« FöregåendeFortsätt »
to them nothing unworthy of their blessed nature. Cælus is never heard of among the Romans as mangled by his progeny, - nor Saturn eating up his own children lest they should overpower him,—nor Jupiter, having dethroned Saturn, shutting him in Tartarus,-nor the combats, the wounds, the chains, nor the menial offices, of the gods among men,-nor is any holyday overcast by sorrow, by female moans and paroxysms for gods carried off, as in the rape of Proserpine, and the misfortunes of Bacchus, and stories of that kind. Nor can any one see among them, (however their habits may be depraved,) men pretending inspiration, nor drunken hidden mysteries....... Though I am not ignorant of the uses of the Grecian fables, I prefer the Roman theology : thinking that the advantages of such fables are small, and that only a very few can be profited by them.” And this was partly true, and the colonization of the Isiac worship in Rome was felt to be a scandalous injury to public morals. The satirist spoke of Osiris as corrupted by presents and bribes. *
The votaries of that superstition took alarm, and apologised for it. All became allegory in their hand. They explained all into historic fact or philosophic truth. There is not an inconsistency but Iamblichus can justify. For instance,—the objector says that he cannot understand how the violent threats of certain devotees can be reconciled, such as,“ to burst open heaven, to divulge the secrets of Isis, to strew the limbs of Osiris to Typhon.”+ The sophist replies “that these words are not spoken against the sun and moon or any celestial power,—but that there is a sort of powers distributed throughout the world, unreflecting and irrational, which yield to the inducement presented by another, but know nothing by themselves, nor can distinguish truth from falsehood, nor possible from impossible. This kind is moved by these truculent menaces, because they are agitated by such emphatic expressions,
“Illius lachrymæ mentitaque numera præstant
Ut veniam culpæ non abnuat, ansere magno
Juv: lib. vi. + “Η γαρ το ερανον προς αραξειν, ή τα κρυπα της Ισιδος.” κ. τ. λ.-Sect. vi., Chap 5.
and carry all things with them under the influence of this astonished agitation."
The history of these strange orgies now draws to its close. They were encouraged, as we have seen, by Julian. His chief oration is to the Mother of the gods. On his coins, in the fourth century, we mark the deified bull, the obverse having his head,—and in the reverse of another is the Anubis with the caduceus and sistrum. They were finally abolished by Theodosius. Without justifying his interference with their religious import, most warranted was he in suppressing it as a league of impostors and a nursery for crimes. Foolish enough was the institute, when Plutarch rashly and impudently said, that “there was nothing in it unreasonable, idle, and superstitious;” but it had now sunk indescribably lower by adopting all the darker studies and incantations of sorcery. The world groaned beneath the curse of such absurdity, licentiousness, and sacrilege. The proconsul of Greece might intercede with Valentinian for the delay of his sentence to extinguish the system,because it was the very delight of that people : its attraction of the powerful and opulent from the ends of the earth might easily constitute it such delight. It was a Paradise of fools ; and an Erebus, throwing its pall of darkness over mankind. Not a debt of gratitude could it ever claim. Evils of the most monstrous malignity grew up under its protection. It looked coldly on the ignorance, and stood unmoved by the wretchedness, of nations upon whose wealth it rapaciously fastened; into whose chains it drove rivet after rivet, and jointed link after link. It juggled for itself, and long its sleight availed it. In the mean time, who of the epoptæ became, from its lustration and impulse, the benefactor of his species? Who was the deliverer, the philanthropist, that came forth thence, his country's blessing, the world's restorer and friend ? Until the reign of Hadrian, there had been issued no proclamation against human sacrifices. And what was that which built its very morals on obscenity, and taught its virtues within precincts devoted to all that can sicken and revolt ? What must the state of feeling be, when the lowest vice is piety, and the most unbridled libertinism is worship? And how has it disappeared ? Did Epicurus reason down its madness ? Or did the dreams of Plato spiritualise away its grossness?
To the eternal infamy of those philosophers, they made common cause with it, lent it their advocacy and Aung over it their shield. But too late came their help. Its hidden recesses were already profaned. Its mighty pillars were visibly shaken. And soon the dread and awe, which had held the human mind so long enslaved, were indignantly renounced. A new cause of fear, a new form of hostility, arose. A light had pierced and scared it. A power was moving over the minds of men which smote it to the ground. It had withstood time,-political shock,—all mortal chance and change,-it could not resist Christianity! This brings with it no secrets but its wonders of love. It is the Revelation of the Mystery, and would make all men see what is its Fellowship. Every artifice of iniquity, imposture, superstition, shrunk from the eye of this blessed Religion. Hers was the triumph of this overthrow. It was her unassisted victory. She did more. She achieved, for the first time, human happiness. Every other attempt to retrieve the condition of our world, and the destiny of our race, had been disconcerted. Jurisprudence, philosophy, art, civilization, all had failed. Their experiments lay in ruins. She met them retiring, Aying, from the struggle. She advanced the more confident and assured. She lifted up her meek but sublime standard. And still she is the living power of all truth and goodness. Still she builds for virtue its only foundations, and for peace its only safeguards. Government cannot boast so solid a pillar, and patriotism cannot imbibe so pure a motive. She lives in light, She walks in love,–Knowledge is her herald, and Benevolence fills her train !
« Τελευτησαντες δε δη, υποστεροι και ελαφροι γεγονόζες, των τριων ταλαισματων των ως αληθως Ολυμπιακων εν νενικηκασιν : ου μειζον αγαθον ουτε σωφροσυνη ανθρωπικη θεια μανια δυνατη τυρισαι ανθρωπω.”
“ Hanc sententiam significare videtur Laconis illa vox, qui, cum Rhodius Diagoras, Olympionices nobilis, uno die duos suos filios victores Olympiæ vidisset, accessit ad senem, et gratulatus, “Morere, Diagora,' inquit, non enim in cælum adscensurus es.' Magna hæc et nimium fortasse Græci putant, vel tum potius putabant, isque, qui hoc Diagoræ dixit, permagnum existimans, tres Olympi. onicas una e domo prodire, cunctari illum diutius in vita, fortunæ objectum, inutile putabat ipsi.”
CICERO.--Tusc: Quæs : lib. 1., sec. 46.
“ The garlands wither on your brow,
Then boast no more your mighty deeds;
Your heads must come
To the cold tomb,
SHIRLEY.-_Contention of Ajax and Ulysses.
ON THE OLYMPIC GAMES.
CHOSEN to pronounce the funeral panegyric over those whom Athens had lost in her first campaign of the Peloponnesian war, and whom she honoured to be inurned with hearsed pomp and cypress bier in the Public Sepulchre which, covered with military device and patriotic heraldry, gloomed in her fairest suburb,—Pericles thus spoke, “I deem it sufficient for men who have tested their courage in action, by action to be honoured for it."* By this eulogy he appears not only to denote the propriety of such elegiac honours as were then rendered,—the procession, the torches, the trailing spears, the drooping standards, the solemn bringing home of the slain, the sumptuous though empty car which represented them who could not be found among those that had fallen on the battle-field or wave, the piercing laments of the female kindred, to whom the nearest place was conceded that they might look within that mausoleum and mark its piles of the illustrious dead, the sentiment conveyed a meaning that had acquired an early hold, and maintained a long possession, of the ancient world.
It may thus be stated. It is most natural to mourn for those torn from us by the grave. It is not custom, but the unbiassed heart, which impels this grief. But how strange is it that amidst scenes so melancholy, and corresponding moods so pensive, rude boisterous riot should prevail ! The sigh, the tear, are only decent: the matted hair, the rent garment, the lacerated flesh, might be excused. There is something significant in all these tributes to the departed! It is, however, impossible thus to interpret and justify keen contests of muscular quickness and strength around the pyre and the tomb. Yet these were not of one age or country. True it is, that we
• Thucyd : lib. ii.