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Porphyry, On abstinence from animal food (1823) Book 4. pp.110-138.


[Translated by Thomas Taylor]

1. In the preceding books, O Castricius, we have nearly answered all the arguments which in reality defend the feeding on flesh, for the sake of incontinence and intemperance, and which adduce impudent apologies for so doing by ascribing a greater indigence to our nature than is fit. Two particular inquiries, however, still remain; in one of which the promise of advantage especially deceives those who are corrupted by pleasure. And, moreover, we shall confute the assertion of our opponents, that no wise man, nor any nation, has rejected animal food, as it leads those that hear it to great injustice, through the ignorance of true history; and we shall also endeavour to give the solutions of the question concerning advantage, and to reply to other inquiries.

2. But we shall begin from the abstinence of certain nations, in the narration of which, what is asserted of the Greeks will first claim our attention, as being the most allied to us, and the most appropriate of all the witnesses that can be adduced. Among those, therefore, that have concisely, and at the same time accurately collected an account of the affairs of the Greeks, is the Peripatetic Dicaearchus 1, who, in narrating the pristine life of the Greeks, says, the ancients, being generated with an alliance to the Gods, were naturally most excellent, and led the best life; so that, when compared to us of the present day, who consist of an adulterated and most vile matter, they were thought to be a golden race; and they slew no animal whatever. The truth of this, he also says, is testified by the poets, who denominate these ancients the golden race, and assert that every good was present with them.

The fertile earth for them spontaneous bore Of fruits a copious and unenvy'd store; In blissful quiet then, unknown to strife, The worthy with the worthy passed their life 2. |111 Which assertions, indeed Dicaearchus explaining, says, that a life of this kind was under Saturn; if it is proper to consider it as a thing that once existed, and that it is a life which has not been celebrated in vain, and if, laying aside what is extremely fabulous, we may refer it to a physical narration. All things, therefore, are very properly said to have been then spontaneously produced; for men did not procure any thing by labour, because they were unacquainted with the agricultural art, and, in short, had no knowledge of any other art. This very thing, likewise, was the cause of their leading a life of leisure, free from labours and care; and if it is proper to assent to the decision of the most skilful and elegant of physicians, it was also the cause of their being liberated from disease. For there is not any precept of physicians which more contributes to health, than that which exhorts us not to make an abundance of excrement, from which those pristine Greeks always preserved their bodies pure. For they neither assumed such food as was stronger than the nature of the body could bear, but such as could be vanquished by the corporeal nature, nor more than was moderate, on account of the facility of procuring it, but for the most part less than was sufficient, on account of its paucity. Moreover, there were neither any wars among them, nor seditions with each other. For no reward of contention worth mentioning was proposed as an incentive, for the sake of which some one might be induced to engage in such dissensions. So that the principal thing in that life was leisure and rest from necessary occupations, together with health, peace, and friendship. But to those in after times, who, through aspiring after things which greatly exceeded mediocrity, fell into many evils, this pristine life became, as it was reasonable to suppose it would, desirable. The slender and extemporaneous food, however, of these first men, is manifested by the saying which was afterwards proverbially used, enough of the oak; this adage being probably introduced by him who first changed the ancient mode of living. A pastoral life succeeded to this, in which men procured for themselves superfluous possessions, and meddled with animals. For, perceiving that some of them were innoxious, but others malefic and savage, they tamed the former, but attacked the latter. At the same time, together with this life, war was introduced. And these things, says Dicaearchus, are not asserted by us, but by those who have historically discussed a multitude of particulars. For, as possessions were now of such a magnitude as to merit attention, some ambitiously endeavoured to obtain them, by collecting them [for their own use], and calling on others to do the same, but others directed their attention to the preservation of them when collected. Time, therefore, thus gradually proceeding, and men always directing their attention to what |112 appeared to be useful, they at length became conversant with the third, and agricultural form of life. And this is what is said by Dicaearchus, in his narration of the manners of the ancient Greeks, and the blessed life which they then led, to which abstinence from animal food contributed, no less than other things. Hence, at that period there was no war, because injustice was exterminated. But afterwards, together with injustice towards animals, war was introduced among men, and the endeavour to surpass each other in amplitude of possessions. On which account also, the audacity of those is wonderful, who say that abstinence from animals is the mother of injustice, since both history and experience testify, that together with the slaughter of animals, war and injustice were introduced.

3. Hence, this being afterwards perceived by the Lacedaemonian Lycurgus, though the eating of animals then prevailed, yet he so arranged his polity, as to render food of this kind requisite in the smallest degree. For the allotted property of each individual did not consist in herds of oxen, flocks of sheep, or an abundance of goats, horses, and money, but in the possession of land, which might produce for a man seventy medimni 3 of barley, and for a woman twelve, and the quantity of liquid fruits in the same proportion. For he thought that this quantity of nutriment was sufficient to procure a good habit of body and health, nothing else to obtain these being requisite. Whence also it is said, that on returning to his country, after he had been for some time absent from it, and perceiving, as he passed through the fields, that the corn had just been reaped, and that the threshing-floors and the heaps were parallel and equable, he laughed, and said to those that were present, that all Laconia seemed to belong to many brothers, who had just divided the land among themselves. He added, that as he had therefore expelled luxury from Sparta, it would be requisite also to annul the use of money, both golden and silver, and to introduce iron alone, as its substitute, and this of a great bulk and weight, and of little value; so that as much of it as should be worth ten minae should require a large receptacle to hold it, and a cart drawn by two oxen to carry it. But this being ordained, many species of injustice were exterminated from Lacedaemon. For who would attempt to thieve, or suffer himself to be corrupted by gifts, or defraud or plunder another, when it was not possible for him to conceal what he had taken, nor possess it so as to be envied by others, nor derive any advantage from coining it? Together |113 with money also, the useless arts were expelled, the works of the Lacedaemonians not being saleable. For iron money could not be exported to the other Greeks, nor was it esteemed by them, but ridiculed. Hence, neither was it lawful to buy any thing foreign, and which was intrinsically of no worth, nor did ships laden with merchandise sail into their ports, nor was any verbal sophist, or futile diviner, or bawd, or artificer of golden and silver ornaments, permitted to come to Laconia, because there money was of no use. And thus luxury, being gradually deprived of its incitements and nourishment, wasted away of itself. Those likewise who possessed much derived no greater advantage from it, than those who did not, as no egress was afforded to abundance, since it was so obstructed by impediments, that it was forced to remain in indolent rest. Hence such household furniture as was in constant use, and was necessary, such as beds, chairs, and tables, these were made by them in the best manner; and the Laconic cup, which was called Cothon, was, as Critias says, especially celebrated in military expeditions. For in these expeditions, the water which they drank, and which was unpleasant to the sight, was concealed by the colour of the cup; and the turbid part of the water falling against the lips, through their prominency, that part of it which was drank, was received in a purer condition by the mouth. As we are informed, however, by Plutarch, the legislator was the cause of these things. For the artificers being liberated from useless works, exhibited the beauty of art in things of a necessary nature.

4. That he might also in a still greater degree oppose luxury, and take away the ardent endeavour to obtain wealth, he introduced a third, and most beautiful political institution, viz. that of the citizens eating and drinking together publicly; so that they might partake of the same prescribed food in common, and might not be fed at home, reclining on sumptuous couches, and placed before elegant tables, through the hands of artificers and cooks, being fattened in darkness, like voracious animals, and corrupting their bodies, together with their morals, by falling into every kind of luxury and repletion; as such a mode of living would require much sleep, hot baths, and abundant quiet, and such attentions as are paid to the diseased. This indeed was a great thing; but still greater than this, that, as Theophrastus says, he caused wealth to be neglected, and to be of no value through the citizens eating at common tables, and the frugality of their food. For there was no use, nor enjoyment of riches; nor, in short, was there any thing to gratify the sight, or any ostentatious display in the whole apparatus, because both the poor and the rich sat at the same table. Hence it was universally |114 said, that in Sparta alone, Plutus was seen to be blind, and lying like an inanimate and immoveable picture. For it was not possible for the citizens, having previously feasted at home, to go to the common tables with appetites already satiated with food. For the rest carefully observed him who did not eat and drink with them, and reviled him, as an intemperate person, and as one who conducted himself effeminately with respect to the common food. Hence these common tables were called phiditia; either as being the causes of friendship and benevolence, as if they were philitia, assuming δ for λ; or as accustoming men (προς ευτελειαν και φειδω) to frugality and a slender diet. But the number of those that assembled at the common table was fifteen, more or less. And each person brought every month, for the purpose of furnishing the table, a medimnus of flour, eight choas 4 of wine, five pounds of cheese, two and a half pounds of figs, and, besides all these, a very little quantity of money.

5. Hence the children of those who ate thus sparingly and temperately, came to these common tables, as to schools of temperance, where they also heard political discourses, and were spectators of liberal sports. Here, likewise, they learnt to jest acrimoniously, without scurrility, and to receive, without being indignant, the biting jests of others. For this appeared to be extremely Laconic, to be able to endure acrimonious jests; though he who could not endure was permitted to refuse hearing them, and the scoffer was immediately silent. Such, therefore, was the frugality of the Lacedaemonians, with respect to diet, though it was legally instituted for the sake of the multitude. Hence those who came from this polity are said to have been more brave and temperate, and paid more attention to rectitude, than those who came from other communities, which are corrupted both in souls and bodies. And it is evident that perfect abstinence is adapted to such a polity as this, but to corrupt communities luxurious food.5 If, likewise, we direct our attention to such other nations as regarded equity, mildness and piety to |115 the Gods, it will be evident that abstinence was ordained by them, with a view to the safety and advantage, if not of all, yet at least of some of the citizens, who, sacrificing to, and worshipping the Gods, on account of the city, might expiate the sins of the multitude. For, in the mysteries, what the boy who attends the altar accomplishes, by performing accurately what he is commanded to do, in order to render the Gods propitious to all those who have been initiated, as far as to muesis 6 (αντι παντων των μυουμενων), that, in nations and cities, priests are able to effect, by sacrificing for all the people, and through piety inducing the Gods to be attentive to the welfare of those that belong to them. With respect to priests, therefore, the eating of all animals is prohibited to some, but of certain animals to others, whether you consider the customs of the Greeks or of the barbarians, which are different in different nations. So that all of them, collectively considered, or existing as one, being assumed, it will be found that they abstain from all animals. If, therefore, those who preside over the safety of cities, and to whose care piety to the Gods is committed, abstain from animals, how can any one dare to accuse this abstinence as disadvantageous to cities?

6. Chaeremon the Stoic, therefore, in his narration of the Egyptian priests, who, he says, were considered by the Egyptians as philosophers, informs us, that they chose temples, as the places in which they might philosophize. For to dwell with the statues of the Gods is a thing allied to the whole desire, by which the soul tends to the contemplation of their divinities. And from the divine veneration indeed, which was paid to them through dwelling in temples, they obtained security, all men honouring these philosophers, as if they were certain sacred animals. They also led a solitary life, as they only mingled with other men in solemn sacrifices and festivals. But at other times the priests were almost inaccessible to any one who wished to converse with them. For it was requisite that he who approached to them should be first purified, and abstain from many things; and this is as it were a common sacred law respecting the Egyptian priests. But these [philosophic priests], |116 having relinquished every other employment, and human labours,7 gave up the whole of their life to the contemplation and worship of divine natures and to divine inspiration; through the latter, indeed, procuring for themselves, honour, security, and piety; but through contemplation, science; and through both, a certain occult exercise of manners, worthy of antiquity8. For to be always conversant with divine knowledge and inspiration, removes those who are so from all avarice, suppresses the passions, and excites to an intellectual life. But they were studious of frugality in their diet and apparel, and also of continence and endurance, and in all things were attentive to justice and equity. They likewise were rendered venerable, through rarely mingling with other men. For during the time of what are called purifications, they scarcely mingled with their nearest kindred, and those of their own order, nor were they to be seen by anyone, unless it was requisite for the necessary purposes of purification. For the sanctuary was inaccessible to those who were not purified, and they dwelt in holy places for the purpose of performing divine works; but at all other times they associated more freely with those who lived like themselves. They did not, however, associate with any one who was not a religious character. But they were always seen near to the Gods, or the statues of the Gods, the latter of which they were beheld either carrying, or preceding in a sacred procession, or disposing in an orderly manner, with modesty and gravity; each of which operations was not the effect of pride, but an indication of some physical reason. Their venerable gravity also was apparent from their manners. For their walking was orderly, and their aspect sedate; and they were so studious of preserving this gravity of countenance, that they did not even wink, when at any time they were unwilling to do so; and they seldom laughed, and when they did, their laughter proceeded no farther than to a smile. But they always kept their hands within their garments. Each likewise bore about him a symbol indicative of the order which he was allotted in sacred concerns; for there were many orders of priests. Their diet also was slender and simple. For, with respect to wine, some of them did not at all drink it, but others drank very little of it, on account of its being injurious to the |117 nerves, oppressive to the head, an impediment to invention, and an incentive to venereal desires. In many other things also they conducted themselves with caution; neither using bread at all in purifications, and at those times in which they were not employed in purifying themselves, they were accustomed to eat bread with hyssop, cut into small pieces. For it is said, that hyssop very much purifies the power of bread. But they, for the most part, abstained from oil, the greater number of them entirely; and if at any time they used it with pot-herbs, they took very little of it, and only as much as was sufficient to mitigate the taste of the herbs.

7. It was not lawful for them therefore to meddle with the esculent and potable substances, which were produced out of Egypt, and this contributed much to the exclusion of luxury from these priests. But they abstained from all the fish that was caught in Egypt, and from such quadrupeds as had solid, or many-fissured hoofs, and from such as were not horned; and likewise from all such birds as were carnivorous. Many of them, however, entirely abstained from all animals; and in purifications this abstinence was adopted by all of them, for then they did not even eat an egg. Moreover, they also rejected other things, without being calumniated for so doing. Thus, for instance, of oxen, they rejected the females, and also such of the males as were twins, or were speckled, or of a different colour, or alternately varied in their form, or which were now tamed, as having been already consecrated to labours, and resembled animals that are honoured, or which were the images of any thing [that is divine], or those that had but one eye, or those that verged to a similitude of the human form. There are also innumerable other observations pertaining to the art of those who are called mosxofragistai, or who stamp calves with a seal, and of which books have been composed. But these observations are still more curious respecting birds; as, for instance, that a turtle should not be eaten; for it is said that a hawk frequently dismisses this bird after he has seized it, and preserves its life, as a reward for having had connexion with it. The Egyptian priests, therefore, that they might not ignorantly meddle with a turtle of this kind, avoided the whole species of those birds. And these indeed were certain common religious ceremonies; but there were different ceremonies, which varied according to the class of the priests that used them, and were adapted to the several divinities. But chastity and purifications were common to all the priests. When also the time arrived in which they were to perform something pertaining to the sacred rites of religion, they spent some days in preparatory ceremonies, some indeed forty-two, but others a greater, and |118 others a less number of days; yet never less than seven days; and during this time they abstained from all animals, and likewise from all pot-herbs and leguminous substances, and, above all, from a venereal connexion with women; for they never at any time had connexion with males. They likewise washed themselves with cold water thrice every day; viz. when they rose from their bed, before dinner, and when they betook themselves to sleep. But if they happened to be polluted in their sleep by the emission of the seed, they immediately purified their body in a bath. They also used cold bathing at other times, but not so frequently as on the above occasion. Their bed was woven from the branches of the palm tree, which they call bais; and their bolster was a smooth semi-cylindric piece of wood. But they exercised themselves in the endurance of hunger and thirst, and were accustomed to paucity of food through the whole of their life.

8. This also is a testimony of their continence, that, though they neither exercised themselves in walking or riding, yet they lived free from disease, and were sufficiently strong for the endurance of modern labours. They bore therefore many burdens in the performance of sacred operations, and accomplished many ministrant works, which required more than common strength. But they divided the night into the observation of the celestial bodies, and sometimes devoted a part of it to offices of purification; and they distributed the day into the worship of the Gods, according to which they celebrated them with hymns thrice or four times, viz. in the morning and evening, when the sun is at his meridian altitude, and when he is declining to the west. The rest of their time they devoted to arithmetical and geometrical speculations, always labouring to effect something, and to make some new discovery, and, in short, continually exercising their skill. In winter nights also they were occupied in the same employments, being vigilantly engaged in literary pursuits, as paying no attention to the acquisition of externals, and being liberated from the servitude of that bad master, excessive expense. Hence their unwearied and incessant labour testifies their endurance, but their continence is manifested by their liberation from the desire of external good. To sail from Egypt likewise, [i.e. to quit Egypt,] was considered by them to be one of the most unholy things, in consequence of their being careful to avoid foreign luxury and pursuits; for this appeared to them to be alone lawful to those who were compelled to do so by regal necessities. Indeed, they were very anxious to continue in the observance of the institutes of their country, and those who were found to have violated them, though but in a small degree were expelled [from the college of the priests]. The |119 true method of philosophizing, likewise, was preserved by the prophets, by the hierostolistae 9, and the sacred scribes, and also by the horologi, or calculators of nativities. But the rest of the priests, and of the pastophori 10, curators of temples, and ministers of the Gods, were similarly studious of purity, yet not so accurately, and with such great continence, as the priests of whom we have been speaking. And such are the particulars which are narrated of the Egyptians, by a man who was a lover of truth, and an accurate writer, and who among the Stoics strenuously and solidly philosophized.

9. But the Egyptian priests, through the proficiency which they made by this exercise, and similitude to divinity, knew that divinity does not pervade through man alone, and that soul is not enshrined in man alone on the earth, but that it nearly passes through all animals. On this account, in fashioning the images of the Gods, they assumed every animal, and for this purpose mixed together the human form and the forms of wild beasts, and again the bodies of birds with the body of a man. For a certain deity was represented by them in a human shape as far as to the neck, but the face was that of a bird, or a lion, or of some other animal. And again, another divine resemblance had a human head, but the other parts were those of certain other animals, some of which had an inferior, but others a superior position; through which they manifested, that these [i.e. brutes and men], through the decision of the Gods, communicated with each other, and that tame and savage animals are nurtured together with us, not without the concurrence of a certain divine will. Hence also, a lion is worshipped as a God, and a certain part of Egypt, which is called Nomos, has the surname of Leontopolis [or the city of the lion], and another is denominated Busiris [from an ox], and another Lycopolis [or the city of the wolf]. For they venerated the power of God which extends to all things through animals which are nurtured together, and which each of the Gods imparts. They also reverenced water and fire the most of all the elements, as being the principal causes of our safety. And these things are exhibited by them in temples; for even now, on opening the sanctuary of Serapis, the worship is performed through fire and water; he who sings the hymns making a libation with water, and exhibiting fire, when, standing on the |120 threshold of the temple, he invokes the God in the language of the Egyptians. Venerating, therefore, these elements, they especially reverence those things which largely participate of them, as partaking more abundantly of what is sacred. But after these, they venerate all animals, and in the village Anubis they worship a man, in which place also they sacrifice to him, and victims are there burnt in honour of him on an altar; but he shortly after only eats that which was procured for him as a man. Hence, as it is requisite to abstain from man, so likewise, from other animals. And farther still, the Egyptian priests, from their transcendent wisdom and association with divinity, discovered what animals are more acceptable to the Gods [when dedicated to them] than man. Thus they found that a hawk is dear to the sun, since the whole of its nature consists of blood and spirit. It also commiserates man, and laments over his dead body, and scatters earth on his eyes, in which these priests believe a solar light is resident. They likewise discovered that a hawk lives many years, and that, after it leaves the present life, it possesses a divining power, is most rational and prescient when liberated from the body, and gives perfection to statues, and moves temples. A beetle will be detested by one who is ignorant of and unskilled in divine concerns, but the Egyptians venerate it, as an animated image of the sun. For every beetle is a male, and emitting its genital seed in a muddy place, and having made it spherical, it turns round the seminal sphere in a way similar to that of the sun in the heavens. It likewise receives a period of twenty-eight days, which is a lunar period. In a similar manner, the Egyptians philosophise about the ram, the crocodile, the vulture, and the ibis, and, in short, about every animal; so that, from their wisdom and transcendent knowledge of divine concerns, they came at length to venerate all animals 11. An unlearned man, however, does not even suspect that they, not being borne along with the stream of the vulgar who know nothing, and not walking in the path of ignorance, but passing beyond the illiterate multitude, and that want of knowledge which befalls every one at first, were led to reverence things which are thought by the vulgar to be of no worth.

10. This also, no less than the above-mentioned particulars, induced them to believe, that animals should be reverenced [as images of the Gods], viz. that the soul of every animal, when liberated from the body, was discovered by them to be rational, to be prescient of futurity, to possess an oracular power, and to be effective of every thing which man |121 is capable of accomplishing when separated from the body. Hence they very properly honoured them, and abstained from them as much as possible. Since, however, the cause through which the Egyptians venerated the Gods through animals requires a copious discussion, and which would exceed the limits of the present treatise, what has been unfolded respecting this particular is sufficient for our purpose. Nevertheless, this is not to be omitted, that the Egyptians, when they buried those that were of noble birth, privately took away the belly and placed it in a chest, and together with other things which they performed for the sake of the dead body, they elevated the chest towards the sun, whom they invoked as a witness; an oration for the deceased being at the same time made by one of those to whose care the funeral was committed. But the oration which Euphantus 12 has interpreted from the Egyptian tongue was as follows: "O Sovereign Sun, and all ye Gods who impart life to men, receive me, and deliver me to the eternal Gods as a cohabitant. For I have always piously worshipped those divinities which were pointed out to me by my parents as long as I lived in this age, and have likewise always honoured those who procreated my body. And, with respect to other men, I have never slain any one, nor defrauded any one of what he deposited with me, nor have I committed any other atrocious deed. If, therefore, during my life I have acted erroneously, by eating or drinking things which it is unlawful to eat or drink, I have not erred through myself, but through these," pointing to the chest in which the belly was contained. And having thus spoken, he threw the chest into the river [Nile]; but buried the rest of the body as being pure. After this manner, they thought an apology ought to be made to divinity for what they had eaten and drank, and for the insolent conduct which they had been led to through the belly.

11. But among those who are known by us, the Jews, before they first suffered the subversion of their legal institutes under Antiochus, and afterwards under the Romans, when also the temple in Jerusalem was captured, and became accessible to all men to whom, prior to this event, it was inaccessible, and the city itself was destroyed; - before this took place, the Jews always abstained from many animals, but peculiarly, which they even now do, from swine. At that period, therefore, there were three kinds of philosophers among them. And of one kind, |122 indeed, the Pharisees were the leaders, but of another, the Sadducees, and of the third, which appears to have been the most venerable, the Essenes. The mode of life, therefore, of these third was as follows, as Josephus frequently testifies in many of his writings. For in the second book of his Judaic History, which he has completed in seven books, and in the eighteenth of his Antiquities, which consists of twenty books, and likewise in the second of the two books which he wrote against the Greeks, he speaks of these Essenes, and says, that they are of the race of the Jews, and are in a greater degree than others friendly to one another. They are averse to pleasures, conceiving them to be vicious, but they are of opinion that continence and the not yielding to the passions, constitute virtue. And they despise, indeed, wedlock, but receiving the children of other persons, and instructing them in disciplines while they are yet of a tender age, they consider them as their kindred, and form them to their own manners. And they act in this manner, not for the purpose of subverting marriage, and the succession arising from it, but in order to avoid the lasciviousness of women. They are likewise, despisers of wealth, and the participation of external possessions among them in common is wonderful; nor is any one to be found among them who is richer than the rest. For it is a law with them, that those who wish to belong to their sect, must give up their property to it in common; so that among all of them, there is not to be seen either the abjectness of poverty, or the insolence of wealth; but the possessions of each being mingled with those of the rest, there was one property with all of them, as if they had been brothers. They likewise conceived oil to be a stain to the body, and that if any one, though unwillingly, was anointed, he should [immediately] wipe his body. For it was considered by them as beautiful to be squalid 13, and to be always clothed in white garments. But curators of the common property were elected by votes, indistinctly for the use of all. They have not, however, one city, but in each city many of them dwell together, and those who come among them from other places, if they are of their sect, equally partake with them of their possessions, as if they were their own. Those, likewise, who first perceive these strangers, behave to them as if they were their intimate acquaintance. Hence, when they travel, they take nothing with them for the sake of expenditure. But they neither |123 change their garments nor their shoes, till they are entirely torn, or destroyed by time. They neither buy nor sell anything, but each of them giving what he possesses to him that is in want, receives in return for it what will be useful to him. Nevertheless, each of them freely imparts to others of their sect what they may be in want of, without any remuneration.

12. Moreover, they are peculiarly pious to divinity. For before the sun rises they speak nothing profane, but they pour forth certain prayers to him which they had received from their ancestors, as if beseeching him to rise. Afterwards, they are sent by their curators to the exercise of the several arts in which they are skilled, and having till the fifth hour strenuously laboured in these arts, they are afterwards collected together in one place; and there, being begirt with linen teguments, they wash their bodies with cold water. After this purification, they enter into their own proper habitation, into which no heterodox person is permitted to enter. But they being pure, betake themselves to the dining room, as into a certain sacred fane. In this place, when all of them are seated in silence, the baker places the bread in order, and the cook distributes to each of them one vessel containing one kind of eatables. Prior, however, to their taking the food which is pure and sacred, a priest prays, and it is unlawful for any one prior to the prayer to taste of the food. After dinner, likewise, the priest again prays; so that both when they begin, and when they cease to eat, they venerate divinity. Afterwards, divesting themselves of these garments as sacred, they again betake themselves to their work till the evening; and, returning from thence, they eat and drink in the same manner as before, strangers sitting with them, if they should happen at that time to be present. No clamour or tumult ever defiles the house in which they dwell; but their conversation with each other is performed in an orderly manner; and to those that are out of the house, the silence of those within it appears as if it was some terrific mystery. The cause, however, of this quietness is their constant sobriety, and that with them their meat and drink is measured by what is sufficient [to the wants of nature]. But those who are very desirous of belonging to their sect, are not immediately admitted into it, but they must remain out of it for a year, adopting the same diet, the Essenes giving them a rake, a girdle, and a white garment. And if, during that time, they have given a sufficient proof of their continence, they proceed to a still greater conformity to the institutes of the sect, and use purer water for the purpose of sanctity; though they are not yet permitted to live with the Essenes. For after this exhibition of endurance, their manners are tried for two years more, and he who |124 after this period appears to deserve to associate with them, is admitted into their society.

13. Before, however, he who is admitted touches his common food, he takes a terrible oath, in the first place, that he will piously worship divinity; in the next place, that he will preserve justice towards men, and that he will neither designedly, nor when commanded, injure any one; in the third place; that he will always hate the unjust, but strenuously assist the just; and in the fourth place, that he will act faithfully towards all men, but especially towards the rulers of the land, since no one becomes a ruler without the permission of God; in the fifth place, that if he should be a ruler, he will never employ his power to insolently iniquitous purposes, nor will surpass those that are in subjection to him in his dress, or any other more splendid ornament; in the sixth place, that he will always love the truth, and be hostile to liars; in the seventh place, that he will preserve his hands from theft, and his soul pure from unholy gain 14; and, in the eighth place, that he will conceal nothing from those of his sect, nor divulge any thing to others pertaining to the sect, though some one, in order to compel him, should threaten him with death. In addition to these things, also, they swear, that they will not impart the dogmas of the sect to any one in any other way than that in which they received them; that they will likewise abstain from robbery 15, and preserve the books of their sect with the same care as the names of the angels. Such, therefore, are their oaths. But those among them that act criminally, and are ejected, perish by an evil destiny. For, being bound by their oaths and their customs, they are not capable of receiving food from others; but feeding on herbs, and having their body emaciated by hunger, they perish. Hence the Essenes, commiserating many of these unfortunate men, receive them in their last extremities into their society, thinking that they have suffered sufficiently for their offences in having been punished for them till they were on the brink of the grave. But they give a rake to those who intend to belong to their sect, in order that, when they sit for the purpose of exonerating the belly, they make a trench a foot in depth, and completely cover themselves by their garment, in order that they |125 may not act contumeliously towards the sun by polluting the rays of the God. And so great, indeed, is their simplicity and frugality with respect to diet, that they do not require evacuation till the seventh day after the assumption of food, which day they spend in singing hymns to God, and in resting from labour. But from this exercise they acquire the power of such great endurance, that even when tortured and burnt, and suffering every kind of excruciating pain, they cannot be induced either to blaspheme their legislator, or to eat what they have not been accustomed to. And the truth of this was demonstrated in their war with the Romans. For then they neither flattered their tormentors, nor shed any tears, but smiled in the midst of their torments, and derided those that inflicted them, and cheerfully emitted their souls, as knowing that they should possess them again. For this opinion was firmly established among them, that their bodies were indeed corruptible, and that the matter of which they consisted was not stable, but that their souls were immortal, and would endure for ever, and that, proceeding from the most subtle ether, they were drawn down by a natural flux, and complicated with bodies; but that, when they are no longer detained by the bonds of the flesh, then, as if liberated from a long slavery, they will rejoice, and ascend to the celestial regions. But from this mode of living, and from being thus exercised in truth and piety, there were many among them, as it is reasonable to suppose there would be, who had aforeknowledge of future events, as being conversant from their youth with sacred books, different purifications, and the declarations of the prophets. And such is the order [or sect] of the Essenes among the Jews.

14. All of them, however, were forbidden to eat the flesh of swine, or fish without scales, which the Greeks call cartilaginous; or to eat any animal that has solid hoofs. They were likewise forbidden not only to refrain from eating, but also from killing animals that fled to their houses as supplicants. Nor did the legislator permit them to slay such animals as were parents together with their young; but ordered them to spare, even in a hostile land, and not put to death brutes that assist us in our labours. Nor was the legislator afraid that the race of animals which are not sacrificed, would, through being spared from slaughter, be so increased in multitude as to produce famine among men; for he knew, in the first place, that multiparous animals live but for a short time; and in the next place, that many of them perish, unless attention is paid to them by men. Moreover, he likewise knew that other animals would attack those that increased excessively; of which this is an indication, that we abstain from many animals, such as lizards, worms, |126 flies, serpents, and dogs, and yet, at the same time, we are not afraid of perishing through hunger by abstaining from them, though their increase is abundant. And in the next place, it is not the same thing to eat and to slay an animal. For we destroy many of the above-mentioned animals, but we do not eat any of them.

15. Farther still, it is likewise related that the Syrians formerly abstained from animals, and, on this account, did not sacrifice them to the Gods; but that afterwards they sacrificed them, for the purpose of averting certain evils; yet they did not at all admit of a fleshly diet. In process of time, however, as Neanthes the Cyzicenean and Asclepiades the Cyprian say, about the era of Pygmalion, who was by birth a Phoenician, but reigned over the Cyprians, the eating of flesh was admitted, from an illegality of the following kind, which Asclepiades, in his treatise concerning Cyprus and Phoenicia, relates as follows:--In the first place, they did not sacrifice anything animated to the Gods; but neither was there any law pertaining to a thing of this kind, because it was prohibited by natural law. They are said, however, on a certain occasion, in which one soul was required for another, to have, for the first time, sacrificed a victim; and this taking place, the whole of the victim was then consumed by fire. But afterwards, when the victim was burnt, a portion of the flesh fell on the earth, which was taken by the priest, who, in so doing, having burnt his fingers, involuntarily moved them to his mouth, as a remedy for the pain which the burning produced. Having, therefore, thus tasted of the roasted flesh, he also desired to eat abundantly of it, and could not refrain from giving some of it to his wife. Pygmalion, however, becoming acquainted with this circumstance, ordered both the priest and his wife to be hurled headlong from a steep rock, and gave the priesthood to another person, who not long after performing the same sacrifice and eating the flesh of the victim, fell into the same calamities as his predecessor. The thing, however, proceeding still farther, and men using the same kind of sacrifice, and through yielding to desire, not abstaining from, but feeding on flesh, the deed was no longer punished. Nevertheless abstinence from fish continued among the Syrians till the time of Menander: for he says:

The Syrians for example take, since these
When by intemperance led of fish they eat,
Swoln in their belly and their feet become.
With sack then cover'd, in the public way
They on a dunghill sit, that by their lowly state,
The Goddess may, appeas'd, the crime forgive.   |127

16. Among the Persians, indeed, those who are wise in divine concerns, and worship divinity, are called Magi; for this is the signification of Magus, in the Persian tongue. But so great and so venerable are these men thought to be by the Persians, that Darius, the son of Hystaspes, had among other things this engraved on his tomb, that he had been the master of the Magi. They are likewise divided into three genera, as we are informed by Eubulus, who wrote the history of Mithra, in a treatise consisting of many books. In this work he says, that the first and most learned class of the Magi neither eat nor slay any thing animated, but adhere to the ancient abstinence from animals. The second class use some animals indeed [for food], but do not slay any that are tame. Nor do those of the third class, similarly with other men, lay their hands on all animals. For the dogma with all of them which ranks as the first is this, that there is a transmigration of souls; and this they also appear to indicate in the mysteries of Mithra. For in these mysteries, obscurely signifying our having something in common with brutes, they are accustomed to call us by the names of different animals. Thus they denominate the males who participate in the same mysteries lions, but the females lionesses, and those who are ministrant to these rites crows. With respect to their fathers also, they adopt the same mode. For these are denominated by them eagles and hawks. And he who is initiated in the Leontic mysteries, is invested with all-various forms of animals 16; of which particulars, Pallas, in his treatise concerning Mithra, assigning the cause, says, that it is the common opinion that these things are to be referred to the circle of the zodiac, but that truly and accurately speaking, they obscurely signify some thing pertaining to human souls, which, according to the Persians, are invested with bodies of all-various forms. For the Latins also, says Eubulus, call some men, in their tongue, boars and scorpions, lizards, and blackbirds. After the same manner likewise the Persians denominate the Gods the demiurgic causes of these: for they call Diana a she-wolf; but the sun, a bull, a lion, a |128 dragon, and a hawk; and Hecate, a horse, a bull, a lioness, and a dog. But most theologists say that the name of Proserpine (της φερεφαττης) is derived from nourishing a ringdove, (παρα το φερβειν την φατταν) for the ringdove is sacred to this Goddess. Hence, also the priests of Maia dedicate to her a ringdove. And Maia is the same with Proserpine, as being obstetric, and a nurse 17. For this Goddess is terrestrial, and so likewise is Ceres. To this Goddess, also a cock is consecrated; and on this account those that are initiated in her mysteries abstain from domestic birds. In the Eleusinian mysteries, likewise, the initiated are ordered to abstain from domestic birds, from fishes and beans, pomegranates and apples; which fruits are as equally defiling to the touch, as a woman recently delivered, and a dead body. But whoever is acquainted with the nature of divinely-luminous appearances knows also on what account it is requisite to abstain from all birds, and especially for him who hastens to be liberated from terrestrial concerns, and to be established with the celestial Gods. Vice, however, as we have frequently said, is sufficiently able to patronize itself, and especially when it pleads its cause among the ignorant. Hence, among those that are moderately vicious, some think that a dehortation of this kind is vain babbling, and, according to the proverb, the nugacity of old women; and others are of opinion that it is superstition. But those who have made greater advances in improbity, are prepared, not only to blaspheme those who exhort to, and demonstrate the propriety of this abstinence, but calumniate purity itself as enchantment and pride. They, however, suffering the punishment of their sins, both from Gods and men, are, in the first place, sufficiently punished by a disposition [i.e. by a depravity] of this kind. We shall, therefore, still farther make mention of another foreign nation, renowned and just, and believed to be pious in divine concerns, and then pass on to other particulars.  |129

17. For the polity of the Indians being distributed into many parts, there is one tribe among them of men divinely wise, whom the Greeks are accustomed to call Gymnosophists 18. But of these there are two sects, over one of which the Bramins preside, but over the other the Samanaeans. The race of the Bramins, however, receive divine wisdom of this kind by succession, in the same manner as the priesthood. But the Samanaeans are elected, and consist of those who wish to possess divine knowledge. And the particulars respecting them are the following, as the Babylonian Bardesanes 19 narrates, who lived in the times of our fathers, and was familiar with those Indians who, together with Damadamis, were sent to Caesar. All the Bramins originate from one stock; for all of them are derived from one father and one mother. But the Samanaeans are not the offspring of one family, being, as we have said, collected from every nation of Indians. A Bramin, however, is not a subject of any government, nor does he contribute any thing together with others to government. And with respect to those that are philosophers, among these some dwell on mountains, and others about the river Ganges. And those that live on mountains feed on autumnal fruits, and on cows' milk coagulated with herbs. But those that reside near the Ganges, live also on autumnal fruits, which are produced in abundance about that river. The land likewise nearly always bears new fruit, together with much rice, which grows spontaneously, and which they use when there is a deficiency of autumnal fruits. But to taste of any other nutriment, or, in short, to touch animal food, is considered by them as equivalent to extreme impurity and impiety. And this is one of their dogmas. They also worship divinity with piety and purity. They spend the day, and the greater part of the night, in hymns and prayers to the Gods; each of them having a cottage to himself, and living, as much as possible, alone. For the Bramins cannot endure to remain with others, nor to speak much; but when this happens to take place, they afterwards withdraw themselves, and do not speak for many days. They likewise frequently fast. But the Samanaeans are, as we have said, elected. When, however, any one is desirous of being enrolled in their order, he proceeds to the rulers of the city; but abandons the city or village that he inhabited, and the wealth and all the other property |130 that he possessed. Having likewise the superfluities of his body cut off, he receives a garment, and departs to the Samanaeans, but does not return either to his wife or children, if he happens to have any, nor does he pay any attention to them, or think that they at all pertain to him. And, with respect to his children indeed, the king provides what is necessary for them, and the relatives provide for the wife. And such is the life of the Samanaeans. But they live out of the city, and spend the whole day in conversation pertaining to divinity. They have also houses and temples, built by the king, in which they are stewards, who receive a certain emolument from the king, for the purpose of supplying those that dwell in them with nutriment. But their food consists of rice, bread, autumnal fruits, and pot-herbs. And when they enter into their house, the sound of a bell being the signal of their entrance, those that are not Samanaeans depart from it, and the Samanaeans begin immediately to pray. But having prayed, again, on the bell sounding as a signal, the servants give to each Samanaean a platter, (for two of them do not eat out of the same dish,) and feed them with rice. And to him who is in want of a variety of food, a pot-herb is added, or some autumnal fruit. But having eaten as much as is requisite, without any delay they proceed to their accustomed employments. All of them likewise are unmarried, and have no possessions: and so much are both these and the Bramins venerated by the other Indians, that the king also visits them, and requests them to pray to and supplicate the Gods, when any calamity befalls the country, or to advise him how to act.

18. But they are so disposed with respect to death, that they unwillingly endure the whole time of the present life, as a certain servitude to nature, and therefore they hasten to liberate their souls from the bodies [with which they are connected]. Hence, frequently, when they are seen to be well, and are neither oppressed, nor driven to desperation by any evil, they depart from life. And though they previously announce to others that it is their intention to commit suicide, yet no one impedes them; but, proclaiming all those to be happy who thus quit the present life, they enjoin certain things to the domestics and kindred of the dead: so stable and true do they, and also the multitude, believe the assertion to be, that souls [in another life] associate with each other. But as soon as those to whom they have proclaimed that this is their intention, have heard the mandates given to them, they deliver the body to fire, in order that they may separate the soul from the body in the purest manner, and thus they die celebrated by all the Samanaeans. For these men dismiss their dearest friends to death more easily than others part with their fellow-citizens when going the longest journeys. And they lament |131 themselves, indeed, as still continuing in life; but they proclaim those that are dead to be blessed, in consequence of having now obtained an immortal allotment. Nor is there any sophist, such as there is now amongst the Greeks, either among these Samanaeans, or the above-mentioned Bramins, who would be seen to doubt and to say, if all men should imitate you [i.e. should imitate those Samanaeans who commit suicide] what would become of us? Nor through these are human affairs confused. For neither do all men imitate them, and those who have, may be said to have been rather the causes of equitable legislation, than of confusion to the different nations of men. Moreover, the law did not compel the Samanaeans and Bramins to eat animal food, but, permitting others to feed on flesh, it suffered these to be a law to themselves, and venerated them as being superior to law. Nor did the law subject these men to the punishment which it inflicts, as if they were the primary perpetrators of injustice, but it reserved this for others. Hence, to those who ask, what would be the consequence if all men imitated such characters as these, the saying of Pythagoras must be the answer; that if all men were kings, the passage through life would be difficult, yet regal government is not on this account to be avoided. And [we likewise say] that if all men were worthy, no administration of a polity would be found in which the dignity that probity merits would be preserved. Nevertheless, no one would be so insane as not to think that all men should earnestly endeavour to become worthy characters. Indeed, the law grants to the vulgar many other things [besides a fleshly diet], which, nevertheless, it does not grant to a philosopher, nor even to one who conducts the affairs of government in a proper manner. For it does not receive every artist into the administration, though it does not forbid the exercise of any art, nor yet men of every pursuit. But it excludes those who are occupied in vile and illiberal arts,20 and, in short, all those who are destitute of justice and the other virtues, from having any thing to do with the management of public affairs. Thus, likewise, the law does not forbid the vulgar from associating with harlots, on whom at the same time it imposes a fine; but thinks that it is disgraceful and base for men that are moderately good to have any connexion with them. Moreover, the law does not prohibit a man from spending the whole of his life in a tavern, yet at the same time this is most disgraceful even to a man of moderate worth. It appears, therefore, that the same thing must also be said with respect to diet. For that which is permitted |132 to the multitude, must not likewise be granted to the best of men. For the man who is a philosopher, should especially ordain for himself those sacred laws which the Gods, and men who are followers of the Gods, have instituted. But the sacred laws of nations and cities appear to have ordained for sacred men purity, and to have interdicted them animal food. They have also forbidden the multitude to eat certain animals, either from motives of piety, or on account of some injury which would be produced by the food. So that it is requisite either to imitate priests, or to be obedient to the mandates of all legislators; but, in either way, he who is perfectly legal and pious ought to abstain from all animals. For if some who are only partially pious abstain from certain animals, he who is in every respect pious will abstain from all animals.

19. I had almost, however, forgotten to adduce what is said by Euripides, who asserts, that the prophets of Jupiter in Crete abstained from animals. But what is said by the chorus to Minos on this subject, is as follows:

Sprung from Phoenicia's royal line,
Son of Europa, nymph divine,
And mighty Jove, thy envy'd reign
O'er Crete extending, whose domain
Is with a hundred cities crown'd
I leave yon consecrated ground,
Yon fane, whose beams the artist's toil
With cypress, rooted from the soil,
Hath fashion'd. In the mystic rites
Initiated, life's best delights
I place in chastity alone,
Midst Night's dread orgies wont to rove,
The priest of Zagreus 21 and of Jove;
Feasts of crude flesh I now decline,
And wave aloof the blazing pine
To Cybele, nor fear to claim
Her own Curete's hallow'd name; |133 
Clad in a snowy vest I fly
Far from the throes of pregnancy,
Never amidst the tombs intrude,
And slay no animal for food.

20. For holy men were of opinion that purity consisted in a thing not being mingled with its contrary, and that mixture is defilement. Hence, they thought that nutriment should be assumed from fruits, and not from dead bodies, and that we should not, by introducing that which is animated to our nature, defile what is administered by nature. But they conceived, that the slaughter of animals, as they are sensitive, and the depriving them of their souls, is a defilement to the living; and that the pollution is much greater, to mingle a body which was once sensitive, but is now deprived of sense, with a sensitive and living being. Hence, universally, the purity pertaining to piety consists in rejecting and abstaining from many things, and in an abandonment of such as are of a contrary nature, and the assumption of such as are appropriate and concordant. On this account, venereal connexions are attended with defilement. For in these, a conjunction takes place of the female with the male; and the seed, when retained by the woman, and causing her to be pregnant, defiles the soul, through its association with the body; but when it does not produce conception, it pollutes, in consequence of becoming a lifeless mass. The connexion also of males with males defiles, because it is an emission of seed as it were into a dead body, and because it is contrary to nature. And, in short, all venery, and emissions of the seed in sleep, pollute, because the soul becomes mingled with the body, and is drawn down to pleasure. The passions of the soul likewise defile, through the complication of the irrational and effeminate part with reason, the internal masculine part. For, in a certain respect, defilement and pollution manifest the mixture of things of an heterogeneous nature, and especially when the abstersion of this mixture is attended with difficulty. Whence, also, in tinctures which are produced through mixture, one species being complicated with another, this mixture is denominated a defilement.

As when some woman with a lively red

Stains the pure iv'ry ---

says Homer 22. And again painters call the mixtures of colours, |134 corruptions. It is usual, likewise to denominate that which is unmingled and pure, incorruptible, and to call that which is genuine, unpolluted. For water, when mingled with earth, is corrupted, and is not genuine. But water, which is diffluent, and runs with tumultuous rapidity, leaves behind in its course the earth which it carries in its stream.

When from a limpid and perennial fount 
It defluous runs ---

as Hesiod says 23. For such water is salubrious, because it is uncorrupted and unmixed. The female, likewise, that does not receive into herself the exhalation of seed, is said to be uncorrupted. So that the mixture of contraries is corruption and defilement. For the mixture of dead with living bodies, and the insertion of beings that were once living and sentient into animals, and of dead into living flesh, may be reasonably supposed to introduce defilement and stains to our nature; just, again, as the soul is polluted when it is invested with the body. Hence, he who is born, is polluted by the mixture of his soul with body; and he who dies, defiles his body, through leaving it a corpse, different and foreign from that which possesses life. The soul, likewise, is polluted by anger and desire, and the multitude of passions of which in a certain respect diet is a co-operating cause. But as water which flows through a rock is more uncorrupted than that which runs through marshes, because it does not bring with it much mud; thus, also, the soul which administers its own affairs in a body that is dry, and is not moistened by the juices of foreign flesh, is in a more excellent condition, is more uncorrupted, and is more prompt for intellectual energy. Thus too, it is said, that the thyme which is the driest and the sharpest to the taste, affords the best honey to bees. The dianoetic, therefore, or discursive power of the soul, is polluted; or rather, he who energizes dianoetically, when this energy is mingled with the energies of either the imaginative or doxastic power. But purification consists in a separation from all these, and the wisdom which is adapted to divine concerns, is a desertion of every thing of this kind. The proper nutriment likewise, of each thing, is that which essentially preserves it. Thus you may say, that the nutriment of a stone is the cause of its continuing to be a stone, and of firmly remaining in a lapideous form; but the nutriment of a plant is that which preserves it in increase and fructification; and of an animated body, that which preserves its composition. It is one thing, however, |135 to nourish, and another to fatten; and one thing to impart what is necessary, and another to procure what is luxurious. Various, therefore, are the kinds of nutriment, and various also is the nature of the things that are nourished. And it is necessary, indeed, that all things should be nourished, but we should earnestly endeavour to fatten our most principal parts. Hence, the nutriment of the rational soul is that which preserves it in a rational state. But this is intellect; so that it is to be nourished by intellect; and we should earnestly endeavour that it may be fattened through this, rather than that the flesh may become pinguid through esculent substances. For intellect preserves for us eternal life, but the body when fattened causes the soul to be famished, through its hunger after a blessed life not being satisfied, increases our mortal part, since it is of itself insane, and impedes our attainment of an immortal condition of being. It likewise defiles by corporifying the soul, and drawing her down to that which is foreign to her nature. And the magnet, indeed, imparts, as it were, a soul to the iron which is placed near it; and the iron, though most heavy, is elevated, and runs to the spirit of the stone. Should he, therefore, who is suspended from incorporeal and intellectual deity, be anxiously busied in procuring food which fattens the body, that is an impediment to intellectual perception? Ought he not rather, by contracting hat is necessary to the flesh into that which is little and easily procured, he himself nourished, by adhering to God more closely than the iron to the magnet? I wish, indeed, that our nature was not so corruptible, and that it were possible we could live free from molestation, even without the nutriment derived from fruits. O that, as Homer 24 says, we were not in want either of meat or drink, that we might be truly immortal! --- the poet in thus speaking beautifully signifying, that food is the auxiliary not only of life, but also of death. If therefore, we were not in want even of vegetable aliment, we should be by so much the more blessed, in proportion as we should be more immortal. But now, being in a mortal condition, we render ourselves, if it be proper so to speak, still more mortal, through becoming ignorant that, by the addition of this mortality, the soul, as Theophrastus says, does not only confer a great benefit on the body by being its inhabitant, but gives herself wholly to it. 25 Hence, it is much |136 to be wished that we could easily obtain the life celebrated in fables, in which hunger and thirst are unknown; so that, by stopping the everyway-flowing river of the body, we might in a very little time be present with the most excellent natures, to which he who accedes, since deity is there, is himself a God. But how is it possible not to lament the condition of the generality of mankind, who are so involved in darkness as to cherish their own evil, and who, in the first place, hate themselves, and him who truly begot them, and afterwards, those who admonish them, and call on them to return from ebriety to a sober condition of being? Hence, dismissing things of this kind, will it not be requisite to pass on to what remains to be discussed?

21. Those then who oppose the Nomades, or Troglodytae 26, or Ichthyophagi, to the legal institutes of the nations which we have adduced, are ignorant that these people were brought to the necessity of eating animals through the infecundity of the region they inhabit, which is so barren, that it does not even produce herbs, but only shores and sands. And this necessity is indicated by their not being able to make use of fire, through the want of combustible materials; but they dry their fish on rocks, or on the shore. And these indeed live after this manner from necessity. There are, however, certain nations whose manners are rustic, and who are naturally savage; but it is not fit that those who are equitable judges should, from such instances as these, calumniate human nature: For thus we should not only be dubious whether it is proper to eat animals, but also, whether we may not eat men, and adopt all other savage manners. It is related, therefore, that the Massagetas and the Derbices consider those of their kindred to be most miserable who die spontaneously. Hence, preventing their dearest friends from dying naturally, they slay them when they are old, and eat them. The Tibareni hurl from rocks their nearest relatives, even while living, when they are old. And with respect to the Hyrcani and Caspii, the one exposed the living, but the other the dead, to be devoured by birds and dogs. But the Scythians bury the living with the dead, and cut their throats on the pyres of the dead by whom they were especially beloved. The Bactrii likewise cast those among them that are old, even while living, to the dogs. And Stasanor, who was one of Alexander's prefects, nearly lost his government through endeavouring to destroy this custom. As, however, we do not on account of these examples subvert mildness of conduct towards men, so neither should we imitate |137 those nations that feed on flesh through necessity, but we should rather imitate the pious, and those who consecrate themselves to the Gods. For Democrates 27 says, that to live badly, and not prudently, temperately, and piously, is not to live in reality,28 but to die for a long time.

22. It now remains that we should adduce a few examples of certain individuals, as testimonies in favour of abstinence from animal food. For the want of these was one of the accusations which were urged against us. We learn, therefore, that Triptolemus was the most ancient of the Athenian legislators; of whom Hermippus 29, in the second book of his treatise on Legislators, writes as follows: "It is said, that Triptolemus established laws for the Athenians. And the philosopher Xenocrates asserts, that three of his laws still remain in Eleusis, which are these, Honour your parents; Sacrifice to the Gods from the fruits of the earth; Injure not animals." Two of these, therefore, he says, are properly instituted. For it is necessary that we should as much as possible recompense our parents for the benefits which they have conferred on us; and that we should offer to the Gods the first-fruits of the things useful to our life, which they have imparted to us. But with respect to the third law, he is dubious as to the intention of Triptolemus, in ordering the Athenians to abstain from animals. Was it, says he, because he thought it was a dire thing to slay kindred natures, or because he perceived it would happen, that the most useful animals would be destroyed by men for food? Wishing, therefore to make our life as mild as possible, he endeavoured to preserve those animals that associate with men, and which are especially tame. Unless, indeed, because having ordained that men should honour the Gods by offering to them first-fruits, he therefore added this third law, conceiving that this mode of worship would continue for a longer time, if sacrifices through animals were not made to the Gods. But as many other causes, though not very accurate, of the promulgation of these laws, are assigned by Xenocrates, thus much from what has been said is sufficient for our |138 purpose, that abstinence from animals was one of the legal institutes of Triptolemus. Hence, those who afterwards violated this law, being compelled by great necessity, and involuntary errors, fell, as we have shown, into this custom of slaughtering and eating animals. The following, also, is mentioned as a law of Draco: "Let this be an eternal sacred law 30 to the inhabitants of Attica, and let its authority be predominant for ever; viz. that the Gods, and indigenous Heroes, be worshipped publicly, conformably to the laws of the country, delivered by our ancestors; and also, that they be worshipped privately, according to the ability of each individual, in conjunction with auspicious words, the firstlings of fruits, and annual cakes. So that this law ordains, that divinity should be venerated by the first offerings of fruit which are used by men, and cakes, made of the fine flour of wheat 31."

[Footnotes moved to the end and numbered]

1. * There were many celebrated men of this name among the ancients, concerning which vid. Fabric. Biblioth. Graec. L. HI. c. 11.

2. + These lines are from Hesiod. Oper. 116. See also endnote 2.  

3. * The medimnus was a measure containing six bushels.

4. * An Attic measure, containing six Attic pints.

5. + In the original και δηλου ως ταιυτῃ πολιτεια οικειον, το της αποχης της παντελους, ταις δε διεφθαρμεναις, το της βρωσευς. But the latter part of this sentence is evidently defective, though the defect is not noticed either by Valentinus, or Reisk, or Rhoer. It appears therefore to me, that της τρυφης is wanting; so that for το της βρωσεως, we should read το της τρυφης της βρωσεως. And my conjecture is justified by the version of Felicianus, which is "Huic autum abstinentiam, coeteris luxuriant victus fuisse peculiarem perspicuum est."

6. * Those who, in being initiated, closed the eyes, which muesis signifies, no longer (says Hermias in Phaedrum) received by sense those divine mysteries, but with the pure soul itself. See my Dissertation on the Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries.

7. * In the original, και πορους ανθρωπινους; but for πορους I read πονους, and Feicianus appears to have found the same reading in his manuscript; for his version is, "laboribusque humerus." neither Reisk, however, nor Rhoer, have at all noticed the word πορους as improper in this place.

8. + Much is related about the Egyptian priests by Herodotus, lib. ii. 37. With respect to Chaeremon, the decisions of the ancients concerning him are very discordant.

9. * i.e. Those to whose care the sacred vestments were committed.

10. + These were so denominated from carrying the little receptacles in which the images of the Gods were contained.

11. * See on this subject Plutarch's excellent treatise of Isis and Osiris.

12. * Fabricius is of opinion, that this Euphantus is the same with the Ecphantus mentioned by Iamblichus (in Vit. Pyth.) as one of the Pythagoreans. Vid. Fabric. Bibl. Graec. lib. ii. c. 13.

13. * This is not wonderful; for the Jews appear to have been always negligent of cleanliness. The intelligent reader will easily perceive that there is some similitude between these Essenes and the ancient Pythagoreans, but that the latter were infinitely superior to the former. See my translation of Iamblichus' Life of Pythagoras.

14. * This was a very necessary oath for these Essenes to take; as the Jews in general, if we may believe Tacitus and other ancient historians, were always a people immoderately addicted to gain.

15. + As the Essenes appear to have been an exception to the rest of the Jews, the reason is obvious why they took this oath.

16. * Similar to this was the garment with which Apuleius was invested after his initiation into the mysteries of Isis, and which he describes as follows:-"There [i.e. on a wooden throne] I sat conspicuous, in a garment which was indeed linen, but was elegantly painted. A precious cloak also depended from my shoulders behind my back, as far as to my heels. Nevertheless, to whatever part of me you directed your view, you might see that I was remarkable by the animals which were painted round my vestment, in various colours. Here were Indian dragons, there Hyperborean griffins, which the other hemisphere generates in the form of a winged animal. Men devoted to the service of divinity, call this cloak the Olympic garment." - See Book II. of my translation of the Metamorphosis of Apuleius.

17. * The first subsistence of Maia, who, according to the Orphic theology, is the same with the Goddess Night, is at the summit of the intelligible and at the same time intellectual order, and is wholly absorbed in the intelligible. As we are also informed by Proclus (in Cratylum), "She is the paradigm of Ceres. For immortal Night is the nurse of the Gods [according to Orpheus]. Night, however, is the cause of aliment intelligibly: for the intelligible is, as the Chaldean Oracle says, the aliment of the intellectual orders of Gods. But Ceres, first of all separates the two kinds of aliment [nectar and ambrosia] in the Gods." He adds, "Hence our sovereign mistress Ceres, not only generates life, but that which gives perfection to life; and this from supernal natures, to such as are last. For virtue is the perfection of souls."  [Note to the online edition: See also endnote 3]

18. * Concerning the Indian philosophers, see the second Book of Diodortus Siculus.

19. + This is the Bardesanes who lived in the time of Marcus Antoninus, and who wrote a treatise on the Lake of Probation in India, which is mentioned by Porphyry in his fragment de Styge, preserved by Stobaeus.

20. * βαναυσοι, i.e. dirty mechanists and bellows-blowers, an appellation by which Plato in his Rivals designates the experimentalists.

21. * Ζαγρευς (Zagreus) is an epithet of Bacchus. Wodhull, however, from whose translation of Euripides the above lines are taken, is greatly mistaken in saying, that "it is evident from the hymns of Orpheus that Zagreus was a name given to Bacchus at his sacred rites." For the word Zagreus is not to be found either in the hymns of Orpheus, or in any other of the Orphic writings that are extant.

22. * Iliad, IV. v. 141.

23. * Oper. et. Dies, 595

24. * Iliad, V. v. 341.

25. + In the original, ου πολυ το ενοικιον, ως φησι. που θεοφραστος, τῳ σωματι διδουσης της ψυχης, κ.τ.λ. But for ου πολυ το ενοικιον, it appears to me to be necessary to read, ου μονον πολυ το ενοικιον, κ.τ.λ.

26. * Vid. Diod. Sic. lib. iii 32

27. * Reisk says, that he does not know who this Democrates is; but there can, I think, be no doubt of its being the Pythagorean of that name, whose Golden Sentences are extant in the Opuscula Mythologica of Gale, of which see Mr. Bridgman's translation.

28. + In the original, ου κακως ζην ειναι. But for ου κακως, I read, ουκ οντως. For without this emendation, Democrates will contradict himself.

29.  This Hermippus is also cited by Diogenes Laertius in Pyth.

30. * In the original, θεσμος, which, as we are informed by Proclus, signifies divine order, and a uniform boundary.

31. + This book is evidently imperfect, because there are wanting at the end examples of illustrious Greeks and Romans, who, from the most remote antiquity, abstained from animal food. And this was also obvious to Reisk.

[Note to the online edition: These endnotes are referenced in the body of the translation by superscript 1, 2, 3.  I have located 2 and 3, and added a note to the relevant footnote rather than intrude an extra in the text.  I have not been able to find where endnote 1 is referenced. These endnotes cover pp.139-143 of the edition used.]


1. Though Porphyry excelled in all philosophical knowledge, whence also he was called κατ̓ εξοχην, the philosopher, yet he was inferior to his auditor Iamblichus, in theological information. On this account, Iamblichus was called by all the Platonists posterior to him, the divine, and the great priest. I shall present the reader, therefore, with an extract from my translation of his treatise On the Mysteries, which appears to me to be an admirable supplement to what Porphyry has said in this book, about sacrificing animals, and a satisfactory answer to the question whether they are to be sacrificed or not.

In Chap 14, therefore, of Sect. 5, he observes as follows: "We shall begin the elucidation of this subject in the best possible manner, if we demonstrate that the sacred law of sacrifices is connected with the order of the Gods. In the first place, therefore, we say "that of the Gods some are material, but others immaterial. And the immaterial indeed, are those that comprehend matter in themselves, and adorn it; but the immaterial are those that are perfectly exempt from, and transcend matter: but, according to true sacrific art, it is requisite to begin sacred operations from the material Gods; for the ascent to the immaterial Gods will not otherwise be effected. The material Gods, therefore, have a certain communication with matter, so far as they preside over it. Hence they have dominion over things which happen about matter, such as the division, percussion, repercussion, mutation, generation, and corruption of all material bodies. He, therefore, who wishes to worship these theurgically, in a manner adapted to them, and to the dominion which they are allotted, should, as they are material, employ, a material mode of worship. For thus we shall be wholly led to a familiarity with them, and worship them in an allied and appropriate manner. Dead bodies, therefore, and things deprived of life, the slaying of animals, and the consumption of victims, and, in short, the mutation of the matter which is offered, pertain to these Gods, not by themselves, but on account of the matter over which they preside. For though they are, in the most eminent degree, separate from it, yet, at the same time, they are present with it; and, though they comprehend matter in an immaterial power, yet they are co-existent with it. Things also that are governed, are not foreign from their governors; and things which are subservient as instruments, are not unadapted to those that use them. Hence it is foreign to the immaterial Gods, to offer matter to them through sacrifices, but this is most adapted to all the material Gods."

In the following chapter, Iamblichus observes, "that as there is a time when we become wholly soul, are out of the body, and sublimely revolve on high, in conjunction with all the immaterial Gods; so, likewise, there is a two-fold mode of worship, one of which is simple, incorporeal, and pure from all generation; and this mode pertains to undefiled souls; but the other is replete with every thing of a material nature, and is adapted to souls which are neither pure, nor liberated from all generation." He adds, "we must admit, therefore, that there are two-fold species of sacrifices; one kind, indeed, pertaining to men who are not entirely purified, which, as Heraclitus says, rarely happens to one man, or to a certain easily-to-be-numbered few of mankind; but the other kind being material, and consisting in mutation, is adapted to souls that are still detained by the body. Hence, to cities and people not yet liberated from sublunary fate, and the impending communion of bodies, if such a mode of sacrifice as this latter is not permitted, they will wander both from immaterial and material good. For they will not be able to receive the former, and to the latter they will not offer what is appropriate."

He further informs us, in Chap. 22, that though the summit of the sacrific art recurs to the most principal one of the whole multitude of Gods [i.e. to the ineffable cause of all,] and at one and the same time worships the many essences and principles that are [rooted and concentred] in it; yet this happens at the latest period, and to a very few, and that we must be satisfied, if it takes place, when the sun of life is setting. "But," says he, "our present discussion does not ordain laws for a man of this kind; for he is superior to all law; but it promulgates a law such as that of which we are now speaking, to those who are in want of a certain divine legislation." In the above passage, by "a man of this kind," Iamblichus most probably alludes to Plotinus, as both his works, and the life of him, written by Porphyry, show that he was a man capable of recurring to, and becoming united with the highest God, and thus at the same time worshipping all the divine powers that are rooted in him.

To what Iamblichus has thus excellently observed, may be added what the philosopher Sallust says in his golden treatise On the Gods and the World, viz. "that since life primarily subsists in the Gods, and there is also a certain human life, but the latter desires to be united to the former, a medium is required; for natures much distant from each other cannot be conjoined without a medium; and it is necessary that the medium should be similar to the connected natures. Life, therefore, must necessarily be the medium of life. Hence, men of the present day that are happy, and all the ancients, have sacrificed animals; and this, indeed, not rashly, but in a way accommodated to every God, with many other ceremonies respecting the cultivation of divinity." Let the truly intellectual and pious man, however, never forget that prayer, as Proclus divinely observes, possesses of itself a supernatural perfection and power.

2.  The different ages, however, of mankind, which are celebrated by Hesiod in his Works and Days, signify the different lives which the individuals of the human species pass through; and as Proclus on Hesiod beautifully observes, they may be comprehended in this triad, the golden, the silver and the brazen age. But by the golden age an intellectual life is implied. For such a life is pure, impassive, and free from sorrow; and of this impassivity and purity, gold is an image, through never being subject to rust or putrefaction. Such a life, too, is very properly said to be under Saturn, because Saturn is an intellectual God, or a God characterised by intellect. By the silver age, a rustic and natural life is implied, in which the attention of the rational soul is entirely directed to the care of the body, but without proceeding to extreme depravity. And by the brazen age, a dire, tyrannic and cruel life is implied, which is entirely passive, and proceeds to the very extremity of vice. The order, also, of these metals, harmonizes, as Proclus observes, with that of the lives. "For," says he, "gold is solar-form, because the sun is solely immaterial light. But silver is lunar-form, because the moon partakes of shadow, just as silver partakes of rust. And brass is earthly, so far as not having a nature similar to a lucid body; it is replete with abundance of corruption."

[Page 128] 3.  Proclus, however, in his Scholia on the Cratylus of Plato, gives a much more theological account of the derivation of the name of Proserpine, as follows:--- "Socrates now delivers these three vivific monads in a consequence order, viz. Ceres, Juno, Proserpine; calling the first the mother, the second the sister, and the third the daughter of the Demiurgus [Jupiter]. All of them, however, are partakers of the whole of fabrication; the first in an exempt manner, and intellectually; the second in a fontal manner; and, at the same time, in a way adapted to a principle (αρχικως); and the third in a manner adapted to a principle and a leader (αρχικως και ηγεμονικως).

Of these Goddesses the last is allotted triple powers, and impartibly and uniformly comprehends three monads of Gods. But she is called Core, through the purity of her essence, and her undefiled transcendency in her generations. She also possesses a first, middle, and last empire; and according to her summit, indeed, she is called Diana by Orpheus; but, according to her middle, Proserpine; and according to the extremity of the order, Minerva. Likewise, according to an essence transcending the other powers of this triple vivific order, the dominion of Hecate is established; but according to a middle power, and which is generative of wholes, that of soul; and, according to intellectual conversion, that of Virtue / Ceres, therefore, subsisting on high, and among the supermundane Gods, uniformly extends this triple order of divinities; and, together with Jupiter, generates Bacchus, who impartibly presides over partible fabrication. But beneath, in conjunction with Pluto, she is particularly beheld according to the middle characteristic: for it is this which, proceeding every where, imparts vivification to the last of things. Hence she is called Proserpine, because she especially associates with Pluto, and, together with him, distributes in an orderly manner the extremities of the universe. And, according to her extremities, indeed, she is said to be a virgin, and to remain undefiled; but, according to her middle, to be conjoined with hades, and to beget the furies in the subterranean regions. She, therefore, is also called Ceres, but after another manner than the supermundane and ruling Ceres. For the one is the connective unity of the three vivific principles; but the other is the middle of them, in herself possessing the peculiarities of the extremes. Hence, in the Proserpine conjoined with Pluto, you will find the peculiarities of Hecate and Minerva; but these extremes subsist in her occultly, while the peculiarity of the middle shines forth, and that which is characteristic of ruling soul, which in the supermundane Ceres was of a ruling b nature, but here subsists according to a mundane peculiarity."

Proclus further observes, "that Proserpine is denominated either through judging of forms, and separating them from each other, thus obscurely signifying the subversion of slaughter c, or through separating souls perfectly from bodies, through a conversion to things on high, which is the most fortunate slaughter and death to such as are worthy of it (ἥ δια το χωριζειν τας ψυχας τελεως εκ των σωματων δια της προς τα ανω επιστροφες, οπερ εστιν ευτυχεστατος φονος και θανατος τοις αξιουμενοις ταυτου.) But the name Pherephatta is adapted to Proserpine, according to a contact with generation; but according to wisdom and counsel, to Minerva. At the same time, however, all the appellations by which she is distinguished, are adapted to the perfection of soul. On this account, also, she is called Proserpine, and not by the names of the extremes; since that which was ravished by Pluto, is this middle deity; the extremes at the same time being firmly established in themselves; according to which Ceres is said to remain a virgin.

a Proclus says this conformably to the theology of the Chaldeans; for, according to that theology, the first monad of the vivific triad is Hecate, the second Soul and the third Virtue.

b That is, of a supermundane nature; for the ruling are the supermundane Gods.

c Proclus here alludes to the war which subsists among forms through their union with matter, and which Proserpine subverts by separating them from each other. δια το κρινειν τα ειδη, και χωριζειν αλληλων ως του φονου την αναιρεσιν αινιττομενον.

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