. Important changes took place in ancient religion during the Hellenistic Age and the time of the Roman Empire, but their causes were of a social and national kind, and, if we confine ourselves to paganism, they only led to certain gods going out of fashion and others coming in. The utmost we can assert is that a certain weakening of the religious life may have been widely prevalent during the time of transition between the two ages—the transition falls at somewhat different dates in the eastern and western part of the Empire—but that weakening was soon overcome.

Now the peculiar result of this investigation of the state of religion among the upper classes seems to me to be this: the curve of intensity of religious feeling which conjecture leads us to draw through the spiritual life of the ancients as a whole, that same curve, but more distinct and sharply accentuated, is found again in the relations of the upper classes to the popular faith. Towards the close of the fifth century it looks as if the cultured classes that formed the centre of Greek intellectual life were outgrowing the ancient religion. The reaction which set in with Socrates and Plato certainly checked this movement, but it did not stop it. Cynics, Peripatetics, Stoics, Epicureans and Sceptics, in spite of their widely differing points of view, were all entirely unable to share the religious ideas of their countrymen in the form in which they were cast in the national religion. However many allowances they made, their attitude towards the popular faith was critical, and on important points they denied it. It is against the background thus resulting from ancient philosophy's treatment of ancient religion that we must view such phenomena as Polybius, Cicero, and Pliny the Elder, if we wish to understand their full significance.

On the other hand, it is certain that this was not the view that conquered in the end among the educated classes in antiquity. The lower we come down in the Empire the more evident does the positive relation of the upper class to the gods of the popular faith become. Some few examples have already been mentioned in the preceding pages. In philosophy the whole movement finds its typical expression in demonology, which during the later Empire reigned undisputed in the one or two schools that still retained any vitality. It is significant that its source was the earlier Platonism, with its very conservative attitude towards popular belief, and that it was taken over by the later Stoic school, which inaugurated the general religious reaction in philosophy. And it is no less significant that demonology was swallowed whole by the monotheistic religion which superseded ancient paganism, and for more than a thousand years was the recognised explanation of the nature thereof.

In accordance with the line of development here sketched, the inquiry has of necessity been focused on two main points: Sophistic and the Hellenistic Age. Now it is of peculiar interest to note what small traces of pure atheism can after all be found here, in spite of all criticism of the popular faith. We have surmised its presence among a few prominent personalities in fifth-century Athens; we have found evidence of its extension in the same place in the period immediately following; and in the time of transition between the fourth and third centuries we have thought it likely that it existed among a very few philosophers, of whom none are in the first rank. Everywhere else we find adjustments, in part very serious and real concessions, to popular belief. Not to mention the attitude towards worship, which was only hostile in one sect of slight importance: the assumption of the divinity of the heavenly bodies which was common to the Academics, Peripatetics, and Stoics is really in principle an acknowledgement of the popular faith, whose conception of the gods was actually borrowed and applied, not to some philosophical abstraction, but to individual and concrete natural objects. The anthropomorphic gods of the Epicureans point in the same direction. In spite of their profound difference from the beings that were worshipped and believed in by the ordinary Greek, they are in complete harmony with the opinion on which all polytheism is based: that there are individual beings of a higher order than man. And though the Stoics in theory confined their acknowledgment of this doctrine to the heavenly bodies, in practice—even if we disregard demonology—they consistently brought it to bear upon the anthropomorphic gods, in direct continuation of the Socratic reaction against the atheistic tendencies of Sophistic.

If now we ask ourselves what may be the cause of this peculiar dualism in the relationship of ancient thought to religion, though admitting the highly complex nature of the problem, we can scarcely avoid recognising a certain principle. Ancient thought outgrew the ancient popular faith; that is beyond doubt. Hence its critical attitude. But it never outgrew that supernaturalist view which was the foundation of the popular faith. Hence its concessions to the popular faith, even when it was most critical, and its final surrender thereunto. And that it never outgrew the foundation of the popular faith is connected with its whole conception of nature and especially with its conception of the universe. We cannot indeed deny that the ancients had a certain feeling that nature was regulated by laws, but they only made imperfect attempts at a mechanical theory of nature in which this regulation of the world by law was carried through in principle, and with one brilliant exception they adhered implicitly to the geocentric conception of the universe. We may, I think, venture to assert with good reason that on such assumptions the philosophers of antiquity could not advance further than they did. In other words, on the given hypotheses the supernaturalist view was the correct one, the one that was most probable, and therefore that on which people finally agreed. A few chosen spirits may at any time by intuition, without any strictly scientific foundation, emancipate themselves entirely from religious errors; this also happened among the ancients, and on the first occasion was not unconnected with an enormous advance in the conception of nature. But it is certain that the views of an entire age are always decisively conditioned by its knowledge and interpretation of the universe surrounding it, and cannot in principle be emancipated therefrom.

Seen from this point of view, our brief sketch of the attitude of posterity towards the religion of the pagan world will also not be without interest. If, after isolated advances during the mighty awakening of the Renaissance, it is not until the transition from the seventeenth to the eighteenth century that we find the modern atheistic conception of the nature of the gods of the ancients established in principle and consistently applied, we can scarcely avoid connecting this fact with the advance of natural science in the seventeenth century, and not least with the victory of the heliocentric system. After the close of antiquity the pagan gods had receded to a distance, practically speaking, because they were not worshipped any more. No one troubled himself about them. But in theory one had got no further, i.e. no advance had been made on the ancients, and no advance could be made as long as supernaturalism was adhered to in connexion with the ancient view of the universe. Through monotheism the notions of the divinity of the sun, moon and planets had certainly been got rid of, but not so the notion of the world—i.e. the globe enclosed within the firmament—as filled with personal beings of a higher order than man; and even the duty of turning the spheres to which the heavenly bodies were believed to be fastened was—quite consistently—assigned to some of these beings. As long as such notions were in operation, not only were there no grounds for denying the reality of the pagan gods, but there was every reason to assume it. So far we may rightly say that it was Copernicus, Galileo, Giordano Bruno, Kepler and Newton that did away with the traditional conception of ancient paganism.

Natural science, however, furnishes only the negative result that the gods of polytheism are not what they are said to be: real beings of a higher order than man. To reveal what they are, other knowledge is required. This was not attained until long after the revival of natural science in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The vacillation in the eighteenth century between various theories of the explanation of the nature of ancient polytheism—theories which were all false, though not equally false—is in this respect significant enough; likewise the gradual progress which characterises research in the nineteenth century, and which may be indicated by such names as Heyne, Buttmann, K. O. Mueller, Lobeck, Mannhardt, Rohde, and Usener, to mention only some of the most important and omitting those still alive. Viewed in this light the development sketched here within a narrowly restricted field is typical of the course of European intellectual history from antiquity down to our day.


Of Atheism in Antiquity as defined here no treatment is known to me; but there exist an older and a newer book that deal with the question within a wider compass. The first of these is Krische, Die theologischen Lehren der griechischen Denker (Goettingen, 1840); it is chiefly concerned with the philosophical conceptions of deity, but it touches also on the relations of philosophers to popular religion. The second is Decharme, La critique des traditions religieuses chez les Grecs (Paris, 1904); it is not fertile in new points of view, but it has suggested several details which I might else have overlooked. Such books as Caird, The Evolution of Theology in the Greek Philosophers (Glasgow, 1904), or Moon, Religious Thought of the Greeks (Cambridge, Mass., 1919), barely touch on the relation to popular belief; of Louis, Les doctrines religieuses des philosophes grecs, I have not been able to make use. I regret that Poul Helms, The Conception of God in Greek Philosophy (Danish, in Studier for Sprog-og Oldtidsforskning, No. 115), was not published until my essay was already in the press. General works on Atheism are indicated in Aveling's article, "Atheism," in the Catholic Encyclopaedia, vol. ii., but none of them seem to be found at Copenhagen. In the Dictionary of Religion and Ethics, ii., there is a detailed article on Atheism in its relation to different religions; the section treating of Antiquity is written by Pearson, but is meagre. Works like Zeller, Philosophie der Griechen, and Gomperz, Griechische Denker, contain accounts of the attitude of philosophers (Gomperz also includes others) towards popular belief; of these books I have of course made use throughout, but they are not referred to in the following notes except on special occasion. Scattered remarks and small monographs on details are naturally to be found in plenty. Where I have met with such and found something useful in them, or where I express dissent from them, I have noticed it; but I have not aimed at exhausting the literature on my subject. On the other hand I have tried to make myself completely acquainted with the first-hand material, wherever it gave a direct support for assuming Atheism, and to take my own view of it. In many cases, however, the argumentation has had to be indirect: it has been necessary to draw inferences from what an author does not say in a certain connexion when he might be expected to say it, or what he generally and throughout avoids mentioning, or from his general manner and peculiarities in his way of speaking of the gods. In such cases I have often had to be content with my previous knowledge and my general impression of the facts; but then I have as a rule made use of the important modern literature on the subject. In working out the sketch of the ideas after the end of Antiquity, I have been almost without any guidance in modern literature. I have accordingly had to try, on the basis of a superficial acquaintance with some of the chief types, to form for myself, as best I might, some idea of the course of the evolution; but I have not been able to go systematically through the immense material, however fruitful such a research appeared to be. In the meantime, between the publication of my Danish essay and this translation, there has appeared a work by Mr. Gruppe, Geschichte der klassischen Mythologie und Religionsgeschichte (Leipzig, 1921). My task in writing my last chapters would have been much easier if I could have made use of Mr. Gruppe's learned and comprehensive treatment of the subject; but it would not have been superfluous, for Mr. Gruppe deals principally with the history of classical mythology, not with the history of the belief in the gods of antiquity. So I have ventured to let my sketch stand as it is, only reducing some of the notes (which I had on purpose made rather full, to aid others who might pursue the subject) by referring to Mr. Gruppe instead of to the sources themselves.

For kindly helping me to find my bearings in out-of-the-way parts of my subject, I am indebted to my colleagues F. Buhl, I.L. Heiberg, I.C. Jacobsen and Kr. Nyrop, as well as to Prof. Martin P. Nilsson in Lund.

P. 1. Definition of Atheism: see the article in the Catholic Encycl. vol. ii.

P. 5. Atheism: see Murray, New Engl. Dict., under Atheism and -ism. The word seems to have come up in the Renaissance.

P. 6. Criminal Law at Athens: see Lipsius, Das attische Recht und Rechtsverfahren, i. p. 358.—The definition in Aristotle, de virt. et vit. 7, p. 1251a, has, I think, no legal foundation.

P. 9. On the legal foundation for the trials of Christians, see Mommsen, Der Religionsfreuel nach roemischem Recht (Ges. Schr. iii. p. 389).—Mommsen goes too far, I think, in supposing a legal foundation for the trials of Christians; above all, I do not believe that the defection from the Roman religion was ever considered as maiestas in the technical sense of the word, the more so as it is certain that, after the earliest period, no difference was made in the treatment of citizens and aliens.

P. 13. Lists of atheists: Cicero, de nat. deor. 1. 1, 2 (comp. 1. 23, 26). Sext. Emp. hypotyp. 3. 213; adv. math. 9. 50. Aelian, v.h. 2. 31; de nat. an. 6. 40.—The predicate atheos is once applied to Anaxagoras by a Christian author (Irenaeus: see Diels, Vorsokr. 46, A 113; compare also Marcellinus, vit. Thuc., see below, note on p. 29). Of such isolated cases I have taken no account.

P. 16. On the dualism in the Greek conception of the nature of gods see Naegelsbach, Hom. Theol. p. 11.—Pindar: Ol. 1. 28, 9. 35; Pyth. 3. 27.

P. 17. Xenophanes: Einhorn, Zeit- und Streitfragen der modernen Xenophanesforschung (Arch. f. Gesch. d. Philos. xxxi.).

P. 18. Xenophanes's age: Diels, Vorsokr. 11, B 8.—His criticism of Homer and Hesiod: ibid. 11, 12.—Titans and Giants: ibid. 1. 22.—Criticism of Anthropomorphism: ibid. 14-16.—Divination: Cic. de div. 1. 3, 5.

P. 19. On Xenophanes's conception of God, comp. Vorsokr. 11, B 23-26; on the identification of God with the universe: Vorsokr. 11, A 30, 31, 33-36.—Cicero: de div. 1. 3, 5.

P. 21. For Xenophanes's theology, comp. Freudenthal, Arch. f. Gesch. d. Philos. i. p. 322, and Zeller's criticism, ibid. p. 524. Agreeing with Freudenthal: Decharme, p. 46; Campbell, Religion in Greek Literature, p. 293.

P. 21. Parmenides does not even appear to have designated his "Being" as God (Zeller, i. p. 563).

P. 23. In the eighteenth century people discussed diffusely the question whether Thales was an atheist (of course in the sense in which the word was taken at that time); comp. Tennemann, Gesch. d. Philos. i. pp. 62 and 422. Tennemann remarks quite truly that the question is put wrongly.

P. 24. Thales: Diels, Vorsokr. 1, A 22-23.—Attitude of Democritus towards popular belief: Vorsokr. 55, A 74-79; comp. 116, 117; B 166, and also B 30. Diels, Ueber den Daemonenglauben des D. (Arch. f. Gesch. d. Philos. 1894, p. 154).

P. 25. Trial of Anaxagoras: Vorsokr. 46, A 1, 17, 18, 19.

P. 26. Ram's head: Vorsokr. 46, A 16.

P. 27. Geffcken (in Hermes, 42, p. 127) has tried to make out something about a criticism of popular belief by Anaxagoras from some passages in Aristophanes (Nub. 398) and Lucian (Tim. 10, etc.), but I do not think he has succeeded.—Pericles a free-thinker: Plut. Pericl. 6 and 38; comp. Decharme, p. 160.—Personality of Anaxagoras: Vorsokr. 46, A 30 (Aristotle, Eud. Ethics, A 4, p. 1215b, 6).

P. 28. Herodotus: 8, 77.—Sophocles: Oed. rex. 498, 863.—Diopeithes: Plut. Pericl. 32 (Vorsokr. 46, A 17).—Thucydides: Classen in the preface to his 3rd ed., p. lvii.

P. 29. Thucydides, a disciple of Anaxagoras: Marcellinus, vit. Thuc. 22.—Generally Thucydides is thought to have been more conservative in his religious opinions than I consider probable; see Classen, loc. cit.; Decharme, p. 83; Gertz in his preface to the Danish translation of Thucydides, p. xxvii.—Hippo: Vorsokr. 26, A 4, 6, 8, 9; B 2, 3.

P. 30. Aristotle: Vorsokr. 26, A 7.—Diogenes an atheist: Aelian, v.h. 2, 31.—The air his god: Vorsokr. 51, A 8 (he thought that Homer identified Zeus with the air, and approved of this as οὐ μυθικῶς, ἀλλ᾽ ἀληθῶς εἰρημενον); B 5, 7, 8.—Allusions to his doctrines by Aristophanes: Nub. 225, 828 (Vorsokr. 51, C 1, 2).

P. 31. A chief representative of the naively critical view of natural phenomena is for us Herodotus. The locus classicus is vii. 129; comp. Gomperz, Griech. Denker, i. p. 208; Heiberg, Festskrift til Ussing (Copenhagen, 1900), p. 91; Decharme, p. 69.—Principal passages about Diagoras: Sext. Emp. adv. math. 9, 53; Suidas, art. Diagoras II.; schol. Aristoph. Nub. 830 (the legend); Suidas, art. Diagoras I.; Aristoph. Av. 1071 with schol.; schol. Aristoph. Ran. 320; [Lysias] vi. 17; Diod. xiii. 16 (the decree); Philodem. de piet. p. 89 Gomp. (comments of Aristoxenus); Aelian, v.h. ii. 22 (legislation at Mantinea).—Wilamowitz (Textgesch. d. Lyr. p. 80) has tried to save the tradition by supposing that the acme of Diagoras has been put too early. Comp. also his remarks, Griech. Verskunst. p. 426, where he has taken up the question again with reference to my treatment of it. As he has now conceded the possibility of referring the legislation to the earlier date, the difference between us is really very slight, and it is of course possible, perhaps even probable, that the acme of the poet has been antedated.—Aristoph. Av. 1071: "On this very day it is made public, that if one of you kills Diagoras from Melos, he shall have a talent, and if one kills one of the dead tyrants, he shall have a talent." The parallel between the two decrees, of which the latter is of course an invention of Aristophanes, would be without point if the decree against Diagoras was not as futile as the decree against the tyrants (i.e. the sons of Peisistratus, who had been dead some three-quarters of a century), that is, if it did not come many years too late.—Wilamowitz (Griech. Verskunst, loc. cit.) takes the sense to be: "You will not get hold of Diagoras any more than you did of the tyrants." But this, besides being somewhat pointless, does not agree so well as my explanation with the introductory words: "On this very day." On the other hand, I never meant to imply that Diagoras was dead in 415, but only that his offence was an old one—just as that of Protagoras probably was (see p. 39).

P. 39. Trial of Protagoras: Vorsokr. 74, A 1-4, 23; the passage referring to the gods: ibid. B 4.—Plato: Theaet. p. 162d (Vorsokr. 74, A 23).

P. 41. Distinction between belief and knowledge by Protagoras: Gomperz, Griech. Denker, i. p. 359.

P. 42. Prodicus: Vorsokr. 77, B 5. Comp. Norvin, Allegorien i den graeske Philosophi (Edda, 1919), p. 82. I cannot, however, quite adopt Norvin's view of the theory of Protagoras.

P. 44. Critias: Vorsokr. 81, B 25.—W. Nestle, Jahrbb. f. Philol. xi. (1903), pp. 81 and 178, gives an exhaustive treatment of the subject, but I cannot share his view of it.

P. 46. Euripides: Suppl. 201.—Moschion: Trag. Fragm. ed. Nauck (2nd ed.), p. 813.—Plato: Rep. ii. 369b.

P. 47. Democritus: Reinhardt in Hermes, xlvii (1912), p. 503 In spite of Wilamowitz's objections (in his Platon, ii. p. 214), I still consider it probable that Plato alludes to a philosophical theory.—Protagoras on the original state: Vorsokr. 74, B 8b.

P. 48. Euripides: Electra, 737 (Euripides does not believe in the tale that the sun reversed its course on account of Thyestes's fraud against Atreus, and then adds: "Fables that terrify men are a profit to the worship of the gods").—Aristotle: Metaph. A 8, 1074b; see text, p. 85.—Polybius: vi. 56; see text pp. 90 and 114.—Plato's Gorgias, p. 482 and foll.

P. 49.—Callicles: see e.g. Wilamowitz, Platon, i. p. 208.

P. 50.—Thrasymachus: Plato, Rep. i. pp. 338c, 343a; comp. also ii. p. 358b. His remark on Providence (Vorsokr. 78, B 8) runs thus: "The gods do not see the things that are done among men; if they did, they would not overlook the greatest human good, justice. For we find that men do not follow it." Comp. text, p. 61.—Diagoras as Critias's source: Nestle, Jahrbb., 1903, p. 101.

P. 51. Euripides: see W. Nestle, Euripides (Stuttgart, 1901) pp. 51-152. Here, too, the material is set forth exhaustively; the results seem to me inadmissible. Browning's theory (The Ring and the Book, x. 1661 foll.) that Euripides did believe in the existence of the gods, but did not believe them to be perfect, is a possible, perhaps even a probable, explanation of many of his utterances; but it will hardly fit all of them. I have examined the question in an essay, "Browning om Euripides" in my Udvalgte Afhandlinger, p. 55.

P. 52. Gods identified with the Elements: Bacch. 274; fragm. 839. 877, 941 (Nestle, p. 153).

P. 53. Polemic against sophists: Nestle, p. 206.—Bellerophon: fragm. 286.

P. 54. "If the gods——": fragm. 292, 7.

P. 55. Melanippe: fragm. 480. The words are said to have given offence at the rehearsal, so that Euripides altered them at the production of the play (Plut. Amat. ch. 13).—Aeschylus: Agam. 160.—Aristophanes: Thesmoph. 450.—In the Frogs, 892, Euripides prays to the Ether and other abstractions, not to the gods.—Clouds: 1371.

P. 56. Plato: Republ. viii. p. 568a.—Quotation from Melanippe: Plut. Amat. 13.

P. 57. Aristophanes and Naturalism: see note to p. 30.

P. 58. Denial of the gods in the Clouds, 247, 367, 380, 423, 627, 817, 825, 1232.—Moral of the piece: 1452-1510.—In Aristophanes's own travesties of the gods, scholars have found evidence for a weakening of popular belief, but this is certainly wrong; comp. Decharme, p. 109.—Words like "believe" and "belief" do not cover the Greek word νομίζειν, which signifies at once "believe" and "be in the habit," "use habitually," so that it covers both belief and worship—an ambiguity that is characteristic of Greek religion.—Xenophon: Memorab. i. 1; Apol. Socr. 10 and foll.

P. 59. Plato: Apol. p. 24b (the indictment); 26b (the refutation).

P. 60. Aristodemus: Xenoph. Memor. i. 4.—Cinesias: Decharme, p. 135.—The Hermocopidae: Decharme, p. 152. Beloch, Hist. of Greece, ii. 1, p. 360, has another explanation. To my argument it is of no consequence what special motive is assigned for the crime, as long as it is a political one.

P. 61. Plato on impiety: Laws, x. p. 886b; comp. xii. p. 967a. Curiously enough, the same tripartition of the wrong attitude towards the gods occurs already in the Republic, ii. p. 365d, where it is introduced incidentally as well known and a matter of course.

P. 62. Euripides: e.g. Hecuba, 488; Suppl. 608.—Reference to Anaxagoras: Laws, x. p. 886d; to Sophistic, 889b.

P. 65. Plato in the Apology: p. 19c.—Socrates's daimonion a proof of asebeia: Xenoph. Memorab. i. 1, 2; Apol. Socr. 12; Plato, Apol. p. 31d.

P. 66. Accusation of teaching the doctrine of Anaxagoras: Plato, Apol. p. 26d; comp. Xenoph. Memor. i. 1, 10.—Plato's defence of Socrates: Apol. p. 27a.

P. 67. Xenophon's defence of Socrates: Memor. i. 1, 2; 6 foll., 10 foll.—Teleological view of nature: Xenoph. Memor. i. 4; iv. 3.—On the religious standpoint of Socrates, comp. my Udvalgte Afhandlinger, p. 38.

P. 68. Plato's Apology, p. 21d, 23a and f, etc.—The gods all-knowing: Odyss. iv. 379 and 468; comp. Naegelsbach, Hom. Theol. p. 18; Nachhom. Theol. p. 23.

P. 69. The gods just: Naegelsbach, Hom. Theol. p. 297; Nachhom. Theol. p. 27.

P. 71. The relation between early religious thought and Delphi has been explained correctly by Sam Wide, Einleit. in die Altertumswissensch., ii. p. 221; comp. also I. L. Heiberg in Tilskueren, 1919, ii. p. 44.—Honours shown to Pindar at Delphi: schol. Pind. ed. Drachm. i. p. 2, 14; 5, 6. Pausan, x. 24. 5.

P. 72. Plato on the Delphic Oracle: Apol. p. 20e. On the following comp. I. L. Heiberg, loc. cit. p. 45.—Socrates on his daimonion: Plato, Apol. p. 31c.

P. 74. Antisthenes: Ritter, _Hist. philos. Gr._9_ 285.—On the later Cynics, especially Diogenes, see Diog. Laert. vi. 105 (the gods are in need of nothing); Julian, _Or._ vi. p. 199_b_ (Diogenes did not worship the gods).

P. 75. Cyrenaics: Diog. Laert. ii. 91.—Date of Theodorus: Diog. Laert. ii. 101, 103; his book on the gods: Diog. Laert. ii. 97, Sext. Emp. adv. math. ix. 55; his trial: Diog. Laert. ii. 101.

P. 76. Theodorus's book used by Epicurus: Diog. Laert. ii. 97.—Zeller: Philos. d. Griechen, ii. 1, p. 925.—Euthyphron: see especially p. 14b foll.

P. 77. Criticism of Mythology in the Republic: ii. p. 377b foll.; worship presupposed: e.g. iii. p. 415e; v. p. 459e, 461a, 468d, 469a, 470a; vii. p. 540b; reference to the Oracle: iv. p. 427b.—Timaeus: p. 40d foll.—Laws, rules of worship: vi. p. 759a, vii. p. 967a and elsewhere, x. p. 909d; capital punishment for atheists: x. p. 909a. Comp. above, on p. 61.

P. 78. Atheism a sin of youth: Laws, x. p. 888a.—Goodness and truth of the gods: Republ. ii. p. 379a, 380d, 382a.—Belief in Providence: Laws, x. p. 885c, etc.; Republ. x. p. 612e; Apol. p. 41d.

P. 79. Laws, x. p. 888d, 893b foll., especially 899c-d; comp. also xii. p. 967a-c.Timaeus: p. 40d-f. Comp. Laws, xii. p. 948b.

P. 80. The gods in the Republic, ii. p. 380d. This passage, taken together with Plato's general treatment of popular belief, might lead to the hypothesis that it was Plato's doctrine of ideas rather than the rationalism of his youth that brought about strained relations between his thought and popular belief. I incline to think that such is the case; but there is a long step even from such a state of things to downright atheism, and the stress Plato always laid on the belief in Providence is a strong argument in favour of his belief in the gods, for he could never make his ideas act in the capacity of Providence.—The gods as creators of mankind: Timaeus, p. 41a foll.

P. 81. Xenocrates: the exposition of his doctrine given in the text is based upon Heinze's Xenokrates (Leipzig, 1892).

P. 83. Trial of Aristotle: Diog. Laert. v. 5; Athen. xv. p. 696.—The writings of Aristotle that have come down to us are almost all of them compositions for the use of his disciples, and were not accessible to the general public during his lifetime.

P. 84. On the religious views of Aristotle see in general Zeller, ii. 2, p. 787 (Engl. transl. ii. p. 325); where the references to his writings are given in full. In the following I indicate only a few passages of special interest.—Discussion of worship precluded: Top. A, xi. p. 105a, 5.—Aristotle's Will: Diog. Laert. v. 15.—The gods as determining the limits of the human: e.g. Nic. Eth. K, viii. p. 1178b, 33: "(the wise) will also be in need of outward prosperity, as he is (only) a man."—Reservations in speaking of the gods, e.g. Nic. Eth. K, ix. p. 1179a, 13: "he who is active in accordance with reason ... must also be supposed to be the most beloved of the gods; for if the gods trouble themselves about human affairs—and that they do so is generally taken for granted—it must be probable that they take pleasure in what is best and most nearly related to themselves (and that must be the reason), and that they reward those who love and honour this most highly," etc. The passage is typical both of the hypothetical way of speaking, and of the twist in the direction of Aristotle's own conception of the deity (whose essence is reason); also of the Socratic manner of dealing with the gods.

P. 85. The passage quoted is from the Metaphysics, A viii. p. 1074a, 38. Comp. Metaph. B, ii. p. 997b, 8; iv. p. 1000a, 9.

P. 86. Theophrastus: Diog. Laert. v. 37.

P. 87. Strato: Diels, Ueber das physikal. System des S., Sitzungsber. d. Berl. Akad., 1893, p. 101.—His god the same as nature: Cic. de nat. deor. i. 35.

P. 89. On the history of Hellenistic religion, see Wendland, Die hellenistisch-roemische Kultur in ihren Beziehungen z. Judentum u. Christentum (Tuebingen, 1907).

P. 90. The passage quoted is Polyb. vi. 56, 6.

P. 92. On the Tyche-Religion, see Naegelsbach, Nachhom. Theologie, p. 153; Lehrs, Populaere Aufsaetze, p. 153; Rohde, Griech. Roman, p. 267 (1st ed.); Wendland, p. 59.—Thucydides: see Classen in the introduction to his (3rd) edition, pp. lvii-lix, where all the material is collected. A conclusive passage is vii. 36, 6, where Thuc. makes the bigoted Nicias before a decisive battle express the hope that "Fortune" will favour the Athenians.—Demosthenes's dream: Aeschin. iii. 77.—Demosthenes on Tyche: Olynth. ii. 22; de cor. 252.

P. 93. Demosthenes and the Pythia: Aesch. iii. 130. Comp. ibid. 68, 131, 152; Plutarch, Dem. 20.—Demetrius of Phalerum: Polyb. xxix. 21.—Temples of Tyche: Roscher, Mythol. Lex., art. Fortuna.

P. 94. Tyche mistress of the gods: Trag. adesp. fragm. 506, Nauck; [Dio Chrys.] lxiv. p. 331 R.—Polybius: i. 1; iii. 5, 7.—The reservations against Tyche as a principle for the explaining of historical facts, and the twisting of the notion in the direction of Providence found in certain passages in Polybius, do not concern us here; they are probably due to the Stoic influence he underwent during his stay at Rome. Comp. below, on p. 114, and see Cuntz, Polybios (Leipzig, 1902), p. 43.—Pliny: ii. 22 foll.

P. 95. Tyche in the novels: Rohde, Griech. Rom. p. 280.

P. 97. Strabo: xvii. p. 813.—Plutarch: de def. or. 5 and 7.

P. 98. The Aetolians at Dium: Polyb. iv. 62; at Dodona, iv. 67; Philip at Thermon, v. 9; Dicaearchus, xviii. 54.—Decay of Roman worship: Wissowa, Religion u. Kultus d. Roemer, p. 70 (2nd ed.). To this work I must refer for indications of the sources; but the polemic in the text is chiefly directed against Wissowa.

P. 99. Ennius: comp. below, p. 112.

P. 100. Varro: in Augustine, de civ. Dei, vi. 2.

P. 103. Theology of the Stoics: Zeller, iii. 1, p. 309-45.

P. 104. Demonology of the Stoics: Heinze, Xenokrates, p. 96.

P. 105. Epicurus's theology: Zeller, iii. 1, pp. 427-38. Comp. Schwartz, Charakterkoepfe, ii. p. 43.

P. 106. Epicurus's doctrine of the eternity of the gods criticised: Cic. de nat. deor. i. 68 foll.

P. 107. The Sceptics: Zeller, iii. 1, pp. 507 and 521.

P. 109. Diogenes: see note on p. 74.—Bion: Diog. Laert. iv. 52 and 54.

P. 110. Menippos: R. Helm, Lukian u. Menipp (Leipzig and Berlin, 1906).

P. 111. Euhemerus: Jacoby in Pauly-Wissowa's Realencyclop., art. "Euemeros"; Wendland, Hellenist. Kultur, p. 70.—Euhemerism before Euhemerus: Lobeck, Aglaophamus, p. 9; Wendland, p. 67.

P. 112. A Danish scholar, Dr. J. P. Jacobsen (Afhandlinger og Artikler, p. 490), seems to think that Euhemerus's theory was influenced by the worship of heroes. But there is nothing to show that Euhemerus supposed his gods to have continued their existence after their death, though this would have been in accordance with Greek belief even in the Hellenistic period; he seems rather to have insisted that they were worshipped as gods during their lifetime (comp. Jacoby, loc. cit.).

P. 114. Euhemerism in Polybius: xxxiv. 2; comp. x. 10, 11.—Relapse into orthodoxy: xxxvii. 9 (the decisive passage); xxxix. 19, 2 (concluding prayer to the gods); xviii. 54, 7-10; xxiii. 10, 14 (the gods punish impiety; comp. xxxvii. 9, 16). There is a marked contrast between such passages and the way Polybius speaks of Philip's destruction of the sanctuary at Thermon; he blames it severely, but merely on political, not on religious grounds (v. 9-12). Orthodox utterances in the older portions of the work (i. 84, 10; x. 2, 7) may be due to that accommodation to popular belief which Polybius himself acknowledges as justifiable (xvi. 12, 9), but also to later revision.—Influence of Stoicism: Hirzel, Untersuchungen zu Ciceros philos. Schriften, ii. p. 841.

P. 115. Cicero's Stoicism in his philosophy of religion: de nat. deor. iii. 40, 95.

P. 116. Sanctuary to Tullia: Cic. ad Att. xii. 18 foll.; several of the letters (23, 25, 35, 36) show that Atticus disapproved of the idea, and that Cicero himself was conscious that it was unworthy of him.

P. 117. Euhemeristic defence: fragm. consol. 14, 15.—Augustus's reorganisation of the cults: Wissowa, Religion u. Kultus d. Roemer, p. 73. Recent scholars, especially when treating of Virgil (Heinze, Vergils ep. Technik, 3rd ed. p. 291; Norden, Aeneis, vi. 2nd ed. pp. 314, 318, 362), speak of the reform of Augustus as if it involved a real revulsion of feeling in his contemporaries. This is in my opinion a complete misunderstanding of the facts. Virgil's religious views: Catal. v., Georgics, ii. 458.

P. 118. Pliny: hist. nat. ii. 1-27. The passages translated are 14 and 27.

P. 122. Seneca: fragm. 31-39, Haase.—Stoic polemic against atheism: Epictetus, diss. ii. 20, 21; comp. Marcus Aurelius, vi. 44.—Later Cynicism: Zeller, iii. 1, p. 763.—Oenomaus: only preserved in excerpts by Euseb. praep. evang. 5-6 (a separate edition is wanted).—His polemic directed against the priests: Euseb. 5, p. 213c; comp. Oenomaus himself, ibid. 6, p. 256d.

P. 123. Lucian: see Christ, Gesch. d. griech. Litt. ii. 2, p. 550 (5th ed.), and R. Helm, Lukian u. Menipp (see note to p. 110).

P. 124. Timon: ch. x.

P. 126. On Lucian's caution in attacking the really popular gods, see Wilamowitz, in Kultur d. Gegenwart, i. 8, p. 248.—The Jews atheists: Harnack, Der Vorwurf d. Atheismus in den 3 ersten Jahrh. (Texte u. Unters., N.F., xiii. 4), p. 3.

P. 127. I have met with no comprehensive treatment of Jewish and Christian polemic against Paganism; Geffcken, Zwei griech. Apologeten (Leipzig, 1907), is chiefly concerned with investigations into the sources. I shall therefore indicate the principal passages on which my treatment is based.—Polemic against images in the Old Testament: Isaiah 44.10 etc.; in later literature: Epistle of Jeremiah; Wisdom of Solomon 13 foll.; Philo, de decal. 65 foll., etc.—Euhemerism: Wisdom of Solomon 14.15; Epistle of Aristeas, 135; Sibyll. iii. 547, 554, 723.—Elements and celestial bodies: Wisdom of Solomon 13; Philo, de decal. 52 foll.—The tenacity of tradition is apparent from the fact that even Maimonides in his treatise of idolatry deals only with star-worship and image-worship. I know the treatise only from the Latin translation by D. Voss (in G. I. Voss's Opera, vol. v.).—Demons: Deuteron. 32.17; Psalms 106.37; add (according to LXX.) Isaiah 65.11; Psalms 96.5. Later writers: Enoch 19.99, 7; Baruch 4.7. Such passages as Jub. 22, 17 or Sibyll. prooem. 22 are possibly Euhemeristic.—Fallen angels: Enoch, 19.—Philo's demonology: de gig. 6-18, etc.

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