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Ten Great Religions - An Essay in Comparative Theology
by James Freeman Clarke
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Sec. 3. The Gods of Greece before Homer.

The Theogony of Hesiod, or Book of Genesis of the Greek gods, gives us the history of three generations of deities. First come the Uranids; secondly, the Titans; and thirdly, the gods of Olympus. Beginning as powers of nature, they end as persons.[218]

The substance of Hesiod's charming account of these three groups of gods is as follows:—

First of all things was Chaos. Next was broad-bosomed Earth, or Gaia. Then was Tartarus, dark and dim, below the earth. Next appears Eros, or Love, most beautiful among the Immortals. From Chaos came Erebus and black Night, and then sprang forth Ether and Day, children of Erebus and Night. Then Earth brought forth the starry Heaven, Uranos, like to herself in size, that he might shelter her around. Gaia, or Earth, also bore the mountains, and Pontus or the barren Sea.

Then Gaia intermarried with Uranos, and produced the Titans and Titanides, namely, Ocean, Koeos, Krios, Hyperion, Iapetus, Theia and Rhea, Themis, Mnemosyne, Phoebe with golden coronet, and lovely Thethys. Lastly came Kronos, or Time; with the Cyclopes and the hundred-headed giants. All these children were hid in the earth by Uranos, who dreaded them, till by a contrivance of Gaia and Kronos, Uranos was dethroned, and the first age of the gods was terminated by the birth from the sea of the last and sweetest of the children of the Heaven, Aphrodite, or Immortal Beauty,—the only one of this second generation who continued to reign on Olympus; an awful, beauteous goddess, says Hesiod, beneath whose delicate feet the verdure throve around, born in wave-washed Cyprus, but floating past divine Cythera. Her Eros accompanied, and fair Desire followed.

Thus was completed the second generation of gods, the children of Heaven and Earth, called Titans. These had many children. The children of Ocean and Tethys were the nymphs of Ocean. Hyperion and Theia had, as children, Helios, Selene and Eos, or Sun, Moon, and Dawn. Koeos and Phoebe had Leto and Asteria. One of the children of Krios was Pallas; those of Iapetus were Prometheus, Epimetheus, and Atlas. Kronos married his sister Rhea, and their children were Hestia, Demeter and Here; Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus,—all, except Hades or Pluto, belonging to the subsequent Olympian deities.

The Olympian gods, with their cousins of the same generation, have grown into persons, ceasing to be abstract ideas, or powers of nature. Five were the children of Kronos, namely, Zeus, Poseidon, Here, Hestia, and Demeter; six were children of Zeus, Apollo and Artemis, Hephaestos and Ares, Hermes and Athene. The twelfth of the Olympian group, Aphrodite, belonged to the second generation, being daughter of Uranos and of the Ocean. Beauty, divine child of Sky and Sea, was conceived of as older than Power.

These are the three successive groups of deities; the second supplanting the first, the third displacing the second. The earlier gods we must needs consider, not as persons, but as powers of nature, not yet humanized.[219] The last, seated on Olympus, are "fair humanities."

But now, it is remarkable that there must have been, in point of fact, three stages of religious development, and three successive actual theologies in Greece, corresponding very nearly to these three legendary generations of gods.

When the ancestors of the Hellenic race came from Asia, they must have brought with them a nature-worship, akin to that which subsequently appeared in India in the earliest hymns of the Vedas. Comparative Philology, as we have before seen, has established the rule, that whatever words are common to all the seven Indo-European families must have been used in Central Asia before their dispersion. From this rule Pictet[220] has inferred that the original Aryan tribes all worshipped the Heaven, the Earth, Sun, Fire, Water, and Wind. The ancestors of the Greeks must have brought with them into Hellas the worship of some of these elementary deities. And we find at least two of them, Heaven and Earth, represented in Hesiod's first class of the oldest deities. Water is there in the form of Pontus, the Sea, and the other Uranids have the same elementary character.

The oldest hymns in the Vedas mark the second development of the Aryan deities in India. The chief gods of this period are Indra, Varuna, Agni, Savitri, Soma. Indra is the god of the air, directing the storm, the lightning, the clouds, the rain; Varuna is the all-embracing circle of the heavens, earth, and sea; Savitri or Surja is the Sun, King of Day, also called Mitra; Agni is Fire; and Soma is the sacred fermented juice of the moon-plant, often indeed the moon itself.

As in India, so in Greece, there was a second development of gods. They correspond in this, that the powers of nature began, in both cases, to assume a more distinct personality. Moreover, Indra, the god of the atmosphere, he who wields the lightning, the thunderer, the god of storms and rain, was the chief god in the Vedic period. So also in Greece, the chief god in this second period was Zeus. He also was the god of the atmosphere, the thunderer, the wielder of lightning. In the name "Zeus" is a reminiscence of Asia. Literally it means "the god," and so was not at first a proper name. Its root is the Sanskrit Div, meaning "to shine." Hence the word Deva, God, in the Vedic Hymns, from which comes [Greek: Theos] and [Greek: Dis, Dios] in Greek, Deus in Latin. [Greek: Zeus Pater] in Greek is Jupiter in Latin, coming from the Sanskrit Djaus-piter. Our English words "divine," "divinity," go back for their origin to the same Sanskrit root, Div. So marvellously do the wrecks of old beliefs come drifting down the stream of time, borne up in those frail canoes which men call words. In how many senses, higher and lower, is it true that "in the beginning was the Word."

This most ancient deity, god of storms, ruler of the atmosphere, favorite divinity of the Aryan race in all its branches, became Indra when he reached India, Jupiter when he arrived in Italy, Zeus when in Epirus he became the chief god of the Pelasgi, and was worshipped at that most ancient oracular temple of all Greece, Dodona. To him in the Iliad (XVI. 235) does Achilles pray, saying: "O King Jove, Dodonean, Pelasgian, dwelling afar off, presiding over wintry Dodona." A reminiscence of this old Pelasgian god long remained both in the Latin and Greek conversation, when, speaking of the weather, they called it Zeus, or Jupiter. Horace speaks of "cold Jupiter" and "bad Jupiter," as we should speak of a cold or rainy day. We also find in Horace (Odes III. 2: 29) the archaic form of the word "Jupiter," Diespiter, which, according to Lassen (I. 755), means "Ruler of Heaven"; being derived from Djaus-piter. Piter, in Sanskrit, originally meant, says Lassen, Ruler or Lord, as well as Father.

In Arcadia and Boeotia the Pelasgi declared that their old deities were born. By this is no doubt conveyed the historic consciousness that these deities were not brought to them from abroad, but developed gradually among themselves out of nameless powers of nature into humanized and personal deities. In the old days it was hardly more than a fetich worship. Here was worshipped as a plank at Samos; Athene, as a beam at Lindus; the Pallas of Attica, as a stake; Jupiter, in one place, as a rock; Apollo, as a triangle.

Together with Jupiter or Zeus, the Pelasgi worshipped Gaia or Mother Earth, in Athens, Sparta, Olympia, and other places. One of her names was Dione; another was Rhea. In Asia she was Cybele; but everywhere she typified the great productive power of nature.

Another Pelasgic god was Helios, the Sun-God, worshipped with his sister Selene, the Moon. The Pelasgi also adored the darker divinities of the lower world. At Pylos and Elis, the king of Hades was worshipped as the awful Aidoneus; and Persephone, his wife, was not the fair Kora of subsequent times, but the fearful Queen of Death, the murderess, homologous to the savage wife of Civa, in the Hindoo Pantheon. To this age also belongs the worship of the Kabiri, nameless powers, perhaps of Phoenician origin, connected with the worship of fire in Lemnos and Samothrace.

The Doric race, the second great source of the Hellenic family, entered Greece many hundreds of years after[221] the first great Pelasgic migration had spread itself through Asia Minor, Greece, and Italy. It brought with it another class of gods and a different tone of worship. Their principal deities were Apollo and Artemis, though with these they also worshipped, as secondary deities, the Pelasgic gods whose homes they had invaded. The chief difference between the Pelasgic and Dorian conception of religion was, that with the first it was more emotional, with the second more moral; the first was a mystic natural religion, the second an intellectual human religion. Ottfried Mueller[222] says that the Dorian piety was strong, cheerful, and bright. They worshipped Daylight and Moonlight, while the Pelasgians also reverenced Night, Darkness, and Storm. Funeral solemnities and enthusiastic orgies did not suit the Dorian character. The Spartans had no splendid processions like the Athenians, but they prayed the gods "to give them what was honorable and good"; and Zeus Ammon declared that the "calm solemnity of the prayers of the Spartans was dearer to him than all the sacrifices of the Greeks."[223]

Two facts are to be noticed in connection with this primitive religion. One is the local distribution of the different deities and modes of worship through Greece. Every tribe had its own god and its own worship. In one place it was Zeus and Gaia; in another, Zeus and Cybele; in a third, Apollo and Artemis. At Samothrace prevailed the worship of the Heaven and the Earth.[224] Dione was worshipped with Zeus at Dodona.[225] The Ionians were devoted to Poseidon, god of the sea. In Arcadia, Athene was worshipped as Tritonia. Hermes was adored on Mount Cyllene; Eros, in Boeotia; Pan, in Arcadia. These local deities long remained as secondary gods, after the Pan-Hellenic worship of Olympus had overthrown their supremacy. But one peculiarity of the Pre-Homeric religion was, that it consisted in the adoration of different gods in different places. The religion of Hellas, after Homer, was the worship of the twelve great deities united on Mount Olympus.

The second fact to be observed in this early mythology is the change of name and of character through which each deity proceeds. Zeus alone retains the same name from the first.[226]

Among all Indo-European nations, the Heaven and the Earth were the two primordial divinities. The Rig-Veda calls them "the two great parents of the world." At Dodona, Samothrace, and Sparta they were worshipped together. But while in India, Varuna, the Heavens, continued to be an object of adoration in the Vedic or second period, in Greece it faded early from the popular thought. This already shows the opposite genius of the two nations. To the Hindoos the infinite was all important, to the Greeks the finite. The former, therefore, retain the adoration of the Heavens, the latter that of the Earth.

The Earth, Gaia, became more and more important to the Hellenic mind. Passing through various stages of development, she became, successively, Gaia in the first generation, Rhea in the second, and Demeter ([Greek: De meter]), Mother Earth, in the third. In like manner the Sun is successively Hyperion, son of Heaven and Earth; Helios, son of Hyperion and Theia; and Phoebus-Apollo, son of Zeus and Latona. The Moon is first Phoebe, sister of Hyperion; then Selene, sister of Helios; and lastly Artemis, sister of Apollo. Pallas, probably meaning at first "the virgin," became afterward identified with Athene, daughter of Zeus, as Pallas-Athene. The Urania Pontus, the salt sea, became the Titan Oceanos, or Ocean, and in another generation Poseidon, or Neptune.

The early gods are symbolical, the later are personal. The turning-point is reached when Kronos, Time, arrives. The children of Time and Earth are no longer vast shadowy abstractions, but become historical characters, with biographies and personal qualities. Neither Time nor History existed before Homer; when Time came, History began.

The three male children of Time were Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades; representing the three dimensions of space. Height, Breadth, and Depth; Heaven, Ocean, and Hell. They also represented the threefold progress of the human soul: its aspiration and ascent to what is noble and good, its descent to what is profound, and its sympathy with all that is various: in other words, its religion, its intelligence, and its affection.

The fable of Time devouring his children, and then reproducing them, evidently means the vicissitudes of customs and the departure and return of fashions. Whatever is born must die; but what has been will be again. That Eros, Love, should be at the origin of things from chaos, indicates the primeval attraction with which the order of the universe begins. The mutilation of Uranos, Heaven, so that he ceased to produce children, suggests the change of the system of emanation, by which the gods descend from the infinite, into that of evolution, by which they arise out of the finite. It is, in fact, the end of Asia, and the beginning of Europe; for emanation is the law of the theologies of Asia, evolution that of Europe. Aphrodite, Beauty, was the last child of the Heavens, and yet born from the Ocean. Beauty is not the daughter of the Heavens and the Earth, but of the Heavens and the Ocean. The lights and shadows of the sky, the tints of dawn, the tenderness of clouds, unite with the toss and curve of the wave in creating Beauty. The beauty of outline appears in the sea, that of light and color in the sky.[227]



Sec. 4. The Gods of the Poets.

Herodotus says (II. 53), "I am of opinion that Hesiod and Homer lived four hundred years before my time, and not more, and these were they who framed a theogony for the Greeks, and gave names to the gods, and assigned to them honors and arts, and declared their several forms. But the poets, said to be before them, in my opinion, were after them."

That two poets should create a theology and a worship for a great people, and so unite its separate tribes into a commonwealth of united states, seems to modern minds an absurdity. But the poets of Greece were its prophets. They received, intensified, concentrated, the tendencies of thought already in the air. All the drift was toward Pan-Hellenic worship and to a humanized theology, when the Homeric writers sang their song.

The Greeks must be conceived of as a nation of poets; hence all their mythology was poetry. Poetry was their life and joy, written or unwritten, sung or spoken. They were poets in the deeper sense of the word; not by writing verses, but by looking at all nature and all life from its poetic side. Their exquisite mythology arose out of these spontaneous instincts. The tendency of the Greek mind was to vitalize and harmonize nature.[228]

All the phenomena of nature, all the powers of the human soul, and all the events of life, became a marvellous tissue of divine story. They walked the earth, surrounded and overshadowed by heavenly attendants and supernatural powers. But a striking peculiarity of this immense spiritualism was that it was almost without superstition. Their gods were not their terror, but their delight. Even the great gods of Olympus were around them as invisible companions. Fate itself, the dark Moira, supreme power, mistress of gods and men, was met manfully and not timorously. So strong was the human element, the sense of personal dignity and freedom, that the Greek lived in the midst of a supernatural world on equal terms.

No doubt the elements of mythology are in all nations the same, consisting of the facts of nature and the facts of life. The heavens and the earth, day and night, the sun and moon, storms, fire, ocean, and rivers, love and beauty, life and progress, war, wisdom, doom, and chance,—these, among all nations, supply the material for myths. But while, with some races, these powers remain solemn abstractions, above and behind nature, among the Greeks they descended into nature and turned to poetry, illuminating all of life.

Let us imagine a Greek, possessed by the spirit of his nation and acquainted with its legendary history, visiting the holy places of that ideal land. On the northern boundary he sees the towering summit of Olympus, on whose solemn heights reside the twelve great gods of his country. When the dark clouds roll along its defiles, and the lightning flashes from their black depths, it is Zeus, striking with his thunderbolt some impious offender. There was held the great council of the Immortals. When the ocean was quiet, Poseidon had left it to visit Olympus. There came Hephaestos, quitting his subterranean fires and gloomy laborers, to jest and be jested with, sitting by his beautiful queen. There, while the sun hung motionless in mid-heaven, Apollo descended from his burning chariot to join the feast. Artemis and Demeter came from the woods and fields to unite in the high assembly, and war was suspended while Ares made love to the goddess of Beauty. The Greek looked at Parnassus, "soaring snow-clad through its native sky," with its Delphic cave and its Castalian fount, or at the neighboring summits of Helicon, where Pegasus struck his hoof and Hippocrene gushed forth, and believed that hidden in these sunny woods might perhaps be found the muses who inspired Herodotus, Homer, Aeschylus, and Pindar. He could go nowhere without finding some spot over which hung the charm of romantic or tender association. Within every brook was hidden a Naiad; by the side of every tree lurked a Dryad; if you listen, you may hear the Oreads calling among the mountains; if you come cautiously around that bending hill, you may catch a glimpse of the great Pan himself. When the moonlight showers filled the forests with a magical light, one might see the untouched Artemis gliding rapidly among the mossy trunks. Beneath, in the deep abysses of earth, reigned the gloomy Pluto with the sad Persephone, home-sick for the upper air. By the sea-shore Proteus wound his horn, the Sirens sang their fatal song among the rocks, the Nereids and Oceanides gleamed beneath the green waters, the vast Amphitrite stretched her wide-embracing arms, and Thetis with her water-nymphs lived in their submarine grottos. When the morning dawned, Eos, or Aurora, went before the chariot of the Sun, dropping flowers upon the earth. Every breeze which stirred the tree-tops was a god, going on some errand for Aeolus. The joy of inspired thought was breathed into the soul by Phoebus; the genial glow of life, the festal mirth, and the glad revel were the gift of Dionysos. All nature was alive with some touch of a divine presence. So, too, every spot of Hellas was made interesting by some legend of Hercules, of Theseus, of Prometheus, of the great Dioscuri, of Minos, or Daedalus, of Jason and the Argonauts. The Greeks extended their own bright life backward through history, and upward through heroes and demigods to Zeus himself.

In Homer, the gods are very human. They have few traits of divinity, scarcely of dignity. Their ridicule of Vulcan is certainly coarse; the threats of Zeus are brutal.

As a family, they live together on Olympus, feasting, talking, making love, making war, deceiving each other, angry, and reconciled. They feed on nectar and ambrosia, which makes them immortal; just as the Amrita makes the Hindoo gods so. So in the Iliad we see them at their feast, with Vulcan handing each the cup, pouring out nectar for them all. "And then inextinguishable laughter arose among the immortal gods, when they saw Vulcan bustling through the mansion. So they feasted all day till sundown; nor did the soul want anything of the equal feast, nor of the beautiful harp which Apollo held, nor of the Muses, who accompanied him, responding in turn with delicious voice."

"But when the splendid light of the sun was sunk, they retired to repose, each one to his house, which renowned Vulcan, lame of both legs, had built. But Olympian Zeus went to his couch, and laid down to rest beside white-armed Here."[229]

Or sometimes they fight together, or with mortals; instances of both appear in the Iliad. It must be admitted that they do not appear to advantage in these conflicts. They usually get the worst of it, and go back to Zeus to complain. In the Twenty-first Book they fight together, Ares against Athene, Athene also against his helper, Aphrodite; Poseidon and Here against Apollo and Artemis, Vulcan against the river god, Scamander. Ares called Athene impudent, and threatened to chastise her. She seized a stone and struck him on the neck, and relaxed his knees. Seven acres he covered falling, and his back was defiled with dust; but Pallas-Athene jeered at him; and when Aphrodite led him away groaning frequently, Pallas-Athene sprang after, and smote her with her hand, dissolving her knees and dear heart. Apollo was afraid of Poseidon, and declined fighting with him when challenged, for which Artemis rebuked him. On this, Here tells her that she can kill stags on the mountains, but is afraid to fight with her betters, and then proceeds to punish her, holding both the hands of Artemis in one of hers, and beating her over the head with her own bow. A disgraceful scene altogether, we must confess, and it is no wonder that Plato was scandalized by such stories.

Thus purely human were these gods; spending the summer's day in feasting beneath the open sky; going home at sundown to sleep, like a parcel of great boys and girls. They are immortal indeed, and can make men so sometimes, but cannot always prevent the death of a favorite. Above them all broods a terrible power, mightier than themselves, the dark Fate and irresistible Necessity. For, after all, as human gods they were like men, subject to the laws of nature. Yet as men, they are free, and in the feeling of their freedom sometimes resist and defy fate.

The Homeric gods move through the air like birds, like wind, like lightning. They are stronger than men, and larger. Ares, overthrown by Pallas, covers seven acres of ground; when wounded by Diomedes he bellowed as loud as nine or ten thousand men, says the accurate Homer. The bodies of the gods, inexpressibly beautiful, and commonly invisible, are, whenever seen by men, in an aureola of light. In Homer, Apollo is the god of archery, prophecy, and music. He is the far-darter. He shoots his arrows at the Greeks, because his prophet had been ill-treated. "He descended from Olympus," says Homer, "enraged in heart, having his bow and quiver on his shoulders. But as he moved the shafts rattled on the shoulders of him enraged; and he went onward like the night. Then he sat near the ships, and sent an arrow, and dreadful was the clangor of the silver bow."

Later in the Iliad he appears again, defending the Trojans and deceiving Achilles. In the Homeric Hymn his birth on Delos is sweetly told; and how, when he was born, Earth smiled around, and all the goddesses shouted. Themis fed him on nectar and ambrosia; then he sprang up, called for a lyre and bow, and said he would declare henceforth to men the will of Jove; and Delos, exulting, became covered with flowers.[230]

The Second Book of the Iliad begins thus: "The rest, both gods and horse-arraying men, slept all the night; but Jove sweet sleep possessed not; but he pondered how he might destroy many at the Greek ships, and honor Achilles. But this device appeared best to his mind, to send a fatal dream to Agamemnon. And he said, 'Haste, pernicious dream, to the swift ships, and bid Agamemnon arm the Achaeans to take wide-streeted Troy, since Juno has persuaded all the gods to her will.'"

This was simply a lie, sent for the destruction of the Greeks.

In the First Book, Jupiter complains to Thetis that Juno is always scolding him, and good right had she to do so. Presently she comes in and accuses him of plotting something secretly with Thetis, and never letting her know his plans. He answers her by accusations of perversity: "Thou art always suspecting; but thou shalt produce no effect, but be further from my heart." He then is so ungentlemanly as to threaten her with corporal punishment. The gods murmur; but Vulcan interposes as a peacemaker, saying, "There will be no enjoyment in our delightful banquet if you twain thus contend." Then he arose and placed the double cup in her hands and said, "Be patient, my mother, lest I again behold thee beaten, and cannot help thee."

He here refers to a time when Jupiter hung his wife up in mid-heaven with anvils tied to her heels; and when Vulcan untied them he was pitched from Olympus down into the island of Lemnos, whence came his lameness. A rude and brutal head of a household was the poetic Zeus.

No doubt other and much more sublime views of the gods are to be found in Homer. Thus (Il. XV. 80) he compares the motion of Juno to the rapid thought of a traveller, who, having visited many countries, says, "I was here," "I was there." Such also is the description (Il. XIII. 17) of Neptune descending from the top of Samothrace, with the hills and forests trembling beneath his immortal feet. Infinite power, infinite faculty, the gods of Homer possessed; but these were only human faculty and power pushed to the utmost. Nothing is more beautiful than the description of the sleep of Jupiter and Juno, "imparadised in each other's arms" (Il. XIV. 350), while the divine earth produced beneath them a bed of flowers, softly lifting them from the ground. But the picture is eminently human; quite as much so as that which Milton has imitated from it.

After Homer and Hesiod, among the Greek poets, come the lyrists. Callinus, the Ephesian, made a religion of patriotism. Tyrtaeus (B.C. 660), somewhat later, of Sparta, was devoted to the same theme. Pindar, the Theban, began his career (B.C. 494) in the time of the conquests of Darius, and composed one of his Pythian odes in the year of the battle of Marathon. He taught a divine retribution on good and evil; taught that "the bitterest end awaits the pleasure that is contrary to right,"[231] taught moderation, and that "a man should always keep in view the bounds and limits of things."[232] He declared that "Law was the ruler of gods and men." Moreover, he proclaimed that gods and men were of one family, and though the gods were far higher, yet that something divine was in all men.[233] And in a famous fragment (quoted by Bunsen[234]) he calls mankind the majestic offspring of earth; mankind, "a gentle race, beloved of heaven."

The tragic poet, Aeschylus, is a figure like that of Michael Angelo in Italian art, grand, sombre, and possessed by his ideas. The one which rules him and runs darkly through all his tragedies is the supreme power of Nemesis, the terrible destiny which is behind and above gods and men. The favorite theme of Greek tragedy is the conflict of fate and freedom, of the inflexible laws of nature with the passionate longings of man, of "the emergency of the case with the despotism of the rule." This conflict appears most vividly in the story of Prometheus, or Forethought; he, "whose godlike crime was to be kind"; he who resisted the torments and terrors of Zeus, relying on his own fierce mind.[235] In this respect, Prometheus in his suffering is like Job in his sufferings. Each refuses to say he is wrong, merely to pacify God, when he does not see that he is wrong. As Prometheus maintains his inflexible purpose, so Job holds fast his integrity.

Sophocles is the most devout of the Greek tragedians, and reverence for the gods is constantly enjoined in his tragedies. One striking passage is where Antigone is asked if she had disobeyed the laws of the country, and replies, "Yes; for they were not the laws of God. They did not proceed from Justice, who dwells with the Immortals. Nor dared I, in obeying the laws of mortal man, disobey those of the undying gods. For the gods live from eternity, and their beginning no man knows. I know that I must die for this offence, and I die willingly. I must have died at some time, and a premature death I account a gain, as finishing a life filled with sorrows."[236] This argument reminds us of the higher-law discussions of the antislavery conflict, and the religious defiance of the fugitive slave law by all honest men.

Euripides represents the reaction against the religious tragedy. His is the anti-religious tragedy. It is a sneering defiance of the religious sentiment, a direct teaching of pessimism. Bunsen ("God in History") goes at length into the proof of this statement, showing that in Euripides the theology of the poets encountered and submitted to the same sceptical reaction which followed in philosophy the divine teachings of Plato.[237] After this time Greek poetry ceased to be the organ of Greek religion. It is true that we have subsequent outbreaks of devout song, as in the hymn of Cleauthes, the stoic, who followed Zeno as teacher in the Porch (B.C. 260). Though this belongs rather to philosophy than to poetry, yet on account of its truly monotheistic and also devout quality, I add a translation here:[238]—

Greatest of the gods, God with many names, God ever-ruling and ruling all things! Zeus, origin of nature, governing the universe by law, All hail! For it is right for mortals to address thee; Since we are thy offspring, and we alone of all That live and creep on earth have the power of imitative speech. Therefore will I praise thee, and hymn forever thy power. Thee the wide heaven, which surrounds the earth, obeys; Following where thou wilt, willingly obeying thy law. Thou holdest at thy service, in thy mighty hands, The two-edged, flaming, immortal thunderbolt, Before whose flash all nature trembles. Thou rulest in the common reason, which goes through all, And appears mingled in all things, great or small, Which, filling all nature, is king of all existences. Nor without thee, O Deity, does anything happen in the world, From the divine ethereal pole to the great ocean, Except only the evil preferred by the senseless wicked. But thou also art able to bring to order that which is chaotic, Giving form to what is formless, and making the discordant friendly; So reducing all variety to unity, and even making good out of evil. Thus, through all nature is one great law, Which only the wicked seek to disobey,— Poor fools! who long for happiness, But will not see nor hear the divine commands.

* * * * *

But do thou, O Zeus, all-bestower, cloud-compeller! Ruler of thunder! guard men from sad error. Father! dispel the clouds of the soul, and let us follow The laws of thy great and just reign! That we may be honored, let us honor thee again, Chanting thy great deeds, as is proper for mortals. For nothing can be better for gods or men Than to adore with perpetual hymns the law common to all.

The result of our investigation thus far is, that beside all the polytheistic and anthropomorphic tendencies of the old religion, there yet lingered a faith in one supreme God, ruler of all things. This is the general opinion of the best writers. For example, Welcker thus speaks of the original substance of Greek religion:[239]—

"In the remotest period of Greek antiquity, we meet the words [Greek: theos] and [Greek: daimon], and the names [Greek: Zeos] and [Greek: Kronion]; anything older than which is not to be found in this religion. Accordingly, the gods of these tribes were from the first generally, if not universally, heavenly and spiritual beings. Zeus was the immortal king of heaven, in opposition to everything visible and temporal. This affords us a permanent background of universal ideas, behind all special conceptions or local appellations. We recognize as present in the beginnings of Greek history the highest mental aspirations belonging to man. We can thus avoid the mistaken doubts concerning this religion, which came from the influence of the subsequent manifestations, going back to the deep root from which they have sprung. The Divine Spirit has always been manifested in the feelings even of the most uncultivated peoples. Afterwards, in trying to bring this feeling into distinct consciousness, the various childish conceptions and imperfect views of religious things arise."



Sec. 5. The Gods of the Artists.

The artists, following the poets, developed still further the divinely human character of the gods. The architects of the temples gave, in their pure and harmonious forms, the conception of religious beauty and majesty. Standing in some open elevated position, their snowy surface bathed in sunshine, they stood in serene strength, the types of a bright and joyful religion. A superstitious worship seeks caves and darkness; the noble majesty of the Greek temples said plainly that they belonged to a religion of light and peace.

The sculptor worked originally in company with the architect. The statues were meant to adorn the temples, the temples were made as frames and pedestals for the statues. The marble forms stood and walked on the pediments and gave life to the frieze. They animated the exterior, or sat, calm and strong, in the central shrine.

The poets, in giving a moral and human character to the gods, never quite forgot their origin as powers of nature. Jupiter Olympus is still the god of the sky, the thunderer. Neptune is the ruler of the ocean, the earth-shaker. Phoebus-Apollo is the sun-god. Artemis is the moonlight, pure, chaste, and cold. But the sculptors finally leave behind these reminiscences, and in their hands the deities become purely moral beings. On the brow of Jupiter sits a majestic calm; he is no angry wielder of the thunderbolt, but the gracious and powerful ruler of the three worlds. This conception grew up gradually, until it was fully realized by Phidias in his statues at Olympia and Elis. Tranquil power and victorious repose appear even in the standing Jupiters, in which last the god appears as more youthful and active.

The conception of Jupiter by Phidias was a great advance on that of Homer. He, to be sure, professed to take his idea from the famous passage of the Iliad where Jove shakes his ambrosial curls and bends his awful brows; and, nodding, shakes heaven and earth. That might be his text, but the sermon which he preached was far higher than it. This was the great statue of Jupiter, his masterpiece, made of ivory and gold for the temple at Olympia, where the games were celebrated by the united Hellenic race. These famous games, which occurred every fifth year, lasting five days, calling together all Greece, were to this race what the Passover was to the Jewish nation, sacred, venerable, blending divine worship and human joy. These games were a chronology, a constitution, and a church to the Pan-Hellenic race. All epochs were reckoned from them; as events occurring in such or such an Olympiad. The first Olympiad was seven hundred and seventy-six years before Christ; and a large part of our present knowledge of ancient chronology depends on these festivals. They bound Greece together as by a constitution; no persons unless of genuine Hellenic blood being allowed to contend at them, and a truce being proclaimed for all Greece while they lasted.

Here at Olympia, while the games continued, all Greece came together; the poets and historians declaimed their compositions to the grand audience; opinions were interchanged, knowledge communicated, and the national life received both stimulus and unity.

And here, over all, presided the great Jupiter of Phidias, within a Doric temple, sixty-eight feet high, ninety-five wide, and two hundred and thirty long, covered with sculptures of Pentelic marble. The god was seated on his throne, made of gold, ebony, and ivory, studded with precious stones. He was so colossal that, though seated, his head nearly reached the roof, and it seemed as if he would bear it away if he rose. There sat the monarch, his head, neck, breast, and arms in massive proportions; the lower part of the body veiled in a flowing mantle; bearing in his right hand a statue of Victory, in his left a sceptre with his eagle on the top; the Hours, the Seasons, and the Graces around him; his feet on the mysterious Sphinx; and on his face that marvellous expression of blended majesty and sweetness, which we know not only by the accounts of eyewitnesses, but by the numerous imitations and copies in marble which have come down to us. One cannot fail to see, even in these copies, a wonderful expression of power, wisdom, and goodness. The head, with leonine locks of hair and thickly rolling beard, expresses power, the broad brow and fixed gaze of the eyes, wisdom; while the sweet smile of the lips indicates goodness. The throne was of cedar, ornamented with gold, ivory, ebony, and precious stones. The sceptre was composed of every kind of metal. The statue was forty feet high, on a pedestal of twelve feet. To die without having seen this statue was regarded by the Greeks as almost as great a calamity as not to have been initiated into the mysteries.[240]

In like manner the poetic conception of Apollo was inferior to that of the sculptor. In the mind of the latter Phoebus is not merely an archer, not merely a prophet and a singer, but the entire manifestation of genius. He is inspiration; he radiates poetry, music, eloquence from his sublime figure. The Phidian Jupiter is lost to us, except in copies, but in the Belvedere Apollo we see how the sculptor could interpret the highest thought of the Hellenic mind. He who visits this statue by night in the Vatican Palace at Rome, seeing it by torchlight, has, perhaps, the most wonderful impression left on his imagination which art can give. After passing through the long galleries of the Vatican, where, as the torches advance, armies of statues emerge from the darkness before you, gaze on you with marble countenance, and sink back into the darkness behind, you reach at last the small circular hall which contains the Apollo. The effect of torchlight is to make the statue seem more alive. One limb, one feature, one expression after another, is brought out as the torches move; and the wonderful form becomes at last instinct with life. Milman has described the statue in a few glowing but unexaggerated lines:—

"For mild he seemed, as in Elysian towers, Wasting, in careless ease, the joyous hours; Haughty, as bards have sung, with princely sway Curbing the fierce flame-breathing steeds of day; Beauteous, as vision seen in dreamy sleep By holy maid, on Delphi's haunted steep."

* * * * *

All, all divine; no struggling muscle glows, Through heaving vein no mantling life-blood flows, But, animate with Deity alone, In deathless glory lives the breathing stone."[241]

In such a statue we see the human creative genius idealized. It is a magnificent representation of the mind of Greece, that fountain of original thought from which came the Songs of Homer and the Dialogues of Plato, that unfailing source of history, tragedy, lyric poetry, scientific investigation. In the Belvedere Apollo we see expressed at once the genius of Homer, Aristotle, Herodotus, Aeschylus, Pindar, Thales, and Plato.

With Apollo is associated his sister Artemis, or Diana, another exquisite conception of Greek thought. Not the cold and cruel Diana of the poets; not she who, in her prudish anger, turned Actaeon into a stag, who slew Orion, who slew the children of Niobe, and demanded the death of Iphigenia. Very different is the beautiful Diana of the sculptors, the Artemis, or untouched one, chaste as moonlight, a wild girl, pure, free, noble; the ideal of youthful womanhood, who can share with man manly exercises and open-air sports, and add to manly strength a womanly grace. So she seems in the statue; in swift motion, the air lifting her tunic from her noble limbs, while she draws a shaft from the quiver to kill a hind. No Greek could look at such a statue, and not learn to reverence the purity and nobleness of womanhood.

Pallas-Athene was the goddess of all the liberal arts and sciences. In battle she proves too strong for Ares or Mars, as scientific war is always too strong for that wild, furious war which Mars represented. She was the civilizer of mankind. Her name Pallas means "virgin," and her name Athene was supposed to be the same as the Egyptian Neith, reversed; though modern scholars deny this etymology.

The Parthenon, standing on the summit of Athens, built of white marble, was surrounded by columns 34 feet high. It was 230 feet long, 102 feet wide, and 68 high, and was perhaps the most perfect building ever raised by man. Every part of its exterior was adorned with Phidian sculpture; and within stood the statue of Athene herself, in ivory and gold, by the same master hand. Another colossal statue of the great goddess stood on the summit of the Acropolis, and her polished brazen helmet and shield, flashing in the sun, could be seen far out at sea by vessels approaching Athens.

The Greek sculptors, in creating these wonderful ideals, were always feeling after God; but for God incarnate, God in man. They sought for and represented each divine element in human nature. They were prophets of the future development of humanity. They showed how man is a partaker of the divine nature. If they humanized Deity, they divinized humanity.



Sec. 6. The Gods of the Philosophers.

The problem which the Greek philosophers set themselves to solve was the origin of things. As we have found a double element of race and religion running through the history of Greece, so we find a similar dualism in its philosophy. An element of realism and another of idealism are in opposition until the time of Plato, and are first reconciled by that great master of thought. Realism appears in the Ionic nature-philosophy; idealism in Orphism, the schools of Pythagoras, and the Eleatic school of Southern Italy.

Both these classes of thinkers sought for some central unity beneath the outward phenomena. Thales the Milesian (B.C. 600) said it was water. His disciple, Anaximander, called it a chaotic matter, containing in itself a motive-power which would take the universe through successive creations and destructions. His successor, Anaximenes, concluded the infinite substance to be air. Heraclitus of Ephesus (B.C. 500) declared it to be fire; by which he meant, not physical fire, but the principle of antagonism. So, by water, Thales must have intended the fluid element in things. For that Thales was not a mere materialist appears from the sayings which have been reported as coming from him, such as this: "Of all things, the oldest is God; the most beautiful is the world; the swiftest is thought; the wisest is time." Or that other, that, "Death does not differ at all from life." Thales also taught that a Divine power was in all things. The successor of Heraclitus, Anaxagoras (B.C. 494), first distinguished God from the world, mind from matter, leaving to each an independent existence.

While the Greek colonies in Asia Minor developed thus the Asiatic form of philosophy, the colonies in Magna Graecia unfolded the Italian or ideal side. Of these, Pythagoras was the earliest and most conspicuous. Born at Samos (B.C. 584), he was a contemporary of Thales of Miletus. He taught that God was one; yet not outside of the world, but in it, wholly in every part, overseeing the beginnings of all things and their combinations.[242]

The head of the Italian school, known as Eleatics, was Xenophanes (born B.C. 600), who, says Zeller,[243] both a philosopher and a poet, taught first of all a perfect monotheism. He declared God to be the one and all, eternal, almighty, and perfect being, being all sight, feeling, and perception. He is both infinite and finite. If he were only finite, he could not be; if he were only infinite, he could not exist. He lives in eternity, and exists in time.[244]

Parmenides, scholar and successor of Xenophanes at Elea, taught that God, as pure thought, pervaded all nature. Empedocles (about B.C. 460)[245] followed Xenophanes, though introducing a certain dualism into his physics. In theology he was a pure monotheist, declaring God to be the Absolute Being, sufficient for himself, and related to the world as unity to variety, or love to discord. We can only recognize God by the divine element in ourselves. The bad is what is separate from God, and out of harmony with him.

After this came a sceptical movement, in which Gorgias, a disciple of Empedocles (B.C. 404) and Protagoras the Abderite, taught the doctrine of nescience. The latter said: "Whether there are gods or not we cannot say, and life is too short to find out."[246] Prodicus explained religion as founded in utility, Critias derived it from statecraft. They argued that if religion was founded in human nature, all men would worship the same gods. This view became popular in Greece at the time of the Peloponnesian War. Euripides, as we have seen, was a sceptic. Those who denied the popular gods were persecuted by the Athenians, but the sceptical spirit was not checked by this course.[247] Anaxagoras escaped with his life only through the powerful protection of Pericles. Protagoras was sentenced to death, and his writings were burned. Diogenes was denounced as an atheist, and a reward of a talent was offered to any one who should kill him. For an unbelieving age is apt to be a persecuting one. When the kernel of religion is gone, more stress is laid on keeping the shell untouched.

It was in the midst of these dilapidated opinions that Socrates came, that wonderful phenomenon in human history. A marvellous vision, glorifying humanity! He may be considered as having created the science of ethics. He first taught the doctrine of divine providence, declaring that we can only know God in his works. He placed religion on the basis of humanity, proclaiming the well-being of man to be the end of the universe. He preferred the study of final causes to that of efficient causes. He did not deny the inferior deities, but regarded them only as we regard angels and archangels, saints and prophets; as finite beings, above man, but infinitely below the Supreme Being. Reverence for such beings is quite consistent with the purest monotheism.

In Plato, says Rixner[248] the two polar tendencies of Greek philosophy were harmonized, and realism and idealism brought into accord. The school of realism recognized time, variety, motion, multiplicity, and nature; but lost substance, unity, eternity, and spirit. The other, the ideal Eleatic school, recognized unity, but lost variety, saw eternity, but ignored time, accepted being, but omitted life and movement.

The three views may be thus compared:—

Italian Philosophy, Plato. Ionian or Asiatic Atomic. or Eleatic. The One. The One in All. The All. Unity. Unity and Variety. Variety. Being. Life. Motion. Pantheism. Divine in Nature. Naturalism. Substance. Substance and Manifestation. Phenomena.

The philosophy of Plato was the scientific completion of that of Socrates. Socrates took his intellectual departure from man, and inferred nature and God. Plato assumed God, and inferred nature and man. He made goodness and nature godlike, by making God the substance in each. His was a divine philosophy, since he referred all facts theoretically and practically to God as the ground of their being.

The style of Plato singularly combined analysis and synthesis, exact definition with poetic life. His magnificent intellect aimed at uniting precision in details with universal comprehension.[249]

Plato, as regards his method of thought, was a strict and determined transcendentalist. He declared philosophy to be the science of unconditioned being, and asserted that this was known to the soul by its intuitive reason, which is the organ of all philosophic insight. The reason perceives substance, the understanding only phenomena. Being [Greek: to on], which is the reality in all actuality, is in the ideas or thoughts of God; and nothing exists or appears outwardly, except by the force of this indwelling idea. The WORD is the true expression of the nature of every object; for each has its divine and natural name, beside its accidental human appellation. Philosophy is the recollection of what the soul has seen of things and their names.

The life and essence of all things is from God. Plato's idea of God is of the purest and highest kind. God is one, he is Spirit, he is the supreme and only real being, he is the creator of all things, his providence is over all events. He avoids pantheism on one side, by making God a distinct personal intelligent will; and polytheism on the other, by making him absolute, and therefore one. Plato's theology is pure theism.[250]

Ackermann, in "The Christian Element in Plato,"[251] says: The Platonic theology is strikingly near that of Christianity in regard to God's being, existence, name, and attributes. As regards the existence of God, he argues from the movements of nature for the necessity of an original principle of motion.[252] But the real Platonic faith in God, like that of the Bible, rests on immediate knowledge. He gives no definition of the essence of God, but says,[253] "To find the Maker and Father of this All is hard, and having found him it is impossible to utter him." But the idea of Goodness is the best expression, as is also that of Being, though neither is adequate. The visible Sun is the image and child of the Good Being. Just so the Scripture calls God the Father of light. Yet the idea of God was the object and aim of his whole philosophy; therefore he calls God the Beginning and the End;[254] and "the Measure of all things, much more than man, as some people have said" (referring to Protagoras, who taught that "man was the measure of all things"). So even Aristotle declared that "since God is the ground of all being, the first philosophy is theology"; and Eusebius mentions that Plato thought that no one could understand human things who did not first look at divine things; and tells a story of an Indian who met Socrates in Athens and asked him how he must begin to philosophize. He replied that he must reflect on human life; whereupon the Indian laughed and said that as long as one did not understand divine things he could know nothing about human things.

There is no doubt that Plato was a monotheist, and believed in one God, and when he spoke of gods in the plural, was only using the common form of speech. That many educated heathen were monotheists has been sufficiently proved; and even Augustine admits that the mere use of the word "gods" proved nothing against it, since the Hebrew Bible said, "the God of gods has spoken."

Aristotle (B.C. 384), the first philologian and naturalist of antiquity, scholar of Plato, called "the Scribe of Nature," and "a reversed Plato," differing diametrically from his master in his methods, arrived at nearly the same theological result. He taught that there were first truths, known by their own evidence. He comprised all notions of existence in that of the [Greek: kosmos], in which were the two spheres of the earthly and heavenly. The earthly sphere contained the changeable in the transient; the heavenly sphere contained the changeable in the permanent. Above both spheres is God, who is unchangeable, permanent, and unalterable. Aristotle, however, omits God as Providence, and conceives him less personally than is done by Plato.

In the Stoical system, theism becomes pantheism.[255] There is one Being, who is the substance of all things, from whom the universe flows forth, and into whom it returns in regular cycles.

Zeller[256] sums up his statements on this point thus: "From all that has been said it appears that the Stoics did not think of God and the world as different beings. Their system was therefore strictly pantheistic. The sum of all real existence is originally contained in God, who is at once universal matter and the creative force which fashions matter into the particular materials of which things are made. We can, therefore, think of nothing which is not either God or a manifestation of God. In point of being, God and the world are the same, the two conceptions being declared by the Stoics to be absolutely identical."

The Stoic philosophy was materialism as regards the nature of things, and necessity as regards the nature of the human will. The Stoics denied the everlasting existence of souls as individuals, believing that at the end of a certain cycle they would be resolved into the Divine Being. Nevertheless, till that period arrives, they conceived the soul as existing in a future state higher and better than this. Seneca calls the day of death the birthday into this better world. In that world there would be a judgment on the conduct and character of each one; there friends would recognize each other, and renew their friendship and society.

While the Epicureans considered religion in all its usual forms to be a curse to mankind, while they believed it impious to accept the popular opinions concerning the gods, while they denied any Divine Providence or care for man, while they rejected prayer, prophecy, divination, and regarded fear as the foundation of religion, they yet believed, as their master Epicurus had believed, in the existence of the immortal gods. These beings he regarded as possessing all human attributes, except those of weakness and pain. They are immortal and perfectly happy; exempt from disease and change, living in celestial dwellings, clothed with bodies of a higher kind than ours, they converse together in a sweet society of peace and content.

Such were the principal theological views of the Greek philosophers. With the exception of the last, and that of the Sceptics, they were either monotheistic or consistent with monotheism. They were, on the whole, far higher than the legends of the poets or the visions of the artists. They were, as the Christian Fathers were fond of saying, a preparation for Christianity. No doubt one cause of the success of this monotheistic religion among the Greek-speaking nations was that Greek philosophy had undermined faith in Greek polytheism.

This we shall consider in another section.



Sec. 7. The Worship of Greece.

The public worship of Greece, as of other ancient nations, consisted of sacrifices, prayers, and public festivals. The sacrifices were for victories over their enemies, for plentiful harvests, to avert the anger of some offended deity, for success in any enterprise, and those specially commanded by the oracles.

In the earliest times fruits and plants were all that were offered. Afterward the sacrifices were libations, incense, and victims. The libation consisted of a cup brimming with wine, which was emptied upon the altars. The incense, at first, was merely fragrant leaves or wood, burnt upon the altar; afterward myrrh and frankincense were used. The victims were sheep, oxen, or other animals. To Hecate they offered a dog, to Venus a dove, to Mars some wild animal, to Ceres the sow, because it rooted up the corn. But it was forbidden to sacrifice the ploughing ox. The sacrifices of men, which were common among barbarous nations, were very rare in Greece.

On great occasions large sacrifices were offered of numerous victims,—as the hecatomb, which means a hundred oxen. It is a curious fact that they had a vessel of holy water at the entrance of the temples, consecrated by putting into it a burning torch from the altar, with which or with a branch of laurel the worshippers were sprinkled on entering. The worshippers were also expected to wash their bodies, or at least their hands and feet, before going into the temple; a custom common also among the Jews and other nations. So Ezekiel says: "I will sprinkle you with clean water and you shall be clean." And the Apostle Paul says, in allusion to this custom: "Let us draw near, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water."

All these customs had a natural origin. The natural offering to the gods is that which we like best ourselves. The Greeks, eminently a social people, in the enjoyment of their feasts, wished to give a part of everything to the gods. Loving wine, perfumes, and animal food, they offered these. As it was proper to wash before feasting with each other, it seemed only proper to do the same before offering the feast to the gods.

The essential part of the sacrifice was catching and pouring out the blood of the victim; for, in the view of the ancients, blood was the seat of life. Part of the victim was burned, and this was the portion supposed to be consumed by the god. Another part was eaten by the worshippers, who thus sat at table with the deity as his friends and companions. The joyful character of Greek worship also appeared in the use of garlands of flowers, religious dances and songs.

All the festivals of the Greeks were religious. Some were of the seasons, as one in February to Zeus, the giver of good weather; and another in November to Zeus, the god of storms. There were festivals in honor of the plough, of the threshing-floor; festivals commemorating the victories at Marathon, Salamis, etc.; of the restoration of democracy by Thrasybulus; feasts of the clothing of the images, on which occasion it was not lawful to work; feasts in commemoration of those who perished in the flood of Deucalion; feasts of nurses, feasts of youth, of women, of trades. Then there were the great national festivals, celebrated every four years at Olympia and Delphi, and every three and five years at Nemea and the isthmus of Corinth. The Panathenaeic festival at Athens was held every five years in honor of Athene, with magnificent processions, cavalcades of horsemen, gymnastic games, military dances, recitations of the Homeric poems, and competition in music. On the frieze of the Parthenon was represented by the scholars of Phidias the procession of the Peplos. This was a new dress made for the statue of Athene by young girls of Athens, between the ages of seven and eleven years. These girls, selected at a special ceremony, lived a year on the Acropolis, engaged in their sacred work, and fed on a special diet. Captives were liberated on this occasion, that all might share in the festival.

Such festivals constituted the acme of Greek life. They were celebrated in the open air with pomp and splendor, and visitors came from far to assist on these occasions. Prizes were given for foot and chariot races; for boxing, leaping, music, and even for kissing. The temples, therefore, were not intended for worship, but chiefly to contain the image of the god. The cella, or adytum, was small and often dark; but along the magnificent portico or peristyle, which surrounded the four sides of the Doric temples, the splendid processions could circulate in full view of the multitude.[257] The temple was therefore essentially an out-door building, with its beauty, like that of a flower, exposed to light and air. It was covered everywhere, but not crowded, with sculpture, which was an essential part of the building. The pediments, the pedestals on the roofs, the metopes between the triglyphs, are as unmeaning without the sculpture as a picture-frame without its picture. So says Mr. Fergusson;[258] and adds that, without question, color was also everywhere used as an integral part of the structure.

Priesthood was sometimes hereditary, but was not confined to a class. Kings, generals, and the heads of a family acted as priests and offered sacrifices. It was a temporary office, and Plato recommends that there should be an annual rotation, no man acting as priest for more than one year. Such a state of opinion excludes the danger of priestcraft, and is opposed to all hierarchal pretensions. The same, however, cannot be said of the diviners and soothsayers, who were so much consulted, and whose opinions determined so often the course of public affairs. They were often in the pay of ambitious men. Alcibiades had augurs and oracles devoted to his interests, who could induce the Athenians to agree to such a course as he desired. For the Greeks were extremely anxious to penetrate the future, and the power and influence of their oracles is, says Doellinger, a phenomenon unique in history.

Among these oracles, Delphi, as is well known, took the highest rank. It was considered the centre of the earth, and was revered by the Pan-Hellenic race. It was a supreme religious court, whose decisions were believed to be infallible. The despotism of the Pythian decisions was, however, tempered by their ambiguity. Their predictions, if they failed, seldom destroyed the faith of the believers; for always some explanation could be devised to save the credit of the oracle. Thus, the Pythian promised the Athenians that they would take all the Syracusans prisoners. They did not take them; but as a muster-roll of the Syracusan army fell into their hands, this was considered to fulfil the promise.[259] Aristides, the rhetorician, was told that the "white maidens" would take care of him; and receiving a letter which was of advantage, he was fully convinced that this was the "white maiden." But neither imposition nor delusion will satisfactorily explain the phenomena connected with oracles. The foundation of them seems to have been a state allied to the modern manifestations of magnetic sleep and clairvoyance.

"As the whole life of the Greeks," says Doellinger, "was penetrated by religion," they instinctively and naturally prayed on all occasions. They prayed at sunrise and sunset, at meal-times, for outward blessings of all kinds, and also for virtue and wisdom. They prayed standing, with a loud voice, and hands lifted to the heavens. They threw kisses to the gods with their hands.

So we see that the Greek worship, like their theology, was natural and human, a cheerful and hopeful worship, free from superstition. This element only arrives with the mysteries, and the worship of the Cthonic gods. To the Olympic gods supplications were addressed as to free moral agents, who might be persuaded or convinced, but could not be compelled. To the under-world deities prayer took the form of adjuration, and degenerated into magic formulas, which were supposed to force these deities to do what was asked by the worshipper.



Sec. 8. The Mysteries. Orphism.

The early gods of most nations are local and tribal. They belong only to limited regions, or to small clans, and have no supposed authority or influence beyond. This was eminently the case in Greece; and after the great Hellenic worship had arrived, the local and family gods retained also their position, and continued to be reverenced. In Athens, down to the time of Alexander, each tribe in the city kept its own divinities and sacrifices. It also happened that the supreme god of one state would be adored as a subordinate power in another. Every place had its favorite protector. As different cities in Italy have their different Madonnas, whom they consider more powerful than the Madonna of their neighbors, so in Greece the same god was invoked in various localities under different surnames. The Arcadian Zeus had the surname of Lycaeus, derived, probably, from [Greek: Lux], Lux, light. The Cretan Jupiter was called Asterios. At Karia he was Stratios. Iolaus in Euripides (the Herakleidae, 347) says: "We have gods as our allies not inferior to those of the Argives, O king; for Juno, the wife of Jove, is their champion, but Minerva ours; and I say, to have the best gods tends to success, for Pallas will not endure to be conquered."[260] So, in the "Suppliants" of Aeschylus, the Egyptian Herald says (838): "By no means do I dread the deities of this place; for they have not nourished me nor preserved me to old age."[261]

Two modes of worship met in Greece, together with two classes of gods. The Pelasgi, as we have seen, worshipped unnamed impersonal powers of the universe, without image or temple. But to this was added a worship which probably came through Thrace, from Asia and Egypt. This element introduced religious poetry and music, the adoration of the muses, the rites and mysteries of Demeter, and the reverence for the Kabiri, or dark divinities of the lower world.

Of these, the MYSTERIES were the most significant and important. Their origin must be referred to a great antiquity, and they continued to be practised down to the times of the Roman Emperors. They seem not to belong to the genuine Greek religion, but to be an alien element introduced into it. The gods of the Mysteries are not the beings of light, but of darkness, not the gods of Olympus, but of the under-world. Everything connected with the Mysteries is foreign to the Hellenic mind. This worship is secret; its spirit is of awe, terror, remorse; its object is expiation of sin. Finally, it is a hieratic worship, in the hands of priests.

All this suggests Egypt as the origin of the Mysteries. The oldest were those celebrated in the island of Samothrace, near the coast of Asia Minor. Here Orpheus is reputed to have come and founded the Bacchic Mysteries; while another legend reports him to have been killed by the Bacchantes for wishing to substitute the worship of Apollo for that of Dionysos. This latter story, taken in connection with the civilizing influence ascribed to Orpheus, indicates his introducing a purer form of worship. He reformed the licentious drunken rites, and established in place of them a more serious religion. He died a martyr to this purer faith, killed by the women, who were incited to this, no doubt, by the priests of the old Bacchic worship.

The worship of Dionysos Zagreus, which was the Orphic form of Bacchism, contained the doctrines of retribution in another life,—a doctrine common to all the Greek Mysteries.

It would seem probable, from an investigation of this subject, that two elements of worship are to be found in the Greek religion, which were never quite harmonized. One is the worship of the Olympian deities, gods of light and day, gods of this world, and interested in our present human life. This worship tended to promote a free development of character; it was self-possessed, cheerful, and public; it left the worshipper unalarmed by any dread of the future, or any anxiety about his soul. For the Olympic gods cared little about the moral character of their worshippers; and the dark Fate which lay behind gods and men could not be propitiated by any rites, and must be encountered manfully, as one meets the inevitable.

The other worship, running parallel with this, was of the Cthonic gods, deities of earth and the under-world, rulers of the night-side of nature, and monarchs of the world to come. Their worship was solemn, mysterious, secret, and concerned expiation of sin, and the salvation of the soul hereafter.

Now, when we consider that the Egyptian popular worship delighted in just such mysteries as these; that it related to the judgment of the soul hereafter; that its solemnities were secret and wrapped in dark symbols; and that the same awful Cthonic deities were the objects of its reverence;—when we also remember that Herodotus and the other Greek writers state that the early religion of the Pelasgi was derived from Egypt, and that Orpheus, the Thracian, brought thence his doctrine,—there seems no good reason for denying such a source. On the other hand, nothing can be more probable than an immense influence on Pelasgic worship, derived through Thrace, from Egypt. This view is full of explanations, and makes much in the Greek mythology clear which would otherwise be obscure.

The Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone, for example, seems to be an adaptation to the Hellenic mind and land of the Egyptian myth of Osiris and Isis. Both are symbols, first, of natural phenomena; and, secondly, of the progress of the human soul. The sad Isis seeking Osiris, and the sad Demeter seeking Persephone constitute evidently the same legend; only Osiris is the Nile, evaporated into scattered pools by the burning heat, while Persephone is the seed, the treasure of the plant, which sinks into the earth, but is allowed to come up again as the stalk, and pass a part of its life in the upper air. But both these nature-myths were spiritualized in the Mysteries, and made to denote the wanderings of the soul in its search for truth. Similar to these legends was that of Dionysos Zagreus, belonging to Crete, according to Euripides and other writers. Zagreus was the son of the Cretan Zeus and Persephone, and was hewn in pieces by the Titans, his heart alone being preserved by Athene, who gave it to Zeus. Zeus killed the Titans, and enclosed the heart in a plaster image of his child. According to another form of the story, Zeus swallowed the heart, and from it reproduced another Dionysos. Apollo collected the rest of the members, and they were reunited, and restored to life.

The principal mysteries were those of Bacchus and Ceres. The Bacchic mysteries were very generally celebrated throughout Greece, and were a wild nature-worship; partaking of that frenzy which has in all nations been considered a method of gaining a supernatural and inspired state, or else as the result of it. The Siva worship in India, the Pythoness at Delphi, the Schamaism of the North, the whirling dervishes of the Mohammedans; and some of the scenes at the camp-meetings in the Western States, belong to the same class as the Bacchic orgies.

The Eleusinian mysteries were very different. These were in honor of Ceres; they were imported from Egypt. The wanderings of Isis in search of Osiris were changed to those of Ceres or Demeter (the mother-earth = Isis) in search of Persephone. Both represented in a secondary symbolism the wanderings of the soul, seeking God and truth. This was the same idea as that of Apuleius in the beautiful story of Psyche.

These mysteries were celebrated at Eleusis by the Athenians every fourth year. They were said to have been introduced B.C. 1356, and were very sacred. All persons were required to be initiated. If they refused it they were supposed to be irreligious. "Have you been initiated?" was asked in dangerous situations. The initiated were said to be calm in view of death. It was the personal religion of the Greeks.

In the greater mysteries at Eleusis the candidates were crowned with myrtle, and admitted by night into a vast temple, where they were purified and instructed, and assisted at certain grand solemnities. The doctrines taught are unknown, but are supposed to have been the unity of God and the immortality of the soul. But this is only conjecture.

Bacchus is believed to have been originally an Indian god, naturalized in Greece, and his mysteries to be Indian in their character. The genial life of nature is the essential character of Bacchus. One of the names of the Indian Siva is Dionichi, which very nearly resembles the Greek name of Bacchus, Dionysos. He was taken from the Meros, or thigh of Jupiter. Now Mount Meru, in India, is the home of the gods; by a common etymological error the Greeks may have thought it the Greek word for thigh, and so translated it.

The Bacchic worship, in its Thracian form, was always distasteful to the best of the Greeks; it was suspected and disliked by the enlightened, proscribed by kings, and rejected by communities. It was an interpolated system, foreign to the cheerful nature of Greek thought.

As to the value of the mysteries themselves, there was a great difference of opinion among the Greeks. The people, the orators, and many of the poets praised them; but the philosophers either disapproved them openly, or passed them by in silence. Socrates says no word in their favor in all his reported conversations. Plato complains of the immoral influence derived from believing that sin could be expiated by such ceremonies.[262] They seem to have contained, in reality, little direct instruction, but to have taught merely by a dramatic representation and symbolic pictures.

Who Orpheus was, and when he lived, can never be known. But the probabilities are that he brought from Egypt into Greece, what Moses took from Egypt into Palestine, the Egyptian ideas of culture, law, and civilization. He reformed the Bacchic mysteries, giving them a more elevated and noble character, and for this he lost his life. No better account of his work can be given than in the words of Lord Bacon.

"The merits of learning," says he, "in repressing the inconveniences which grow from man to man, was lively set forth by the ancients in that feigned relation of Orpheus' theatre, where all beasts and birds assembled; and, forgetting their several appetites, some of prey, some of game, some of quarrel, stood all sociably together, listening to the airs and accords of the harp; the sound thereof no sooner ceased or was drowned by some louder noise, but every beast returned to his own nature; wherein is aptly described the nature and condition of men, who are full of savage and unreclaimed desires of profit, of lust, of revenge, which, as long as they give ear to precepts, to laws, to religion, sweetly touched by eloquence and persuasion of books, of sermons, of harangues, so long is society and peace maintained; but if these instruments be silent, or that sedition and tumult make them not audible, all things dissolve into anarchy and confusion."[263]

Of the Orphic doctrines we are able to give a somewhat better account. As far back as the sixth century before Christ, there were scattered through Greece hymns, lyrical poems, and prose treatises, treating of theological questions, and called Orphic writings. These works continued to be produced through many centuries, and evidently met an appetite in the Greek mind. They were not philosophy, they were not myths nor legends, but contained a mystic and pantheistic theology.[264] The views of the Pythagoreans entered largely into this system. The Orphic writings develop, by degrees, a system of cosmogony, in which Time was the first principle of things, from which came chaos and ether. Then came the primitive egg, from which was born Phanes, or Manifestation. This being is the expression of intelligence, and creates the heavens and the earth. The soul is but the breath which comes from the whole universe, thus organized, and is imprisoned in the body as in a tomb, for sins committed in a former existence. Life is therefore not joy, but punishment and sorrow. At death the soul escapes from this prison, to pass through many changes, by which it will be gradually purified. All these notions are alien to the Greek mind, and are plainly a foreign importation. The true Greek was neither pantheist nor introspective. He did not torment himself about the origin of evil or the beginning of the universe, but took life as it came, cheerfully.

The pantheism of the Orphic theology is constantly apparent. Thus, in a poem preserved by Proclus and Eusebius it is said:[265]—

"Zeus, the mighty thunderer, is first, Zeus is last, Zeus is the head, Zeus the middle of all things. From Zeus were all things produced. He is both man and woman; Zeus is the depth of the earth, and the height of the starry heavens; He is the breath of all things, the force of untamed fire; The bottom of the sea; sun, moon, and stars; Origin of all; king of all; One Power, one God, one great Ruler."

And another says, still more plainly:—

"There is one royal body, in which all things are enclosed, Fire and Water, Earth, Ether, Night and Day, And Counsel, the first producer, and delightful Love, For all these are contained in the great body of Zeus."



Sec. 9. Relation of Greek Religion to Christianity.

One of the greatest events in the history of man, as well as one of the most picturesque situations, was when Paul stood on the Areopagus at Athens, carrying Christianity into Europe, offering a Semitic religion to an Aryan race, the culmination of monotheism to one of the most elaborate and magnificent polytheisms of the world. A strange and marvellous scene! From the place where he stood he saw all the grandest works of human art,—the Acropolis rose before him, a lofty precipitous rock, seeming like a stone pedestal erected by nature as an appropriate platform for the perfect marble temples with which man should adorn it. On this noble base rose the Parthenon, temple of Minerva; and the temple of Neptune, with its sacred fountain. The olive-tree of Pallas-Athene was there, and her colossal statue. On the plain below were the temples of Theseus and Jupiter Olympus, and innumerable others. He stood where Socrates had stood four hundred years before, defending himself against the charge of atheism; where Demosthenes had pleaded in immortal strains of eloquence in behalf of Hellenic freedom; where the most solemn and venerable court of justice known among men was wont to assemble. There he made the memorable discourse, a few fragments only of which have come to us in the Book of Acts, but a sketch significant of his argument. He did not begin, as in our translation, by insulting the religion of the Greeks, and calling it a superstition; but by praising them for their reverence and piety. Paul respected all manifestations of awe and love toward those mysteries and glories of the universe, in which the invisible things of God have been clearly seen from the foundation of the world. Then he mentions his finding the altar to the unknown God, mentioned also by Pausanias and other Greek writers, one of whom, Diogenes Laertius, says that in a time of plague, not knowing to what god to appeal, they let loose a number of black and white sheep, and whereever any one laid down they erected an altar to an unknown god, and offered sacrifices thereon. Then he announced as his central and main theme the Most High God, maker of heaven and earth, spiritual, not needing to receive anything from man, but giving him all things. Next, he proclaimed the doctrine of universal human brotherhood. God had made all men of one blood; their varieties and differences, as well as their essential unity, being determined by a Divine Providence. But all were equally made to seek him, and in their various ways to find him, who is yet always near to all, since all are his children. God is immanent in all men, says Paul, as their life. Having thus stated the great unities of faith and points of agreement, he proceeds only in the next instance to the oppositions and criticisms; in which he opposes, not polytheism, but idolatry; though not blaming them severely even for that. Lastly, he speaks of Jesus, as a man ordained by God to judge the world and govern it in righteousness, and proved by his resurrection from the dead to be so chosen.

Here we observe, in this speech, monotheism came in contact with polytheism, and the two forms of human religion met,—that which makes man the child of God, and that which made the gods the children of men.

The result we know. The cry was heard on the sandy shore of Eurotas and in green Cythnus.—"Great Pan is dead." The Greek humanities, noble and beautiful as they were, faded away before the advancing steps of the Jewish peasant, who had dared to call God his Father and man his brother. The parables of the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan were stronger than Homer's divine song and Pindar's lofty hymns. This was the religion for man. And so it happened as Jesus had said: "My sheep hear my voice and follow me." Those who felt in their hearts that Jesus was their true leader followed him.

The gods of Greece, being purely human, were so far related to Christianity. That, too, is a human religion; a religion which makes it its object to unfold man, and to cause all to come to the stature of perfect men. Christianity also showed them God in the form of man; God dwelling on the earth; God manifest in the flesh. It also taught that the world was full of God, and that all places and persons were instinct with a secret divinity. Schiller (as translated by Coleridge) declares that LOVE was the source of these Greek creations:—

"'Tis not merely The human being's pride that peoples space With life and mystical predominance, Since likewise for the stricken heart of Love This visible nature, and this common world Is all too narrow; yea, a deeper import Lurks in the legend told my infant years That lies upon that truth, we live to learn. For fable is Love's world, his home, his birthplace; Delightedly dwells he 'mong fays and talismans, And spirits, and delightedly believes Divinities, being himself divine. The intelligible forms of ancient poets, The fair humanities of Old Religion, The Power, the Beauty, and the Majesty, That had their haunts in dale or piny mountain, Or forest by slow stream, or pebbly spring, Or chasms or wat'ry depths;—all these have vanished. They live no longer in the faith of Reason. But still the heart doth need a language; still Doth the old instinct bring back the old names."

The Piccolomini, Act II. Scene 4.

As a matter of fact we find the believers in the Greek religion more ready to receive Christianity than were the Jews. All through Asia Minor and Greece Christian churches were planted by Paul; a fact which shows that the ground was somehow prepared for Christianity. It was ready for the monotheism which Paul substituted for their multitude of gods, and for their idolatry and image-worship. The statues had ceased to be symbols, and the minds of the Greeks rested in the image itself. This idolatrous worship Paul condemned, and the people heard him willingly, as he called them up to a more spiritual worship. We think, therefore, that the Greek religion was a real preparation for Christianity. We have seen that it was itself in constant transition; the system of the poets passing into that of the artists, and that of the artists into that of the philosophers; so that the philosophic religion, in turn, was ready to change into a Christian monotheism.

It may be said, since philosophy had undermined the old religion and substituted for it more noble ideas, why did it not take the seat of the dethroned faith, and sufficiently supply its place? If it taught a pure monotheism and profound ethics, if it threw ample and adequate light on the problem of God, duty, and immortality, what more was needed? If ideas are all that we want, nothing more. That Greek philosophy gave way before Christianity shows that it did not satisfy all the cravings of the soul; shows that man needs a religion as well as a religious philosophy, a faith as well as an intellectual system. A religion is one thing, a speculation is a very different thing. The old Greek religion, so long as it was a living faith, was enough. When men really believed in the existence of Olympian Jove, Pallas-Athene, and Phoebus-Apollo, they had something above them to which to look up. When this faith was disintegrated, no system of opinions, however pure and profound, could replace it. Another faith was needed, but a faith not in conflict with the philosophy which had destroyed polytheism; and Christianity met the want, and therefore became the religion of the Greek-speaking world.

Religion is a life, philosophy is thought; religion looks up, philosophy looks in. We need both thought and life, and we need that the two shall be in harmony. The moment they come in conflict, both suffer. Philosophy had destroyed the ancient simple faith of the Hellenic race in their deities, and had given them instead only the abstractions of thought. Then came the Apostles of Christianity, teaching a religion in harmony with the highest thought of the age, and yet preaching it out of a living faith. Christianity did not come as a speculation about the universe, but as a testimony. Its heralds bore witness to the facts of God's presence and providence, of his fatherly love, of the brotherhood of man, of a rising to a higher life, of a universal judgment hereafter on all good and evil, and of Jesus as the inspired and ascended revealer of these truths. These facts were accepted as realities; and once more the human mind had something above itself solid enough to support it.

Some of the early Christian Fathers called on the heathen poets and philosophers to bear witness to the truth. Clement of Alexandria[266] after quoting this passage of Plato, "around the king of all are all things, and he is the cause of all good things," says that others, through God's inspiration, have declared the only true God to be God. He quotes Antisthenes to this effect: "God is not like to any; wherefore no one can know him from an image." He quotes Cleanthes the Stoic:—

"If you ask me what is the nature of the good, listen: That which is regular, just, holy, pious, Self-governing, useful, fair, fitting, Grave, independent, always beneficial, That feels no fear or grief; profitable, painless, Helpful, pleasant, safe, friendly."

"Nor," says Clement, "must we keep the Pythagoreans in the background, who say, 'God is one; and he is not, as some suppose, outside of this frame of things, but within it; in all the entireness of his being he pervades the whole circle of existence, surveying all nature, and blending in harmonious union the whole; the author of his own forces and works, the giver of light in heaven, and father of all; the mind and vital power of the whole world, the mover of all things.'"

Clement quotes Aratus the poet:—

"That all may be secure Him ever they propitiate first and last. Hail, Father! great marvel, great gain to man."

"Thus also," says Clement, "the Ascraean Hesiod dimly speaks of God:—

'For he is the king of all, and monarch Of the immortals, and there is none that can vie with him in power.'

"And Sophocles, the son of Sophilus, says:—

'One, in truth, one is God, Who made both heaven and the far-stretching earth; And ocean's blue wave, and the mighty winds; But many of us mortals, deceived in heart, Have set up for ourselves, as a consolation in our afflictions, Images of the gods, of stone, or wood, or brass, Or gold, or ivory; And, appointing to these sacrifices and vain festivals, Are accustomed thus to practise religion.'

"But the Thracian Orpheus, the son of Oeagrus, hierophant and poet, at once, after his exposition of the orgies and his theology of idols, introduces a palinode of truth with solemnity, though tardily singing the strain:—

'I shall utter to whom it is lawful; but let the doors be closed, Nevertheless, against all the profane. But do thou hear, O Musaeus, for I will declare what is true.'

"He then proceeds:—

'He is one, self-proceeding; and from him alone all things proceed, And in them he himself exerts his activity; no mortal Beholds him, but he beholds all.'"

Professor Cocker, in his work on "Christianity and Greek Philosophy," has devoted much thought to show that philosophy was a preparation for Christianity, and that Greek civilization was an essential condition to the progress of the Gospel. He points out how Greek intelligence and culture, literature and art, trade and colonization, the universal spread of the Greek language, and especially the results of Greek philosophy, were "schoolmasters to bring men to Christ." He quotes a striking passage from Pressense to this effect. Philosophy in Greece, says Pressense, had its place in the divine plan. It dethroned the false gods. It purified the idea of divinity.

Cocker sums up this work of preparation done by Greek philosophy, as seen,—

"1. In the release of the popular mind from polytheistic notions, and the purifying and spiritualizing of the theistic idea.

"2. In the development of the theistic argument in a logical form.

"3. In the awakening and enthronement of conscience as a law of duty, and in the elevation and purification of the moral idea.

"4. In the fact that, by an experiment conducted on the largest scale, it demonstrated the insufficiency of reason to elaborate a perfect ideal of moral excellence, and develop the moral forces necessary to secure its realization.

"5. It awakened and deepened the consciousness of guilt and the desire for redemption."[267]

The large culture of Greece was evidently adapted to Christianity. The Jewish mind recognized no such need as that of universal culture, and this tendency of Christianity could only have found room and opportunity among those who had received the influence of Hellenic culture.

The points of contact between Christianity and Greek civilization are therefore these:—

1. The character of God, considered in both as an immanent, ever-working presence, and not merely as a creating and governing will outside the universe.

2. The character of man, as capable of education and development, who is not merely to obey as a servant, but to co-operate as a friend, with the divine will, and grow up in all things.

3. The idea of duty, as a reasonable service, and not a yoke.

4. God's revelations, as coming, not only in nature, but also in inspired men, and in the intuitions of the soul; a conception which resulted in the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.

The good of polytheism was that it saw something divine in nature. By dividing God into numberless deities, it was able to conceive of some divine power in all earthly objects. Hence Wordsworth, complaining that we can see little of this divinity now in nature, cries out:—

"Good God! I'd rather be A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn; So might I, standing on this pleasant lea, Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn; Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea, Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn."



Chapter VIII.

The Religion of Rome.



Sec. 1. Origin and essential Character of the Religion of Rome. Sec. 2. The Gods of Rome. Sec. 3. Worship and Ritual. Sec. 4. The Decay of the Roman Religion. Sec. 5. Relation of the Roman Religion to Christianity.



Sec. 1. Origin and essential Character of the Religion of Rome.

In the Roman state nothing grew, everything was made. The practical understanding was the despotic faculty in the genius of this people. Fancy, imagination, humor, seem to have been omitted in the character of the Latin race. The only form of wit which appeared among them was satire, that is, wit used for a serious purpose, to punish crimes not amenable to other laws, to remove abuses not to be reached by the ordinary police. The gay, light-hearted Greek must have felt in Rome very much as a Frenchman feels in England. The Romans did not know how to amuse themselves; they pursued their recreations with ferocious earnestness, making always a labor of their pleasure. They said, indeed, that it was well sometimes to unbend, Dulce est desipere in locis; but a Roman when unbent was like an unbent bow, almost as stiff as before.

In other words, all spontaneity was absent from the Roman mind. Everything done was done on purpose, with a deliberate intention. This also appears in their religion. Their religion was not an inspiration, but an intention. It was all regular, precise, exact. The Roman cultus, like the Roman state, was a compact mass, in which all varieties were merged into a stern unity. All forms of religion might come to Rome and take their places in its pantheon, but they must come as servants and soldiers of the state. Rome opened a hospitable asylum to them, just as Rome had established a refuge on the Capitoline Hill to which all outlaws might come and be safe, on the condition of serving the community.

As everything in Rome must serve the state, so the religion of Rome was a state institution, an established church. But as the state can only command and forbid outward actions, and has no control over the heart, so the religion of Rome was essentially external. It was a system of worship, a ritual, a ceremony. If the externals were properly attended to, it took no notice of opinions or of sentiments. Thus we find in Cicero ("De Natura Deorum") the chief pontiff arguing against the existence of the gods and the use of divination. He claims to believe in religion as a pontifex, while he argues against it as a philosopher. The toleration of Rome consisted in this, that as long as there was outward conformity to prescribed observances, it troubled itself very little about opinions. It said to all religions what Gallio said to the Jews: "If it be a question of words and names and of your law, look ye to it; for I will be no judge of such matters." Gallio was a genuine representative of Roman sentiment. With religion, as long as it remained within the limits of opinion or feeling, the magistrate had nothing to do; only when it became an act of disobedience to the public law it was to be punished. Indeed, the very respect for national law in the Roman mind caused it to legalize in Rome the worship of national gods. They considered it the duty of the Jews, in Rome, to worship the Jewish God; of Egyptians, in Rome, to worship the gods of Egypt. "Men of a thousand nations," says Dionysius of Halicarnassus, "come to the city, and must worship the gods of their country, according to their laws at home." As long as the Christians in Rome were regarded as a Jewish sect, their faith was a religio licita, when it was understood to be a departure from Judaism, it was then a criminal rebellion against a national faith[268].

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