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Eusebius of Caesarea: Praeparatio Evangelica (Preparation for the Gospel). Tr. E.H. Gifford (1903) -- Book 2



I. Epitome of Egyptian theology, and how it was transmitted to the Greeks; and that we have had good reason for abandoning it all p. 45 a
That the theology current among the Greeks is of later introduction p. 52 b
II. Epitome of the mythological tales among the Greeks concerning their gods and heroes p. 52 d
III. Of the secret initiations and cryptic mysteries of their polytheistic delusion p. 61 c
IV. By what considerations we were led to withdraw from the opinions of the Greeks concerning the gods p. 67 d
V. Summary of the preceding arguments p. 69 b
VI. That what they call the temples of their gods are the tombs of dead men p. 71 a
The opinion of the ancients concerning the gods p. 73 b
Of the physical and forsooth more venerable theology of the Greeks p. 74 a
VII. What Plato thought of the theology of the ancients p. 75 d
VIII. Of the theology of the Romans p. 78 a


The theology of the Phoenicians is of the character described above, and the word of salvation teaches us in the gospel to escape from it without looking back, and earnestly to seek the remedy for this madness of the ancients.

Now it must be manifest that these are not fables and poetic fictions containing some theory concealed in covert meanings, but true testimonies, as they would say themselves, of ancient and wise theologians, comprising records of earlier date than all poets and historians, and deriving the credibility of their statements from the names and history of the gods prevailing to the present day in the cities and villages of Phoenicia, and from the mysteries celebrated among the inhabitants of each. This must be manifest, I say, from the confession both of the other historians and especially of their reputed theologians; for they hereby testified that the ancients who first composed the account of the gods did not refer at all to figurative descriptions of physical phenomena, nor make allegories of the myths concerning the gods, but preserved the histories in their literal form. For this was shown by the words already quoted of the authors whom I have mentioned; so that there is no longer need to search up forced physical explanations, since the proof which the facts bring with them of themselves is quite clear.

Such, then, is the theology of the Phoenicians. But it is time to pass on and review that of the Egyptians also. in order to observe carefully and understand exactly whether our revolt from them is not well judged and reasonable, and whether it has not been successful upon the sole evidence of the gospel first of all among the Egyptians themselves, and then among those also who are of like mind with them.

Now the whole Egyptian history has been translated at large into the language of the Greeks, and especially the part concerning their theology, by Manetho the Egyptian, both in the Sacred Book written by him, and in other of his works. Moreover, Diodorus, whom we mentioned before, collected his narratives from many sources, and described the customs of the several nations with the utmost possible accuracy: and being an eminent man, who had won no small reputation for learning among all lovers of literature, and had made a collection of all ancient history, and connected the earliest with the subsequent events, he adopted the theology of the Egyptians as the commencement of his whole treatise.

I think it better, therefore, to draw the representation of the subject before us from that treatise, as his writings are likely to be better known to the Greeks. This, then, is what he narrates word for word: 1 


[DIODORUS] 'The Egyptians say that in the original creation of the universe mankind came into existence first in Egypt by reason of its temperate climate and the nature of the Nile. For as that river caused great fertility and supplied food self grown, it gave an easy sustenance to the living creatures that were born.

2 'The gods, they say, had been originally mortal men, but gained their immortality on account of wisdom and public benefits to mankind, some of them having also become kings: and some have the same names, when interpreted, with the heavenly deities, while others have received a name of their own, as Helios, and Kronos, and Rhea, and Zeus, who is by some called Ammon; and besides these Hera and Hephaestus, and Hestia, and lastly Hermes.

'Helios, they say, was the first king of the Egyptians, having the same name with the celestial luminary: some, however, of the priests say that Hephaestus was the first who became king, because he was the discoverer of fire.

'Kronos reigned next, and having married his sister Rhea begat, according to some authors, Osiris and Isis. but according to most, Zeus and Hera, who for their valour received the kingdom of the whole world. Of these were born five gods, Osiris, and Isis, and Typhon, and Apollo, and Aphrodite. Osiris is Dionysus, and Isis is Demeter; and Osiris, having married her and succeeded to the kingdom, did many things for the general benefit, and founded in the Thebaid a city of a hundred gates, which some called Diospolis, and others Thebes. . . . 3 He also erected a temple to his parents Zeus and Hera, and golden shrines of the other gods, to each of whom he assigned honours, and appointed the priests to attend to them. Osiris also was the discoverer of the vine, and was the first to make use of bare land, and to teach the rest of mankind agriculture. Above all he honoured Hermes, who was endowed with an excellent genius for contriving what might benefit the common life.

4 'For he was the inventor of letters, and arranged sacrifices for the gods, and invented a lyre, and taught the Greeks the explanation (ερμηνειαν) of these matters, from which circumstance he was called Hermes. He also discovered the olive-tree.

5 'Osiris, after travelling over the whole world, set up Busiris in Phoenicia, and Antaeus in Aethiopia and Libya; and himself led an expedition with his brother Apollo, who, they say, was the discoverer of the laurel. 6 In the expedition with Osiris there went his two sons, Anubis and Macedon; and he took with him also Pan, who is especially honoured by the Egyptians, and from whom Panopolis is named.

'And when he was near Taphosiris the tribe of Satyrs was, brought to him: and, being fond of music, he carried about with him a band of musicians, amongst whom were nine maidens skilful in singing and well educated in other respects, who among the Greeks are called Muses, and whose leader is Apollo. And since every nation welcomed Osiris as a god because of the benefits bestowed by him, he left memorials of himself behind him everywhere.

7 'In India he founded not a few cities; and also visited the other nations, those about Phrygia, and crossed the Hellespont into Europe. 8 His son Macedon he left as king of Macedonia; and Triptolemus he put in charge of agriculture in Attica.

'Afterwards he passed from among men to the gods, and from Isis and Hermes received temples and all the honours which are, held among the gods to be most distinguished. These two also taught men his initiatory rites, and introduced many customs, concerning him in the way of mysteries.

9 'He was killed by Typhon his brother, a wicked and impious, person, who, having divided the body of the murdered man into, twenty-six parts, gave a portion to each of his accomplices in the, assault, wishing all to share in the pollution.

'But Isis, being the sister and wife of Osiris, avenged the murder, with the aid of her son Horus; and, having slain Typhon and his accomplices near what is now called the village of Antaeus, she became queen of Egypt.

'And having found all except one part of the body of Osiris, they say that round each part she moulded out of spices and wax the figure of a man corresponding in size to Osiris, and gave them to the priests throughout all Egypt to be worshipped: she also consecrated one of the animals found among them, of whatever kind they wished.

10 'The sacred bulls, both Apis so called, and Mnevis, were consecrated to Osiris, and all the Egyptians in common were taught to worship them as gods, because these animals had helped the labours of the discoverers of wheat, both in sowing and in the common course of husbandry. 11 Isis swore to accept the company of no man any more; and when she herself had passed from among men, she received immortal honours, and was buried at Memphis.

'So the parts of Osiris which had been found again are said to have been honoured with burial in the manner described; but they say that the member which had been cast into the river by Typhon was deemed worthy by Isis of divine honours no less than the rest.

'For she set up an image of it in the temples, and instituted worship, and made the initiations and sacrifices paid to this deity especially honourable. And as the Greeks received their orgiastic rites and Dionysiac festivals from Egypt, they also worship this member in their mysteries, and in the initiatory rites and sacrifices of this god, and call it Phallus.

12 'But those who say that the god was born in Boeotian Thebes of Semele and Zeus talk, they say, at random. For when Orpheus had landed in Egypt and received initiation, he took part also in the Dionysiac mysteries, and, being friendly to the Cadmeans and honoured by them, he changed the place of the god's birth to please them; and the multitude, partly through ignorance and partly from their desire that the god should be called a Greek, gladly welcomed the initiations and mysteries.

'And for the transference of the birth and initiatory rites of the god Orpheus found occasion as follows. Cadmus, a native of the Egyptian Thebes, among other children begat Semele; and she having been violated by somebody or other became pregnant, and after seven months gave birth to a child, just such as the Egyptians consider Osiris to have been.

'And when the child died, Cadmus covered it with gold, and appointed the proper sacrifices for it, and also assigned the fatherhood to Zeus, thus magnifying Osiris, and taking away the reproach of the mother's seduction.

'Wherefore among the Greeks also a story was given out that Semele, the daughter of Cadmus, gave birth to Osiris by Zeus.

'Afterwards when the mythologists came forward, the story filled the theatre, and became to succeeding generations a strong and unalterable belief. And the most illustrious heroes and gods of the Egyptians are, it is said, universally claimed by the Greeks as their own.

13 'Hercules, for example, was by birth an Egyptian, and moved by his valour travelled over much of the known world: but the Greeks claimed him as their own, though in truth he was different from the son of Alcmena who arose at some later time among the Greeks.

'Perseus also, it is said, was born in Egypt, and the birth of Isis was transferred by the Greeks to Argos, while in their mythology they said that she was lo, who was transformed into a cow: but some think the same deity to be Isis, some Demeter, some Thesmophoros, but others Selene, and others Hera.14

'Osiris, too, some think to be Apis, and some Dionysus, some Pluto, some Ammon, some Zeus, and others Pan.

'Isis, they say, was the discoverer of many remedies, and of medical science: she also discovered the medicine of immortality, by which, when her son Horus had been treacherously attacked by the Titans, and was found dead under the water, she not only raised him up again and gave him life, but also made him partake of immortality.

15 'Horus they say was the last of the gods who reigned over Egypt, and his name by interpretation is Apollo: he was taught medicine and soothsaying by his mother Isis, and benefited mankind by his oracles and cures.

'Most authors agree that in the time of Isis certain giants of great size, arrayed in monstrous fashion, stirred up war against the gods Zeus and Osiris. Also that the Egyptians made it lawful to marry sisters, because Isis had been married to Osiris her brother.'

Such are their stories about these deities: but concerning the animals held sacred in Egypt, there is an account prevailing among them of the following kind:

16 'Some say that the original race of gods, being few and overpowered by the multitude and impiety of the earth-born men, made themselves like certain irrational animals, and so escaped: and afterwards, by way of rendering thanks for their safety, they consecrated the natures of the very animals whose likeness they had taken.

'But others say that in their encounters with their enemies their leaders prepared images of the animals which they now honour, and wore these upon the head, and had this as a mark of their authority: and when they were victorious over their foes, they ascribed the cause to the animals whose images they wore, and deified them.

17 'Others allege a third cause, saying that the animals have been so honoured because of their usefulness. For the cow bears calves, and ploughs, and sheep bear lambs and supply clothing and food by their milk and cheese, and the dog helps men in hunting, and keeps guard; and for these reasons the god whom they call Anubis has, they say, a dog's head, meaning that he was a bodyguard of Osiris and Isis.

'But some say that when Isis was searching for Osiris the dogs led the way before her, and drove off the wild beasts, and the men who encountered them.

'The cat too, they say, is useful against asps and the other venomous reptiles: the ichneumon breaks the crocodiles' eggs, and even destroys the crocodiles, by rolling itself in the mud, and leaping into their mouths when open, and, by eating away their entrails, leaves them quite dead.

'Of the birds the ibis, they say, is useful against snakes and locusts and caterpillars and the hawk against scorpions and horned serpents, and the smaller venomous beasts, and because of its helping in divinations: the eagle also, because it is a kingly bird.

18 'The he-goat, they say, has been deified, like Priapus among the Greeks, because of its generative organ, for this animal has the strongest propensity to lust; and that member of the body which is the cause of generation is rightly honoured, as being the source of animal nature. And speaking generally, not only the Egyptians, but also not a few other nations have consecrated that member in their initiatory rites, as the cause of the reproduction of living beings.

'The priests who succeed to the hereditary priesthoods in Egypt are initiated in the mysteries of this deity: the Pans also and the Satyrs, they say, are honoured among men for the same reason; and therefore most persons dedicate images of them in the temples very similar to a he-goat; for this animal is traditionally said to be extremely lustful.

'The sacred bulls Apis and Mnevis are held in like honour as the gods, both on account of their help in agriculture, and because men ascribe the discovery of the fruits of the earth to them.

'Wolves are worshipped because of the likeness of their nature to dogs, and because in old times when Isis, with her son Horus, was going to fight against Typhon, Osiris, they say, came from Hades to the aid of his wife and child in the likeness of a wolf.

'But others say that the Ethiopians, having invaded Egypt, were driven away by a multitude of wolves; and on this account the city is called Lycopolis. 19 The said to be worshipped because the robbers from Arabia and Libya are afraid to swim across the Nile on account of the crocodiles,

'They say too that one of their kings, being pursued by his own hounds, took refuge in the marsh, and then was taken up by a crocodile and, strange to say, carried over to the other side.

'Other causes also are alleged by some for the worship of the irrational animals. For when in old time the multitude revolted from the kings, and agreed that they would no longer have kings to rule over them, some one formed the idea of supplying them with different animals as objects of worship, so that while they severally worshipped that which was honoured among themselves, and despised that which was held sacred among others, the Egyptians might never be able all to agree together. 20 When any of the animals mentioned dies, they wrap it in fine linen, and beat their breasts in lamentation, and bury it in the sacred sepulchres. And whosoever destroys any of these animals wilfully, incurs death, except if he kill a cat or the ibis; for if any one kills these, whether wilfully or not, he incurs death in any case.

21 'Moreover, if a dog is found dead in a house, they all shave their whole body and make a mourning; and if wine, or corn, or any other of the necessaries of life happen to be stored in the house, they could not bear to use it any more.

'Apis they maintain at Memphis, and Mnevis in Heliopolis, and the he-goat at Mendes, and the crocodile in the lake Moeris, and the other beasts in sacred enclosures, offering them wheat-flour, or groats boiled in milk, and various kinds of cakes mixed with honey, and the ilesh of a goose, either boiled or roasted.

'But to the carnivorous animals they throw many kinds of birds, and in company with each male animal they keep the most beautiful females, whom they call concubines.

22 'When Apis dies and has been magnificently buried, they seek another like him ; and when he is found, the people are released from their mourning, and he is brought first to Nilopolis. And at that time only the calf is seen by women, who stand before him and expose themselves; but at all other times they are forbidden to come in sight of this deity. For after the death of Osiris they say that his soul passed into Apis.'

Such is the unseemly theology, or rather atheism, of the Egyptians, which it is degrading even to oppose, and from which we naturally revolted with abhorrence, when we found redemption and deliverance from so great evils in no other way than solely by the saving doctrine of the gospel, which announced the recovery of sight to the blind in understanding. Their graver theories and systems of natural science, we shall examine a little later, after we have discussed the mythology of the Greeks.

The Egyptian and Phoenician mythologies having become thus mixed and combined, the superstitious belief of the ancient error has naturally gained the mastery in most nations. But, as I said, we have yet to speak of the notions of the Greeks.

Now the character assumed by the solemnities of Egyptian theology is that which we have already set forth, and that the Greek doctrines are mere fragments and misunderstandings of the same we have frequently stated already upon the judgement of the writers quoted: this will, however, be made further manifest from the Greek theology itself, since, in their own records concerning the gods, they bring nothing forward from native sources, but fall into the fables of foreign nations: for they are shown to make use of similar statues and the very same mysteries, as we may learn from the history of these matters, which the author before mentioned, who brought the Libraries together into one body, narrates in the third and fourth books of the treatise before quoted, having commenced his history from the times of Cadmus. Now, that Cadmus came after Moses is proved by the exact successions of the chronological writings, as we shall show in due season. So that Moses is proved to be earlier even than the gods of Greece, seeing that he is before Cadmus, while the gods are shown to have come later than the age of Cadmus. Hear, however, the historian's own words: 23


[DIODORUS] 'Cadmus, the son of Agenor, is said to have been sent from Phoenicia by the king to search for Europa. who had been carried off by Zeus: when he failed to find her, he came into Boeotia and founded the Thebes of that country; and having married Harmonia the daughter of Aphrodite, begat of her Semele and her sisters.

'And Zeus, after union with Semele, was entreated to make his intercourse with her like that with Hera. But when he came to her in godlike fashion with thunderings and lightnings, Semele was unable to bear it, and being pregnant, miscarried with the child, and herself perished from the fire. But Zeus took the child and delivered him to Hermes, and sent him away to the cave in Nysa, lying between Phoenicia and the Nile: and being thus reared by the Nymphs, Dionysus became the discoverer of wine, and taught men the culture of the vine.

'He discovered also the drink prepared from barley, which is called zyilius. He used to lead about with him an army not only of men, but also of women, and punished the impious and unjust.

24 'He went on an expedition also into India for three years: and from that circumstance the Greeks established triennial sacrifices to Dionysus, and think that the god makes his appearances among men at that time: and all men worship him for his gift of wine, just as they worship Demeter for the discovery of corn as food.

25 'But there is said to be also another Dionysus, much earlier in time than this one, whom some call Sabazius, a son of Zeus and Persephone, whose birth, and sacrifices, and ceremonies they represent at night, and in secret, because of the shame attendant upon their intercourse. He was the first who attempted to yoke oxen, and from this they represent him with horns. But Dionysus, the son of Semele, who is of later date, was delicate in body, and eminently beautiful, and very prone to amorous pleasures; in his expeditions he led about a multitude of women armed with spears made into thyrsi.

'They say also that he is accompanied in his travels by the Muses, who are virgins and extremely well trained, and charm the soul of the god by singing and dancing. Silenus too, as his tutor, contributes much to his progress in virtue. As a remedy against the headaches resulting from too much wine, his head is bound up with a band.

'And they call him Dimetor, because the two Dionysi were of one father, but two mothers. They also set a reed in his hand, because the men of old drank unmixed wine and became maddened, and beat each other with their staves, so that some were even killed, and from this cause they introduced the custom of using reeds instead of clubs.

26 'He is called Bacchius from the Bacchae, and Lenaeus from the treading of the grapes in wine-presses, and Bromius from the roar of thunder which took place at his birth.

'They also say that he leads about Satyrs with him, who afford him pleasure and delight in their dances and their goat-songs; and that he established dramatic spectacles and a system of musical recitations. Such are the statements concerning Dionysus.

27 'Priapus is said to be the son of Dionysus and Aphrodite, because men filled with wine are naturally excited to amorous pleasures. But some say that the ancients gave to the human organ of generation the mythological name Priapus.

'Others affirm that, because the genital member is the cause of the generation of mankind, therefore it had for ever received immortal honour: as indeed the Egyptians also said that Isis, in her search for the members of Osiris, when she could not find the male organ, appointed it to be worshipped as a god, and set it up in the temple.

'Nay, even among the Greeks, not only in the Dionysiac rites, but also in all others, this god receives a certain honour, being brought in with laughter and jesting in their sacrifices: as is also Hermaphroditus, who got his name as being begotten of Hermes and Aphrodite.

'This god, they say, appears at certain times among men, and is born with the bodily form of man and woman combined: but some say that such things are prodigies, and, being produced but rarely, are significant sometimes of evil and sometimes of good.

28 'The Muses are daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, but some say of Uranus and Gé. Most mythologists also make them virgins, and say that they got their name from initiating men, that is teaching them the liberal arts.

Now with respect to Heracles the Greeks tell such, stories as follow:

29 'Of Zeus and Danae the daughter of Acrisius was born Perseus, and of Perseus and Andromeda Electryon, and of him Alcmena, by his union with whom Zeus begat Heracles, making the night which he passed with her thrice as long as usual: and this was the only intercourse sought by Zeus, not on account of amorous desire, as in the case with the other women, but chiefly for the sake of begetting a son.

'But Hera being jealous delayed Alcmena's labour, and brought Eurystheus into the world before the proper time, because Zeus had proclaimed that the child which should be born that day was to reign over the Persidae.

'And when Alcmena was delivered, she exposed the child, as it is said, through fear of Hera: but Athena admired the child, and persuaded Hera to give it the breast: and when the boy dragged at her breast with a violence beyond his age, Hera in great pain threw the child down, and Athena took it up and persuaded the mother to nurse it.

30 'After this Hera sent two serpents to destroy the child, but the boy, undismayed, strangled the serpents by squeezing their necks in either hand. When Heracles was grown to be a man, Eurystheus, who had the kingdom of Argolis, ordered him to perform twelve labours.

31 'And when he had fallen into much trouble, Hera sent a frenzy upon him, and through vexation of soul he became mad. As the disease increased, being out of his mind, he attempted to kill his companion and nephew lolaus, and when he escaped, slew his own sons begotten of Megara, daughter of King Creon, by shooting them down with arrows as if they were enemies.

32 'After this he quieted down, and served Eurystheus in the twelve labours. He also slew the Centaurs, and among them Cheiron, who was renowned for his skill in healing.

33 'It is said that there was a peculiar coincidence in the birth of this god Heracles. For the first mortal woman visited by Zeus was Niobe, daughter of Phoroneus, and the last was Alcmena, mother of Heracles, whom they trace as descended from Niobe in the sixteenth generation. And with her Zeus ended his intercourse with mortal women.

34 However, after finishing his labours, Heracles gave his own wife Megara to live with his nephew Iolaus, because of the calamity about his children; and for himself asked Iole, the daughter of Eurytus, in marriage, and, on her father's refusal, he fell sick, and received an oracle that he would be delivered from his sickness, if he first became sold into slavery.

'So he sails to Phrygia and is bought by one of his friends, and becomes a slave of Omphale, queen of those who were at that time called Maeonians, but now Lydians: and during the time of his slavery he has a son Cleolaus born to him of a slave. And, having married Omphale, he gets sons by her also.

35 'But as he was on his way back to Arcadia, and stayed as guest with King Leos, he secretly seduced his daughter, and left her with child, and came back.

36 'After this again he married Deianeira the daughter of Oeneus, Meleager being now dead. 37 And having taken captive the daughter of Phyleus, by intercourse with her he begat Tlepolemus. While he was supping with Oeneus, the servant made a mistake about something, and Heracles struck him with his fist and killed him.

'When on his journey he came to the river Evenus, he found the Centaur Nessus ferrying people across the river for hire. He ferried Deianeira over first, and, being enamoured of her for her beauty, tried to do violence to her; but when she cried out to her husband, Heracles shot the Centaur; and Nessus in the midst of his embrace, being at the point of death through the sharpness of the wound, told Deianeira that he would give her a philtre, so that Heracles might never wish to wed any other woman.

'He bade her therefore take of the blood which was dropping from the point of the arrow, and, after mixing it with oil, anoint therewith the tunic of Heracles: and this Deianeira did, and kept the philtre by her.

38 'Again, Heracles took captive the daughter of Phylas, and by his union with her begat a son Antiochus: and yet again he took captive Astyaneira, the daughter of King Armenius, and by her begat a son Ctesippus.

39 'And Thespius the Athenian, son of Erechtheus, having begotten fifty daughters by different wives, and being ambitious that they should get children by Heracles, entertained him at a splendid feast, and sent his daughters to him one by one: and he deflowered them all in one night, and became the father of the so-called Thespiadae.

40 'He took Iole also captive, and, having to perform a sacrifice, he sent to his wife Deianeira and asked for the cloak and tunic which he was accustomed to wear for sacrifices: and she anointed the tunic with the philtre which the Centaur had given her, and sent it.

'And Heracles had no sooner put on the tunic than he fell into the greatest misery. For the arrow had been poisoned with the blood of the hydra, and so the tunic began to prey upon the flesh of his body because of its burning heat, so that in his extremity of pain he slew the messenger who had brought it, and, in accordance with an oracle, cast himself into the fire, and so ended his life. Such is the story of Heracles.

41 'Now with regard to Asclepius they say that he was the son of Apollo and Coronis, and studied zealously the science of healing, and rose to such a height of fame, that many of the sick who were given over in despair were, beyond all expectation, cured by him; so that Zeus was enraged, and smote him with a thunderbolt and killed him; and Apollo, being enraged because of the death of his son, slew the Cyclopes who had forged the thunderbolt for Zeus: but Zeus was enraged at their death, and commanded Apollo to serve as a slave with Adrnetus, and took this revenge upon him for his crimes.'

This, then, is what Diodorus has set forth in the fourth book of his Bibliothecae. And as to the rest of their theology, the same author again asserts that the Greeks borrowed it from the other nations, for in the third book of the same history he writes as follows:----

42 'Now the people of Atlas say that their first king was Uranus, and of him were born by many wives five and forty sons, of whom eighteen were by a wife Titaea; and she, having been a virtuous woman and the author of many good deeds, was deified after her death, and had her name changed to Ge.

'Uranus also had daughters, Basileia, and Rhea who was also called Pandora. And because Basileia brought up her brothers with maternal affection, she was called Meter.

'And afterwards, when Uranus was dead, she lived with her brother Ilyperion, and bore two sons, whom she named Helios and Selene.

'But the brethren of Rhea were afraid of them, and slew Ilyperion, and drowned Helios in the river Eridanus. Selene, on learning this, threw herself down from a roof, and Meter became mad and wandered about the country, with her hair loose, driven frantic by drums and cymbals, until she too disappeared altogether.

'And the multitude, astonished at the catastrophe, transferred Helios and Selene to the stars of heaven, and regarded their mother as a goddess, and set up altars, and worshipped her with performances by drums and cymbals.

43 'The Phrygians say that Maeon was king of Phrygia and begat a daughter named Cybele, who first invented a pipe, and was called the Mountain Mother. And Marsyas the Phrygian, who was friendly with her, was the first to join flutes together, and he lived in chastity to the end of his life.

'But Cybele became pregnant by intercourse with Attis, and when this was known, her father killed Attis and the nurses: and Cybele became mad and rushed out into the country, and there continued howling and beating a drum.

'She was accompanied by Marsyas, who entered into a musical contest with Apollo, and was defeated, and flayed alive by Apollo.

'And Apollo became enamoured of Cybele and accompanied her in her wanderings as far as the Hyperboreans, and ordered the body of Attis to be buried, and Cybele to be honoured as a goddess.

'Wherefore the Phrygians keep this custom even to the present day, lamenting the death of the youth, and erecting altars, and honouring Attis and Cybele with sacrifices.

'And afterwards, at Pessinus in Phrygia, they built a costly temple, and instituted most magnificent worship and sacrificial rites.

44 'After the death of Hyperion the sons of Uranus divided the kingdom among themselves, the most illustrious of them being Atlas and Kronos. And of these Atlas took the regions along the coasts of the ocean, and became an excellent astronomer: and d he had seven daughters who were called the Atlantides, and these, by union with the comeliest gods, became the founders of the most numerous race, and gave birth to such as for their worth became gods and heroes; thus the eldest of them, Maia, by union with Zeus became mother of Hermes.

45 'But Kronos, surpassing all in arrogance and impiety, married his sister Rhea, and of her begat Zeus. There had been also another Zeus, the brother of Uranus and king of Crete, far inferior in fame to him of later birth.

'This latter then became, king of the whole world; but the other became king of Crete, and begat ten sons who were called Curetes: and his sepulchre, they say, is still shown in Crete.

'Now Kronos reigned in Sicily and Libya and Italy: but his son Zeus desired a life the opposite to his father's. And some say that he succeeded to the kingdom by his father's voluntary retirement, others that he was chosen by the multitude because of their hatred to his father.

'So when Kronos with the Titans made war against him, Zeus was victorious in battle, and marched over the whole inhabited world. He excelled in bodily strength and all virtues, and showed b the greatest zeal in punishment of the impious and benefits to the good; in return for which, after his departure from among men, he was called Zeus, because he was thought to liave been the author of the noble life (ζην) for mankind.

'These then are the principal heads of the theology held among the Atlanteans.'

These the Greeks also are said to borrow. So Diodorus writes in the third volume of his histories: and in the sixth, the same author confirms the same theology from the writings of Euemerus the Messenian, speaking word for word as follows: 46 

'With regard then to gods the men of old have handed down to their posterity two sets of notions. For some, say they, are eternal and imperishable, as the Sun and Moon and the other heavenly bodies, and besides these the winds, and the rest who partake of the like nature with them; for each of these has an eternal origin and eternal continuance. Other deities they say were of the earth; but, because of the benefits which they conferred on mankind, they have received immortal honour and glory, as Heracles, Dionysus, Aristaeus, and the others like them.

'Concerning the terrestrial gods many various tales have been handed down in the historical and mythological writers. Among the historians Euemerus, the author of the Sacred Record, has written a special history; and of the mythologists Homer, Hesiod, Orpheus, and such others as these, have invented very marvellous myths concerning the gods: and we shall endeavour to run over what both classes have recorded concisely and with a view to due proportion.

'Euemerus, then, was a friend of King Cassander and, having boon constrained for his sake to perform some important services for the king, and some long journeys, says that he was carried away southwards into the ocean; for, having started on his voyage from Arabia Felix, he sailed many days across the ocean, and landed on some oceanic islands, one of which is that called Panchaea, in which he saw the Panchaean inhabitants, who were eminent in piety, and honoured the gods with most magnificent sacrifices and notable offerings of silver and gold.

'The island also was sacred to the gods ; and there were many other things to be admired both for their antiquity, and for the ingenuity of their manufacture, the particulars concerning which we have recorded in the books preceding this.

'Also therein on a certain exceedingly high hill is a temple of Zeus Triphylius, erected by himself at the time when he reigned over the whole inhabited world, being still among men. In this temple there is a golden pillar, on which is inscribed in the Panchaean language a summary of the acts of Uranus, Kronos, and Zeus.

'After this he says that Uranus was the first king, a gentle and benevolent man, and learned in the motion of the stars, who also was the first to honour the celestial deities with sacrifices, on which account he was called Uranus.

'By his wife Ilestia he had sons Pan and Kronos, and daughters Rhea and Demeter: and after Uranus, Kronos became king and, having married Rhea, begat Zeus and Hera and Poseidon.' And Zeus, having succeeded to the kingdom of Kronos, married Hera and Demeter and Themis, of whom he begat children, of the first the Curetes, of the second Persephone, and of the third Athena.

'And when he had come to Babylon he was entertained as a guest by Belus: and afterwards on arriving at the island Panchaea, which lay by the ocean, he built an altar to his own grandfather Uranus: and thence he came through Syria to the sovereign of that time Casius, of whom mount Casius is named; and came into Cilicia and conquered in war Cilix the ruler of the country; and visited very many other nations and was honoured among all, and was proclaimed a god.'

After narrating these and similar tales concerning the gods as if they were mortal men, he further says : 47

'With regard to Euemerus who composed the Sacred Record, we will be satisfied with what has been said ; but the legends of the Greeks concerning the gods we will try to run over briefly, following Hesiod and Homer and Orpheus.'

Then he appends in order the mythologies of the poets. Let it suffice us, however, to have made these extracts from the theology of the Greeks, to which it is reasonable to append an account of the initiatory rites in the inner shrines of the same deities, and of their secret mysteries, and to observe whether they bear any becoming mark of a theology that is truly divine, or arise from regions below out of long daemoniacal delusion, and are deserving of ridicule, or rather of shame, and yet more of pity for those who are still blinded. These matters are unveiled in plain terms by the admirable Clement, in his Exhortation to the Greeks, a man who had gone through experience of all, but had quickly emerged from the delusion as one who had been rescued from evil by the word of salvation and through the teaching of the Gospel. Listen, then, to a brief statement of these matters also.48


[CLEMENT] 'Explore not then too curiously the secret shrines of impiety, nor the mouths of caverns full of prodigies, or the Thesprotian cauldron, or the Cirrhaean tripod, or the brazen urn of Dodona: leave also to antiquated fables the old stump held sacred amid desert sands, and the oracle there, now decayed with the oak itself. The fountain certainly of Castalia is silently forgotten, and another fountain of Colophon; the other oracular streams also are in like manner dead. And so, though emptied late of their vain glory, they have nevertheless been clearly proved to have run dry together with their own fabulous stories.

'Describe to us also the useless oracles of the other kinds of divination, or of frenzy rather, the Clarian, Pythian, Didymean Apollo, Amphiaraus, and Amphiiochus. Join also with them, if you will, observers of prodigies, and augurs, and the unholy interpreters of dreams: and bring and set together beside the Pythian god those that divine by wheat-flour, and by barley, and the ventriloquists still held in honour among the multitude. Yea more, let the shrines of the Egyptians and the necromancies of the Tyrrhenians be consigned to darkness. These are in very truth mad sophistry-schools of unbelieving men, and gambling houses of pure fraud. Partners in this jugglery are the goats that have been trained for divination, and crows taught by men to utter oracles to men.

'And what if I were to give you a catalogue of the mysteries? I shall not dance them out, as they say Alcibiades did, but according to the word of truth I will thoroughly lay bare the jugglery that is concealed in them, and those so-called gods of yours, to whom the mystic rites belong, I shall wheel in as it were upon the stage of life before the spectators of truth.

'The Bacchanals celebrate in their orgies the frenzy of Dionysus, keeping their monthly holiday with a feast on raw flesh, and, in performing the distribution of the flesh of the slaughtered victims, are crowned with their wreaths of serpents, and shout upon Eva, that Eva, through whom the deception crept in [and death followed in its train]: a consecrated serpent, too, is the symbol of the Bacchic orgies.

'Therefore, according to the exact pronunciation of the Hebrews, the name Heva, with an aspirate, is at once interpreted as the female serpent. Deo too and Kore have already become a mystic drama, and Eleusis celebrates by torchlight the wandering, and the rape, and their mourning.

'I think, too, that we ought to trace the etymology of "orgies" and "mysteries," the one from the anger (οργης) of Deo aroused against Zeus, and the other from the pollution (μυσους) which had occurred with regard to Dionysus. Or even if you derive it from a certain Myus of Attica, who perished in hunting, as Apollodorus says, I do not grudge that your mysteries have been glorified by the honour of a name which is engraved upon a tomb.

'In another way also you may think of your mysteries as mytheria (hunting-stories) by the correspondence of letters. For fables such as these do most especially make prey of the most barbarous of the Thracians, the most senseless of the Phrygians, the most superstitious of the Greeks.

'Ill betide him then who first taught men this imposture, whether he were Dardanus, who instituted the mysteries of the Mother of the gods, or one Eetion, who established the orgies and initiations of the Samothracians, or that famous Phrygian Midas, who learned the cunning imposture from Odrysus and then spread it among his subjects.

'For never will I be cajoled by that Cyprian islander Cinyras, who dared to transfer the lewd orgies of Aphrodite from night to day, in his desire to deify a harlot of his own country.

'But others say that Melampus son of Amythaon brought over from Egypt to Hellas the festivals of Deo, her grief so famed in song. These for my part I should call evil authors of impious fables, and parents of deadly superstition, as having in the mysteries implanted a seed of wickedness and corruption in man's life.

'And now, for it is time, I will prove that your orgies themselves are full of imposture and quackery: and if you have been initiated, you will laugh all the more at these your venerated fables. And I shall proclaim the hidden secrets openly, and not let modesty hinder me from speaking of things which you are not ashamed to worship.

'First then, the daughter of the foam, the Cyprus-born, the beloved of Cinyras, Aphrodite I mean,

"Enamour'd of the source from which she sprang," 49

'those mutilated members of Uranus, those lustful members, which after their excision did violence to the waves, how wanton the members, of which your Aphrodite becomes the worthy fruit! In the mystic celebration of this pleasure of the sea a lump of salt and a phallus are delivered as a symbol of generation to those who are being initiated in the adulterous art: and they pay a piece of money to her, as lovers to a harlot.

'The mysteries of Deo, and the amorous embraces of Zeus with Demeter his mother, and the wrath of----I know not what to call her now----his mother or wife, Demeter, on account of which wrath, they say, she was called Brimo; the supplications of Zeus, and the drink of gall, the plucking out of the victim's heart, and unspeakable deeds,----these things the Phrygians celebrate in honour of Attis, and Cybele, and the Corybantes.

'They have also made up a story that Zeus, having torn off parts of a ram, brought and threw them into the lap of Deo, paying a fraudulent penalty for his violence, as though they had been parts of himself.

'The watchwords of this initiation, if set before you merely for amusement, will, I know, stir your laughter, although you may not be willing to laugh because of the exposures. "I ate out of the drum, and drank out of the cymbal, I danced the κερνοπηορια, I slipped into the bridal-chamber." Are not these watchwords an outrage? Are not the mysteries a farce?

'But what if I should add the rest of the story? Demeter has a child, and her daughter grows up, and again this Zeus who begat her seduces his own daughter Pherephatta, after her mother Deo, forgetting his former crime, and he approaches her in the form of a serpent, it being thus proved who he was.

'Accordingly, in the Sabazian mysteries the sign for those who are initiated is "The god gliding over the breast"; and this is a serpent drawn over the breast of those who are initiated, a proof of the incontinence of Zeus. Pherephatta also gives birth to a son in the form of a bull.

'At all events, a certain sham, poet says:

"Bull begets serpent, serpent begets bull.
Upon the mount the herdsman's secret goad." 50

calling, I suppose, the reed which the Bacchanals brandish a herdsman's goad.

'Would you have me narrate to you also Pherephatta's gathering of flowers, and her basket, and her seizure by Aidoneus, and the chasm opening in the earth, and the swine of Eubuleus that were swallowed up with the two goddesses, on account of which in the Thesmophoria they throw down swine, when they visit the caves.

'This fable the women in every city celebrate with festivals in d various ways, the Thesmophoria, Scirophoria, Arretophoria, dramatizing the rape of Pherephatta in many ways.

'As to the mysteries of Dionysus, they are perfectly inhuman: for when he was yet a child, with the Curetes circling round him in a war-dance, and the Titans had treacherously crept in, they beguiled him with childish toys, did these Titans, and tore him in pieces while yet an infant, as the poet of this mystery, Orpheus the Thracian, says:

"Cone, humming top, and dolls that bend their limbs,
Fair golden apples from the guardian Nymphs.
Of sweetest song, daughters of Hesperus." 51

'Nor will it be useless to set forth for condemnation the useless symbols of this mystery: dice, ball, hoop, apples, humming-top, mirror, and lock of wool.

'So then Athena, having stolen away the heart of Dionysus, was called Pallas from the pulsation of the heart: and the Titans, who had torn him in pieces, put a cauldron on a trivet, and threw in the limbs of Dionysus, and, having first boiled them down,

"Then pierc'd with spits and held them o'er the fire." 52

'But afterwards Zeus suddenly appears----I suppose, if he was a god, he perceived the savour of the roasting flesh, for your gods acknowledge that savour to be their perquisite,----and with a thunderbolt he smites the Titans, and delivers the limbs of Dionysus to his son Apollo to bury: and he did not disobey Zeus, but bore the dead body, mangled as it was, to Parnassus and there deposited it.

'If you wish to be initiated in the orgies of the Corybantes also, two of them slew the third brother, and wrapped up the head of the corpse in a purple cloth, and put a wreath upon it, and carried him on a brazen shield, and buried him under the side of Mount Olympus.

'These are their mysteries, murders in short, and burials! And their priests, whom those concerned call "Lords of the Mysteries," invent more wonders to add to the tragedy, forbidding to set a whole root of parsley on the table, because they think forsooth that parsley has sprung from the blood which streamed forth from the Corybant; just as the women who celebrate the Thesmophoria guard against eating the seeds of the pomegranate, for the drops which fell on the ground from the blood of Dionysus they suppose to have grown into pomegranates.

'As they call the Corybantes Cabeiri, they also proclaim the festival as the Cabeiria. For these very two fratricides, having carried off the chest in which the member of Dionysus was deposited, brought it by sea to Tyrrhenia, as purveyors of a noble cargo! And here they lived in exile, and imparted to the Tyrrhenians their highly venerable doctrine of religion, the chest and its contents, for them to worship; for which cause some not unreasonably will have it that Dionysus is called Attis, as having been mutilated.

'And what wonder if Tyrrhenians, who were barbarians, are initiated in such foul passions, when there is found among the Athenians, and in the rest of Hellas----I blush even to say it----the shameful legend of Deo.

'For Deo, wandering in search of her daughter Kore in the neighbourhood of Eleusis----this place is in Attica----grows weary, and sits down in sorrow upon a well. This is forbidden to those who are admitted to the mysteries even to the present day, lest the initiated should seem to be imitating the goddess in her mourning.

'Now at that time Eleusis was inhabited by the Earth-born: their names were Baubo, and Dysaules, and Triptolemus, also Eumolpus and Eubuleus. Triptolemus was a herdsman, Eumolpus a shepherd, and Eubuleus a swineherd. And from these last grew the flourishing family of the Eumolpidae, and that of the Heralds, the Hierophants I suppose, at Athens.

'And then Baubo----for I shall not shrink from telling it----having received Deo hospitably, offers her a draught. And when she refused to take it, and would not drink----for she was full of sorrow----Baubo became much annoyed as being forsooth disdained, and exposed herself to the goddess: and Deo, pleased at the sight, at last reluctantly accepted the draught, because she was delighted at what she saw.

'These are the secret mysteries of the Athenians! These are the things which Orpheus records! But I will set before you the very words of Orpheus, that you may have the master of mysteries himself as witness of their shamelessness:

"She spake, and quick her flowing robes withdrawn
Showed all the secret beauty of her form.
The child lacchus, laughing, stretched his hand
To touch her tender breasts, and Baubo smil'd;
Then, too, the goddess smil'd with cheerful thought,
And took the shining bowl which held the draught." 53 

'There is also the watchword of the Eleusinian mysteries: I fasted, I drank the draught, I took from the chest, finished the work and put it back into the basket, and from the basket into the chest.54 Noble indeed the sights, and becoming to a goddess!

'Worthy rather are these mysteries of night, and of torch-light, and of the great-hearted, or rather weak-minded, people of the Erechtheidae, and of the other Greeks also, "men for whom there remain after death things that they little look for,"

'To whom then does Heracleitus the Ephesian address this foreboding? "To night-walkers, sorcerers, bacchanals male and female, to the initiated."55 These he threatens with what follows death; to these he predicts the fire. For they receive an unholy initiation in what men regard as mysteries.56 

'Custom therefore, and vain opinion, and the mysteries of the serpent are a kind of fraud devoutly observed by men who, with spurious piety, promote their abominable initiations and profane orgiastic rites.

'What also are those mystic chests? For I must lay bare their holy things, and tell out their forbidden secrets. Are they not sesame-cakes, and pyramids, and balls, and flat cakes full of knobs, and lumps of salt? A serpent also, mystic symbol of Dionysus Bassarus?

'And besides these are there not pomegranates, and shoots of fig-trees, and reeds, and ivies, and round cakes also, and poppies?

'These are their holy things! And there are in addition the secret symbols of Themis, wild marjoram, a lamp, a sword, a woman's comb, which is an euphemistic and mystical name.

'O barefaced shamelessness! In times of old for modest men pleasure was veiled in night, and night in silence: but now the night that is sacred to wantonness is the talk of those who are to be initiated, and the fire exposes their lewd passions by the light of torches.

'Quench thou the fire, O Hierophant! Blush for thy lights, O bearer of the torch! That flame exposes thine lacchus. Suffer the night to conceal the mysteries: let darkness pay respect to your dignified orgies. The fire is no hypocrite : its duty is to expose and to punish.

'These are the atheists' mysteries. And atheists I rightly call them, since they have not known Him who is truly God, but worship a child torn in pieces by Titans, and a poor wailing woman; and things for very shame unmentionable they shamelessly worship, and so are involved in a twofold atheism: the first, in that they are ignorant of God, not acknowledging Him who is God indeed; and the other and second delusion this, that they regard those which are not as though they were, and call them gods who have no true being, or rather no being at all, but have only received the name.'

So far this author.


With good reason then do we avow that we have been freed from all this, and rescued from the long and antiquated delusion as from some terrible and most grievous disease. First, we have been delivered by the grace and beneficence of Almighty God, and secondly by the ineffable power of our Saviour's teaching in the Gospel, and thirdly by sound reasoning, because we judged that it is an unholy and impious thing to honour with the adorable name of God mortals who have long been lying among the dead, and have not even left a memory of themselves as virtuous men, but have handed down examples of extreme incontinence and wantonness, of cruelty also and insanity, for those who come after them to follow.

For must it not be the extreme of folly for lovers of temperance to yield the first place to the base and licentious, and for the wise and sensible to render august worship to those who have lost their senses, and those who practise justice and benevolence to those who, through excess of cruelty and inhumanity, are involved in the pollutions of infanticide and parricide?

And does it not surpass every excess of impiety to degrade the adorable and all-holy name of God to parts of the human body, male and female, which we may not speak of, and to the irrational nature of brute beasts; and to honour as divine such foul and inhuman deeds as, even in the case of human malefactors would, if proved, fall under the inexorable penalties of the laws? But why need we spend time in proclaiming to every man, barbarian and Greek alike, his deliverance from the evils described, and in bringing to light the reasonableness of our revolt from gods falsely so called, when already the greater number even of the most superstitious, having woke up as it were from a deep slumber, and cleared the eye of the soul of its ancient film, became conscious of the deep folly of the error of their fathers, and took their stand upon reasoning, and withdrew from the old path, and chose the other way?

Some of these made a bold assault, and with broad derision poured contempt upon the whole mythology of their own forefathers; while others, who shrank from the dogma of atheism, neither stood upon their old ways, nor withdrew from them altogether, but, with the purpose of glossing over and explaining their own dogma, gave to the true histories of the gods who had been celebrated among them the title of fables invented by poets, and said that physical theories were concealed in them. And however much they fail to bring any proof whatever of the truth of these theories, it will nevertheless be necessary for us to set forth for examination their solemn doctrines, that thus we may prove the reasonableness of that retreat from them which was provided for us solely by the teaching of our Saviour in the Gospel. Come then, let us take up their argument from the beginning and examine it.


Now by the Greek theology I mean the popular and more mythical theology, which also prevailed much earlier among the Phoenicians and Egyptians and the other nations of whom mention was made in our preceding books; and the character of this has been proved to be something of the kind which has been already made manifest by the words quoted from the Greek historians themselves. And this character we have with good reason set before our readers in the beginning of this our Preparation for the Gospel for their judgement and decision, that both we and those who as yet have no experience of this subject, may learn for ourselves what we were long ago, and from what sort of forefathers we have sprung, by how great evils we were previously fettered, and in how great a stupor of impiety and ignorance of God our souls were buried, and then were favoured with an uprising and deliverance from all these evils at once by the sole teaching of the Gospel, provided for us in no other way than by the manifestation of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who is God.

For not in a mere part of the earth, nor in a corner of the land of one nation, but throughout the whole inhabited world, where the power of the most superstitious delusion especially prevailed, He, like a sun of intelligent and rational souls, spread abroad the beams of His own light: He translated us all, of every race of mankind, barbarians and Greeks alike, as it were from a terrible darkness and most gloomy and obscure night of superstitious error into the bright and shining day of the true worship of God the King of all.

Certainly the statements that have been already quoted have plainly taught us, that those who in cities and villages have been excited about this delusion of many gods were all universally serving and worshipping images of the dead, and statues of men who have long since passed away. For the men of old, because of the extreme savageness of their life at that time made no account of God the Creator of all, nor paid any heed to the divine judgement which takes vengeance on wrong doing, but cast themselves headlong into every kind of profanity.

For at that time there were no laws yet established for the guidance of life, no civilized government set in order among men, but they led a loose and wandering life like that of the beasts: and some of them, like irrational animals, cared for nothing beyond the filling of their belly, and among these the first kind of atheism found a home; but others, being in some small degree stirred by natural instincts, conceived that God, and God's power, was some good and salutary thing, and because they wished to find Him, they raised their souls aloft to heaven, and there stopping short in thought, and being astonished at the various beauties of the luminaries which gave and received light in heaven, declared that these were gods.

But a third and different class cast themselves down upon earth, and seeing those who had been thought to excel their contemporaries in wisdom, or had become masters of the multitude by strength of body and power of government, such as giants or tyrants, or even sorcerers and quacks, who after some falling off from holier ways had devised their evil arts of sorcery, or others who had been the authors of some common benefit to human life,----to these, both while yet living and after death, they gave the title of gods. And from this cause the houses of their gods are mentioned as being tombs of the dead, as Clement relates in his Exhortation to the Greeks, bringing forward Greeks themselves as witnesses of his statement. Listen then again, if it please you, to what he writes in the following style:57


[CLEMENT] 'Naturally therefore superstition, having somewhere found a beginning, has become a fountain of senseless wickedness; and afterwards, as it was not checked, but gained increase and rushed on in full flood, it has created a multitude of daemons, sacrificing hecatombs, celebrating public festivals, setting up statues, and building temples, which indeed----for I will not keep silence even on this, but will convict them----were called euphemistically temples, but were in reality tombs, that is to say, tombs which had got the name of temples. But now, I pray you, forget at length your superstition, and be ashamed to worship tombs.

'In the temple of Athena at Larissa in the Acropolis is the tomb of Acrisius, and at Athens in the Acropolis the tomb of Cecrops, as Antiochus says in the ninth book of his Histories. And what of Erichthonius? Is he not buried in the temple of Athena Folias? And Ismarus the son of Eumolpus and Daeira, is he not buried in the precincts of the Eleusinium, which lies under the Acropolis? And the daughters of Celeus, are they not buried at Eleusis?

'Why should I tell you of the women who came from the Hyperboreans? There are two called Hyperoche and Laodice, who are buried in the precinct of Artemis at Delos, which is in the temple of the Delian Apollo.

'Leander says that Cleomachus is buried at Miletus in the Didyrnaeum. Here, if we follow Zeno of Myndus, it would not be right to pass over the monument of Leucophryne, who is buried in the temple of Artemis in Magnesia, nor yet the altar of Apollo in Telmessus, which also, the story says, is the monument of Telmesseus the soothsayer.

'Ptolemy too, the son of Agesarchus, in his first book concerning Philopator says that Cinyras and the descendants of Cinyras are buried in Paphos in the temple of Aphrodite.

'Were I, however, to go over all the tombs which are worshipped by you, "all time would not suffice for me to tell"; [Homer, Od. xx. 351] while you, if no shame for these audacities steals over you, may wander round with your faith in the dead, utterly dead yourselves:

"Ah! wretched men, what evil doom is this?" 58

A little further on he says: 59 

'Another new god the Roman Emperor has deified with great solemnity in Egypt, and almost in Greece; his favourite Antinous, who was extremely beautiful, was deified by him, as Ganymede was by Zeus.

'For lust, when free from fear, is not easily restrained: and men now celebrate the sacred nights of Antinous, the shame of which was known to the lover who shared his vigils.'

He also adds: 

'And now the favourite's tomb is the temple and city of Antinous: for just as temples are held in reverence, so, I suppose, are tombs, pyramids, mausoleums, and labyrinths----other temples these of the dead, as those before mentioned were tombs of the gods.' 

And again, a little further on: 60

'Come then, let us also briefly make the round of your games, and put an end to these great sepulchral festivals, the Isthmian, Nemean, and Pythian, and besides these the Olympian. At Pytho the Pythian dragon is worshipped, and the festival of the serpent is proclaimed as the Pythia. At the Isthmus the sea cast up a miserable carcass, and the Isthmian games are a lamentation for Melicertes: at Nemea another child Archemorus is buried, and the boy's funeral games are called Nemea. Pisa is the tomb in your midst, O Panhellenes, of a Phrygian charioteer, and the Zeus of Phidias claims as his own the Olympian games, which are the funeral libations of Pelops.' 

So speaks our author.

Now take thou up our argument again from the beginning, and observe the downfall of superstitious error. By nature and by our self-taught ideas, or rather ideas taught by God, there is a something noble and salutary that indicates the name and being of God: for all men had taken this for granted in their common reasonings, since the Creator of all things had implanted this conviction by innate ideas in every rational and intelligent soul.

They had not, however, chosen the course which accords with reason. For only some one or two perchance, or at most a very few others, whose memory is recorded in the oracles of the Hebrews, could not adapt their idea of God to any of the things that are seen, but with unperverted reasonings led up their thoughts from visible things to the Creator of the whole world and the great Maker of the universe; and with purified eyes of the understanding perceived that He alone is God, the Saviour of all, and sole giver of good gifts. But the rest wandered about in all kinds of mental blindness, and were carried into an abyss of ungodliness, so that like wild beasts they limited the beautiful, and useful, and good to the pleasure of the eyes and the flesh.

And in this way, as I have said before, the discoverers of the things supposed to be good and useful to the body, or certain governors, or tyrants, or even sorcerers and poisoners, though of mortal nature and subjected to the misfortunes of humanity, were called saviours and gods as givers of good things, and men transferred, the august conception which was implanted in them by nature to those whom they supposed to be benefactors.

And accordingly so great a mental paralysis possessed them, that they took no account of the iniquities of those whom they regarded as gods, nor blushed at the shameful tales reported of them, but in all these things admired the men because of the benefits provided by them, or because of the governments and tyrannies which were then first established.

For example, as I said before, since at that time no laws were yet administered, nor punishment suspended over evil deeds, they recorded as rightful and brave deeds, adulteries and sodomy, and incestuous and unlawful marriages, and bloodshed and parricides, and murders of children and brethren, and moreover, wars and seditions actually carried on by their own champions, whom they both accounted and called gods, and bequeathed the remembrance of them as worshipful and brave to later generations.

Such was the ancient theology which was transformed by certain moderns of yesterday's growth, who boasted of having a more reasonable philosophy, and introduced what they called the more physical view of the history of the gods, by devising more respectable and ingenious explanations for the legends: yet they neither escaped altogether the fault of their forefathers' impiety, nor, on the other hand, could endure the self-manifested wickedness of their so-called gods.

So, in their eagerness to palliate the fault of their fathers, they changed the legends into physical narratives and theories, and boasted, as the more mystical view, that the things which give nourishment and increase to the nature of the body are those which the legends set forth.

Going on from this point, these men also gave the title of gods to the elements of the world, not just merely to sun and moon and stars, but also to earth and water, and air and fire, and their combinations and resultants, and moreover to the seasonable fruits of the earth, and all other produce of food both dry and liquid: and these very things, regarded as causes of the life of the body, they called Demeter, and Kore, and Dionysus, and other like names, and, by making gods of them, introduced a forced and untrue embellishment of their legends.

But it was in a later age that these men, as if ashamed of the theologies of their forefathers, added respectable explanations, which each invented of himself, to the legends concerning their gods; for no one dared to disturb the customs of their ancestors, but paid great honour to antiquity, and to the familiar training which had grown with them from their boyhood.

Their elders, however, besides their deifications of men, gave equal rank to their consecrations of brute animals, because of the benefit derived from them also for the causes previously assigned; and they devoted equal religious worship to the brutes, and with libations, sacrifices, mystic rites, and hymns, and songs, exalted the honours paid to them, in the same manner as to the men who had been deified. And so they marched on to such a pitch of evil, that, through excess of unbridled lust, they consecrated with divine honours those parts of the body that lead to impurity, and the unrestrained passions of mankind, while their so-called theologians declared that in these things there is no need at all to use solemn phrases. We must, then, hold it to have been proved on the highest testimony, that the oldest generations knew nothing more at all than the history, but adhered to the legends only. Since, however, we have once begun to glance at the august and recondite doctrines of the noble philosophers, let us go on and examine these also more fully, that we may not seem to be ignorant of their wonderful physical theories.

But before we make our exposition of these doctrines, we must first indicate the mutual contradiction even here of these admirable philosophers themselves. For some of them make random statements, and set forth their opinions according to what comes into the mind of each individually: for they do not agree one with another even in their physical theories. While others more candidly sweep away the whole system, and banish from their own republic not only the indecent stories about the gods, but also the interpretations given of them; though sometimes they speak softly of the legends through fear of the punishment threatened by the laws.

Listen then to the Greeks themselves speaking by the mouth of the one noblest of them all, now banishing and now again adopting the legends. Thus their admirable Plato, when he lays bare his own preference, with great boldness forbids altogether the thinking or saying such things concerning the gods, as had been said by them of old, whether they contained anything latent indicated in allegorical meanings, or were spoken without any allegorical meaning at all. But at other times he speaks softly of the laws, and says that we ought to believe the legends about the gods, though there is nothing indicated by them in allegorical meanings.

But when at last he has dissociated his own theology from the ancient legends, and has stated his physical theories about the heaven, and sun, and moon, and stars, and moreover about the whole cosmos, and the parts of it severally, he again specially and separately goes through the ancient genealogical accounts of the gods just as follows word for word in the Timaeus.


[PLATO] 'To tell of the other divinities and to learn their origin is beyond our power; but we must give credence to those who have spoken in former times, who being, as they said, the offspring of gods had, I suppose, a clear knowledge of their own ancestors. It is impossible therefore to disbelieve children of the gods, even though they speak without certain or probable proofs; but as they assert that they are reporting family histories, we must, in obedience to the law, believe them.

'On their authority then let the origin of these gods be admitted and stated by us as follows. The children of Earth and Heaven were Oceanus and Tethys; and their children Phorcys, and Kronos, and Rhea, and the rest of them: and from Kronos and Rhea sprang Zeus and Hera, and all whom we know as their reputed brethren, and still others who were their offspring.' 61

These things, says Plato, 'we must in obedience to the law believe,' even though, he admits, they are stated 'without certain or probable proofs.' And we must observe how he indicates that the names and genealogies of the so-called gods have no hidden meaning to be explained by physical theories.

But again, in another place the same author, laying open his own deliberate opinion, has used these words:62

'In the first place, said I, the author of that greatest lie about the greatest gods told a bad lie, how Uranus did the deeds which Hesiod says he did, and how Kronos took revenge upon him.

'Again, even if the doings of Kronos and his treatment by his son were true, I should not have thought that they ought to be thus lightly told before young and thoughtless persons, but that they should be buried in silence, as the best thing; or if there were any necessity to tell them, then as few as possible should hear them in secret, after sacrificing no mere pig, but some great and scarce victim, so that very few might have a chance of hearing them.

'Why yes, said he, these stories certainly are mischievous.

'Aye, and they must not be told in our city, Adeimantus; nor must a young hearer be told that he would be doing nothing remarkable in committing the worst injuries nor in inflicting every kind of punishment upon his father for injuring him, but would be doing just what the first and greatest of the gods did.

'Nor do I myself think that such stories are fit to be told.

'Nor yet, said I, about gods going to war with gods and plotting and fighting (untrue as such things are) ought anything at all to be said, if at least the future guardians of our city are to regard it as very disgraceful to be lightly quarrelling one with another. Much less must we invent fables about wars of the giants, and work them in embroidery, with numberless other quarrels of all kinds of gods and heroes against their own kith and kin. But if there were any chance of our persuading them, that no citizen was ever at enmity with a fellow citizen, and that such a thing was unholy, rather should tales of this kind be told to children from the first by old men and old women and by those of mature age, and the poets should be compelled to make their tales like these.

'The chaining, too, of Hera by her son, and the hurling of Hephaestus out of heaven by his father, when he was going to defend his mother from a beating, and all the battles of the gods that Homer has invented, must not be admitted into the city, whether they are composed with or without allegorical meanings.'

By these words, then, the philosopher clearly teaches that both the legends of the ancients concerning the gods, and the physical explanations of these legends supposed to be expressed in allegories are to be rejected; so that it can no longer be denied that there is good reason for our Saviour's teaching in the Gospel, which bids us to abandon these legends, seeing that they have been rejected even by their own friends.

Hence it comes that I admire the ancient Romans for the manner in which, when they perceived that all the physiological theories of the Greeks concerning the gods were absurd and unprofitable, or rather were forced and inconsistent, they excluded them, legends and all, from their own theology. This too you may learn from the Roman Archaeology of Dionysius of Halicarnassus: for he, in his second book, when relating the history of Romulus, the first founder of the city of Rome, while recounting his other good deeds, writes on this point especially in the following manner: 63


[DIONYSIUS OF HALICARNASSUS] 'But he knew that good laws and zeal in honourable pursuits render a state religious and temperate, and observant of justice, and brave in war: and for these things he took much forethought, beginning with the laws concerning acts of worship paid to gods and daemons.

'Temples therefore, and precincts, and altars, and the erection of statues, and their forms and emblems and powers, and gifts whereby they had conferred benefit on our race, and festivals of all such kinds as ought to be kept in honour of each god or daemon, and sacrifices wherewith they delight to be honoured by men, and sacred truces also and national festivals, and seasons of rest from labour, and all such matters he established in a manner similar to the best of the customs among the Greeks. But the traditional fables concerning them, in which there are any slanders or accusations against them, he considered to be wicked and unprofitable and unseemly, and unworthy not to say of gods but even of good men, and he excluded them all, and trained men both to speak and think all that was excellent concerning the gods, imputing to them no practice unworthy of their blessed nature.

'For among the Romans there is neither any story of Uranus being mutilated by his own children, nor of Kronos devouring his own offspring through fear of their attack, nor of Zeus overthrowing the dynasty of Kronos, and shutting up his own father in the prison of Tartarus; nor yet of wars, and wounds, and bonds, and servitudes of gods among men.

'Nor is any black-robed or mournful festival held among them, with women's wailings and lamentations over gods that vanished from sight, such as are celebrated among the Greeks in reference to the rape of Persephone, and the sufferings of Dionysus, and all other things of a like kind.

'Nor would any one see among them, even though their customs are now corrupted, any wild enthusiasms, nor Corybantic frenzies, nor Bacchanalian revels and secret initiations, no all-night vigils of men and women together in the temples of the gods, nor any other of the monstrosities akin to these, but all things concerning the gods practised and spoken of with reverence, such as is seen neither among Greeks nor barbarians.

'And what I have admired most of all, though countless races have come to settle in the city, who were strictly bound to worship their ancestral gods with the rites of their own country, the city has never by public consent sought to imitate any of the foreign customs, a propensity which has occurred to many states ere now: but even if any sacred rites have been introduced in accordance with oracles, the city adapted them to its own institutions, and cast out all mythical quackery, as for example the rites of the Idaean goddess.

'For in her honour the Consuls celebrate sacrifices and games every year according to the laws of the Romans: and her priests are a Phrygian man and Phrygian woman, and these go about the city beggmg for the goddess, as their custom is, with images fastened round their breasts, and rattling cymbals and accompanied by their followers playing on flutes the music of the Mother.

'But of the home-born Romans none proceeds through the city either so begging, or accompanied by flutes and dressed in an embroidered robe, nor celebrates the goddess with Phrygian orgies by any law or decree of the Senate.

'So cautious is the attitude of the state towards foreign customs concerning the gods, shunning as ill-omened all vain display in which there is anything unbecoming.

'But let no one suppose me to be ignorant that some of the Grecian legends are useful to mankind; some exhibiting the works of nature allegorically, and others composed for the sake of consoling human misfortunes, and others removing troubles and terrors of the soul and overthrowing unsound opinions, and others invented for the sake of some other utility.

'But although I know these things as well as anybody, I am nevertheless cautiously disposed towards them, and I prefer to accept the theology of the Romans, considering that the benefits derived from the Hellenic legends are small, and not capable of benefiting many, but only those who have searched out the purposes for which they are made. And those who have taken part in this branch of philosophy are rare; while the great mass unversed in philosophy loves to take the tales concerning the gods in the worse senses, and is affected in one of two ways; either it despises the gods as tossed about in great misery, or else it abstains from none of the most disgraceful and lawless doings, seeing that they are attributed to the gods.

'On these subjects, however, let inquiry be left to those who study merely the theoretical part of philosophy: but of the polity established by Romulus I thought these points worth recording.' 

Such, we see were the opinions entertained by the best philosophers, and by the ancient and most eminent men of the Roman empire concerning the theology of the Greeks----opinions which give no admission to physical theories in their legends concerning the gods, nor to their gorgeous and sophistical impostures.

Since, however, we have once entered upon their refutation, let us go on and consider their interpretations and theories, to see what, after all, they carry with them that is venerable and worthy of the gods; and let us not say anything as of ourselves, but make use, on all points, of their own words, so that we may again learn their views from themselves.

[Footnotes moved to the end and numbered]

1. 45 a 1 Diodorus Siculus, I. c. 10

2. b 4 c. 13

3. d 5 Diod. I. c. 15

4. 46 a 4 Diod. I. 16

5. b 1 Diod. I. 17

6. b 4 Diod. I 18 

7.  c 7 Diod. I, 19

8. c 8 Diod. I. 20

9. d 8 Diod. I. 21

10. 47 b 1 Diod. I. 21

11. b 5 Diod. I. 22

12. d 3 Diod. I. 23

13. 48 b 6 Diod. I. 24

14. c 3 Diod. I. 25

15. d 7 Diod. I. 27

16. 49 a 6 Diod. I. 86

17. b 9 Diod. I. 87

18. d 11 Diod. I. 88

19. 50 c 5 Diod. I. 89

20. 50 d 10 Diod. I. 83

21. 51 a 4 Diod. I. 84

22. c 1 Diod. I. 85

23. 52 d 1 Diod. IV. 2

24. 53 b 3 Diod. IV. 3

25. b 9 Diod. IV. 4

26. d 12 Diod. IV. 5

27. 54 a 7 Diod. IV. 6

28. d 1 Diod. IV. 7

29. 54 d 7 Diod. IV. 9

30. 55 b 3 Diod. IV. 10

31. b 8 Diod. IV. 11

32. c 6 Diod. IV. 12

33. c 8 Diod. IV. 14

34. d 3 Diod. IV. 31 

35.  a 5 Diod. IV. 36

36. 56 a 1 Diod. IV. 33

37. a 4 Diod. IV. 34

38. 56 c 5 Diod. IV. 37

39. c 9 Diod. IV. 29

40. d 6 Diod. IV. 37, 38

41. 57 a 4 Diod. IV. 71

42. c 1 Diod. III. 57

43. 58 a 1 Diod. III. 58

44. 58 c 6 Diod. III. 60

45. d 6 Diod. III. 61

46. 59 c 3-60 d 10 Diod. vi, Fragment i, preserved by Eusebius only

47. 60 d 12 Diod. vi, Fragment i continued 

48. 61 c 4 Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Heathen, c. ii. p. 10 P.

49. Hesiod, Theogonia, 200

50. Cf. Arnobius, Against the Heathen, v. 21

51. Orphic Fragm. 196 (Hermann xvii)

52. Homer, Iliad, ii. 426

53. 68 c 6 Orphic Fragm. 215 ; see Lobeck, Aglaophamus, vol. ii. p. 819

54. d 11 Bywater, Heracl. Rell. cxxii; cf. Clem. Al. Strom, iv. p. 630 P. 

55.  d 14 Heracl. Rell, cxxiv

56. d 16 ibid, cxxv

57. 71 a 1 Clem. Alex. Exhortation, c. iii. p. 39 P.

58. 72 a 5 Homer, Od. xx. 351

59. a 7 Clem. Al. Exhortation, c. iv. p. 43 P.

60. b 13 ibid. c. ii. p. 29 P.

61. Plato, Timaeus, p. 40

62. 76 c 2 Plato, Republic, ii. 377 E

63. 78 a 1 Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Archaeology, ii. 18

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