HotFreeBooks.com
Five Stages of Greek Religion
by Gilbert Murray
1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Transcriber's Notes: Words in Greek in the original have been transliterated and placed between plus signs. Words in Hebrew in the original have been transliterated and placed between pound signs. Words surrounded by underscores are in italics in the original. Characters superscripted in the original are enclosed in {braces}. Ellipses match the original. A row of asterisks represents a thought break.

There are diacritical accents in the original. In this text, ā represents the letter "a" with a macron.

Variations in spelling and hyphenation have been left as in the original. Some typographical and punctuation errors have been corrected. A complete list follows the text.



FIVE STAGES OF GREEK RELIGION

BY GILBERT MURRAY

Boston THE BEACON PRESS



PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION

Anyone who has been in Greece at Easter time, especially among the more remote peasants, must have been struck by the emotion of suspense and excitement with which they wait for the announcement "Christos aneste," "Christ is risen!" and the response "Alethos aneste," "He has really risen!" I have referred elsewhere to Mr. Lawson's old peasant woman, who explained her anxiety: "If Christ does not rise tomorrow we shall have no harvest this year" (Modern Greek Folklore, p. 573). We are evidently in the presence of an emotion and a fear which, beneath its Christian colouring and, so to speak, transfiguration, is in its essence, like most of man's deepest emotions, a relic from a very remote pre-Christian past. Every spring was to primitive man a time of terrible anxiety. His store of food was near its end. Would the dead world revive, or would it not? The Old Year was dead; would the New Year, the Young King, born afresh of Sky and Earth, come in the Old King's place and bring with him the new growth and the hope of life?

I hardly realized, when writing the earlier editions of this book, how central, how omnipresent, this complex of ideas was in ancient Greek religion. Attis, Adonis, Osiris, Dionysus, and the rest of the "Year Gods" were not eccentric divagations in a religion whose proper worship was given to the immortal Olympians; they are different names given in different circumstances to this one being who dies and is born again each year, dies old and polluted with past deaths and sins, and is reborn young and purified. I have tried to trace this line of tradition in an article for the Journal of Hellenic Studies for June 1951, and to show, incidentally, how many of the elements in the Christian tradition it has provided, especially those elements which are utterly alien from Hebrew monotheism and must, indeed, have shocked every orthodox Jew.

The best starting point is the conception of the series of Old Kings, each, when the due time comes, dethroned and replaced by his son, the Young King, with the help of the Queen Mother; for Gaia or Earth, the eternal Wife and Mother of each in turn, is always ready to renew herself. The new vegetation God each year is born from the union of the Sky-God and the Earth-Mother; or, as in myth and legend the figures become personified, he is the Son of a God and a mortal princess.

We all know the sequence of Kings in Hesiod: First Uranus (Sky), King of the World, and his wife Gaia (Earth); Uranus reigns till he is dethroned by his son Cronos with the help of Gaia; then Cronos and Rhea (Earth) reign till Cronos is dethroned by his son Zeus, with the help of Rhea; then Zeus reigns till . . . but here the series stops, since, according to the orthodox Olympian system, Zeus is the eternal King. But there was another system, underlying the Olympian, and it is to that other system that the Year-Kings belong. The Olympians are definite persons. They are immortal; they do not die and revive; they are not beings who come and go, in succession to one another. In the other series are the Attis-Adonis-Osiris type of gods, and especially Dionysus, whose name has been shown by Kretschmer to be simply the Thracian Deos or Dios nysos, "Zeus-Young" or "Zeus-the-son." And in the Orphic tradition it is laid down that Zeus yields up his power to Dionysus and bids all the gods of the Cosmos obey him. The mother of Dionysus was Semele, a name which, like Gaia and Rhea, means "Earth." The series is not only continuous but infinite; for on one side Uranus (Sky) was himself the son of Gaia the eternal, and on the other, every year a Zeus was succeeded by a "Young Zeus."

The Young King, bearer of spring and the new summer, is the Saviour of the Earth, made cold and lifeless by winter and doomed to barrenness by all the pollutions of the past; the Saviour also of mankind from all kinds of evils, and bringer of a new Aion, or Age, to the world. Innumerable different figures in Greek mythology are personifications of him, from Dionysus and Heracles to the Dioscuri and many heroes of myth. He bears certain distinguishing marks. He is always the son of a God and a mortal princess. The mother is always persecuted, a mater dolorosa, and rescued by her son. The Son is always a Saviour; very often a champion who saves his people from enemies or monsters; but sometimes a Healer of the Sick, like Asclepius; sometimes, like Dionysus, a priest or hierophant with a thiasos, or band of worshippers; sometimes a King's Son who is sacrificed to save his people, and mystically identified with some sacrificial animal, a lamb, a young bull, a horse or a fawn, whose blood has supernatural power. Sometimes again he is a divine or miraculous Babe, for whose birth the whole world has been waiting, who will bring his own Age or Kingdom and "make all things new." His life is almost always threatened by a cruel king, like Herod, but he always escapes. The popularity of the Divine Babe is probably due to the very widespread worship of the Egyptian Child-God, Harpocrates. Egyptian also is the Virgin-Mother, impregnated by the holy Pneuma or Spiritus of the god, or sometimes by the laying on of his hand.

Besides the ordinary death and rebirth of the vegetation year god, the general conclusion to which these considerations point has many parallels elsewhere. Our own religious ideas are subject to the same tendencies as those of other civilizations. Men and women, when converted to a new religion or instructed in some new and unaccustomed knowledge, are extremely unwilling, and sometimes absolutely unable, to give up their old magical or religious practices and habits of thought. When African negroes are converted to Christianity and forbidden to practise their tribal magic, they are apt to steal away into the depths of the forest and do secretly what they have always considered necessary to ensure a good harvest. Not to do so would be too great a risk. When Goths were "converted by battalions" the change must have been more in names than in substance. When Greeks of the Mediterranean were forbidden to say prayers to a figure of Helios, the Sun, it was not difficult to call him the prophet Elias and go on with the same prayers and hopes. Not difficult to continue your prayers to the age-old Mother Goddess of all Mediterranean peoples, while calling her Mary, the Mother of Christ. Eusebius studied the subject, somewhat superficially, in his Praeparatio Evangelica, in which he argued that much old pagan belief was to be explained as an imperfect preparation for the full light of the Gospel. And it is certainly striking how the Anatolian peoples, among whom the seed of the early Church was chiefly sown, could never, in spite of Jewish monotheism, give up the beloved Mother Goddess for whom mankind craves, or the divine "Faithful Son" who will by his own sacrifice save his people. Where scientific knowledge fails man cannot but be guided by his felt needs and longings and aspirations.

The elements in Christianity which derive from what Jews called "the Goyim" or "nations" beyond the pale, seem to be far deeper and more numerous than those which come unchanged from Judaism. Even the Sabbath had to be changed, and the birthday of Jesus conformed to that of the Sun. Judaism contributed a strong, though not quite successful, resistance to polytheism, and a purification of sexual morality. It provided perhaps a general antiseptic, which was often needed by the passionate gropings of Hellenistic religion, in the stage which I call the Failure of Nerve.

G. M.

September 1951.



PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION

In revising the Four Stages of Greek Religion I have found myself obliged to change its name. I felt there was a gap in the story. The high-water mark of Greek religious thought seems to me to have come just between the Olympian Religion and the Failure of Nerve; and the decline—if that is the right word—which is observable in the later ages of antiquity is a decline not from Olympianism but from the great spiritual and intellectual effort of the fourth century B.C., which culminated in the Metaphysics and the De Anima and the foundation of the Stoa and the Garden. Consequently I have added a new chapter at this point and raised the number of Stages to five.

My friend Mr. E. E. Genner has kindly enabled me to correct two or three errors in the first edition, and I owe special thanks to my old pupil, Professor E. R. Dodds, for several interesting observations and criticisms on points connected with Plotinus and Sallustius. Otherwise I have altered little. I am only sorry to have left the book so long out of print.

G. M.



PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION

This small book has taken a long time in growing. Though the first two essays were only put in writing this year for a course of lectures which I had the honour of delivering at Columbia University in 1912, the third, which was also used at Columbia, had in its main features appeared in the Hibbert Journal in 1910, the fourth in part in the English Review in 1908; the translation of Sallustius was made in 1907 for use with a small class at Oxford. Much of the material is much older in conception, and all has been reconsidered. I must thank the editors of both the above-named periodicals for their kind permission to reprint.

I think it was the writings of my friend Mr. Andrew Lang that first awoke me, in my undergraduate days, to the importance of anthropology and primitive religion to a Greek scholar. Certainly I began then to feel that the great works of the ancient Greek imagination are penetrated habitually by religious conceptions and postulates which literary scholars like myself had not observed or understood. In the meantime the situation has changed. Greek religion is being studied right and left, and has revealed itself as a surprisingly rich and attractive, though somewhat controversial, subject. It used to be a deserted territory; now it is at least a battle-ground. If ever the present differences resolved themselves into a simple fight with shillelaghs between the scholars and the anthropologists, I should without doubt wield my reluctant weapon on the side of the scholars. Scholarship is the rarer, harder, less popular and perhaps the more permanently valuable work, and it certainly stands more in need of defence at the moment. But in the meantime I can hardly understand how the purest of 'pure scholars' can fail to feel his knowledge enriched by the savants who have compelled us to dig below the surface of our classical tradition and to realize the imaginative and historical problems which so often lie concealed beneath the smooth security of a verbal 'construe'. My own essays do not for a moment claim to speak with authority on a subject which is still changing and showing new facets year by year. They only claim to represent the way of regarding certain large issues of Greek Religion which has gradually taken shape, and has proved practically helpful and consistent with facts, in the mind of a very constant, though unsystematic, reader of many various periods of Greek literature.

In the first essay my debt to Miss Harrison is great and obvious. My statement of one or two points is probably different from hers, but in the main I follow her lead. And in either case I cannot adequately describe the advantage I have derived from many years of frequent discussion and comparison of results with a Hellenist whose learning and originality of mind are only equalled by her vivid generosity towards her fellow-workers.

The second may also be said to have grown out of Miss Harrison's writings. She has by now made the title of 'Olympian' almost a term of reproach, and thrown down so many a scornful challenge to the canonical gods of Greece, that I have ventured on this attempt to explain their historical origin and plead for their religious value. When the essay was already written I read Mr. Chadwick's impressive book on The Heroic Age (Cambridge, 1912), and was delighted to find in an author whose standpoint and equipment are so different from mine so much that confirmed or clarified my own view.

The title of the third essay I owe to a conversation with Professor J. B. Bury. We were discussing the change that took place in Greek thought between, say, Plato and the Neo-Platonists, or even between Aristotle and Posidonius, and which is seen at its highest power in the Gnostics. I had been calling it a rise of asceticism, or mysticism, or religious passion, or the like, when my friend corrected me. 'It is not a rise; it is a fall or failure of something, a sort of failure of nerve.'—We are treading here upon somewhat firmer ground than in the first two essays. The field for mere conjecture is less: we are supported more continuously by explicit documents. Yet the subject is a very difficult one owing to the scattered and chaotic nature of the sources, and even where we get away from fragments and reconstructions and reach definite treatises with or without authors' names, I cannot pretend to feel anything like the same clearness about the true meaning of a passage in Philo or the Corpus Hermeticum that one normally feels in a writer of the classical period. Consequently in this essay I think I have hugged my modern authorities rather close, and seldom expressed an opinion for which I could not find some fairly authoritative backing, my debt being particularly great to Reitzenstein, Bousset, and the brilliant Hellenistisch-roemische Kultur of P. Wendland. I must also thank my old pupil, Mr. Edwyn Bevan, who was kind enough to read this book in proof, for some valuable criticisms. The subject is one of such extraordinary interest that I offer no apology for calling further attention to it.

A word or two about the last brief revival of the ancient religion under 'Julian the Apostate' forms the natural close to this series of studies. But here our material, both historical and literary, is so abundant that I have followed a different method. After a short historical introduction I have translated in full a very curious and little-known ancient text, which may be said to constitute something like an authoritative Pagan creed. Some readers may regret that I do not give the Greek as well as the English. I am reluctant, however, to publish a text which I have not examined in the MSS., and I feel also that, while an edition of Sallustius is rather urgently needed, it ought to be an edition with a full commentary.[xvi:1]

I was first led to these studies by the wish to fill up certain puzzling blanks of ignorance in my own mind, and doubtless the little book bears marks of this origin. It aims largely at the filling of interstices. It avoids the great illuminated places, and gives its mind to the stretches of intervening twilight. It deals little with the harvest of flowers or fruit, but watches the inconspicuous seasons when the soil is beginning to stir, the seeds are falling or ripening.

G. M.

FOOTNOTES:

[xvi:1] Professor Nock's edition (Cambridge 1926) has admirably filled this gap.



CONTENTS

PAGE I. SATURNIA REGNA 1

II. THE OLYMPIAN CONQUEST 39

III. THE GREAT SCHOOLS 79

IV. THE FAILURE OF NERVE 123

V. THE LAST PROTEST 173

APPENDIX: TRANSLATION OF THE TREATISE OF SALLUSTIUS, peri Theon kai Kosmou 200

INDEX 227



O protos anthropos ek ges, choikos; ho deuteros anthropos ho Kyrios ex ouranou.

"The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven."



I

SATURNIA REGNA

Many persons who are quite prepared to admit the importance to the world of Greek poetry, Greek art, and Greek philosophy, may still feel it rather a paradox to be told that Greek religion specially repays our study at the present day. Greek religion, associated with a romantic, trivial, and not very edifying mythology, has generally seemed one of the weakest spots in the armour of those giants of the old world. Yet I will venture to make for Greek religion almost as great a claim as for the thought and the literature, not only because the whole mass of it is shot through by those strange lights of feeling and imagination, and the details of it constantly wrought into beauty by that instinctive sense of artistic form, which we specially associate with Classical Greece, but also for two definite historical reasons. In the first place, the student of that dark and fascinating department of the human mind which we may call Religious Origins, will find in Greece an extraordinary mass of material belonging to a very early date. For detail and variety the primitive Greek evidence has no equal. And, secondly, in this department as in others, ancient Greece has the triumphant if tragic distinction of beginning at the very bottom and struggling, however precariously, to the very summits. There is hardly any horror of primitive superstition of which we cannot find some distant traces in our Greek record. There is hardly any height of spiritual thought attained in the world that has not its archetype or its echo in the stretch of Greek literature that lies between Thales and Plotinus, embracing much of the 'Wisdom-Teachers' and of St. Paul.

The progress of Greek religion falls naturally into three stages, all of them historically important. First there is the primitive Euetheia or Age of Ignorance, before Zeus came to trouble men's minds, a stage to which our anthropologists and explorers have found parallels in every part of the world. Dr. Preuss applies to it the charming word 'Urdummheit', or 'Primal Stupidity'. In some ways characteristically Greek, in others it is so typical of similar stages of thought elsewhere that one is tempted to regard it as the normal beginning of all religion, or almost as the normal raw material out of which religion is made. There is certainly some repulsiveness, but I confess that to me there is also an element of fascination in the study of these 'Beastly Devices of the Heathen', at any rate as they appear in early Greece, where each single 'beastly device' as it passes is somehow touched with beauty and transformed by some spirit of upward striving.

Secondly there is the Olympian or classical stage, a stage in which, for good or ill, blunderingly or successfully, this primitive vagueness was reduced to a kind of order. This is the stage of the great Olympian gods, who dominated art and poetry, ruled the imagination of Rome, and extended a kind of romantic dominion even over the Middle Ages. It is the stage that we learn, or mis-learn, from the statues and the handbooks of mythology. Critics have said that this Olympian stage has value only as art and not as religion. That is just one of the points into which we shall inquire.

Thirdly, there is the Hellenistic period, reaching roughly from Plato to St. Paul and the earlier Gnostics. The first edition of this book treated the whole period as one, but I have now divided it by writing a new chapter on the Movements of the Fourth Century B. C., and making that my third stage. This was the time when the Greek mind, still in its full creative vigour, made its first response to the twofold failure of the world in which it had put its faith, the open bankruptcy of the Olympian religion and the collapse of the city-state. Both had failed, and each tried vainly to supply the place of the other. Greece responded by the creation of two great permanent types of philosophy which have influenced human ethics ever since, the Cynic and Stoic schools on the one hand, and the Epicurean on the other. These schools belong properly, I think, to the history of religion. The successors of Aristotle produced rather a school of progressive science, those of Plato a school of refined scepticism. The religious side of Plato's thought was not revealed in its full power till the time of Plotinus in the third century A. D.; that of Aristotle, one might say without undue paradox, not till its exposition by Aquinas in the thirteenth.

The old Third Stage, therefore, becomes now a Fourth, comprising the later and more popular movements of the Hellenistic Age, a period based on the consciousness of manifold failure, and consequently touched both with morbidity and with that spiritual exaltation which is so often the companion of morbidity. It not only had behind it the failure of the Olympian theology and of the free city-state, now crushed by semi-barbarous military monarchies; it lived through the gradual realization of two other failures—the failure of human government, even when backed by the power of Rome or the wealth of Egypt, to achieve a good life for man; and lastly the failure of the great propaganda of Hellenism, in which the long-drawn effort of Greece to educate a corrupt and barbaric world seemed only to lead to the corruption or barbarization of the very ideals which it sought to spread. This sense of failure, this progressive loss of hope in the world, in sober calculation, and in organized human effort, threw the later Greek back upon his own soul, upon the pursuit of personal holiness, upon emotions, mysteries and revelations, upon the comparative neglect of this transitory and imperfect world for the sake of some dream-world far off, which shall subsist without sin or corruption, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. These four are the really significant and formative periods of Greek religious thought; but we may well cast our eyes also on a fifth stage, not historically influential perhaps, but at least romantic and interesting and worthy of considerable respect, when the old religion in the time of Julian roused itself for a last spiritual protest against the all-conquering 'atheism' of the Christians. I omit Plotinus, as in earlier chapters I have omitted Plato and Aristotle, and for the same reason. As a rule in the writings of Julian's circle and still more in the remains of popular belief, the tendencies of our fourth stage are accentuated by an increased demand for definite dogma and a still deeper consciousness of worldly defeat.

I shall not start with any definition of religion. Religion, like poetry and most other living things, cannot be defined. But one may perhaps give some description of it, or at least some characteristic marks. In the first place, religion essentially deals with the uncharted region of human experience. A large part of human life has been thoroughly surveyed and explored; we understand the causes at work; and we are not bewildered by the problems. That is the domain of positive knowledge. But all round us on every side there is an uncharted region, just fragments of the fringe of it explored, and those imperfectly; it is with this that religion deals. And secondly we may note that religion deals with its own province not tentatively, by the normal methods of patient intellectual research, but directly, and by methods of emotion or sub-conscious apprehension. Agriculture, for instance, used to be entirely a question of religion; now it is almost entirely a question of science. In antiquity, if a field was barren, the owner of it would probably assume that the barrenness was due to 'pollution', or offence somewhere. He would run through all his own possible offences, or at any rate those of his neighbours and ancestors, and when he eventually decided the cause of the trouble, the steps that he would take would all be of a kind calculated not to affect the chemical constitution of the soil, but to satisfy his own emotions of guilt and terror, or the imaginary emotions of the imaginary being he had offended. A modern man in the same predicament would probably not think of religion at all, at any rate in the earlier stages; he would say it was a case for deeper ploughing or for basic slag. Later on, if disaster followed disaster till he began to feel himself a marked man, even the average modern would, I think, begin instinctively to reflect upon his sins. A third characteristic flows from the first. The uncharted region surrounds us on every side and is apparently infinite; consequently, when once the things of the uncharted region are admitted as factors in our ordinary conduct of life they are apt to be infinite factors, overruling and swamping all others. The thing that religion forbids is a thing never to be done; not all the inducements that this life can offer weigh at all in the balance. Indeed there is no balance. The man who makes terms with his conscience is essentially non-religious; the religious man knows that it will profit him nothing if he gain all this finite world and lose his stake in the infinite and eternal.[6:1]

Am I going to draw no distinction then between religion and mere superstition? Not at present. Later on we may perhaps see some way to it. Superstition is the name given to a low or bad form of religion, to the kind of religion we disapprove. The line of division, if we made one, would be only an arbitrary bar thrust across a highly complex and continuous process.

Does this amount to an implication that all the religions that have existed in the world are false? Not so. It is obvious indeed that most, if analysed into intellectual beliefs, are false; and I suppose that a thoroughly orthodox member of any one of the million religious bodies that exist in the world must be clear in his mind that the other million minus one are wrong, if not wickedly wrong. That, I think, we must be clear about. Yet the fact remains that man must have some relation towards the uncharted, the mysterious, tracts of life which surround him on every side. And for my own part I am content to say that his method must be to a large extent very much what St. Paul calls pistis or faith: that is, some attitude not of the conscious intellect but of the whole being, using all its powers of sensitiveness, all its feeblest and most inarticulate feelers and tentacles, in the effort somehow to touch by these that which cannot be grasped by the definite senses or analysed by the conscious reason. What we gain thus is an insecure but a precious possession. We gain no dogma, at least no safe dogma, but we gain much more. We gain something hard to define, which lies at the heart not only of religion, but of art and poetry and all the higher strivings of human emotion. I believe that at times we actually gain practical guidance in some questions where experience and argument fail.[8:1] That is a great work left for religion, but we must always remember two things about it: first, that the liability to error is enormous, indeed almost infinite; and second, that the results of confident error are very terrible. Probably throughout history the worst things ever done in the world on a large scale by decent people have been done in the name of religion, and I do not think that has entirely ceased to be true at the present day. All the Middle Ages held the strange and, to our judgement, the obviously insane belief that the normal result of religious error was eternal punishment. And yet by the crimes to which that false belief led them they almost proved the truth of something very like it. The record of early Christian and medieval persecutions which were the direct result of that one confident religious error comes curiously near to one's conception of the wickedness of the damned.

* * * * *

To turn to our immediate subject, I wish to put forward here what is still a rather new and unauthorized view of the development of Greek religion; readers will forgive me if, in treating so vast a subject, I draw my outline very broadly, leaving out many qualifications, and quoting only a fragment of the evidence.

The things that have misled us moderns in our efforts towards understanding the primitive stage in Greek religion have been first the widespread and almost ineradicable error of treating Homer as primitive, and more generally our unconscious insistence on starting with the notion of 'Gods'. Mr. Hartland, in his address as president of one of the sections of the International Congress of Religions at Oxford,[9:1] dwelt on the significant fact about savage religions that wherever the word 'God' is used our trustiest witnesses tend to contradict one another. Among the best observers of the Arunta tribes, for instance, some hold that they have no conception of God, others that they are constantly thinking about God. The truth is that this idea of a god far away in the sky—I do not say merely a First Cause who is 'without body parts or passions', but almost any being that we should naturally call a 'god'—is an idea not easy for primitive man to grasp. It is a subtle and rarefied idea, saturated with ages of philosophy and speculation. And we must always remember that one of the chief religions of the world, Buddhism, has risen to great moral and intellectual heights without using the conception of God at all; in his stead it has Dharma, the Eternal Law.[10:1]

Apart from some few philosophers, both Christian and Moslem, the gods of the ordinary man have as a rule been as a matter of course anthropomorphic. Men did not take the trouble to try to conceive them otherwise. In many cases they have had the actual bodily shape of man; in almost all they have possessed—of course in their highest development—his mind and reason and his mental attributes. It causes most of us even now something of a shock to be told by a medieval Arab philosopher that to call God benevolent or righteous or to predicate of him any other human quality is just as Pagan and degraded as to say that he has a beard.[10:2] Now the Greek gods seem at first sight quite particularly solid and anthropomorphic. The statues and vases speak clearly, and they are mostly borne out by the literature. Of course we must discount the kind of evidence that misled Winckelmann, the mere Roman and Alexandrian art and mythology; but even if we go back to the fifth century B. C. we shall find the ruling conceptions far nobler indeed, but still anthropomorphic. We find firmly established the Olympian patriarchal family, Zeus the Father of gods and men, his wife Hera, his son Apollo, his daughter Athena, his brothers Poseidon and Hades, and the rest. We probably think of each figure more or less as like a statue, a habit of mind obviously wrong and indeed absurd, as if one thought of 'Labour' and 'Grief' as statues because Rodin or St. Gaudens has so represented them. And yet it was a habit into which the late Greeks themselves sometimes fell;[11:1] their arts of sculpture and painting as applied to religion had been so dangerously successful: they sharpened and made vivid an anthropomorphism which in its origin had been mostly the result of normal human laziness. The process of making winds and rivers into anthropomorphic gods is, for the most part, not the result of using the imagination with special vigour. It is the result of not doing so. The wind is obviously alive; any fool can see that. Being alive, it blows; how? why, naturally; just as you and I blow. It knocks things down, it shouts and dances, it whispers and talks. And, unless we are going to make a great effort of the imagination and try to realize, like a scientific man, just what really happens, we naturally assume that it does these things in the normal way, in the only way we know. Even when you worship a beast or a stone, you practically anthropomorphize it. It happens indeed to have a perfectly clear shape, so you accept that. But it talks, acts, and fights just like a man—as you can see from the Australian Folk Tales published by Mrs. Langloh Parker—because you do not take the trouble to think out any other way of behaving. This kind of anthropomorphism—or as Mr. Gladstone used to call it, 'anthropophuism'—'humanity of nature'—is primitive and inevitable: the sharp-cut statue type of god is different, and is due in Greece directly to the work of the artists.

We must get back behind these gods of the artist's workshop and the romance-maker's imagination, and see if the religious thinkers of the great period use, or imply, the same highly human conceptions. We shall find Parmenides telling us that God coincides with the universe, which is a sphere and immovable;[12:1] Heraclitus, that God is 'day night, summer winter, war peace, satiety hunger'. Xenophanes, that God is all-seeing, all-hearing, and all mind;[12:2] and as for his supposed human shape, why, if bulls and lions were to speak about God they would doubtless tell us that he was a bull or a lion.[12:3] We must notice the instinctive language of the poets, using the word theos in many subtle senses for which our word 'God' is too stiff, too personal, and too anthropomorphic. To eutychein, 'the fact of success', is 'a god and more than a god'; to gignoskein philous, 'the thrill of recognizing a friend' after long absence, is a 'god'; wine is a 'god' whose body is poured out in libation to gods; and in the unwritten law of the human conscience 'a great god liveth and groweth not old'.[12:4] You will say that is mere poetry or philosophy: it represents a particular theory or a particular metaphor. I think not. Language of this sort is used widely and without any explanation or apology. It was evidently understood and felt to be natural by the audience. If it is metaphorical, all metaphors have grown from the soil of current thought and normal experience. And without going into the point at length I think we may safely conclude that the soil from which such language as this grew was not any system of clear-cut personal anthropomorphic theology. No doubt any of these poets, if he had to make a picture of one of these utterly formless Gods, would have given him a human form. That was the recognized symbol, as a veiled woman is St. Gaudens's symbol for 'Grief'.

* * * * *

But we have other evidence too which shows abundantly that these Olympian gods are not primary, but are imposed upon a background strangely unlike themselves. For a long time their luminous figures dazzled our eyes; we were not able to see the half-lit regions behind them, the dark primeval tangle of desires and fears and dreams from which they drew their vitality. The surest test to apply in this question is the evidence of actual cult. Miss Harrison has here shown us the right method, and following her we will begin with the three great festivals of Athens, the Diasia, the Thesmophoria, and the Anthesteria.[14:1]

The Diasia was said to be the chief festival of Zeus, the central figure of the Olympians, though our authorities generally add an epithet to him, and call him Zeus Meilichios, Zeus of Placation. A god with an 'epithet' is always suspicious, like a human being with an 'alias'. Miss Harrison's examination (Prolegomena, pp. 28 ff.) shows that in the rites Zeus has no place at all. Meilichios from the beginning has a fairly secure one. On some of the reliefs Meilichios appears not as a god, but as an enormous bearded snake, a well-known representation of underworld powers or dead ancestors. Sometimes the great snake is alone; sometimes he rises gigantic above the small human worshippers approaching him. And then, in certain reliefs, his old barbaric presence vanishes, and we have instead a benevolent and human father of gods and men, trying, as Miss Harrison somewhere expresses it, to look as if he had been there all the time.

There was a sacrifice at the Diasia, but it was not a sacrifice given to Zeus. To Zeus and all the heavenly gods men gave sacrifice in the form of a feast, in which the god had his portion and the worshippers theirs. The two parties cemented their friendship and feasted happily together. But the sacrifice at the Diasia was a holocaust:[14:2] every shred of the victim was burnt to ashes, that no man might partake of it. We know quite well the meaning of that form of sacrifice: it is a sacrifice to placate or appease the powers below, the Chthonioi, the dead and the lords of death. It was performed, as our authorities tell us, meta stygnotetos, with shuddering or repulsion.[15:1]

The Diasia was a ritual of placation, that is, of casting away various elements of pollution or danger and appeasing the unknown wraths of the surrounding darkness. The nearest approach to a god contained in this festival is Meilichios, and Meilichios, as we shall see later, belongs to a particular class of shadowy beings who are built up out of ritual services. His name means 'He of appeasement', and he is nothing else. He is merely the personified shadow or dream generated by the emotion of the ritual—very much, to take a familiar instance, as Father Christmas is a 'projection' of our Christmas customs.

* * * * *

The Thesmophoria formed the great festival of Demeter and her daughter Kore, though here again Demeter appears with a clinging epithet, Thesmophoros. We know pretty clearly the whole course of the ritual: there is the carrying by women of certain magic charms, fir-cones and snakes and unnameable objects made of paste, to ensure fertility; there is a sacrifice of pigs, who were thrown into a deep cleft of the earth, and their remains afterwards collected and scattered as a charm over the fields. There is more magic ritual, more carrying of sacred objects, a fast followed by a rejoicing, a disappearance of life below the earth, and a rising again of life above it; but it is hard to find definite traces of any personal goddess. The Olympian Demeter and Persephone dwindle away as we look closer, and we are left with the shadow Thesmophoros, 'She who carries Thesmoi',[16:1] not a substantive personal goddess, but merely a personification of the ritual itself: an imaginary Charm-bearer generated by so much charm-bearing, just as Meilichios in the Diasia was generated from the ritual of appeasement.

Now the Diasia were dominated by a sacred snake. Is there any similar divine animal in the Thesmophoria? Alas, yes. Both here, and still more markedly in the mysteries of Demeter and Persephone at Eleusis, we regularly find the most lovely of all goddesses, Demeter and Persephone, habitually—I will not say represented by, but dangerously associated with, a sacred Sow. A Pig is the one animal in Greek religion that actually had sacrifice made to it.[16:2]

* * * * *

The third feast, the Anthesteria, belongs in classical times to the Olympian Dionysus, and is said to be the oldest of his feasts. On the surface there is a touch of the wine-god, and he is given due official prominence; but as soon as we penetrate anywhere near the heart of the festival, Dionysus and his brother gods are quite forgotten, and all that remains is a great ritual for appeasing the dead. All the days of the Feast were nefasti, of ill omen; the first day especially was es to pan apophras. On it the Wine Jars which were also Seed and Funeral Jars were opened and the spirits of the Dead let loose in the world.[17:1] Nameless and innumerable, the ghosts are summoned out of their tombs, and are duly feasted, each man summoning his own ghosts to his own house, and carefully abstaining from any act that would affect his neighbours. And then, when they are properly appeased and made gentle, they are swept back again out of this world to the place where they properly belong, and the streets and houses cleaned from the presence of death. There is one central stage indeed in which Dionysus does seem to appear. And he appears in a very significant way, to conduct a Sacred Marriage. For, why do you suppose the dead are summoned at all? What use to the tribe is the presence of all these dead ancestors? They have come, I suspect, to be born again, to begin a new life at the great Spring festival. For the new births of the tribe, the new crops, the new kids, the new human beings, are of course really only the old ones returned to earth.[17:2] The important thing is to get them properly placated and purified, free from the contagion of ancient sin or underworld anger. For nothing is so dangerous as the presence of what I may call raw ghosts. The Anthesteria contained, like other feasts of the kind, a hieros gamos, or Holy Marriage, between the wife of the Basileus or Sacred King, and the imaginary god.[18:1] Whatever reality there ever was in the ceremony has apparently by classical times faded away. But the place where the god received his bride is curious. It was called the Boukolion, or Bull's Shed. It was not originally the home of an anthropomorphic god, but of a divine animal.

* * * * *

Thus in each of these great festivals we find that the Olympian gods vanish away, and we are left with three things only: first, with an atmosphere of religious dread; second, with a whole sequence of magical ceremonies which, in two at least of the three cases,[18:2] produce a kind of strange personal emanation of themselves, the Appeasements producing Meilichios, the Charm-bearings Thesmophoros; and thirdly, with a divine or sacred animal. In the Diasia we find the old superhuman snake, who reappears so ubiquitously throughout Greece, the regular symbol of the underworld powers, especially the hero or dead ancestor. Why the snake was so chosen we can only surmise. He obviously lived underground: his home was among the Chthonioi, the Earth-People. Also, says the Scholiast to Aristophanes (Plut. 533), he was a type of new birth because he throws off his old skin and renews himself. And if that in itself is not enough to show his supernatural power, what normal earthly being could send his enemies to death by one little pin-prick, as some snakes can?

In the Thesmophoria we found sacred swine, and the reason given by the ancients is no doubt the right one. The sow is sacred because of its fertility, and possibly as practical people we should add, because of its cheapness. Swine are always prominent in Greek agricultural rites. And the bull? Well, we modern town-dwellers have almost forgotten what a real bull is like. For so many centuries we have tamed him and penned him in, and utterly deposed him from his place as lord of the forest. The bull was the chief of magic or sacred animals in Greece, chief because of his enormous strength, his size, his rage, in fine, as anthropologists call it, his mana; that primitive word which comprises force, vitality, prestige, holiness, and power of magic, and which may belong equally to a lion, a chief, a medicine-man, or a battle-axe.

Now in the art and the handbooks these sacred animals have all been adopted into the Olympian system. They appear regularly as the 'attributes' of particular gods. Zeus is merely accompanied by a snake, an eagle, a bull, or at worst assumes for his private purposes the forms of those animals. The cow and the cuckoo are sacred to Hera; the owl and the snake to Athena; the dolphin, the crow, the lizard, the bull, to Apollo. Dionysus, always like a wilder and less middle-aged Zeus, appears freely as a snake, bull, he-goat, and lion. Allowing for some isolated exceptions, the safest rule in all these cases is that the attribute is original and the god is added.[20:1] It comes out very clearly in the case of the snake and the bull. The tremendous mana of the wild bull indeed occupies almost half the stage of pre-Olympian ritual. The religion unearthed by Dr. Evans in Crete is permeated by the bull of Minos. The heads and horns are in almost every sacred room and on every altar. The great religious scene depicted on the sarcophagus of Hagia Triada[20:2] centres in the holy blood that flows from the neck of a captive and dying bull. Down into classical times bull's blood was a sacred thing which it was dangerous to touch and death to taste: to drink a cup of it was the most heroic form of suicide.[20:3] The sacrificial bull at Delphi was called Hosioter: he was not merely hosios, holy; he was Hosioter, the Sanctifier, He who maketh Holy. It was by contact with him that holiness was spread to others. On a coin and a vase, cited by Miss Harrison,[21:1] we have a bull entering a holy cave and a bull standing in a shrine. We have holy pillars whose holiness consists in the fact that they have been touched with the blood of a bull. We have a long record of a bull-ritual at Magnesia,[21:2] in which Zeus, though he makes a kind of external claim to be lord of the feast, dare not claim that the bull is sacrificed to him. Zeus has a ram to himself and stands apart, showing but a weak and shadowy figure beside the original Holy One. We have immense masses of evidence about the religion of Mithras, at one time the most serious rival of Christianity, which sought its hope and its salvation in the blood of a divine bull.

Now what is the origin of this conception of the sacred animal? It was first discovered and explained with almost prophetic insight by Dr. Robertson Smith.[21:3] The origin is what he calls a sacramental feast: you eat the flesh and drink the blood of the divine animal in order—here I diverge from Robertson Smith's language—to get into you his mana, his vital power. The classical instance is the sacramental eating of a camel by an Arab tribe, recorded in the works of St. Nilus.[21:4] The camel was devoured on a particular day at the rising of the morning star. He was cut to pieces alive, and every fragment of him had to be consumed before the sun rose. If the life had once gone out of the flesh and blood the sacrifice would have been spoilt; it was the spirit, the vitality, of the camel that his tribesmen wanted. The only serious error that later students have found in Robertson Smith's statement is that he spoke too definitely of the sacrifice as affording communion with the tribal god. There was no god there, only the raw material out of which gods are made. You devoured the holy animal to get its mana, its swiftness, its strength, its great endurance, just as the savage now will eat his enemy's brain or heart or hands to get some particular quality residing there. The imagination of the pre-Hellenic tribes was evidently dominated above all things by the bull, though there were other sacramental feasts too, combined with sundry horrible rendings and drinkings of raw blood. It is strange to think that even small things like kids and fawns and hares should have struck primitive man as having some uncanny vitality which he longed for, or at least some uncanny power over the weather or the crops. Yet to him it no doubt appeared obvious. Frogs, for instance, could always bring rain by croaking for it, and who can limit the powers and the knowledge of birds?[22:1]

Here comes a difficulty. If the Olympian god was not there to start with, how did he originate? We can understand—at least after a course of anthropology—this desire of primitive man to acquire for himself the superhuman forces of the bull; but how does he make the transition from the real animal to the imaginary human god? First let us remember the innate tendency of primitive man everywhere, and not especially in Greece, to imagine a personal cause, like himself in all points not otherwise specified, for every striking phenomenon. If the wind blows it is because some being more or less human, though of course superhuman, is blowing with his cheeks. If a tree is struck by lightning it is because some one has thrown his battle-axe at it. In some Australian tribes there is no belief in natural death. If a man dies it is because 'bad man kill that fellow'. St. Paul, we may remember, passionately summoned the heathen to refrain from worshipping ten ktisin, the creation, and go back to ton ktisanta, the creator, human and masculine. It was as a rule a road that they were only too ready to travel.[23:1]

But this tendency was helped by a second factor. Research has shown us the existence in early Mediterranean religion of a peculiar transitional step, a man wearing the head or skin of a holy beast. The Egyptian gods are depicted as men with beasts' heads: that is, the best authorities tell us, their shapes are derived from the kings and priests who on great occasions of sacrifice covered their heads with a beast-mask.[23:2] Minos, with his projection the Minotaur, was a bull-god and wore a bull-mask. From early Island gems, from a fresco at Mycenae, from Assyrian reliefs, Mr. A. B. Cook has collected many examples of this mixed figure—a man wearing the protome, or mask and mane, of a beast. Sometimes we can actually see him offering libations. Sometimes the worshipper has become so closely identified with his divine beast that he is represented not as a mere man wearing the protome of a lion or bull, but actually as a lion or bull wearing the protome of another.[24:1] Hera, boopis, with a cow's head; Athena, glaukopis, with an owl's head, or bearing on her breast the head of the Gorgon; Heracles clad in a lion's skin and covering his brow deino chasmati theros, 'with the awful spread jaws of the wild beast', belong to the same class. So does the Dadouchos at Eleusis and other initiators who let candidates for purification set one foot—one only and that the left—on the skin of a sacrificial ram, and called the skin Dios koas, the fleece not of a ram, but of Zeus.[24:2]

The mana of the slain beast is in the hide and head and blood and fur, and the man who wants to be in thorough contact with the divinity gets inside the skin and wraps himself deep in it. He begins by being a man wearing a lion's skin: he ends, as we have seen, by feeling himself to be a lion wearing a lion's skin. And who is this man? He may on particular occasions be only a candidate for purification or initiation. But par excellence he who has the right is the priest, the medicine-man, the divine king. If an old suggestion of my own is right, he is the original theos or thesos, the incarnate medicine or spell or magic power.[24:3] He at first, I suspect, is the only theos or 'God' that his society knows. We commonly speak of ancient kings being 'deified'; we regard the process as due to an outburst of superstition or insane flattery. And so no doubt it sometimes was, especially in later times—when man and god were felt as two utterly distinct things. But 'deification' is an unintelligent and misleading word. What we call 'deification' is only the survival of this undifferentiated human theos, with his mana, his kratos and bia, his control of the weather, the rain and the thunder, the spring crops and the autumn floods; his knowledge of what was lawful and what was not, and his innate power to curse or to 'make dead'. Recent researches have shown us in abundance the early Greek medicine-chiefs making thunder and lightning and rain.[25:1] We have long known the king as possessor of Dike and Themis, of justice and tribal custom; we have known his effect on the fertility of the fields and the tribes, and the terrible results of a king's sin or a king's sickness.[25:2]

What is the subsequent history of this medicine-chief or theos? He is differentiated, as it were: the visible part of him becomes merely human; the supposed supernatural part grows into what we should call a God. The process is simple. Any particular medicine-man is bound to have his failures. As Dr. Frazer gently reminds us, every single pretension which he puts forth on every day of his life is a lie, and liable sooner or later to be found out. Doubtless men are tender to their own delusions. They do not at once condemn the medicine-chief as a fraudulent institution, but they tend gradually to say that he is not the real all-powerful theos. He is only his representative. The real theos, tremendous, infallible, is somewhere far away, hidden in clouds perhaps, on the summit of some inaccessible mountain. If the mountain is once climbed the god will move to the upper sky. The medicine-chief meanwhile stays on earth, still influential. He has some connexion with the great god more intimate than that of other men; at worst he possesses the god's sacred instruments, his hiera or orgia; he knows the rules for approaching him and making prayers to him.

There is therefore a path open from the divine beast to the anthropomorphic god. From beings like Thesmophoros and Meilichios the road is of course much easier. They are already more than half anthropomorphic; they only lack the concreteness, the lucid shape and the detailed personal history of the Olympians. In this connexion we must not forget the power of hallucination, still fairly strong, as the history of religious revivals in America will bear witness,[26:1] but far stronger, of course, among the impressionable hordes of early men. 'The god', says M. Doutte in his profound study of Algerian magic, 'c'est le desir collectif personnifie', the collective desire projected, as it were, or personified.[27:1] Think of the gods who have appeared in great crises of battle, created sometimes by the desperate desire of men who have for years prayed to them, and who are now at the last extremity for lack of their aid, sometimes by the confused and excited remembrances of the survivors after the victory. The gods who led the Roman charge at Lake Regillus,[27:2] the gigantic figures that were seen fighting before the Greeks at Marathon,[27:3] even the celestial signs that promised Constantine victory for the cross:[27:4]—these are the effects of great emotion: we can all understand them. But even in daily life primitive men seem to have dealt more freely than we generally do with apparitions and voices and daemons of every kind. One of the most remarkable and noteworthy sources for this kind of hallucinatory god in early societies is a social custom that we have almost forgotten, the religious Dance. When the initiated young men of Crete or elsewhere danced at night over the mountains in the Oreibasia or Mountain Walk they not only did things that seemed beyond their ordinary workaday strength; they also felt themselves led on and on by some power which guided and sustained them. This daemon has no necessary name: a man may be named after him 'Oreibasius', 'Belonging to the Mountain Dancer', just as others may be named 'Apollonius' or 'Dionysius'. The god is only the spirit of the Mountain Dance, Oreibates, though of course he is absorbed at different times in various Olympians. There is one god called Aphiktor, the Suppliant, He who prays for mercy. He is just the projection, as M. Doutte would say, of the intense emotion of one of those strange processions well known in the ancient world, bands of despairing men or women who have thrown away all means of self-defence and join together at some holy place in one passionate prayer for pity. The highest of all gods, Zeus, was the special patron of the suppliant; and it is strange and instructive to find that Zeus the all-powerful is actually identified with this Aphiktor: Zeus men 'Aphiktor epidoi prophronos.[28:1] The assembled prayer, the united cry that rises from the oppressed of the world, is itself grown to be a god, and the greatest god. A similar projection arose from the dance of the Kouroi, or initiate youths, in the dithyramb—the magic dance which was to celebrate, or more properly, to hasten and strengthen, the coming on of spring. That dance projected the Megistos Kouros, the greatest of youths, who is the incarnation of spring or the return of life, and lies at the back of so many of the most gracious shapes of the classical pantheon. The Kouros appears as Dionysus, as Apollo, as Hermes, as Ares: in our clearest and most detailed piece of evidence he actually appears with the characteristic history and attributes of Zeus.[28:2]

This spirit of the dance, who leads it or personifies its emotion, stands more clearly perhaps than any other daemon half-way between earth and heaven. A number of difficult passages in Euripides' Bacchae and other Dionysiac literature find their explanations when we realize how the god is in part merely identified with the inspired chief dancer, in part he is the intangible projected incarnation of the emotion of the dance.

* * * * *

'The collective desire personified': on what does the collective desire, or collective dread, of the primitive community chiefly concentrate? On two things, the food-supply and the tribe-supply, the desire not to die of famine and not to be harried or conquered by the neighbouring tribe. The fertility of the earth and the fertility of the tribe, these two are felt in early religion as one.[29:1] The earth is a mother: the human mother is an aroura, or ploughed field. This earth-mother is the characteristic and central feature of the early Aegean religions. The introduction of agriculture made her a mother of fruits and corn, and it is in that form that we best know her. But in earlier days she had been a mother of the spontaneous growth of the soil, of wild beasts and trees and all the life of the mountain.[29:2] In early Crete she stands with lions erect on either side of her or with snakes held in her hands and coiled about her body. And as the earth is mother when the harvest comes, so in spring she is maiden or Kore, but a maiden fated each year to be wedded and made fruitful; and earlier still there has been the terrible time when fields are bare and lifeless. The Kore has been snatched away underground, among the dead peoples, and men must wait expectant till the first buds begin to show and they call her to rise again with the flowers. Meantime earth as she brings forth vegetation in spring is Kourotrophos, rearer of Kouroi, or the young men of the tribe. The nymphs and rivers are all Kourotrophoi. The Moon is Kourotrophos. She quickens the young of the tribe in their mother's womb; at one terrible hour especially she is 'a lion to women' who have offended against her holiness. She also marks the seasons of sowing and ploughing, and the due time for the ripening of crops. When men learn to calculate in longer units, the Sun appears: they turn to the Sun for their calendar, and at all times of course the Sun has been a power in agriculture. He is not called Kourotrophos, but the Young Sun returning after winter is himself a Kouros,[30:1] and all the Kouroi have some touch of the Sun in them. The Cretan Spring-song of the Kouretes prays for neoi politai, young citizens, quite simply among the other gifts of the spring.[30:2]

This is best shown by the rites of tribal initiation, which seem normally to have formed part of the spring Dromena or sacred performances. The Kouroi, as we have said, are the initiated young men. They pass through their initiation; they become no longer paides, boys, but andres, men. The actual name Kouros is possibly connected with keirein, to shave,[31:1] and may mean that after this ceremony they first cut their long hair. Till then the kouros is akersekomes—with hair unshorn. They have now open to them the two roads that belong to andres alone: they have the work of begetting children for the tribe, and the work of killing the tribe's enemies in battle.

The classification of people according to their age is apt to be sharp and vivid in primitive communities. We, for example, think of an old man as a kind of man, and an old woman as a kind of woman; but in primitive peoples as soon as a man and woman cease to be able to perform his and her due tribal functions they cease to be men and women, andres and gynaikes: the ex-man becomes a geron; the ex-woman a graus.[31:2] We distinguish between 'boy' and 'man', between 'girl' and 'woman'; but apart from the various words for baby, Attic Greek would have four sharp divisions, pais, ephebos, aner, geron.[31:3] In Sparta the divisions are still sharper and more numerous, centring in the great initiation ceremonies of the Iranes, or full-grown youths, to the goddess called Orthia or Bortheia.[32:1] These initiation ceremonies are called Teletai, 'completions': they mark the great 'rite of transition' from the immature, charming, but half useless thing which we call boy or girl, to the teleios aner, the full member of the tribe as fighter or counsellor, or to the teleia gyne, the full wife and mother. This whole subject of Greek initiation ceremonies calls pressingly for more investigation. It is only in the last few years that we have obtained the material for understanding them, and the whole mass of the evidence needs re-treatment. For one instance, it is clear that a great number of rites which were formerly explained as remnants of human sacrifice are simply ceremonies of initiation.[32:2]

At the great spring Dromenon the tribe and the growing earth were renovated together: the earth arises afresh from her dead seeds, the tribe from its dead ancestors; and the whole process, charged as it is with the emotion of pressing human desire, projects its anthropomorphic god or daemon. A vegetation-spirit we call him, very inadequately; he is a divine Kouros, a Year-Daemon, a spirit that in the first stage is living, then dies with each year, then thirdly rises again from the dead, raising the whole dead world with him—the Greeks called him in this phase 'the Third One', or the 'Saviour'. The renovation ceremonies were accompanied by a casting off of the old year, the old garments, and everything that is polluted by the infection of death. And not only of death; but clearly I think, in spite of the protests of some Hellenists, of guilt or sin also. For the life of the Year-Daemon, as it seems to be reflected in Tragedy, is generally a story of Pride and Punishment. Each Year arrives, waxes great, commits the sin of Hubris, and then is slain. The death is deserved; but the slaying is a sin: hence comes the next Year as Avenger, or as the Wronged One re-risen. 'All things pay retribution for their injustice one to another according to the ordinance of time.'[33:1] It is this range of ideas, half suppressed during the classical period, but evidently still current among the ruder and less Hellenized peoples, which supplied St. Paul with some of his most famous and deep-reaching metaphors. 'Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die.'[33:2] 'As He was raised from the dead we may walk with Him in newness of life.' And this renovation must be preceded by a casting out and killing of the old polluted life—'the old man in us must first be crucified'.

'The old man must be crucified.' We observed that in all the three Festivals there was a pervasive element of vague fear. Hitherto we have been dealing with early Greek religion chiefly from the point of view of mana, the positive power or force that man tries to acquire from his totem-animal or his god. But there is also a negative side to be considered: there is not only the mana, but the tabu, the Forbidden, the Thing Feared. We must cast away the old year; we must put our sins on to a pharmakos or scapegoat and drive it out. When the ghosts have returned and feasted with us at the Anthesteria we must, with tar and branches of buckthorn, purge them out of every corner of the rooms till the air is pure from the infection of death. We must avoid speaking dangerous words; in great moments we must avoid speaking any words at all, lest there should be even in the most innocent of them some unknown danger; for we are surrounded above and below by Keres, or Spirits, winged influences, shapeless or of unknown shape, sometimes the spirits of death, sometimes of disease, madness, calamity; thousands and thousands of them, as Sarpedon says, from whom man can never escape nor hide;[34:1] 'all the air so crowded with them', says an unknown ancient poet, 'that there is not one empty chink into which you could push the spike of a blade of corn.'[34:2]

The extraordinary security of our modern life in times of peace makes it hard for us to realize, except by a definite effort of the imagination, the constant precariousness, the frightful proximity of death, that was usual in these weak ancient communities. They were in fear of wild beasts; they were helpless against floods, helpless against pestilences. Their food depended on the crops of one tiny plot of ground; and if the Saviour was not reborn with the spring, they slowly and miserably died. And all the while they knew almost nothing of the real causes that made crops succeed or fail. They only felt sure it was somehow a matter of pollution, of unexpiated defilement. It is this state of things that explains the curious cruelty of early agricultural doings, the human sacrifices, the scapegoats, the tearing in pieces of living animals, and perhaps of living men, the steeping of the fields in blood. Like most cruelty it has its roots in terror, terror of the breach of Tabu—the Forbidden Thing. I will not dwell on this side of the picture: it is well enough known. But we have to remember that, like so many morbid growths of the human mind, it has its sublime side. We must not forget that the human victims were often volunteers. The records of Carthage and Jerusalem, the long list in Greek legend of princes and princesses who died for their country, tell the same story. In most human societies, savage as well as civilized, it is not hard to find men who are ready to endure death for their fellow-citizens. We need not suppose that the martyrs were always the noblest of the human race. They were sometimes mad—hysterical or megalomaniac: sometimes reckless and desperate: sometimes, as in the curious case attested of the Roman armies on the Danube, they were men of strong desires and weak imagination ready to die at the end of a short period, if in the meantime they might glut all their senses with unlimited indulgence.[35:1]

Still, when all is said, there is nothing that stirs men's imagination like the contemplation of martyrdom, and it is no wonder that the more emotional cults of antiquity vibrate with the worship of this dying Saviour, the Sosipolis, the Soter, who in so many forms dies with his world or for his world, and rises again as the world rises, triumphant through suffering over Death and the broken Tabu.

Tabu is at first sight a far more prominent element in the primitive religions than Mana, just as misfortune and crime are more highly coloured and striking than prosperity and decent behaviour. To an early Greek tribe the world of possible action was sharply divided between what was Themis and what was Not Themis, between lawful and tabu, holy and unholy, correct and forbidden. To do a thing that was not Themis was a sure source of public disaster. Consequently it was of the first necessity in a life full of such perils to find out the exact rules about them. How is that to be managed? Themis is ancient law: it is ta patria, the way of our ancestors, the thing that has always been done and is therefore divinely right. In ordinary life, of course, Themis is clear. Every one knows it. But from time to time new emergencies arise, the like of which we have never seen, and they frighten us. We must go to the Gerontes, the Old Men of the Tribe; they will perhaps remember what our fathers did. What they tell us will be Presbiston, a word which means indifferently 'oldest' and 'best'—aiei de neoteroi aphradeousin, 'Young men are always being foolish'. Of course, if there is a Basileus, a holy King, he by his special power may perhaps know best of all, though he too must take care not to gainsay the Old Men.

For the whole problem is to find out ta patria, the ways that our fathers followed. And suppose the Old Men themselves fail us, what must we needs do? Here we come to a famous and peculiar Greek custom, for which I have never seen quoted any exact parallel or any satisfactory explanation. If the Old Men fail us, we must go to those older still, go to our great ancestors, the heroes, the Chthonian people, lying in their sacred tombs, and ask them to help. The word chran means both 'to lend money' and 'to give an oracle', two ways of helping people in an emergency. Sometimes a tribe might happen to have a real ancestor buried in the neighbourhood; if so, his tomb would be an oracle. More often perhaps, for the memories of savage tribes are very precarious, there would be no well-recorded personal tomb. The oracle would be at some place sacred to the Chthonian people in general, or to some particular personification of them, a Delphi or a cave of Trophonius, a place of Snakes and Earth. You go to the Chthonian folk for guidance because they are themselves the Oldest of the Old Ones, and they know the real custom: they know what is Presbiston, what is Themis. And by an easy extension of this knowledge they are also supposed to know what is. He who knows the law fully to the uttermost also knows what will happen if the law is broken. It is, I think, important to realize that the normal reason for consulting an oracle was not to ask questions of fact. It was that some emergency had arisen in which men simply wanted to know how they ought to behave. The advice they received in this way varied from the virtuous to the abominable, as the religion itself varied. A great mass of oracles can be quoted enjoining the rules of customary morality, justice, honesty, piety, duty to a man's parents, to the old, and to the weak. But of necessity the oracles hated change and strangled the progress of knowledge. Also, like most manifestations of early religion, they throve upon human terror: the more blind the terror the stronger became their hold. In such an atmosphere the lowest and most beastlike elements of humanity tended to come to the front; and religion no doubt as a rule joined with them in drowning the voice of criticism and of civilization, that is, of reason and of mercy. When really frightened the oracle generally fell back on some remedy full of pain and blood. The medieval plan of burning heretics alive had not yet been invented. But the history of uncivilized man, if it were written, would provide a vast list of victims, all of them innocent, who died or suffered to expiate some portent or monstrum—some reported teras—with which they had nothing whatever to do, which was in no way altered by their suffering, which probably never really happened at all, and if it did was of no consequence. The sins of the modern world in dealing with heretics and witches have perhaps been more gigantic than those of primitive men, but one can hardy rise from the record of these ancient observances without being haunted by the judgement of the Roman poet:

Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum,

and feeling with him that the lightening of this cloud, the taming of this blind dragon, must rank among the very greatest services that Hellenism wrought for mankind.

FOOTNOTES:

[6:1] Professor Emile Durkheim in his famous analysis of the religious emotions argues that when a man feels the belief and the command as something coming from without, superior, authoritative, of infinite import, it is because religion is the work of the tribe and, as such, superior to the individual. The voice of God is the imagined voice of the whole tribe, heard or imagined by him who is going to break its laws. I have some difficulty about the psychology implied in this doctrine: surely the apparent externality of the religious command seems to belong to a fairly common type of experience, in which the personality is divided, so that first one part of it and then another emerges into consciousness. If you forget an engagement, sometimes your peace is disturbed for quite a long time by a vague external annoyance or condemnation, which at last grows to be a distinct judgement—'Heavens! I ought to be at the Committee on So-and-so.' But apart from this criticism, there is obviously much historical truth in Professor Durkheim's theory, and it is not so different as it seems at first sight from the ordinary beliefs of religious men. The tribe to primitive man is not a mere group of human beings. It is his whole world. The savage who is breaking the laws of his tribe has all his world—totems, tabus, earth, sky and all—against him. He cannot be at peace with God.

The position of the hero or martyr who defies his tribe for the sake of what he thinks the truth or the right can easily be thought out on these lines. He defies this false temporary Cosmos in loyalty to the true and permanent Cosmos.

See Durkheim, 'Les Formes elementaires de la vie religieuse', in Travaux de l'Annee Sociologique, 1912; or G. Davy, 'La Sociologie de M. Durkheim', in Rev. Philosophique, xxxvi, pp. 42-71 and 160-85.

[8:1] I suspect that most reforms pass through this stage. A man somehow feels clear that some new course is, for him, right, though he cannot marshal the arguments convincingly in favour of it, and may even admit that the weight of obvious evidence is on the other side. We read of judges in the seventeenth century who believed that witches ought to be burned and that the persons before them were witches, and yet would not burn them—evidently under the influence of vague half-realized feelings. I know a vegetarian who thinks that, as far as he can see, carnivorous habits are not bad for human health and actually tend to increase the happiness of the species of animals eaten—as the adoption of Swift's Modest Proposal would doubtless relieve the economic troubles of the human race, and yet feels clear that for him the ordinary flesh meal (or 'feasting on corpses') would 'partake of the nature of sin'. The path of progress is paved with inconsistencies, though it would be an error to imagine that the people who habitually reject any higher promptings that come to them are really any more consistent.

[9:1] Transactions of the Third International Congress of Religions, Oxford, 1908, pp. 26-7.

[10:1] The Buddhist Dharma, by Mrs. Rhys Davids.

[10:2] See Die Mutaziliten, oder die Freidenker im Islam, von H. Steiner, 1865. This Arab was clearly under the influence of Plotinus or some other Neo-Platonist.

[11:1] Cf. E. Reisch, Entstehung und Wandel griechischer Goettergestalten. Vienna, 1909.

[12:1] Parm. Fr. 8, 3-7 (Diels{2}).

[12:2] Xen. Fr. 24 (Diels{2}).

[12:3] Xen. Fr. 15.

[12:4] Aesch. Cho. 60; Eur. Hel. 560; Bac. 284; Soph. O.T. 871. Cf. also he phronesis hagathe theos megas. Soph. Fr. 836, 2 (Nauck).

ho ploutos, anthropiske, tois sophois theos. Eur. Cycl. 316.

ho nous gar hemon estin en hekasto theos. Eur. Fr. 1018.

phthonos kakistos kadikotatos theos. Hippothooen. Fr. 2.

A certain moment of time: arche kai theos en anthropois hidrymene sozei panta. Pl. Leg. 775 E.

ta mora gar pant' estin Aphrodite brotois. Eur. Tro. 989.

helthen de dais thaleia presbiste theon. Soph. Fr. 548.

[14:1] See J. E. Harrison, Prolegomena, i, ii, iv; Mommsen, Feste der Stadt Athen, 1898, pp. 308-22 (Thesmophoria), 384-404 (Anthesteria); 421-6 (Diasia). See also Pauly Wissowa, s.v.

[14:2] Prolegomena, p. 15 f.

[15:1] Luc. Icaro-Menippos 24 schol. ad loc.

[16:1] Frequently dual, to Thesmophoro, under the influence of the 'Mother and Maiden' idea; Dittenberger Inscr. Sylloge 628, Ar. Thesm. 84, 296 et passim. The plural hai Thesmophoroi used in late Greek is not, as one might imagine, a projection from the whole band of worshippers; it is merely due to the disappearance of the dual from Greek. I accept provisionally the derivation of these thesmoi from thes- in thessasthai, thesphatos, theskelos, polythestos, apothestos, &c.: cf. A. W. Verrall in J. H. S. xx, p. 114; and Prolegomena, pp. 48 ff., 136 f. But, whatever the derivation, the Thesmoi were the objects carried.

[16:2] Frazer, Golden Bough, ii. 44 ff.; A. B. Cook, J. H. S. xiv, pp. 153-4; J. E. Harrison, Themis, p. 5. See also A. Lang, Homeric Hymns, 1899, p. 63.

[17:1] Feste der Stadt Athen, p. 390 f. On Seed Jars, Wine Jars and Funeral Jars, see Themis, pp. 276-88, and Warde Fowler, 'Mundus Patet,' in Journ. Roman Studies, ii, pp. 25 ff. Cf. below, p. 28 f.

[17:2] Dieterich, Muttererde, 1905, p. 48 f.

[18:1] Dr. Frazer, The Magic Art, ii. 137, thinks it not certain that the gamos took place during the Anthesteria, at the same time as the oath of the gerairai. Without the gamos, however, it is hard to see what the basilinna and gerairai had to do in the festival; and this is the view of Mommsen, Feste der Stadt Athen, pp. 391-3; Gruppe in Iwan Mueller, Mythologie und Religionsgeschichte, i. 33; Farnell, Cults, v. 217.

[18:2] One might perhaps say, in all three. Anthisteros tou Pythochrestou koinon is the name of a society of worshippers in the island of Thera, I. G. I. iii. 329. This gives a god Anthister, who is clearly identified with Dionysus, and seems to be a projection of a feast Anthisteria = Anthesteria. The inscription is of the second century B. C. and it seems likely that Anthister-Anthisteria, with their clear derivation from anthizein, are corruptions of the earlier and difficult forms Anthester-Anthesteria. It is noteworthy that Thera, an island lying rather outside the main channels of civilization, kept up throughout its history a tendency to treat the 'epithet' as a full person. Hikesios and Koures come very early; also Polieus and Stoichaios without the name Zeus; Delphinios, Karneios, Aiglatas, and Aguieus without Apollo.

See Hiller von Gaertringen in the Festschrift fuer O. Benndorff, p. 228. Also Nilsson, Griechische Feste, 1906, p. 267, n. 5.

[20:1] Miss Harrison, 'Bird and Pillar Worship in relation to Ouranian Divinities', Transactions of the Third International Congress for the History of Religion, Oxford, 1908, vol. ii, p. 154; Farnell, Greece and Babylon, 1911, pp. 66 ff.

[20:2] First published by R. Paribeni, 'Il Sarcofago dipinto di Hagia Triada', in Monumenti antichi della R. Accademia dei Lincei, xix, 1908, p. 6, T. i-iii. See also Themis, pp. 158 ff.

[20:3] Ar. Equites, 82-4—or possibly of apotheosis. See Themis, p. 154, n. 2.

[21:1] Themis, p. 145, fig. 25; and p. 152, fig. 28 b.

[21:2] O. Kern, Inschriften v. Magnesia, No. 98, discussed by O. Kern, Arch. Anz. 1894, p. 78, and Nilsson, Griechische Feste, p. 23.

[21:3] Religion of the Semites, 1901, p. 338; Reuterskiold, in Archiv f. Relig. xv. 1-23.

[21:4] Nili Opera, Narrat. iii. 28.

[22:1] See Aristophanes' Birds, e. g. 685-736: cf. the practice of augury from birds, and the art-types of Winged Keres, Victories and Angels.

[23:1] Romans, i. 25; viii. 20-3.

[23:2] Lang, Myth, Ritual, and Religion, 1906, ii. 284; ibid., 130; Moret, Caractere religieux de la Monarchie Egyptienne; Dieterich, Mithrasliturgie, 1903.

[24:1] A. B. Cook in J. H. S. 1894, 'Animal Worship in the Mycenaean Age'. See also Hogarth on the 'Zakro Sealings', J. H. S. 1902; these seals show a riot of fancy in the way of mixed monsters, starting in all probability from the simpler form. See the quotation from Robertson Smith in Hogarth, p. 91.

[24:2] Feste der Stadt Athen, p. 416.

[24:3] Anthropology and the Classics, 1908, pp. 77, 78.

[25:1] A. B. Cook, Class. Rev. xvii, pp. 275 ff.; A. J. Reinach, Rev. de l'Hist. des Religions, lx, p. 178; S. Reinach, Cultes, Mythes, &c., ii. 160-6.

[25:2] One may suggest in passing that this explains the enormous families attributed to many sacred kings of Greek legend: why Priam or Danaus have their fifty children, and Heracles, most prolific of all, his several hundred. The particular numbers chosen, however, are probably due to other causes, e. g. the fifty moon-months of the Penteteris.

[26:1] See Primitive Traits in Religious Revivals, by F. M. Davenport. New York, 1906.

[27:1] E. Doutte, Magie et religion dans l'Afrique du Nord, 1909, p. 601.

[27:2] Cicero, de Nat. Deorum, ii. 2; iii. 5, 6; Florus, ii. 12.

[27:3] Plut. Theseus, 35; Paus. i. 32. 5. Herodotus only mentions a bearded and gigantic figure who struck Epizelos blind (vi. 117).

[27:4] Eusebius, Vit. Constant., l. i, cc. 28, 29, 30; Nazarius inter Panegyr. Vet. x. 14. 15.

[28:1] Aesch. Suppl. 1, cf. 478 Zeus hikter. Rise of the Greek Epic{3}, p. 275 n. Adjectival phrases like Zeus Hikesios, Hiketesios, Hiktaios are common and call for no remark.

[28:2] Hymn of the Kouretes, Themis, passim.

[29:1] See in general I. King, The Development of Religion, 1910; E. J. Payne, History of the New World, 1892, p. 414. Also Dieterich, Muttererde, esp. pp. 37-58.

[29:2] See Dieterich, Muttererde, J. E. Harrison, Prolegomena, chap. vi, 'The Making of a Goddess'; Themis, chap. vi, 'The Spring Dromenon'. As to the prehistoric art-type of this goddess technically called 'steatopygous', I cannot refrain from suggesting that it may be derived from a mountain D turned into a human figure, as the palladion or figure-8 type came from two round shields. See p. 52.

[30:1] Hymn Orph. 8, 10 horotrophe koure.

[30:2] For the order in which men generally proceed in worship, turning their attention to (1) the momentary incidents of weather, rain, sunshine, thunder, &c.; (2) the Moon; (3) the Sun and stars, see Payne, History of the New World called America, vol. i, p. 474, cited by Miss Harrison, Themis, p. 390.

[31:1] On the subject of Initiations see Webster, Primitive Secret Societies, New York, 1908; Schurtz, Altersklassen und Maennerbunde, Berlin, 1902; Van Gennep, Rites de Passage, Paris, 1909; Nilsson, Grundlage des Spartanischen Lebens in Klio xii (1912), pp. 308-40; Themis, p. 337, n. 1. Since the above, Rivers, Social Organization, 1924.

[31:2] Cf. Dr. Rivers on mate, 'Primitive Conception of Death', Hibbert Journal, January 1912, p. 393.

[31:3] Cf. Cardinal Virtues, Pindar, Nem. iii. 72:

en paisi neoisi pais, en andrasin aner, triton en palaiteroisi meros, hekaston hoion echomen broteon ethnos. ela de kai tessaras aretas ho thnatos aion,

also Pindar, Pyth. iv. 281.

[32:1] See Woodward in B. S. A. xiv, 83. Nikagoras won four (successive?) victories as mikkichizomenos, propais, pais, and melleiren, i. e. from his tenth to fifteenth year. He would then at 14 or 15 become an iran. Plut. Lyc. 17 gives the age of an iran as 20. This agrees with the age of an ephebos at Athens as '15-20', '14-21', 'about 16'; see authorities in Stephanus s. v. ephebos. Such variations in the date of 'puberty ceremonies' are common.

[32:2] See Rise of the Greek Epic, Appendix on Hym. Dem.; and W. R. Halliday, C. R. xxv, 8. Nilsson's valuable article has appeared since the above was written (see note 1, p. 31).

[33:1] Anaximander apud Simplic. phys. 24, 13; Diels, Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, i. 13. See especially F. M. Cornford, From Religion to Philosophy (Cambridge, 1912), i; also my article on English and Greek Tragedy in Essays of the Oxford English School, 1912. This explanation of the tritos soter is my conjecture.

[33:2] 1 Cor. xv. 36; Rom. vi. generally, 3-11.

[34:1] Il. M. 326 f. myriai, has ouk esti phygein broton oud' hypalyxai.

[34:2] Frg. Ap. Plut. Consol. ad Apoll. xxvi . . . hoti "pleie men gaia kakon pleie de thalassa" kai "toiade thnetoisi kaka kakon amphi te keres eileuntai, kenee d' eisdysis oud' atheri" (MS. aitheri).

[35:1] Frazer, Lectures on the Early History of the Kingship, 267; F. Cumont, 'Les Actes de S. Dasius', in Analecta Bollandiana, xvi. 5-16: cf. especially what St. Augustine says about the disreputable hordes of would-be martyrs called Circumcelliones. See Index to Augustine, vol. xi in Migne: some passages collected in Seeck, Gesch. d. Untergangs der antiken Welt, vol. iii, Anhang, pp. 503 ff.



II

THE OLYMPIAN CONQUEST

I. Origin of the Olympians

The historian of early Greece must find himself often on the watch for a particular cardinal moment, generally impossible to date in time and sometimes hard even to define in terms of development, when the clear outline that we call Classical Greece begins to take shape out of the mist. It is the moment when, as Herodotus puts it, 'the Hellenic race was marked off from the barbarian, as more intelligent and more emancipated from silly nonsense'.[39:1] In the eighth century B. C., for instance, so far as our remains indicate, there cannot have been much to show that the inhabitants of Attica and Boeotia and the Peloponnese were markedly superior to those of, say, Lycia or Phrygia, or even Epirus. By the middle of the fifth century the difference is enormous. On the one side is Hellas, on the other the motley tribes of 'barbaroi'.

When the change does come and is consciously felt we may notice a significant fact about it. It does not announce itself as what it was, a new thing in the world. It professes to be a revival, or rather an emphatic realization, of something very old. The new spirit of classical Greece, with all its humanity, its intellectual life, its genius for poetry and art, describes itself merely as being 'Hellenic'—like the Hellenes. And the Hellenes were simply, as far as we can make out, much the same as the Achaioi, one of the many tribes of predatory Northmen who had swept down on the Aegean kingdoms in the dawn of Greek history.[40:1]

This claim of a new thing to be old is, in varying degrees, a common characteristic of great movements. The Reformation professed to be a return to the Bible, the Evangelical movement in England a return to the Gospels, the High Church movement a return to the early Church. A large element even in the French Revolution, the greatest of all breaches with the past, had for its ideal a return to Roman republican virtue or to the simplicity of the natural man.[40:2] I noticed quite lately a speech of an American Progressive leader claiming that his principles were simply those of Abraham Lincoln. The tendency is due in part to the almost insuperable difficulty of really inventing a new word to denote a new thing. It is so much easier to take an existing word, especially a famous word with fine associations, and twist it into a new sense. In part, no doubt, it comes from mankind's natural love for these old associations, and the fact that nearly all people who are worth much have in them some instinctive spirit of reverence. Even when striking out a new path they like to feel that they are following at least the spirit of one greater than themselves.

The Hellenism of the sixth and fifth centuries was to a great extent what the Hellenism of later ages was almost entirely, an ideal and a standard of culture. The classical Greeks were not, strictly speaking, pure Hellenes by blood. Herodotus, and Thucydides[41:1] are quite clear about that. The original Hellenes were a particular conquering tribe of great prestige, which attracted the surrounding tribes to follow it, imitate it, and call themselves by its name. The Spartans were, to Herodotus, Hellenic; the Athenians on the other hand were not. They were Pelasgian, but by a certain time 'changed into Hellenes and learnt the language'. In historical times we cannot really find any tribe of pure Hellenes in existence, though the name clings faintly to a particular district, not otherwise important, in South Thessaly. Had there been any undoubted Hellenes with incontrovertible pedigrees still going, very likely the ideal would have taken quite a different name. But where no one's ancestry would bear much inspection, the only way to show you were a true Hellene was to behave as such: that is, to approximate to some constantly rising ideal of what the true Hellene should be. In all probability if a Greek of the fifth century, like Aeschylus or even Pindar, had met a group of the real Hellenes or Achaioi of the Migrations, he would have set them down as so many obvious and flaming barbarians.

1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse