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nestra, Antaea, Phaedra, and Alcmena, suggest which the mansion can furnish; and then the
the conclusion that the faithlessness of the wife—which was undoubtedly often provoked, as in the family of Phoenix,” by the inconstancy of the husband—was not considered either as an event of rare occurrence, or an offence of great enormity. And here, again, the Homer
inquiries addressed to him imply friendly curiosity rather than suspicion or distrust, Indeed, it was scarcely possible that any disclosure of his condition and purposes could defeat his claim to friendly entertainment. When Telemachus arrives at Pylus by sea, after he has
ic poems seem to confirm, the inference; not shared the banquet of the Pylians, Nestor asks only by the respect with which we find Helen him whether he is voyaging with any fixed obboyish game. A space is then carefully levelled in refraining from murdering his father, to rewoman, torn from the body of her husband, who thing was to him absolutely passive and inert; had just fallen in defence of his city, and hur- in all the objects around him he found life, or ried along by the captors, who quicken her steps readily imparted it to them out of the fulness of
treated by the family of her paramour, but by the manner in which she is introduced in the Odyssey, which still more plainly marks the wide difference between the feelings of the ancient Greeks and those of modern civilized Europeans in this respect. She there appears restored to her home and to her rank, enjoying the unabated confidence and esteem of her injured husband, and neither afflicted by the consciousness of her fault, nor blushing to allude to it. One of the noblest and most amiable sides of the Greek character is the readiness with which it lent itself to contract intimate and durable friendships; and this is a feature no less prominent in the earliest than in later times. It was, indeed, connected with the comparatively low estimation in which female society was held; but the devotedness and constancy with which these attachments were maintained was not the less admirable and engaging. The heroic companions whom we find celebrated, partly by Homer, and partly in traditions, which, if not of equal antiquity, were grounded on the same feeling, seem to have but one heart and soul, with scarcely a wish or object apart, and only to live, as they were always ready to die, for one another. It is true that the relation between them is not always one of perfect equality: but this is a circumstance which, while it often adds a peculiar charm to the poetical description, detracts little from the dignity of the idea which it presents. Such were the friendships of Hercules and Iolaus, of Theseus and Pirithous, of Orestes and Pylades; and though these may owe the greater part of their fame to the later epic, or even dramatic poetry, the moral groundwork undoubtedly subsisted in the period to which the traditions are referred. The argument of the Iliad mainly turns on the affection of Achilles for Patroclus, whose love for the greater hero is only tempered by reverence for his higher birth and his unequalled prowess. But the mutual regard which united Idomeneus and Meriones, Diomedes and Sthenelus, though, as the persons themselves are less important, it is kept more in the background, is manifestly viewed by the poet in the same light. The idea of a Greek hero seems not to have been thought complete without such a brother in arms by his side. It was a natural effect of the unsettled state of society in this period, that every stranger was looked upon either as an enemy or a guest. If he threw himself on those among whom he came, no other title was requisite to ensure him a hospitable reception. When a traveller appears at the threshold of a princely hall, the only anxiety of the master of the house is lest he should have been kept waiting at his gate. No question is asked as to the occasion of his coming until he has partaken of the best cheer
ject, or merely roving over the sea as a pirate, bent on indiscriminate mischief. When the character of a stranger was united with that of a suppliant, it commanded still greater respect. The stranger and suppliant, says Alcinous to Ulysses, stand in the place of a brother to a man who has the slightest share of right feeling. It is elsewhere mentioned, as a motive for observing the laws of hospitality, that the gods sometimes visit the cities of men in the likeness of strangers.” If the suppliant could seat himself at the hearth, his person was deemed peculiarly sacred, and his request could scarcely be rejected without impiety. Numerous occasions of this kind were supplied by the chances of war, domestic feuds, and sudden provocations, which, in the quick temper of the Greeks, easily kindled a flame only to be quenched by blood. And these accidents appear frequently to have led to a close and permanent connexion between families seated in distant lands, which might be transmitted through many generations. In an episode of the Iliad, the ties of hospitality which subsist between the houses of an Argive and a Lycian chief are represented as of sufficient force to restrain them, though before personally unknown to each other, from a hostile conflict. An interchange of armour ratifies the agreement which the two heroes make to shun each other's path thenceforward in the battle. The convivial usages of the Greeks present an advantageous contrast to the gross intemperance which prevails in the banquets of the northern Europeans at a corresponding period of their social progress. The guests took their places on seats which were ranged along the walls of the banqueting room, and aseparate table was set before each. An ablution, such as is now practised through the East, uniformly preceded the repast. The fare, even in the houses of the great, was of the simplest kind ; in the luxurious palace of Alcinous, the only preparations for a feast, described by the poet, consist of the sheep, the hogs, and the oxen which are slaughtered for the occasion.t A guest sometimes sent a part of his portion, as a mark of respect, to another table. After the cravings of nature had been satisfied, the bowls, indeed, were replenished with wine, from which libations were to be made in honour of the gods. But the glory of the feast was not held to depend on a lengthened carouse; its appropriate ornaments were the song and the dance. The presence of the bard was almost indispensable at every great entertainment; but the time was not wholly spent in listening to his strains. Alcinous, at the conclusion of the banquet, leads out his guests, after they have been satiated with the lyre and the song of Demodocus in the hall, to an open place, where they first amuse themselves with trials of strength in gymnastic exercises.
* Od., xvii., 485. + On the fare of the heroes, see Athenæus, i., r. 46; and compare Od, xii, 332; xix., 113,530. Il., xvi., 747.
for a dance, which is exhibited by youths prac
tised in the art, under the control of judges accustomed to preside over such public amusements, and accompanied by the bard with a sportive lay, which, perhaps, interpreted the movements of the dancers to the spectators. Finally, at the command of Alcinous, two other performers, of incomparable agility, execute an extraordinary feat of leaping and dancing, which terminates the entertainment amid a tumult of applause. Even the suiters who are continually feasting at the expense of Ulysses are never represented as drinking to excess;" and among the abusive epithets which Achilles, in the height of his passion, applies to Agamemnon, the foremost is, heavy with wine.t Hospitality among the Greeks was not confined to the opulent. It was not exercised only by such men as the wealthy Axylus, who had a house by the wayside, which he kept open to all comers. Eumaeus, though in an humble and dependant station, speaks of the relief which he affords to the distressed as the object which he holds of the first importance, next to the necessary provision for his own wants.f None but men callous to shame and piety, like the most boorish and ignorant of the Ithacan suiters, are capable of treating the poor and destitute with disrespect, and there are powers, both above and in the lower world, ever watching to avenge such wrongs. No less amiable is the indulgence with which slaves, though wholly in the power of their masters, appear to have been treated in well-regulated families. The visible approbation with which the poet mentions the kindness shown by Laertes and his wife to their domestics,ll marks the general tone offeeling that prevailed on this subject among his countrymen. Even the severity with which Ulysses punishes the wantonness of his slaves seems to imply that their condition left them a title to a certain degree of respect, which they could only forfeit by their own misconduct. It is the more necessary, for the sake of justice, to observe all these indications of compassionate and benevolent affections in the Greek character, as it must be owned that, if the friendship of the Greek was warm and his hospitality large, his anger was fierce and his enmity ruthless. He was, indeed, rather resentful than vindictive; though easily provoked, he might be appeased without much difficulty. His law of honour did not compel him to treasure up in his memory the offensive language which might be addressed to him by a passionate adversary, nor to conceive that it left a stain which could only be washed away by blood. Even for real and deep injuries he was commonly willing to accept a pecuniary compensation." But, so long as it lasted, his resentment overpowered every other feeling, was regardless of the most sacred ties, and rushed at once to the most violent excess. At a very early age Patroclus has killed his young playmate in a fit of passion, occasioned by a quarrel at their
Phoenix has had great difficulty
venge a curse which he had himself provoked by a deliberate injury. Ulysses, in one of his fictitious narratives of his own adventures, relates that he had lain in wait with a companion in the dark, and had assassinated a person who had shown a disposition to deprive him of his sharem the booty brought from Troy. But even such examples are scarcely sufficient to prepare us for the extreme ferocity of the usages of war which prevailed among the Greeks of the heroic age, and, perhaps, cannot be very well reconciled with other features of their social state, unless it be supposed that they had arisen in a still ruder period, and that custom had contributed to extinguish the sense of humanity, which, on other occasions, was quickly awakened. In battle, quarter seems never to have been given, except with a view to the ransom of the prisoner. Agamemnon, in the Iliad, reproaches Menelaus with unmanly softness when he is on the point of sparing a fallen enemy, and himself puts the suppliant to the sword; and the poet describes the deed in language which shows that he approves of it. The armour of the slain constituted a valuable part of the spoil, and was uniformly stripped off by the conquerors. But hostility did not end here; the naked corpse became the object of an obstinate struggle; if it remained in the power of the enemy, it was deprived of burial, and exposed to the vultures and ravenous beasts, and was not unfrequently mutilated. It was, indeed, only distinguished persons who were subject to such treatment: an armistice was usually requested, and readily granted to the defeated party, for the purpose of celebrating the obsequies of their friends." But the indignities offered to the body of Hector by Achilles were not an extraordinary example of hostile rage; for Hector himself intended to inflict similar outrages on the corpse of Patroclus;# and it is mentioned as a signal mark of respect paid by Achilles to Eetion, whose city he had sacked without any remarkable provocation, that, after slaying him, he abstained from spoiling his remains, and honoured them with funeral rites. On the other hand, the sacrifice which Achilles makes to the shade of Patroclus, of twelve Trojan prisoners, whom he had taken alive in the battle for the purpose of slaughtering them at the funeral pile, was certainly not authorized by the established maxims of warfare, any more than the use of poisoned weapons, to which the poet alludes with manifest disapprobation.t The fate of a captured city was fixed in an equally merciless spirit, and by a perhaps still more inflexible rule. All the males capable of bearing arms were exterminated: the women and children were dragged away, to be divided among the victors, as the most valuable part of the spoil. And the evils of slavery were no doubt often aggravated by a partition, which tore a family asunder, and scattered its members over distant quarters of a foreign land. Homer describes a scene which was probably familiar to his contemporaries, when he compares the flood of tears drawn from Ulysses by his painful recollections, with the weeping of a by striking her on the back and shoulders with their spears.” Yet the sanctuaries of the gods
* Compare Ou ; 1., 150, foll. xvii., 605. There seems to he no ground whatever for the conjecture of Eustaihaus on
od..., xx, 391. t Compare Od., xix., 122.
* Il., vii., 409.
f Il., xviii., 176; compare II., xvii. 39. # Od., i., 263. * ******)
his own imagination. This was not a poetical view, the privilege of extraordinary minds, but
sometimes afforded an asylum which was re- the popular mode of thinking and feeling, cherspected on these occasions by the conquerors. ished undoubtedly by the bold forms, and abThus Maro, the priest of Apollo, was saved, rupt contrasts, and all the natural wonders of a with his family, from the common destruction, mountainous and sea-broken land. A people so in which the Ciconians of Ismarus were in- disposed and situate is not immediately impellvolved by Ulysses; for he dwelt within the led to seek a single universal source of being. precincts sacred to the god : yet he redeemed The teeming earth, the quickening sun, the resthimself by a heavy ransom. The priest of Apol- less sea, the rushing stream, the irresistible lo who occasions the quarrel in the Iliad was storm, every display of superhuman might which
not so fortunate: he loses his daughter in the sack of Thebé, and only recovers her through the extraordinary interference of the god. .
ancient form of natural religion. This is one of those inquiries, grounded on the contemplation of human nature in the abstract, which can scarcely ever lead to any safe conclusion. The form which the religious impressions of a people assume, so far as they are not determined by tradition or example, must depend on the character and condition of each community. Some tribes of the human race appear to receive from the sensible world only a single dim, undefined feeling of religious awe, which suggests to them the existence of a superior power. A monotonous sameness in the aspect of nature, a uniform tenour of life, broken only by the exertions necessary to satisfy the simplest animal wants, probably tend to perpetuate such a state of glimmering consciousness, which, however, is something very remote from that view of nature which is the foundation of a monotheistic religion. It is, however, equally conceivable and consistent with experience, that a people of quick sense and fancy, especially if placed in a region marked by various and striking features, may associate its earliest religious emotions with the multiplicity of surrounding objects, and may no sooner awake to the consciousness of its situation, than it begins to people its universe with a corresponding multitude of imaginary agents. How far either of these suppositions applies to the earliest inhabitants of Greece, is a question on which little certain information can reasonably be expected from history. The most ancient direct testimony, if an opinion may be so called, on the subject, is that of Herodotus, or, rather, that of the priests of Dodona, from whom he heard that the Pelasgians once sacrificed only to nameless deities. Whatever may be the authority of this evidence, its meaning is doubtful; but the least probable of all the inferences that have been drawn from it is, that the Pelasgians worshipped a single god. The words of Herodotus admit of a very different interpretation, which is confirmed by all the traces of the primitive religion to be found in the later Greek mythology. We have no reason for imagining that the first inhabitants of Greece were differently constituted, as to their aptitude for religious impressions, from those who succeeded them. The Greek was formed to sympathize strongly with the outward world: no
* Od., viii., 528.
it beholds, rouses a distinct sentiment of religious awe. Everywhere it finds deities, which, however, may not for along time be distinguished by name from the objects in which their presence is manifested. In the Iliad, Agamemnon is calling on the gods to witness a solemn contract. Among those of Olympus he names none but Jupiter; after him he invokes the allseeing, all-hearing sun, the rivers, the earth, and, lastly, the gods who punish perjured men in the realms below. In like manner, we may suppose the Pelasgians to have worshipped the invisible powers, which, according to the primitive belief of the people, animated the various forms of the sensible world. That such was, in fact, the eldest form of religion which prevailed among the Pelasgian tribes, is both . probable in itself, and confirmed by the example of the ancient Persians, In this sense, therefore, we both can understand, and may accept, the statement of Herodotus. But it is not quite so easy to follow him when he attempts to trace the steps by which this simple creed was transformed into the complicated system of the Greek mythology. He seems to distinguish two great changes which the Greek religion underwent : one produced by the introduction of foreign deities and rites, the other by the invention of native poets. His researches had, as he says, convinced him that all the names of the Greek gods had been derived from the barbarians; and the result of the information which he had gathered in Egypt was, that, with a few exceptions, they had all been transplanted from that country. Some the Egyptian priests themselves disclaimed; but the rest had, as they asserted, been always known among them; and hence Herodotus infers that the excepted names had been invented by the Pelasgians, all but that of Poseidon, the god of the sea, which had been brought over from Af. rica. It seems necessary to suppose that, by the names of the gods, both Herodotus and his instructers understood their nature and attributes, and that they conceived the Egyptian appellations to have been translated into equivalent Greek words. But this testimony, or judgment of Herodotus, combined with the various traditions of Oriental colonies planted in Greece, at a time when its inhabitants are supposed to have wanted the first rudiments of civilization, with the priestly institutions of the East, the presumed antiquity of the Greek mysteries, and of esoteric doctrines transmitted by them, and coincidences observed in several features of the Greek and the Egyptian mythology, has formed the ground of a hypothesis which is still a subject of earnest controversy. It assumes that the colonies which migrated into Greece in the darkness of the old Pelasgian period were headed by priests, who long retained the supreme power in their new settlements. They brought with them the faith and the wisdom which they had inherited in their ancient seats, the knowledge of one God, the hidden spring of life and intelligence, but infinitely diversified in his attributes, functions, and emanations. These they proposed to the veneration of the ignorant multitude, not in their naked simplicity, which would have dazzled and confounded those unenlightened minds, but through the veil of expressive symbols and ingenious fables, which were accepted by the people as literal truths, and were gradually wrought into a complicated mythological system. The sublime dogmas of the priestly religion were reserved for the chosen few, who were capable of contemplating them in their pure and simple form, and these alone understood the epithets and images which, in the poetry of the temples, conveyed the tenets of the ancient theology. When these priestly governments were everywhere forced to give way to the rule of the heroic chieftains, as the priests themselves drew back into the shade, so their doctrines were more and more confined to the recesses of their sanctuaries, and were revealed only to those who were admitted to the rites there celebrated in awful obscurity. Meanwhile a new race of poets started up, and gained the ear of the people—bards who, blending heroic legends with religious fables, the original meaning of which had been lost, introduced fresh confusion-into the mythical chaos. The troubles that accompanied the Dorian invasion contributed to widen the breach between the popular and the priestly religion: the latter, however, was preserved without any material alteration in the mysteries, which continued to be the vehicles of the more enlightencd faith down to the latest days of paganism. Before we make any remark on this hypothesis, we must consider the view which Herodotus takes of the change introduced by native poets into the Greek mythology: “Whence each of the gods sprang, and whether all of them were always existing, and what were their shapes, on these points the knowledge of the Greeks may be said to be but of yesterday.” And he subjoins, as a reason, the comparatively late age of Homer and Hesiod, who, as he says, “were the authors of the Greek theogony, gave titles to the gods, distinguished their attributes and functions, and described their forms. For the poets, who are said to have been more ancient than these two, were, in my opinion, more recent.” This last remark seems only intended to condemn the many spurious works which were current in his time, under the names of Linus, Orpheus, Musæus, Pamphus, Olen, and other bards, who were believed to have sung before Homer. But, besides this critical judgment, he undoubtedly expresses his conviction that Homer and Hesiod had effected an important revolution in the religious belief of their countrymen. This revolution, indeed, is so great, that it could not, with any probability, be ascribed to the genius of one or two poets, even if the Homeric poems did not clearly indicate that their descriptions are founded on conceptions of the Divine nature which had been
long familiar to the people: and it is only when Homer and Hesiod are considered as representatives of a whole line of poets, who were the organs and interpreters of the popular creed, and thus gradually determined its permanent form, that this opinion of Herodotus can appear at all reasonable. Though Herodotus couples Homer and Hesiod together, as if they had lived in the same age, and had co-operated towards the same end, not only were they probably separated by a considerable number of generations, but their works belong to totally different classes. In the Homeric poems the history of the divine persons introduced is foreign to the main subject, and is only mentioned in casual allusions; while the professed design of Hesiod's Theogony is to relate the origin of the world and the gods. It contains a series of rude speculations on the universe, in which its several parts are personified, and the order of their production represented under the figure of successive generations. The manner in which the poet treats his subject suggests a strong suspicion that this Theogony, or cosmogony, was not the fruit of his own invention; and that, although to us it breathes the first lispings of Greek philosophy, they are only the faint echoes of an earlier and deeper strain. Indeed, the Homeric poems themselves contain allusions which disclose an” acquaintance with such theories; as when Ocean is termed the origin of the gods and of all things, though Jupiter is commonly described as the father of gods and men. The Theogony, compared with the hints furnished by Herodotus, and with the tradition of a great body of sacred poetry ascribed to the ancient bards already mentioned, who preceded Homer and Hesiod perhaps by many centuries, has given rise to an opinion that the Greek mythology was derived from philosophical speculations, which in course of time had been misunderstood, distorted, and blended with heterogeneous fictions. According to this view, some elder poet had described the successive stages of the world's history by a series of terms, which, though they sounded like names of persons, yet to an intelligent mind conveyed only those attributes of the various objects enumerated on which, in the poet's conception, their mutual relation depended. This series Hesiod preserved in the main, though broken by occasional interpolations, but without comprehending its real import. Etymology alone, it is supposed, can furnish the clew to this labyrinth, and enable the inquirer to trace the Greek theology to its fountain head, where it will be found to spring up in the simple form of physical speculation. But its purity was soon troubled, when the vulgar, easily deceived by the slight figurative disguise of the language, and incapable of perceiving the coherence of the whole system, began to attribute real life and personality to each of its parts; and thus arose a wild, disjointed mythology, which was continually receiving additions from the fancy of the popular poets, and nourished a blind and gross superstition, which the ancient sage who unwittingly laid its foundation so little dreamed of that if he himself believed in any Divine nature, he had carefully excluded it from his system.” T - briefe weber Homer und Hesiodus of Hermann and
We have been induced to notice these mod-nature, and, consequently, the conceptions formern views of the subject because they profess jed of the gods, differed widely in different re
to rest in part on the authority of Herodotus, and to illustrate his meaning. We can only touch very briefly on the reasons which lead us to a different conclusion. The authority of Herodotus is, in fact, little more than that of his guides, the Egyptian priests, whose judgment certainly cannot be thought decisive on the origin of a foreign mythology, with which they must have been very imperfectly acquainted, and which, even if their information had been sufficiently extensive and accurate, their national prejudices, as well as those of their station, must have prevented them from viewing in its true light. The correctness, therefore, of the interpretation by which several of the national gods of Greece were identified with objects of Egyptian worship, is still a questionable point, only to be determined by proofs, which do not appear to have been yet established, of such a coincidence as could not have been produced either by an original national community of religious impressions, or by a later, studied or accidental, conformity in their outward signs. Independently of such proofs, or of other evidence, there is very little either in the character or the fables of the Greek deities that raises any suspicion of a foreign origin, or that may not be referred towell-known elements in the intellectual and moral constitution of the Greeks. On the other hand, what has been said in a preceding chapter may serve to render it credible, if not highly probable, that the religions of the East very early exerted some influence on that of Greece, and even that Egypt may have contributed to this effect, not, however, directly, but only through the intervention of a different people. But that any colonies were led into Greece by priests, who were elevated above the vulgar by sacred learning or religious philosophy, is in itself little more than a dream, and is particularly improbable with regard to the supposed Egyptian settlers, both for reasons already given, and because, among the sages who are celebrated as the earliest instructers of the Greeks, though many are represented as foreigners, none are connected with Egypt. The institution of the mysteries does not require any such supposition; and it is extremely doubtful whether any esoteric doctrines were ever delivered in them. We therefore believe that the religion of the Greeks was in the main purely home-sprung. But the supposition that their mythology was derived from the observations and reflections of some superior minds, which determined the creed of the vulgar, seems repugnant to all analogy, as well as to all internal evidence; and it is in a totally different sense that we should be inclined to adopt the opinion of Herodotus, that poets were the authors of the popular the ology. We think it probable, as has been already intimated, that the deities of the earliest Pelasgian period were those whose presence and power appeared to be displayed in the various operations of nature. But as the aspects of
Creuzer. The most important of the modern mythological
syono and views are accurately and impartially described
by Mueller, in his Prolegomena. To the writers there enta
morated may be added 3. Grundzuege der Archaolo
gie, in the first part of the Hyperboreisch Roemische studien. o
gions, so in each region it might be long before the spheres of the several deities were fixed, and their characters and attributes determined. And it may even be imagined that such a period answers best to that which Herodotus describes, of the nameless gods. To distinguish the provinces and functions of the divine agents was a task which might have afforded ample employment to many generations of sacred bards, who, however, must be considered only as the organs and expounders of the popular views and feelings. But still two important steps remained in the formation of the Greek mythology. The one was that by which the invisible powers were brought down from their spheres and invested with a human form; the other that by which the local deities of the several tribes were reconciled and united in one family. Each of these steps must have occupied a long period; and it is not necessary to suppose that the one began after the other had ended. The Pierian Thracians seem to have been the people in whose poetry Olympus was first celebrated as the common seat of the gods, and hence to them may probably be ascribed the greatest share in the process of combination and adjustment, which led to that unity which the Homeric poems represent as complete. But it appears to have been in the heroic age, and in that school of poetry which arose out of the new spirit of these times, that the principle of personification was most active in exhibiting the gods in human shape, and in drawing them forth from the awful obscurity in which they had been before shrouded, into familiar intercourse with mankind. And this may, perhaps, be properly considered as the most prominent contrast between the Pelasgian and the Hellenic period, as to their religious character. Though in general the Greek religion may be correctly described as a worship of nature, and most of its deities corresponded either to certain parts of the sensible world, or to certain classes of objects comprehended under abstract notions, it is by no means clear that several tribes did not acknowledge tutelary gods, who were neither imbodied powers of nature nor personified abstractions, but who may rather be said to have grown out of the character and history of the community itself, and to have represented nothing but its general consciousness of dependance on a superior Being. No instances, perhaps, can be produced which are not ambiguous; but the supposition is both probable in itself, and serves to explain some seeming incongruities in the Greek theology. Most of those fables which offended both the Christian fathers and the Greek philosophers, by the debasing conceptions they suggest of the Divine nature, and which still render it difficult to convey the knowledge of the Greek mythology without danger of polluting the youthful imagination,” were undoubtedly of physical origin. But by the side of these we find titles and descriptions which express very pure and exalted notions of the gods and of their relation to mankind, and which may have sprung from the other source just mentioned.
. It is one among the many merits of Mr. Keightley's Mythology, that he has skilfully steered clear of this danger.