Eusebius of Caesarea: Praeparatio Evangelica (Preparation for the Gospel). Tr. E.H. Gifford (1903) -- Book 5
|I. Further proof that the prophetic and oracular shrines among the heathen belonged to evil daemons, and how they have all been destroyed and have failed since our Saviour's teaching in the Gospel||p 178 b|
|II. The manner of the daemoniacal operation||p 181 a|
|III. That the superstition of the Greeks concerning the gods consisted of many divisions and various opinions||p 182 e|
|IV. That the prophetic and oracular shrines among the heathen belonged to evil daemons||p 184 a|
|V. That the mythical narratives related concerning gods contain covert histories of daemons||p 187 a|
|VI. That their so-called good daemons are agents of death||p 190 a|
|VII. That they minister also to amorous pleasures; and the kind of pleasures in which they severally delight||p 191 b|
|VIII. That they are drawn down by incantations, and compelled against their will to serve the designs of men||p 193 a|
|IX. That they cannot withdraw of their own accord||p 195 b|
|X. The kind of methods by which their wonderful gods are subjected to the impostors||p 197 d|
|XI. That the daemons whom men have supposed to be gods taught them their own curious arts||p 199 d|
|XII. That they themselves taught men how to array their images for magical rites||p 200 b|
|XIII. That they showed the proper forms of their own statues||p 201 a|
|XIV. That they encourage the practice of magic||p 202 a|
|XV. That they love the lifeless blocks||p 203 c|
|XVI. Of the oracles that have failed||p 304 d|
|XVII. That the daemons whom they worship as gods actually die||p 205 d|
|XVIII. Of the oracles mentioned among the Greeks of old times||p 208 b|
|XIX. Apollo charged with commanding twice seven boys and maidens to be sent out by the Athenians to the Cretans to be sacrificed||p 209 c|
|XX. How Apollo has been the cause of death to many by the ambiguity of his responses||p 210 b|
|XXI. How again by an ambiguous response he caused Croesus to lose his own kingdom||p 212 c|
|XXII. How they used to mislead inquirers by deluding them through the responses||p 213 d|
|XXIII. That by their darkness and obscurity they concealed their own ignorance||p 214 d|
|XXIV. That, being unable to give any help in the misfortunes of war, they used to quibble and deceive their suppliants by ambiguous responses||p 216 b|
|XXV. The answers to the Lacedaemonians||p 219 a|
|XXVI. The like to the people of Cnidos||p 220 b|
|XXVII. How they incited those who consulted them to war against each other||p 221 b|
|XXVIII. That the treatment of Lycurgus the law-giver of the Lacedaemonians was not worthy of a god||p 222 d|
|XXIX. That they failed to give answers about matters of importance||p 224 c|
|XXX. That, in advising men what to do, they were guided by ordinary human reasonings||p 225 b|
|XXXI. That their recommendations were for the most part unphilosophical||p 225 c|
|XXXII. That they used to take part with the wrongdoers||p 226 d|
|XXXIII. That in accordance with the opinions of the multitude they injudiciously belauded the poets, who had displayed nothing worthy of the philosophical life||p 227 a|
|XXXIV. That they exhorted men to glorify pugilists and athletes with honours equal to those of the gods||p 230 a|
|XXXV. That they used to flatter tyrants||p 233 a|
|XXXVI. That they bade men worship lifeless matter||p 233 d|
THOUGH the statements already set forth were sufficient to prove that those who have been honoured among the heathen as gods in every city and country district were not gods nor yet good daemons, but the very contrary, yet I am not sorry still further to strengthen the same argument even superabundantly by more numerous and ample proofs, since the demonstration thereof clearly shows the deliverance from the evils of former times which was provided for all men by our Saviour's teaching in the Gospel Hear therefore how Greeks themselves confess that their oracles have failed, and never so failed from the beginning until after the times when the doctrine of salvation in the Gospel caused the knowledge of the one God, the Sovereign and Creator of the universe, to dawn like light upon all mankind.
We shall show then almost immediately that very soon after His manifestation there came stories of the deaths of daemons, and that the wonderful oracles so celebrated of old have ceased. But already it has been proved above that, until after the teaching of the Gospel, the human sacrifices which were formerly so cruelly and ruthlessly perpetrated among all the heathen have never admitted any cessation of evils: and on the present occasion it is a good thing to add to this that not only the superstitious worship of daemons but also the multitude of ruling powers among the heathen became from that time extinct.
For almost in every city and village you might in old times see kings, and tyrants, and local governors, and lords, and ethnarchies and multitudes of rulers, by reason of which they were continually rushing into wars against one another, and ever perpetually at work in raiding country districts, and besieging cities, and making slaves and captives of their neighbours, being wildly driven by their local daemons into mutual wars.
Which being so, I leave it to you to consider for yourself in what kind of confusion of mutual evils and misfortunes the whole of life was entangled.
Since then it was only after the time of our Saviour's abode among men that these troubles together with the delusion of polytheism were removed all at once out of the way, must we not wonder exceedingly at the great mystery of the exhibition of true salvation in the Gospel? For thereby all at once in the whole world inhabited by man houses of prayer and temples were set up and consecrated, in cities and villages and in the deserts of barbarous nations, to the sovereign Ruler and Creator of all things and the only God; and books and lectures, and all kinds of learning, and instructions containing exhortations concerning the highest virtue and the mode of life accordant with true godliness, have been delivered in the hearing of men and women and children alike, while all the oracles and divinations of daemons are dead.
Nor, since the divine power of our Saviour in the Gospel shone forth like light upon all men, is any man now so mad as to dare to propitiate the murderous and bloodthirsty and misanthropic and inhuman daemons by the murder of his best-beloved, and by the slaughter of men in sacrifices, such as the sages and kings of old, being verily possessed by daemons, loved to practise.
But with regard to the fact that the evil daemons no longer have any power to prevail since our Saviour's advent among men, the very same author who is the advocate of the daemons in our time, in his compilation against us, bears witness by speaking in the following manner:
[PORPHYRY] 'And now they wonder that for so many years the plague has attacked the city, Asclepius and the other gods being no longer resident among us. For since Jesus began to be honoured, no one ever heard of any public assistance from the gods.' 1
This is Porphyry's statement in his very words. If then, according to this confession, 'since Jesus began to be honoured no one ever heard of any public assistance from the gods, because neither Asclepius nor the other gods were any longer resident,' what ground is there henceforth for the opinion that they are gods and heroes?
For why do not rather the gods and Asclepius prevail over the power of Jesus? If indeed, as they would say, He is a mortal man----perhaps they would even say that He is a deceiver----while they are gods and saviours, why then have they all fled in a body, Asclepius and all, having turned their backs to this mortal, and given over all humanity forthwith into the power of Him who, as they would say, is no longer living?
But He even after death, ever continues to be honoured every day among all nations, plainly showing the certainty and divinity of the life after death to those who are able to discern it.
Moreover though He is one, and as might be supposed alone, He drives away the multitude of the gods throughout the whole world, and bringing their honours to naught, so prevails that they are gods no longer, nor exercise any power, nor anywhere show themselves, nor reside as they were wont in the cities, because they were no gods but evil daemons; while only His honours, and those of the God of the universe who sent Him down, increase every day, and advance to greater dignity over all humanity.
Whereas on the contrary those gods, if indeed there were any who really cared for things on earth, ought to have utterly put aside His deception, if any there were, and themselves to bestow their own remedies and benefits abundantly on all.
But in fact they have often attempted this by means of those at various times in power who have made most violent war upon the teaching of our Saviour. Nevertheless, they found the object of their attempt impracticable, as the divine power of our Saviour always more than conquered them all, and overthrew all the insurrections of the evil daemons against His teaching, and drove the daemons themselves away; for evil daemons verily they were, though falsely supposed to be gods or even good daemons.
THESE then, being certain daemons who dwell about the earth and underground, and haunt the heavy and cloudy atmosphere over the earth, and have been condemned, for causes which we shall afterwards allege, to inhabit this dark and earthly abode, love to dwell in graves and monuments of the dead and in all loathsome and impure matter, and delight in bloodshed and gore and the bodies of animals of all kinds, and in the exhalation from the fumes of incense and of vapours rising out of the earth. These and their rulers, who are certain powers of the air, or of the nether world, having observed that the human race was grovelling low about the deification of dead men, and spending its labour very zealously upon sacrifices and savours which were to them most grateful, were ready at hand as supporters and helpers of this delusion; and gloating over the miseries of mankind, they easily deceived silly souls by certain movements of the carved images, which had been consecrated by them of old in honour of the departed, and by the illusions produced by oracles, and by the cures of bodies, which these same daemons were secretly ravaging by their own operation, and then again releasing the men and letting them go free from suffering.
Hereby they the more drove the superstitious headlong into supposing sometimes that they were heavenly powers and certain real gods, and at other times that they were the souls of the deified heroes.
From this cause the belief in the polytheistic error began now to be regarded by the multitude as something greater and more venerable, as their thought passed from what was visible to the invisible nature of those who were hidden in the statues, and so confirmed the delusion more strongly.
Thus then at length the terrestrial daemons, and 'the world-rulers' that haunt the air, and the 'spiritual hosts of wickedness,' 2 and the leader of them all in malice, were regarded among all men as the greatest of gods; the memory also of those long dead came to be thought worthy of greater worship.
For the shapes of the consecrated images in the various cities were thought to wear the semblance of dead men's bodies, but of their souls and their divine and incorporeal powers the evil daemons made counterfeit presentations by abundance of fictitious miracles; until at length their consecrated ministers themselves used continually to exaggerate the folly of the illusion, and prepare most of their contrivances by evil arts of jugglery, while the evil daemons again took the lead themselves in teaching these tricks to their ministers. These daemons at all events were the authors of the imposture which was the beginning of the mischief to all human life, as was in fact proved in the preceding book.
SINCE, therefore, these wicked and earthly daemons, as well as the aerial and infernal spirits, whom the divine oracles call 'world-rulers' and 'spiritual hosts of wickedness, and principalities, and powers,' 3 at one time played the part of good daemons, and at another assumed the semblance of heavenly deities, and again at other times metamorphosed themselves into heroes, and in some cases by their deeds let the evidence of their wickedness directly appear, the delusion naturally went on increasing much among mankind. For some admitted that they were gods, and others that they were heroes and daemons but not gods: and while entitling some of the daemons good, but calling others bad, they yet affirmed that it was necessary to propitiate the bad also, on account of the damage they could inflict: so that their whole manufacture of deities fell into several classes.
The first kind is that which consists of the luminaries which are seen in the sky, and these they say were the first to be called gods (θεούς) because of their running (θέειν), and because they are the cause of our beholding (θεωρεῖν) things visible. The second class is that which has been advanced to great honour because of the benefits said to be conferred by them on our common life: and this kind they themselves acknowledge to have been begotten of men, bringing forward as examples the so-called heroes, Heracles, and the Dioscuri, and Dionysus, and the corresponding deities among the barbarians.
From this class, after separating and putting aside the more disgraceful acts recorded of them, they assumed a third kind of deification, and called it mythical. Of this kind, indeed, they became ashamed, although it was real and most ancient; so they have changed it into a better agreement, as they say, with natural laws, by allegories of a more figurative nature, according to certain theories which they devised.
Yet even at this stage of deception they were not satisfied to stop: for after having degraded the venerable and adorable name of God to the level of their own passions, they further invented a fourth manner of deification, not worthy even of refutation, because it manifestly carries with it its own shame.
Then by giving to their own foul and unbridled lusts the name of gods, an Eros, and Aphrodite, and Desire, and by calling speech Hermes, and reasoning Athena, they have adopted these also in their own theology, and thus remodelled human actions into the fifth kind of deities.
For they made images to represent the operations of war and of art, and assigned them to certain gods, the operations of war to Ares and Athena, and those of art to Hephaestus and certain others.
In addition to all these they brought in a sixth and seventh kind, consisting of daemons, a truly versatile and multiform class, pretending at one time to be gods, and at another to be souls of the dead; nor did they give us any aid to the cultivation of virtue in the soul, but always made a mock of every person who feared the gods, carrying him down into the depths by their delusive error.
Even this class, though it was wicked throughout, they have divided into two, the mischievous and the beneficent, and given them the titles of good and bad.
These things being so, I think it is necessary for us to put aside the matters that do not even need refutation, and to consider the sequel of our argument concerning daemoniacal operation, of which we took a partial and preliminary view in the preceding book, and will now complete what remains.
Come then, let us now at last proceed to the actual proofs. And I will place first those which are drawn from the book which Plutarch has written On the Cessation of Oracles: where, on the point that the prophetic and oracular shrines among the heathen are the abodes of evil daemons, he writes in the following manner: 4
[PLUTARCH] 'Now though they are right who say that Plato, by his discovery of the element which underlies the qualities generated (which element they call matter), released the philosophers from many great difficulties: yet to me it seems that those men solved more and greater difficulties, who set the race of daemons midway between gods and men, and discovered that it, in a manner, brings together and unites our society with them; whether this doctrine comes from the Magi and Zoroaster, or is Thracian and derived from Orpheus, or Egyptian, or Phrygian, as we conjecture from seeing that with the initiations in both regions there are mingled many symbols of mortality and mourning in the orgiastic performance of their sacred rites. Among the Greeks Homer is seen to make use of both the names indifferently, and occasionally to call the gods daemons. But Hesiod is the first who plainly and definitely set forth four races of rational beings----gods, then daemons, then heroes, and, last of all, men: he seems, however, to make a change from this order, so that the men of the golden age are set. apart as a numerous class of good daemons, and the demi-gods as heroes.'
Then he says next:
'But upon these matters it is not necessary for us to dispute with Demetrius: for whether the time be more or be less, whether it be fixed or indefinite, in which the soul of a daemon and the life of a hero undergo change, it will none the less be proved, in the judgement of whomsoever he chooses, by the testimony of wise men of old, that there are certain natures on the confines, as it were, between gods and men, susceptible of mortal influences and involuntary changes, whom it is right for us, according to the custom of our fathers, to regard and address as "daemons," and to hold in reverence.'
To this, after other matters, he adds:
'It seems to me to be no unreasonable postulate that those who preside over the oracles are not gods, who ought rightly to be kept clear from matters pertaining to earth, but daemons in the service of gods. But to take as it were a handful out of the verses of Empedocles, and charge these daemons with sins, and infatuations, and heaven-sent wanderings, and to imagine them dying deaths like men, I consider too bold and barbaric.' 5
Again he adds to what has been quoted the following:
'For in daemons also, as in men, there are degrees of virtue; some having but a feeble and obscure remnant, a sort of residue, of the part subject to passion and destitute of reason, while in others this part is large and hard to be extinguished; and traces and symbols of this are in many places preserved by sacrifices and initiations and mythologies, and retained in scattered fragments. Now with respect to the Mysteries, in which we might obtain the, chief indications and elucidations of the truth concerning daemons, 'I must keep a religious silence,' as Herodotus says: but as to festivals and sacrifices, as well as days of ill omen mourning, on which the eating of raw flesh and the rending of victims, and fasting and beating of the breast are practised, and again in many places obscene language at the temples, "and other frantic excitements with tumult and tossing of the head," these, I should say, are performed not in honour of any god, but as propitiatory offerings for the sake of averting evil daemons. And it is neither credible that gods demanded or accepted the human sacrifices offered of old, nor, without cause, would kings and generals have submitted to them by giving up their sons and devoting and sacrificing them; but they were trying to avert and to satisfy the anger and sullenness of harsh and stubborn powers of vengeance, or the furious lusts of some, who were neither able nor willing to have intercourse of bodies with bodies. But just as Heracles besieged Oechalia for the sake of a maiden, so oftentimes strong and violent daemons, demanding a human soul that is enveloped in a body, . . . bring pestilences upon cities and barrenness of the soil, and stir up wars and seditions, until they succeed in obtaining the object of their desire.' 6
Hereby the philosopher before mentioned clearly proved that the sacrifices described above were offered in honour of evil daemons in all the cities. Or even if among these there were, as they say, some who were by nature good, or even gods, what need was there to offer worship to the bad, when they ought to have been driven away by the good?
For if indeed they had some good champions, surely it was right to have confidence in these without caring at all for the worse kind, and to turn away the adverse powers by modest words and prayers, not by obscene language.
But when they did nothing of this kind, but tried to make supplication to the evil daemons by a foul and licentious life and unseemly words, and by feeding on raw flesh, and rending victims asunder, and by human sacrifices, how was it even possible that doing such deeds, and pursuing practices pleasing to the wicked, they should be received as friends by the Supreme God, or by the divine Powers subject to Him, or by any good beings at all?
But in fact it is. manifest to all that he who practises the things that are dear to the wicked can never be a friend of the good. So then it was not to gods, nor yet to good daemons, but only to the wicked, that those of whom I have spoken paid worship.
And this argument is still further confirmed by Plutarch, in the passage where he says that the mythical narratives told as concerning gods are certain tales about daemons, and the deeds of Giants and Titans celebrated in song among the Greeks are also stories about daemons, intended to suggest a new phase of thought.
Of this kind then perhaps were the statements in the Sacred Scripture concerning the giants before the Mood, and those concerning their progenitors, of whom it is said, 'And when the angels of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair, they took unto them wives of all that they chose,' and of these were born 'the giants the men of renown which were of old.'
For one might say that these daemons are those giants, and that their spirits have been deified by the subsequent generations of men, and that their battles, and their quarrels among themselves, and their wars are the subjects of these legends that are told as of gods. Plutarch indeed, in the discourse which he composed On Isis and the gods of the Egyptians, speaks as follows word for word: 7
[PLUTARCH] 'THEY therefore do better who think that the incidents recorded concerning Typhon and Osiris and Isis refer to sufferings neither of gods nor of men, but of certain mighty daemons, whom Plato and Pythagoras and Xenocrates and Chrysippus, following the ancient theologians, state to have been stronger than men, and far superior in power to our nature; having, however, their divine element not unmixed nor unalloyed, but sharing both in the nature of the soul and the bodily sense, which is susceptible of pleasure and pain, and in all the feelings which, being engendered by these alternations, trouble some of them more and some less. For various degrees of virtue and vice are found in daemons just as in men. Thus the deeds of the Giants and Titans celebrated in song among the Greeks, and many unholy practices of Kronos, and the contests of Python with Apollo, and the banishments of Dionysos, and the wanderings of Demeter, fall nothing short of the acts of Osiris and Typhon, which one may hear everywhere made the subject of licentious fables. Also the things which, being veiled in mystic rites and initiations, are kept secret and out of sight, have a similar relation to the gods.' 8
Presently he adds:
'Empedocles even asserts that the daemons suffer punishment for any sins and offences which they have committed:
"The angry ether drives them down to sea;
Sea spits them out upon the solid earth;
Earth flings them to the blazing Sun; he back
To ether's whirling depths. Thus each from each
Receives, and all reject the hateful crew:" 9
until having been thus chastened they recover once more their natural place and rank. Akin to these and suchlike stories are said to be the legends told concerning Typhon, how that he committed dreadful crimes out of envy and spite, throwing everything into confusion, and filled both earth and sea all full of evils, and then was punished for it.'
Having put forward these statements, and worked out the argument more fully in the book which I have mentioned, Plutarch relates the like stories also in his book On the Cessation of Oracles, in the following manner: 10
'This man ascribed his inspiration to daemons, and had much to say about Delphi, and there was none of the stories told here about Dionysos, nor of the sacred rites performed, of which he had not heard; but those also he asserted to be mighty sufferings of daemons, and the same of the story about the Python, and that the slayer's banishment was not for nine years nor to Tempe, but that he was driven out and entered into another world: and afterwards, in the revolutions of nine Great Years having become pure and a true Phoebus in brilliancy, he returned thence and took possession of the oracle, which was guarded in the meantime by Themis. Such, he said, was the case also with the legends of Typhon and the Titans, that there were battles of daemons against daemons, then banishments of the conquered, or punishments by a god of those who had committed sins, such as Typhon is said to have committed upon Osiris, and Kronos on Uranos; gods, whose honours among us have become more obscure, or have altogether ceased, since they have departed into another world. For I learn that the Solymi, who are neighbours of the Lycians, used to pay the highest honours to Kronos: but after he killed their chief rulers Arsalos, and Arytos, and Tosibis, and fled, and departed to some place or other----for they cannot tell whither----he was neglected, but Arsalos and his companions were addressed as gods by the name Sciri, and the Lycians make their imprecations both public and private in their name. Many stories like these you may gather from the mythologies. But if we call certain daemons by the customary names of the gods, it is not to be wondered at, said the stranger; for each of them likes to be called after the god with whom he has been associated, and of whose power he partakes: even as among us one is Dius, and another Athenaeus, and a third Apollonius, or Dionysius, or Hermaeus. But though some of these by accident were rightly so named, the greater part received names not at all befitting them, but changed in derivation from the names of gods.'
So much says Plutarch in his careful treatise On the Cessation of Oracles, showing, in addition to the other points, that the daemons are subject to death, the very thing which I shall bring forward at the proper time.
But meanwhile, let us collect whatever else concerning the power and operation of the good daemons, as he calls them, is set forth at another time by the author of the compilation against us in the book which he entitled Of the Philosophy to be derived from Oracles: for now again, as indeed often before, I shall make use especially of him as a witness and evidence of the delusion about those whom they imagine to be gods, in order that they may be put to shame at being stricken by their own spears and arrows.
For thus the demonstration of the matters which lie before us, being derived from the very friends of their gods, who have both been esteemed devout, and have accurately examined the account of their own religion, will be found complete and irrefutable.
Now the author aforesaid writes as follows in his book which he entitled Of the Philosophy to be derived from Oracles, wherein he protests against betraying the secrets of the gods, and binds himself by oath and exhorts others to conceal what he shall say and not publish it to many.
What then Avere these matters of such importance? He affirms that Pan is a servant of Dionysos, and that he being one of the good daemons appeared once upon a time to those who were working in the fields. What ought a good deity, or at all events the advent of a good deity, to confer on those to whom the manifestation of the good has been vouchsafed?
Did then any good result to the beholders of this good daemon, or have they found him an evil daemon, and learned this by practical experience? This admirable witness says indeed that those to whom this blessed sight was vouchsafed all died at once; for thus he speaks: 11
[PORPHYRY] 'IN other cases also ere now some were shown to be servants of certain gods, as Pan of Dionysos: and this has been made clear by Apollo of Branchidae in the following verses. For nine persons were found dead; and when the inhabitants of the country district inquired the cause, the god made answer:
"Lo! where the golden-horned Pan
In sturdy Dionysos' train
Leaps o'er the mountains' wooded slopes!
His right hand holds a shepherd's staff,
His left a smooth shrill-breathing pipe,
That charms the gentle wood-nymph's soul.
But at the sound of that strange song
Each startled woodsman dropp'd his axe,
And all in frozen terror gaz'd
Upon the Daemon's frantic course.
Death's icy hand had seiz'd them all,
Had not the huntress Artemis
In anger stay'd his furious might.
To her address thy prayer for aid." '
Hast thou now heard how Apollo of Branchidae described both the figure and the deeds of the daemon whom Porphyry calls good? See then also the noble achievements of the rest, for the sake of which forsooth they abandoned their life in heaven, and chose the company of men instead.
Surely it was their duty at any rate to set an example of temperance, and to suggest what was profitable and beneficial to mankind: but they did nothing of the kind. Hear what things are brought to light by him, who had searched out the most unutterable secrets, and was favoured with the knowledge of things forbidden.
At one time he says that some of these good daemons are the slaves of amorous pleasures, and then that others delight in drums and flutes, and women's clatter; and that others again take pleasure in wars and battles, and Artemis in hunting, and Deo in the fruits of the ground; that Isis is still mourning for Osiris, and Apollo uttering oracles. Such are the benefits conferred on mankind by those whom they call good daemons! Now listen to the proofs of this. 12
'NE'ER mid the immortal gods an idle threat
Or unaccomplish'd doom to seers inspir'd
Spake Hecate; but from the almighty mind
Of Zeus descends in brightest truth array'd.
Lo! by my side walks Wisdom with firm step,
Leaning on oracles that ne'er can fail.
In bonds secure me: for my power divine
Can give a soul to worlds beyond the sky.'
Perhaps then on this account the soul is of threefold form and parts: and one part of it is irascible, and another concupiscent, by which latter it is invited to amorous indulgence. These are not my ideas, do not suppose it, but what you have heard from the writer before mentioned; from whom again the following is taken:
'But what utterly perplexes me is, how, being invoked as superiors, they receive orders as inferiors; and while requiring their worshipper to be just, they submit when bidden themselves to do injustice; and, while they would not listen to one who invokes them, if defiled by sensual pleasure, do not hesitate themselves to lead any whom they meet into lawless indulgence.'
This also you may find in the same author's Epistle to Anebo the Egyptian. 13 And in the aforesaid treatise Of the Philosophy to be derived from Oracles, in addition to what has been quoted, he speaks as follows:
'Moreover, some of them have plainly shown what office is assigned to each, as the Didymaean Apollo does in what follows: (the inquiry was, whether a man is bound to take an oath which one has tendered to him):
"Rhea, great mother of the blessed gods,
Loves flutes and rattling drums and female rout.
The din of war is bright-helm'd Pallas' joy.
Latona's daughter o'er the rocky steep
With spotted hounds pursues the savage beast.
Great Juno sends the soft rain's welcome sound;
Rich crops of full-ear'd grain are Deo's care:
And Pharian Isis by Nile's fruitful stream
With wildered steps her fair Osiris seeks."'
If then 'flutes, and the rattle of drums, and a throng of women' are the care of the Mother of the gods, we ought surely to practise these things to the neglect of every virtue, because the aforesaid goddess has no care for modesty or any other devout practice: as also the din of battle, and conflicts, and wars are dear to Athena, and not peace nor the things of peace. Also let Artemis 'Latona's daughter' care for her spotted hounds, because, as a huntress, she wages war afield with the wild bea,sts, and for the other goddesses in like manner the offices enumerated. Well then what would these things contribute towards the divinely favoured and blessed life? But consider whether what he adds next seems to you to be the mark of a divine, or of a vicious and utterly wicked nature. 14
[PORPHYRY] 'THIS also was rightly declared by Pythagoras of Rhodes, that the gods who are invoked over the sacrifices have no pleasure therein, but come because they are dragged by a certain necessity of following, and some of them more, and some less.
'Some however, having made as it were a custom of being present, attend more readily, and especially if they happen to be of a good nature: but others, even if they are accustomed to be present, are eager to do some harm, and especially if any one seems to behave rather carelessly in the performances.
'For as Pythagoras had made these statements, I learned, by close observation of the oracles, how true his words are. For all the gods say that they have come by compulsion, yet not simply so, but as it were, if I may so speak, by compulsion under the guise of persuasion.
'In what goes before we have mentioned those statements of Hecate, as to the means by which she says she is made to appear:
"The lightsome air and boundless realm of stars,
Unsullied home of deity, I leave,
To tread the fruitful earth at thy command:
Thou know'st the secret spell, which mortal man
Has learn'd, to charm immortal spirits down."
"I come at sound of thy persuasive prayer,
Which man inspir'd by heavenly counsels learn'd."
'And still more plainly:
"What need of thine, by spells that bind the gods,
Calls Hecate from swiftest ether down?"
"Some from the sky thy wheel with mystic charm
Draws swiftly, though unwilling, down to earth.
And others floating midway on the winds,
From the bright empyrean far remov'd,
As ominous dreams thou dost to mortals send,
Service unseemly laid on powers divine."
"Some from their lofty home above the sky
Down through mid air with Harpies swift descending
Bow to the mystic spells that bind the gods,
And rushing swiftly down to Deo's earth
Bring messages to man of things to come."
'And again another is compelled to say:
"Hear the unwilling voice thy power constrains."'
After this again the author says:
'For they give out answers for their own compulsion, as will be shown by Apollo's answer as to means of compelling him. It is expressed thus:
"Strong to compel and weighty is this name."
'Then he added:
"Then come thou swiftly at these words,
Drawn from my heart in mystic chant,
The while I quench the sacred fire.
Thus nature dares thy birth divine,
Immortal Paean, to declare."
'And again Apollo himself speaks:
"A stream of heavenly light from Phoebus flowing,
Veil'd in the clear breath of the purest air,
By soothing song and mystic spell allur'd
Falls like a glory round the prophet's head,
Pierces the delicate membrane of the brain,
Fills the soft coating of the inward frame,
Thence surging upward in hot stream returns,
And through the living pipe gains welcome voice."'
To this the writer adds the remark:
'Nothing could be plainer than this, nothing more godlike and more natural; for that which comes down is a spirit; and an emanation from the heavenly power having entered into an organized and living body, uses the soul as a basis, and through the body, as its organ, utters speech.'
But this is sufficient to prove that they suffer compulsion; and that they also request to be set free, as if it were not in their own power to withdraw, you may learn from what follows.
[PORPHYRY] 'Now that the gods so summoned are eager to withdraw, will be shown by such passages as the following, where they say:
"But now release the king; for mortal frame
No longer can the present god endure."
"Why with long prayers torment this mortal frame?"
"Go now, return with speed; thy saving work
On me is done.'
'And how to dismiss them, Apollo himself will teach us, saying:
"Cease then thy cunning spells, let the man rest,
Free the old image from its willow bands,
And from my limbs with vigorous hand rend off
The linen shroud."
'He told also the mode of dismissal:
"Lift thy foot up high before thee,
Stop the muttering from the cave;"
and the verses that follow these.'
To which he adds, if they are still tardy in the dismissal:
"Unwrap the linen cloud, and set the prophet free."
'Again at another time he gave a form of dismissal such as this:
"Ye Nymphs and Naiads with the Muses join
To set Apollo free; and then in songs
Exalt the praises of the archer god."
'At another time he says:
"Now loose the wreaths, with water bathe my feet,
Rub out the magic lines, and let me go.
The branch of laurel from my right hand take,
And both my eyes, both nostrils wipe with care:
Then raise, O friends, this mortal from the ground."'
Upon this the author further remarks:
'So then he exhorts them to rub out the lines, that he may go free; for these hold him fast, as indeed does also the form of dress in which he is arrayed, because it bears representations of the gods who have been invoked.'
By these quotations I think it has been clearly shown that there is nothing at all worthy of deity, nothing either great or truly divine in these spirits who have fallen to such a depth of degradation as to be drawn and dragged down by any common men, not by reason of any attainment in virtue and wisdom, but merely by their pursuing and practising the arts of magical imposture.
Neither, therefore, did Pythagoras the Rhodian speak rightly, nor would the author of this testimony of theirs, nor any man whatsoever call them with good reason gods, nay, nor yet good daemons, dragged about as they are by mortal men and mere impostors, not according to their own judgement, but dragged by force and compulsion, and without having in themselves the power of release from their bonds.
For if the deity is not subject to force or to compulsion, but is in nature superior to all things, being free and incapable of suffering, how can they be gods who are beguiled by juggling tricks managed by means of such dresses, and lines, and images?----beguiled, I say, by wreaths also and flowers of the earth, and withal by certain unintelligible and barbarous cries and voices, and subdued by ordinary men, and, as it were, enslaved by bonds, so that they cannot even keep safe in their own control the power of independence and free will.
How, too, can they be called good daemons if they are dragged down by force and compulsion? For what is the cause that they give themselves up grudgingly and not of their own free will to those who need help?
If they are good and make their appearance for a good purpose, and if there is, as was said, any benefit to the soul from them, they ought surely to welcome the good by choice, and anticipate the suppliants by their benefits instead of waiting to be compelled.
But if the transaction was not honourable and not beneficial, and therefore its occurrence not according to their mind, how then could they be good, if they practised what is neither honourable nor expedient?
Or how can they deserve to be admired and honoured with divine worship who are enslaved by common impostors of the most abandoned character, and compelled to perform what is neither honourable nor expedient contrary to their judgement, and are led and dragged down, not because they approve of men's morality, nor to promote virtue or any branch of philosophy, but by forbidden practices of impostors? Such practices the same author has mentioned again in his Epistle to the before-mentioned Egyptian, as though he were consulting a prophet upon secret truths, and requesting to be taught by him the words in which they accomplish these results. For he asks as in doubt, and speaks somewhat as follows. 15
[PORPHYRY] 'BUT what utterly perplexes me is, how, though invoked as superiors, they receive orders as inferiors, and while requiring their worshipper to be just, submit when bidden themselves to do injustice; and, while they would not listen to one who invokes them, if defiled by sensual pleasure, do not hesitate themselves to lead any whom they meet into lawless indulgence.
'They also give orders that their interpreters must be abstainers from animal food, that they may not be tainted with the vapours from the carcases, though they are themselves mightily allured by the vapours from the sacrifices; also that the initiate must not touch a dead body, though it is by means of dead animals that the gods are for the most part brought down.
'But much more absurd than this is the notion that a man under the power of any ordinary master should employ threats, not merely to a daemon perchance or to a dead man's soul, but to the royal Sun himself, or the Moon, or any of the deities in heaven, and try to frighten them by lies, in order that they may speak the truth.
'For to say that he will batter the heavens, and publish the secrets of Isis, and show the forbidden mystery at Abydos, and stop the sacred boat, and scatter the limbs of Osiris for Typhon,----is not this the last excess of stupidity on the part of him who threatens things of which he has neither knowledge nor power, and of degradation to those who have been frightened at so vain an alarm, and at mere fictions, like very silly children?
'And yet Chaeremon the sacred scribe records these things as common talk among the Egyptians, and they say that these and other such methods are most forcible.
'What meaning have the very prayers, which speak of him who arose out of a marsh, and is seated upon the lotus, and voyages in a ship, and changes his shapes hourly, and is transfigured according to the signs of the zodiac? For thus they say he is beheld by our eyes, not knowing that what they are attaching to him is the peculiar affection of their own imagination.
'If these things are spoken symbolically, as being symbols of his powers, let them tell us the interpretation of the symbols. For it is evident that if it was what the sun undergoes, as in eclipses, the same thing would have been seen by all who gaze upon him.
'Further, what is meant by the unintelligible names, and among these the preference of the barbarous names over those which properly belong to each deity? For if he who hears looks to the thing signified, the thought remaining the same is sufficient to show it, whatsoever the name may be.
'For, I suppose, the god invoked was not an Egyptian by birth: and even if he was an Egyptian, yet surely he did not use the Egyptian language, nor any human language at all. For either these were all impostors' tricks, and symbols of the passions which affect us, veiled by the titles which they ascribe to the gods, or else we have been unconsciously holding ideas concerning the deity contrary to his real condition.'
After these statements he again expresses his doubts to the Egyptian, saying:
'If some are passionless (though others are subject to passions, and for this reason, they say, phalli are set up to these latter, and obscene phrases uttered), quite useless will be those invocations of gods which profess to summon them to aid, and to appease their wrath, and to make expiation, and yet more useless the arts by which gods are said to be constrained. For the passionless nature can neither be enticed, nor forced, nor compelled by necessity.'
And then he adds again: 16
'Vain has their study of wisdom been, who worried the divine mind about finding a runaway slave, or buying a farm, or perchance about a marriage, or commerce. Or if there has been no neglect of wisdom, and if her associates speak most truly on other subjects, but nothing sure or trustworthy in regard to happiness, then they were neither gods nor good daemons, but only that deceiver as he is called.'
So far then let these quotations suffice from this work of Porphyry. Moreover, these noble gods themselves became the first instructors in this evil art of imposture. For whence could men know these things, except from the daemons themselves having revealed their own case, and published one against another the spells that bind them?
Do not suppose that this is our own statement: for we do not admit that we either understand or wish to know any of these things. Yet in proof of the absurdity of these practices, and at the same time in our own defence for withdrawing from them, let us bring forward our witness to these facts, who is regarded as a wise man among his acquaintances, and both knows and expounds accurately his own system.
The same author then, in the aforesaid collection of oracles, speaks thus word for word. 17
[PORPHYRY] 'BUT not only have they themselves informed us of their mode of life, and the other things which I have mentioned, but they also suggested by what sort of things they are pleased and prevailed upon, and moreover by what they are compelled, and what one ought to sacrifice, and what day to avoid, and what sort of figure should be given to their statues, and in what shapes they themselves appear, and in what kind of places they abide; and of all the things whereby men thus honour them there is not one which they were not taught by the daemons themselves. As the proofs which confirm this are many, we will bring forward a few out of the number, not to leave our statement without witness.'
'THAT they themselves suggested how even their statues ought to be made, and of what kind of material, shall be shown by the response of Hecate in the following form:
"My image purify, as I shall show:
Of wild rue form the frame, and deck it o'er
With lizards such as run about the house;
These mix with resin, myrrh, and frankincense,
Pound all together in the open air
Under the crescent moon, and add this vow."
'Then she set forth the vow, and showed how many lizards must be taken:
"Take lizards many as my many forms,
And do all this with care. My spacious house
With branches of self-planted laurel form.
Then to my image offer many a prayer,
And in thy sleep thou shalt behold me nigh."
'And again in another place she described an image of herself of this same kind.'
'MOREOVER they have themselves indicated how they appear with regard to their forms, and from these their images were set up as they are. Sarapis for example says of himself, after seeing Pan:
"A brilliant light shone through the god's own house;
He came, the mighty god, and met me there.
My matchless strength, and glow of lordly fire,
And waving curls he saw, which from my head
On either side play round my radiant brows,
And mingle with the red beard's sacred locks."
'Pan also taught men a hymn concerning himself, which runs as follows: 18
"To Pan, a god of kindred race,
A mortal born my vows I pay;
Whose horned brows and cloven feet
And goat-like legs his lust betray,"
and the rest.
'Hecate also speaks of herself thus:
"Do all anon: a statue too therein;
My form----Demeter bright with autumn fruits,
White robes, and feet with golden sandals bound.
Around the waist long snakes run to and fro,
Gliding o'er all with undefiled track,
And from the head down even to the feet
Wrapping me fairly round with spiral coils."
'And the material, she says, must be
"Of Parian stone or polish'd ivory."
'IN many cases the gods, by giving signs of their statements beforehand, show by their knowledge of the arrangement of each man's nativity that they are, if we may so say, excellent Magians and perfect astrologers. Again he said that in oracular responses Apollo spake thus:
"Invoke together Hermes and the Sun
On the Sun's day, the Moon when her day comes,
Kronos and Aphrodite in due turn,
With silent prayers, by chiefest Magian taught,
Whom all men know lord of the seven-string'd lyre."
'And when they cried "You mean Ostanes," he added:
"Call with loud voice seven times each several god." '
The same writer also alleges what follows:
'The symbols of Hecate are wax of three colours, white and black and red combined, having a figure of Hecate bearing a scourge, and torch, and sword, with a serpent to be coiled round her; and the symbols of Uranus are the mariners' stars nailed up before the doors. For these symbols the gods themselves have indicated in the following verses. The speaker is Pan:
"Evil spirits drive afar:
Then upon the fire set wax
Gleaming fair with colours three,
White and black must mingle there
With the glowing embers' red,
Terror to the dogs of hell.
Then let Hecate's dread form
Hold in her hand a blazing torch,
And the avenging sword of fate;
While closely round the goddess wrapp'd
A snake fast holds her in his coils,
And wreathes about her awful brow.
Let the shining key be there,
And the far-resounding scourge,
Symbol of the daemons' power."'
By these and the like quotations this noble philosopher of the Greeks, this admirable theologian, this initiate in secret mysteries, exhibits The Philosophy to be derived from Oracles as containing secret oracles of the gods, while openly proclaiming the plots laid against men by their wicked and truly daemoniacal power. For what benefit to human life can there be from these evil arts of sorcery? Or what pleasure to the gods in this scrupulous care about lifeless statues? Of what divine power can there be a likeness in the formation of such shapes? Why should he not have counselled us to study philosophy rather than to practise magic and pursue forbidden arts, if the path of virtue and philosophy is sufficient for a happy and blessed life? But he, continuing his own refutation, adds to what has been mentioned the following: 19
[PORPHYRY] 'Now that they love the symbols of their features is signified by Hecate comparing them with what men love, as follows:
"What mortal longs not for the features carv'd
In bronze, or gold, or silver gleaming bright?
What god loves not this pedestal, whereon
I weave the tangled web of human fates?"'
He has made it clear that not only the features are dear, but that also, as I said, the gods themselves are confined therein, and dwell in the underlying likeness as it were in a sacred place: for they could not be supported on earth, except on sacred ground: and that ground is sacred which bears the image of the deity; but if the image be taken away, the bond which held the deity on earth is loosed.
By all these testimonies, then, I think it is clearly proved that their gods were found to be daemons haunting the earth and enslaved to passions: wherefore it seems to me that I have followed sound reason in turning away from them.
You see, for instance, how they say that their magic figures and images of that kind hold them fast in certain spots of ground: though they ought, if, as they say, there is any real divinity in them, to set foot in no other place, except only in the thought of the soul, and that thought too purified from all filth and from every stain, and adorned with modesty and righteousness and all the other virtues.
For when these previously exist in a man's soul as in a truly hallowed place, the advent of a divine Spirit would naturally follow; nor would, souls already prepared by virtuous and godly practice for the reception of the Deity have had any further need of the evil arts of sorcery.
So that they of whom we were just now speaking are expressly convicted on all this evidence of being certain daemons who haunt the earth, and are the slaves of passion and of bodily pleasures. Listen, however, next to what statements the same writer makes concerning the cessation of their celebrated oracles.
'"OF Pytho and of Claros, sacred shrines
Of Phoebus, let my tongue speak reverent words.
Erewhile ten thousand oracles divine
Gush'd forth on earth in flowing streams, and breath
Of dizzy vapours. Some the earth herself,
Wide opening her deep bosom, back received,
And some the course of countless time destroy'd.
The Sun alone, which lights our mortal life,
Hath still his spring in Didyma's deep vale,
Where flows the sacred stream from Mycale:
And still beneath Parnassus' lofty peaks
Springs Castalie's fair fount; mid Clarian rocks
Still from the cave prophetic voices sound."
'But to some people of Nicaea he gave this response:
"Nought can restore the Pythian voice divine:
Enfeebled by long ages, it hath laid
The keys of silence on the oracle.
Yet still to Phoebus bring your offerings due." '
To this we may here opportunely add the words of Plutarch from the book which he has written On the Cessation of Oracles. 20
[PLUTARCH] 'When Ammonius had ceased, Tell us rather, my Cleombrotus, said I, about the oracle: for the reputation of the deity there was great in former times, but now it seems to be fading away.
'But as Cleombrotus kept silence and looked down, Demetrius said that there was no need for men to inquire and doubt about the state of things there, when they saw the decay of the oracles here, or rather the failure of all except one or two: but we ought to consider generally through what cause they have grown thus feeble.
'For why need we speak of the others, when Boeotia, which in former times, as far as oracles were concerned, spake with many voices, is now completely forsaken by them, just as streams run dry, and a great drought of inspiration has overspread the land. For in no other place now except at Lebadeia does Boeotia enable inquirers to draw from the well of prophecy: but of the rest, silence has overtaken some and utter desolation others.'
In addition to this the same author speaks of their daemons dying, as follows: 21
'THE opinion, said he, that those who preside over the oracles are not gods----for gods ought rightly to be kept free from the affairs of earth----but daemons who are servants of gods, seems to me no unfair assumption. But to take as it were a handful out of the verses of Empedocles, and to lay sins and frenzies and heaven-sent wanderings upon these daemons, and to imagine them dying deaths like men, I consider too bold and barbaric. Hereupon Cleombrotus asked Philip who the young man was, and whence he came; and when he had learned his name and city, he said, We are not ourselves unconscious, Ileracleon, that we have entered upon strange arguments: but in dealing with great subjects it is not possible to arrive at a probable opinion without employing great principles.
'But you are yourself unconsciously taking back what you grant. For you admit that daemons exist; but, in claiming that they are not wicked and not mortal, you no longer have daemons to defend. For in what do they differ from the gods, if they are both in regard to essence incorruptible, and in regard to virtue free from passion and from sin?
'While Heracleon was silently pondering in himself some answer to this, Philip said to him, Nay, Heracleon, that daemons are wicked was admitted not only by Empedocles, but also by Pinto, and Xenocrates and Chrysippus: and moreover when Democritus prayed that he might meet with favourable apparitions, it was evident that he knew of others perverse and mischievous, with certain propensities and impulses.
'Now with regard to the death of such beings, I have heard a story from a man who was no fool nor braggart. For the father of Aemilianus the rhetorician, whose hearers some of us have been, was Epitherses, my fellow citizen and grammar-master. He said that once on a voyage to Italy he embarked in a ship carrying merchandise and many passengers: and at evening off the Echinades the wind dropped, and the ship drifted and came near to Paxi; that most of them were awake, and were drinking after they had supped. And suddenly a voice was heard from the island Paxi, some one calling aloud on Thamus, so that they were amazed. For Thamus was the pilot, an Egyptian, not even known by name to many of those on board. Though called twice however, he kept silence, but the third time he answered him that called. He then raised his voice higher and said, "When thou art come off Pelodes, announce that the Great Pan is dead."
'On hearing this, Epitherses said they were all struck with amazement, and began to take counsel together, whether it were better to do what was commanded, or not to meddle with the matter, but let it pass; whereupon Thamus decided, that if there should be wind, he would sail past and keep quiet, but if the wind should fail and a calm come on near the place, he would report what he had heard.
'When therefore he was come off Pelodes, as there was neither wind nor sea, Thamus looking from the poop towards the land spake as he had heard, that "The Great Pan is dead": and he had no sooner ceased speaking than there came a loud lamentation, not of one but of many, mingled with amazement.
'And inasmuch as there were many persons present, the tale was soon spread in Rome, and Thamus was sent for by Tiberius Caesar. And Tiberius so fully believed the story, that he made thorough inquiry and research about Pan; and the learned men of his court being present in great number conjectured that it was Pan the son of Hermes and Penelope.
'So then Philip had witnesses to his story in some of those who were present, and had heard it from the aged Aemiiian. But Demetrius said that there were many desert islands scattered about among those on the coast of Britain, some of which were named after daemons and heroes. And that he himself, being sent by the Emperor to make an investigation and survey, sailed to the nearest of the desert islands, which had but few inhabitants, and these all sacred persons inviolable to the Britons.
'Very soon after his arrival there arose a great commotion in the air, and many portents in the sky, and violent blasts of wind, and falling of thunderbolts. And when this abated, the islanders said that one of the higher powers had been extinguished; for as a lamp, they said, while lighted does no harm, but being extinguished is hurtful to many, so great souls are benignant and harmless in their shining, but their extinction and dissolution oftentimes, as now, cause winds and storms, and often infect the air with pestilent diseases.
'There was however one island there, in which Kronos was confined and guarded in his sleep by Briareus; for his sleep had been artfully contrived to keep him bound; and there were many daemons about him as attendants and servants.'.
So far Plutarch. But it is important to observe the time at which he says that the death of the daemon took place. For it was the time of Tiberius, in which our Saviour, making His sojourn among men, is recorded to have been ridding human life from daemons of every kind: so that there were some of them now kneeling before Him and beseeching Him not to deliver them over to the Tartarus that awaited them.
You have therefore the date of the overthrow of the daemons, of which there was no record at any other time; just as you had the abolition of human sacrifice among the Gentiles as not having occurred until after the preaching of the doctrine of the Gospel had reached all mankind. Let then these refutations from recent history suffice.
BUT since the matters which have been mentioned are not known to all, it seems to me well to pass from this point to subjects which are self-evident to all the learned, and to examine the oracular responses of most ancient date which are repeated in the mouth of all Greeks, and are taught in the schools of every city to those who resort to them for instruction.
Take up again therefore the ancient records from the beginning, and observe what kind of answer the Pythian god gives to the Athenians when afflicted with a pestilence on account of the death of Androgeus. The Athenians were all suffering from a pestilence for one man's death, and thought to receive the help of the gods.
What advice then does this saviour and god give them? To cultivate justice and benevolence and all other virtue in future, some one will perhaps suppose; or to repent of the offence, and to perform some holy and religious rites, as the gods would thereby be propitiated. Nay, nothing of the kind.
For what indeed did their admirable gods, or rather their utterly wicked daemons, care for these things? So again they say what is natural and familiar to themselves, things merciless and cruel and inhuman, plague upon plague, and many deaths for one.
In fact Apollo bids them every year send of their own children seven grown youths, and as many maidens, fourteen innocent and unconcerned persons for one. and that not once only but every year, to be sacrificed in Crete in the presence of Minos: so that even to the time of Socrates, more than five hundred years afterwards, this dreadful and most inhuman tribute was still kept in memory among the Athenians. And this it was that caused the delay in the death of Socrates.
This answer of the oracle is at once stated and very justly condemned in a vigorous argument by a recent author, who has composed a separate work on The Detection of Impostors: to whose own words, and not mine, now listen, as he aims his stroke at the author of the response in the manner following: 22
[OENOMAUS] 'WHAT then? When the Athenians had caused the death of Androgeus, and suffered a pestilence for it, would they not have said that they repented? Or if they did not say so, would it not have been proper for thee to say "Repent," rather than to say this?
"Of plague and famine there shall be an end,
If your own flesh and blood, female and male,
By lot assigned to Minos, ye send forth
Upon the mighty sea, for recompense
Of evil deeds: so shall the god forgive."
'I pass over the fact that you gods are indignant at the death of Androgeus at Athens, but sleep on while so many die in all places and at all times: though thou knewest that Minos at that time was master of the sea, and of mighty power, and all Hellas was paying court to him: he Avas therefore a lover of justice, and a good lawgiver, and seemed to Homer to be
"Frequent in converse close with mighty Zeus," 23
and after death he became a judge in Hades: and thou for this offence wouldst exact these penalties on his behalf!
'But I pass over these matters just as you gods do, and also the fact that after letting the murderers escape ye bade them send the innocent to death, yea, sent them to a man whom ye were about to exhibit as a judge of all mankind, but who in this very case knew not how to give judgement. And yet how many ought you gods in justice to send to the Athenians in place of these youths, whom ye unjustly slew in revenge for Androgeus? '
This same writer, after recalling the story about the Heracleidae, counts up the number of persons whose death Apollo has caused by the ambiguity of his responses, in the following words. 24
[OENOMAUS] 'BUT since I happen to have mentioned this subject, let me now relate the incidents of the narrative concerning the Heracleidae. For they once set out to invade the Peloponnese by way of the Isthmus, but failed in the attempt. So Aristomachus the son of Aridaeus, because his father had perished in the invasion, comes to thee to learn about the way: for he was eager as his father had been. And thou tellest him,
"Heaven shows the way to victory through the straits."
'So he starts on the enterprise by way of the Isthmus, and is killed in battle. His son Temenus, unhappy son of hapless sire, was the third who came to thee, and thou gavest the same promise to him as to his father Aristomachus: and he said, "But my father trusted thee, and perished in the invasion."
'Then thou said'st, I do not mean "straits" on land, but on "the broad-bosomed," because, I suppose, it was difficult for thee to say simply "by the sea." And he went by sea, after making them think that he was making his incursion by land, and he encamped midway between Navatus and Typaeum. He killed with his spear Carnus son of Phylander, an Aetolian knight, doing, as I think, quite rightly. And when a plague presently fell upon them, and Aristodemus died, they returned again, and Temenus came and complained of his failure, and was told that he had brought upon himself the penalty for the messenger of the god, and he heard the poem concerning his vow to the Carnean Apollo, which told him in the oracular answer,
"Thou sufferest vengeance for my prophet's death."
'What then says Temenus? "What must I do? And how can I appease you?"
"To the Carnean god due honour vow."
'O most accursed, and most shameless prophet! Dost thou then not understand that he who hears the word "straits" will miss its meaning? Yet knowing this thou none the less givest this answer, and then lookest on at his mistake.
'But the word "strait" was ambiguous, and chosen in order that, if he were victorious, thou mightest seem to be the cause of his victory; but, if defeated, not at all to blame for his defeat, being able to take refuge in "the broad-bosomed." But the man went on "the broad-bosomed," and did not succeed; and again, an excuse is found in the death of thy messenger Carnus.
'Yet how, most noble god, didst thou, to whom Carnus was so dear, bid him be inspired for others, but not for himself? And though thou shouldest have saved Carnus, who was but one, how didst thou suffer him to die, and for his death didst bring an Homeric plague upon the multitude, and dictate vows for the plague?
'And if he had accomplished nothing by his vow, another excuse would have been found for thy quibble, and ye would never have ceased, they on their side inquiring, and thou quibbling, so that whether they were victorious or defeated thy malpractice would not have been detected. For their passion and eagerness were strong enough to mislead them, so as to make them not distrust thee, even if they were to be slain a thousand times.
'To this it is worth while to add the story of Croesus. He reigned over Lydia, having received the government as it had come down to him from a long line of ancestors. Then hoping to succeed somewhat beyond his forefathers, he was minded to show piety towards the gods, and, after making trial of them all, he preferred the Apollo of Delphi, and proceeded to adorn his temple with bowls and ingots of gold, and a countless multitude of offerings, and made it in a short time the richest of all temples in the world; nor in his magnanimity did he omit all that sufficed for sacrifices.
'So after he had made such loans to the god, the Lydian king naturally felt confidence in his magnificent works of piety, and resolved to make an expedition against the Persians, expecting to increase his empire greatly by the alliance of the god.
'What then did the wonderful oracle-monger do? That very same Delphian, Pythian, friendly god contrives that his suppliant, his dear friend, his client should not only fail to win the foreign empire, but also be driven from his own, the god not doing this at all purposely, I think, but rather in ignorance of what was to happen: for surely it was not with any knowledge of the future (since he was no god nor any superhuman power) that he craftily contrived his response to suit either event, and with the seeming affirmation,
"The Halys crossed,
Croesus a mighty empire shall destroy," 25
overturned the kingdom of Lydia which had come down from a succession of ancestors to the pious king, great and ancient as it was, and rendered to his favoured worshipper this fruit of his extreme zeal towards him.'
After this hear what indignation the writer not unreasonably utters. 26
[OENOMAUS] 'IT seems then that thou dost verily know all things that are worth no more than sand, but knowest nothing that is excellent. For example, that "the smell of a strong-shelled tortoise boiling should strike on thy senses," is a piece of knowledge worth but sand, not being even true in itself, but nevertheless becoming to the braggart and the shameless, who looks supercilious over his empty bits of knowledge and tries to persuade Croesus the Lydian captive not to despise him.
'For he relying upon the trial (of the oracles), intended soon after to ask thee whether he should make an expedition against the Persians, and to make thee his adviser concerning his insane and grasping policy. And thou didst not shrink from telling him, that
"The Halys crossed,
Croesus a mighty empire shall destroy." 27
'That certainly was well contrived, that it mattered nought to thee, if he should suffer some strange disaster from being incited by an ambiguous oracle to attack a foreign empire, nor if certain bitter and malicious persons, instead of duly praising thee for having driven a madman headlong, went so far as to accuse thee of having uttered a phrase which was not even equally balanced, that the Lydian king might hesitate and take counsel; but they said that the word "καταλῦσαι" could be understood by the Greeks only in one way, not to be driven from his own empire, but to acquire the empire of another.
'For Cyrus, the semi-Mede or semi-Persian, or, as he was called in the riddle, "the mule," being of a royal race by his mother, but of an ordinary stock on his father's side, shows incidentally the inflated poetry, but especially the blind divination of the soothsayer, if he did not know that the riddle would be misunderstood.
'If, however, he was thus playing with him not from ignorance but from insolence and malice, heavens! how strange are the playthings of the gods. And if it was not this, but that the things must of necessity so happen, this is of all deceitful speeches the most wicked. For if it must so happen, why nevertheless dost thou, unhappy god, sit at Delphi chanting empty and useless prophecies? And of what use art thou to us? And why are we so mad, who run to thee from all quarters of the earth? And what right hast thou to the savour of sacrifices?'
This plain speaking of Oenomaus in the Detection of Impostors is not free from cynical bitterness. For he will not admit that the oracles which are admired among all the Greeks proceed from a daemon, much less from a god, but says that they are frauds and tricks of human impostors, cunningly contrived to deceive the multitude. And since I have once mentioned these matters, there can be no objection to hearing other refutations also; and first, that in which the same author says that he had been himself deceived by the Clarian Apollo: he writes as follows: 28
[OENOMAUS] 'BUT forsooth I too must take some part in the comedy, and not pride myself on not having fallen into the common derangement; and I must tell of the bargain in wisdom, which I myself imported out of Asia, from thee, O Clarian god:
"In the land of Trachis lieth
Thy fair garden, Heracles,
Where all flowers for ever blooming,
Laden with perpetual dews,
Culled all day, yet ne'er diminish." 29
'Then I myself also, impotent fool that I was, became elated by the "Heracles," and the "garden of Heracles in its bloom," dreaming of a certain Hesiodic "sweat" because of the name Trachis, and on the other hand of an "easy" life because of the blooming garden.
'Then, on my inquiring further whether the gods were inclined to help me, some one of the multitude, swearing by the very gods that were to help, said that he certainly had heard that this very answer had been given from thee to one Callistratus, a merchant of Pontus.
'When I heard this, what, thinkest thou, was my indignation, at being forsooth robbed by him of my "virtue"? But although dissatisfied I nevertheless began to inquire whether the merchant also had been at all flattered by the "Heracles." So then it appeared that he also was in some trouble, and was bent upon gain, and expecting from his gain some pleasant kind of life.
'So as it appeared that the merchant was no better treated than myself, I would no longer accept the oracle, nor the "Heracles," but disdained to share the same treatment, when I saw the troubles that were actually present and the pleasures that existed only in hope.
'However, it appeared that none went without his share in the oracle, neither robber nor soldier, neither lover nor mistress, neither flatterer, nor rhetorician, nor sycophant. For of what each man desired, the trouble came first, while the joy was only expected.'
Having made these statements, he immediately adds, how after a second and third inquiry he found that the wonderful prophets knew nothing, but were concealing their own ignorance simply by the obscurity of their ambiguous language. So he speaks as follows:
[OENOMAUS] 'But since my business was now so forward, and I wanted only a man to act as a stranger's guide to wisdom, and he was difficult to find, I requested thee also to point out such an one:
"On Eupelians and Achaeans obligation he will lay,
And, if true, for his conjecture shall receive no little pay."
'What sayest thou? If I was desirous of becoming a sculptor or painter, and was seeking for teachers, was it sufficient for me to hear Ἔν τε τοῖσιν Εὐπέλευσιν, or rather should I not have said that the speaker was mad?
'This, however, thou art perhaps not able to understand, for the characters of mankind are very obscure: but whither I had better travel from Colophon is no longer a matter so unintelligible to the god:
"When a man large stones projecteth from a widely-whirling sling,
With the blows he slays grass-eating geese unutterably great."
'Now who will interpret for me what in the world is meant by these "grass-eating geese unutterably great"? Or the "widely-whirling sling"? Will Amphilochus, or the god of Dodona, or wilt thou at Delphi, if I should come thither? Wilt thou not go and hang thyself with thy "widely-whirling sling," and take thy unintelligible verses with thee? '
But now, after such censures as these, it is time to observe again from the beginning how the same author confutes the most ancient oracular responses, those at Delphi, which are held forsooth in the very highest admiration in the histories of Greece.
'Vast was the Persian host in arms against the Athenians, nor was there any other hope of safety for them, except the god only. So they, not knowing who he was, invoked him as the helper of their forefathers. This was the Apollo at Delphi. What therefore did this wonderful deity do? Did he fight in defence of his friends? Did he remember the "libations and burnt offerings," and the customary honours which they paid to him in sacrificing their hecatombs? Not at all. But what said he? That they should flee, and provide a wooden wall for their flight: thus indicating the navy, by means of which alone he said that they could be saved when their city was burned. O mighty help of a god!
'Then he pretends forsooth to foretell a siege not only of the other buildings in the city, but also of the very temples consecrated to the gods. But this was what all might expect from the invasion of the enemy, apart from any oracle.'
Very naturally therefore the writer again makes sport of this delusion of the Greeks, and censures it in the following words:
[OENOMAUS] 'PERHAPS, however, such answers as I have described are those of an intentional mischief-maker; find we ought rather to bring forward for judgement his other answers which were given to the Athenians. So then let the responses to the Athenians be read: 30
"Wretches, why sit ye here? Fly, fly to the ends of creation,
(Quitting your homes, and the crags which your city crowns with her circlet.)
Neither the head, nor the body is firm in its place, nor at bottom
Firm the feet, nor the hands (nor resteth the middle uninjured.
All----all ruined and lost). Since fire and impetuous Ares,
Speeding along in a Syrian chariot, hastes to destroy her.
Not alone shalt thou suffer; full many the towers he will level,
Many the shrines of the gods he will give to a fiery destruction.
Even now they stand with dark sweat horribly dripping,
Trembling and quaking for fear."
'Lo! there you have the oracle that was given to the Athenians. Is there perchance anything prophetic in it? "Yes, surely," some one will say, "for you had so much confidence in him yourself: and this will be known, if you add what was further said to them when they besought him to help them." So then, let it be added: 31
"Pallas has not been able to soften the lord of Olympus,
Though she has often prayed him, (and urged him with excellent counsel).
Yet once more I address thee in words than adamant firmer
When the foe shall have taken (whatever the limit of Cecrops
Holds within it, and all which divine Cithaeron shelters),
Then far-seeing Zeus grants this to the prayers of Athene;
Safe shall the wooden wall continue for thee and thy children;
Wait not the tramp of the horse, not the footmen mightily moving
Over the land, but turn your back to the foe, and retire ye.
Yet shall a day arrive when ye shall meet him in battle.
Holy Salamis, thou shalt destroy the offspring of women,
When men scatter the seed, or when they gather the harvest."
'Thy Zeus is worthy of himself, O son of Zeus! Thy Athena also is worthy of Athena, O brother of Athena! And this eagerness and counter-eagerness well become the father and the daughter, or rather the gods in general! And this ruler of Olympus, too weak to destroy this one city without bringing against it that countless host from Susa, was forsooth a mighty god, having dominion over the world, and persuasive withal, as moving so many nations from Asia into Europe, but yet unable in Europe to overthrow one single city. 32
'And thou too, the prophet so bold and so ready also to run needless risks for nothing, dost thou not cry pity? (so the men Blight say, on whose behalf "Pallas has not been able to soften the lord of Olympus"). Or was it that Zeus was wroth not with the men, but with the stones and timber? And then wast thou to save the men, and he to burn the buildings with foreign fire? Because he had at the moment no thunderbolt?
'Or rather are we somewhat bold, and foolhardy in forbidding you gods to talk such nonsense? But how knewest thou, O prophet, that
"Holy Salamis shall destroy the offspring of women,"
but didst not further know whether it would be,
"When men scatter the seed, or when they gather the harvest"?
'And how knewest thou not even this, that a man might say that "the offspring of women" were either those of his own kindred, or might say that they were "the enemies," if he scented the evil device?
'But we must wait for what will happen, for happen one or other of these must. For in truth "Salamis the holy" would not have been inappropriate even in case of defeat, as being called by such an epithet in compassion: and the naval battle that was to take place either
"When men scatter the seed, or when they gather the harvest,"
is beplastered with poetical bombast, in order that, by this artifice, the prediction might escape detection, and it might not be clearly seen at the moment, that a naval battle does not take place in winter.
'Now too it is not difficult to see the stage-play, and the wheeling in of the gods, the one beseeching and the other refusing to yield, so useful for the coming event, and the unexpected turn of the war, the one if they should be saved, the other if they should be destroyed. For if they should be saved, behold! the prayers of Pallas have been foreshown, which were able to turn the anger of Zeus: or if not, even this result is not unprovided for by the prophet; for "Pallas is not able to soften Zeus." And to meet half-evil fortunes the artist mixed the oracle, as though Zeus had on the one hand fulfilled his own purpose, but on the other hand had not disregarded the request of his daughter.
'And as to the "towers," it might perhaps have been false that many would be destroyed, if they had attacked them with reeds instead of iron and fire, though in this case even with reeds so great an army could at all events have accomplished something. "But it was I," says he, "who discovered the wooden wall which alone could not be destroyed." Yes, it was thy advice, but not a prophecy, not unlike that "Haste, oh! haste thee away, nor blush to behave like a coward."
'He therefore who solved that riddle was as good as thyself in discerning that the city of the Athenians was the Persian's avowed cause for the invasion, and the whole expedition was directed against this city first and chiefly. For even I myself, who am no prophet, should have discerned this, and bidden not only the Lydian king, but also the Athenians to turn their backs and flee. For "Yet shall a day arrive when ye shall meet him in battle," for there cometh on "the tramp of the horse and the footmen mightily moving." Also that they must flee in ships, and not on the mainland: for it would have been ridiculous, as they had ships, and dwelt by the sea, not to have collected their goods in all haste, and put on board all the provisions they had, and made their escape, giving over the land to those who chose to take it.'
These then were the answers given to the Athenians: but those given to the Lacedaemonians were utterly weak and ridiculous. For either, says he, the whole city shall be besieged, or it shall mourn the loss of the king. From every circumstance, it was natural for any one to guess this, that either one or the other would happen.
But surely it was no divination of a god to use such ambiguity in ignorance of the future, when he ought to have given help, and appeared opportunely as saviour of the Greeks, and rather to have procured the victory over the enemies and barbarians for the Greeks, as his own friends. And if he had not power to do this, he should at least have provided that they should suffer no harm, and not be conquered. But even this he failed to do, nay, he did not even know how the circumstances of their defeat would turn out. Wherefore on this point also hear how his censure is expressed.
[OENOMAUS] 'BUT, thou wilt say, one must not give the same advice to the Lacedaemonians. That is true. For thou knewest not, O sophist, as in the case of Attica, what course the affairs of Sparta would take. Therefore thou wast afraid lest thou shouldest bid them flee, and then they should flee, and the enemy never invade them.
'Since therefore it was necessary to say something, this is what thou saidst to the Lacedaemonians:
"O habitants of Sparta's spacious streets,
Either your glorious city shall be sacked
By Perseus' warrior sons, or else a king
Sprung from the race of mighty Heracles
Must die, and all Laconia mourn his fate." 33
'Again there is the combination most unlike prophecy. However, let it pass, that we may not seem to be both wearisome and incompetent by trampling upon thee twice for the same fault; but let us examine the remaining facts.
'In so great a danger all were looking to thee, and thou wast both their informant of the future, and their adviser as to present action. And while they believed thee trustworthy, thou wast sure that they were fools; and that the present opportunity was convenient for drawing on the simpletons, and driving them headlong, not only to the schools of sophistry at Delphi and Dodona, but also to the seats of divination by barley and by wheat-flour, and to the ventriloquists.
'For at that time not only the gods were believed, but also cats and crows, and the delusions of dreams. It was not difficult therefore to see that they would neither have accepted both misfortunes rather than one, nor the greater instead of the less, and it was less that one, even their king, should fall instead of all.
'So then with the fall of the city there would be no escape for him either; but if he were posted somewhere else by himself, perhaps something unexpected might happen. The remaining course then was for those who reasoned thus to send the king to carry on the war, and stay at home themselves out of danger, awaiting the event.
'For him therefore, taking his stand with a few against that immense host, destruction was manifest; but Sparta had a respite from fear, and hopes of the unexpected: while the trick would be equally undetected, whether the city escaped or was captured.
'Why so? Because it had not been said, forsooth, that the city should be saved if the king died, but that either he should perish alone or the whole city together: and this answer could not be called to account in either case, whether he were to perish alone or not alone. Such is the fruit of arrogance and folly.'
Such was the course in this case. But it would not be right to pass by the answer which he gave to the Cnidians, when they offered vows and prayed for the alliance of the god.
[OENOMAUS] 'THE Cnidians also suffered something like this, when Harpagus made an expedition against them. For when they tried to cut through the Isthmus there and make their city an island, at first they stuck close to the work; but when they had to face the labour, they were for giving up and consulting the oracle. And thou saidst to them:
"Fence not the isthmus off, nor dig it through:
Jove would have made an island, had he wished": 34
and the lazy cowards were persuaded, and turned back from the work, and gave themselves up to Harpagus. But mark the cunning trick: for since it was not certain that they would escape, even if they dug the trench, thou didst stop them from this; but in not bidding them to continue the work, thou dost promise their escape.
'To this however thou didst add, not that it was better for them not to dig it, but that it was not the pleasure of Zeus that it should be an island. So then in discouraging them the chances were evenly balanced; but in giving them encouragement the promise of escape preponderated: in this case then it was safe for the sophist to deter them. And so, without telling them anything of what they had come for, thou sentedst them away with the idea that they had heard something good.'
Now I think these instances sufficiently convict the feebleness both of the givers and receivers of the responses, and that there is no truth or inspiration to be found in their declarations.
But you will see the mischievous disposition either of the evil daemons or of the men who played false with the divinations, if you learn how in the war of Greeks against each other they irritated those who consulted them, whereas they ought to have been arbiters of peace and friendship.
At one time, therefore, this Delphian god again irritates the Lacedaemonians, as if they were his friends and familiars, against the Messenians, and at another time gives an answer against the Lacedaemonians to the Messenians, if the latter should propitiate the daemons again by human sacrifice. Listen now to this story also.
[OENOMAUS] 'WHEN wisdom is associated with divination she will review such answers as these, and will permit no random discourse, inasmuch as she makes all things sure by their moorings to herself, and assigns their degrees of precedence. Nor will she permit the Pythian prophet, in his folly, to prophecy either to these, or to the Lacedaemonians about the Messenians, and the land which the Messenians held after defeating the Lacedaemonians by a stratagem.
"Set not thy hand to deeds of war alone,
So Phoebus bids; for as by stratagem
The people hold Messenian soil, so now
Shall they be caught by arts which they first used." 35
'Wisdom bids them rather think of peace and frugality and contentment. But they perhaps, though disciplined by the laws of Lycurgus, had come to inquire from insatiate desire and vainglory, that they might not seem to be inferior in battle to Messenians, though reputed to have been bred up in habits of endurance.
'But surely if they had been thus bred up in habits of endurance, they would have been content with little, and would have had no need of fighting, and arms, and the rest of such folly.
'This was the answer to the Lacedaemonians against the Messenians; but on the other hand the answer to the Messenians against the Lacedaemonians was as follows; for thou didst give oracles to the Messenians also against the Lacedaemonians, and not only to the Lacedaemonians against the Messenians:
"A virgin of the race of Aepytus
The lot shall choose, whom to the infernal gods
Thou must devote, Ithome thus to save." 36
'For I do not accept the false inventions, that the victim chosen from the race of Aepytus was not a pure virgin, and therefore the Messenians could not offer the sacrifice. For it is thy nature to make confusion.'
Such then are the statements of ancient history. And in our own days also one might observe thousands of similar cases, in which from ancient times even to our own the successive rulers at one time rushed into unprofitable wars by the advice of the oracles, at another time were foiled by the obscurity of the responses, or again were misled from the actual deceit of the oracles.
What need to tell how at times in the greatest crises either of battle-array against the enemy, or of danger in bodily sickness, men gained no help or healing from the supposed gods. But their answers from the oracles always and constantly turn out to be such as the ancient histories prove them to have been.
But of those Pythian responses which Were most celebrated among the Greeks there was a certain one addressed to Lycurgus, to whom at his coming the Pythoness addressed that famous answer:
'To my rich shrine thou com'st, Lycurgus, dear
To Zeus and all who in Olympus dwell:
Whether to hail thee god or mortal man
Doubts my prophetic soul, yet hope prevails
To welcome thee as god. To seek good laws,
Lycurgus, thou art come; such will I give.'
These, with the additional lines, were the words of the oracle. Let us then examine closely what observations were made in answer thereto in the criticism before quoted. The author writes thus: 37
[OENOMAUS] 'BUT when the precursor and model of Tyrtacus once came to thee, thou saidst he had come from hollow Laccdaemon, "a friend of Zeus and all who in Olympus dwell," and that thou wert in doubt, "whether to hail him god or mortal man, yet hope prevailed to welcome him as god," because he came "to seek good laws."
'But, if he was a god, how was it that the "friend of Zeus and all who in Olympus dwell" did not understand civic law?
'However, since such matters as have been shown to this most godlike of men by the voice of the god cannot perhaps be discovered without a god's help, let us look at the divine utterance, and the things which thou didst teach Lycurgus:
"To seek good laws,
Lycurgus, thou art come; such will I give."
'Give then, I should say: for no such gift as this didst thou ever yet promise to any man.
"So long as to the oracles ye pay
Your promises and vows, and justice due
To fellow citizens and strangers give,
Show to the aged reverence sincere,
Duly respect the sons of Tyndarus,
Menelaus and the deathless heroes, who
In noble Lacedaemon dwell enshrined,
So long far-seeing Zeus shall guard your home."
'Apollo! What divine teaching and exhortation! And for this no long voyage is needed, nor a journey from Peloponnesus to Delphi, or even to the very Hyperboreans, whence, as they say, in accordance with the response of another prophetess, Asteria,
"Founders and priests of fragrant Delos came."
'I suppose that this Lycurgus never had a nurse, nor ever sat in a company of old men, from whom, as well as from her, he might have heard nobler and wiser lessons than these.
'Perhaps, however, thou wilt add something more, if Lycurgus entreat thee to speak plainly.
"If some should lead aright, and others follow,"----
I shall still say that this comes from the same company, and request Lycurgus not to desist, for the chance that he may go back to Sparta with some political lesson received from thee.
"Two ways there are diverging far apart,
This leading on to freedom's glorious home,
That to the hateful cell of slavery.
This manly valour treads and concord true,
And to this path be ye the peoples' guides.
Through hateful strife and baneful cowardice
Men reach the other path; of that beware."
'Thou bid'st them to be manly: this we have often heard even from the cowardly. But also to be of one mind: this we have heard not only from the wise, but ere now from the very leaders of sedition: so we can excuse thee from giving us this exhortation.
'Nevertheless being a prophet didst thou not know that we have received it many a time and from many persons, who had neither eaten greedily of the laurel, nor drunk the water of Castalia, nor ever been supercilious about wisdom?
'Tell us then about manliness, tell us about freedom, tell us about concord, in what way they are engendered in a state, and bid not us, who are ignorant, to lead the peoples in this path, but lead us thyself. For it is a noble path, but difficult for us and formidable.'
To this he adds further remarks.
[OENOMAUS] 'THOU art ready to speak of marriage also:
"From Argive pastures choose a well-bred foal
Of dark-maned sire."
'And about children:
"Astion, of race most honourable,
None gives thee honour; but thy Labda soon
Conceives, and bears a mighty rock, (to crush
The tyrants, and on Corinth justice do)."
'About a colony:
'"Gainst men of gold lead forth a numerous host,
Brass on thy shoulders, iron in thine hand."
"No spot on earth can match Pelasgia's soil,
What soil with thine, Pelasgia, can compare?
The mares of Thrace, or Sparta's beauteous dames,
Or men who drink fair Arethusa's fount."
'And it seems to me that thou art no better than the so-called marvel-mongers, nay not even than the rest of the quacks and sophists. At them, however, I do not wonder, that they throw men over for pay; but I do wonder at thee, the god, and at mankind, that they pay to be thrown over.
'Then the famous Socrates, in answer to him who asked whether he should marry or not, said neither, but that he would repent of both: and to the man who wished for children he said that he would not do right, if, instead of trying how, if he should have children, he might treat them in the best way, he made no account of this but was only considering how he might get them.
'And when another man had determined to travel, because things were not well with him at home, he said that he was not taking right counsel; for he would go away and leave his country where it was, but would take his folly with him, which would make him disagreeable to the people there just as much as to those at home. And not only when he was questioned, but also of his own accord he often resorted to such conversations.'
'FOR twenty days before the Dog-star rise,
And twenty days that follow next thereon,
In shady bower let Bacchus be thy leech:' 38
'A medical and not a prophetical answer given to the Athenians when troubled by the burning heat.
"Grandson of Presbon, son of Clymenus,
Thyself, Erginus, would'st the race prolong:
'Tis late; yet give the old plough a new tip."
'For a young woman to be wedded to an old man, if he desires children, this is the advice not of a prophet, but of one who understands nature. Desire, however, sets the weaklings beside themselves.'
'FOR this reason, if thou canst not persuade them to learn something worthy of the school of a god instead of their contemptible questions, I recommend thee to take a rod to them rather than to say to Archilochus of Paros after he had thrown away his substance in political follies, and in sorrow had come to consult thee:
"To Thasos, Archilochus, go, and dwell in that glorious island."
'For he would have profited more had he been told in this other way:
"Archilochus, come to thy senses, in poverty make no bewailing."
'Or to the Cretans who had come to thee:
"Dwellers in Phaestus and Tarra and wave-beaten headland of Dium,
Hear ye my bidding, and offer the Pythian lustrations to Phoebus
In pious devotion, so dwell ye for ever in Creta's fair island,
Worshipping wealth and Zeus in customs not those of your fathers."
'It would have been better for them to be told:
"Dwellers in folly and madness and self-conceited elation,
Hear ye my bidding, and offer at home in pious devotion
Lustrations your folly to purge; so dwell ye in wisdom for ever
Worshipping wealth in customs not those of your sires but divine."
'Beware lest thou need lustration more than Crete, for inventing lustrations such as those of Orpheus and Epimenides.'
'BUT why, O wisest of gods, if Charilaus and Archelaus, the kings of Lacedaemon,
"Give to Apollo as his share of gain
One half, it were far better for themselves?"
'To what other Apollo dost thou mean? For surely thou dost not claim this for thyself, O most shameless prophet, lest any one should rebuke thee, as sharing so basely with the robbers.'
Enough, however, of this subject. So come, let us append to it the verses in which at another time Apollo admires Archilochus, a man who in his own poems employed against women all kinds of foul and unspeakable abuse, which any modest man would not endure even to listen to: Euripides also he admires though he was expelled from the school and philosophy of Socrates, and is caricatured upon the stage even to the present day: besides these Homer also, whom the noble Plato banishes from his own republic, as in no respect profitable, but as having been the author of language which utterly corrupts the young. For these reasons again the author before mentioned scoffs at the soothsaying god as follows:
'"IMMORTAL and renowned in song thy son,
Telesicles, among all men shall be."
'Now this son was Archilochus.
"A son, Mnesarchus, thou shalt have, whom all
Mankind shall honour, who to noble fame
Shall rise, encircled with the festal grace
Of sacred crowns."
'The son was Euripides.
'Homer was told:
"Life hath a twofold destiny for thee;
This shall in darkness veil twin orbs of light;
That with immortal gods, in life, in death,
Shall set thee equal."
'And for this cause it was said of him:
"Happy and hapless, born to either doom."
'The speaker is not a man, but one who has sometimes insisted that he must not
"As god be careless of the woes of men."
'Come then, thou god, be not careless even of us. For we desire, if it be not wrong, some of us worthy fame, others sacred crowns, others equality with the gods, and others immortality itself. 'What then was that, for which Archilochus seemed to thee worthy of heaven? Grudge not to other men that upward path, thou of all gods best friend to man! What dost thou bid us do? Or must we, of course, do what Archilochus did, if we would show ourselves worthy of the home of you gods? Abuse bitterly the maidens who are unwilling to marry us, and associate with profligates far baser than the basest of men? But not without poetry, for that is the language of gods, as well as of god-like men like Archilochus. And no wonder perhaps. For through excellence in this art the home is well ordered, and the private life is happy, and cities are kept in concord, and nations are well governed.
'Not unnaturally therefore he was regarded by thee as a servant of the Muses, and his murderer deemed worthy neither of admission to you gods, nor of speech from you, because he had slain a man of skilful speech.
'There was no injustice then in the threat against Archias, nor anything inopportune in the Pythia avenging Archilochus though long since dead, and commanding the blood-guilty one to depart out of the temple; for he had slain a servant of the Muses.
'To me at all events thou didst not appear to be out of order in avenging the poet; for I remembered the other poet also, and the sacred crowns of Euripides; though indeed I was in doubt, and desirous of hearing, not that he had been crowned, but how these crowns were "sacred"; nor that his fame sprang up, but in what way it was "noble" fame.
'For he used to be applauded in the crowds, I know: also he was agreeable to tyrants, this too I know: and he practised an art which won admiration not only for the lover of it himself, but also for the city of Athens, because it alone gave birth to tragic poets.
'If therefore the applause is a competent judge, and the table in the Acropolis, I have nothing more to say, since I see Euripides supping in the Acropolis, and the commons both of the Athenians and the Macedonians applauding. But if apart from these the gods have any vote, and that trustworthy, and not inferior to the vote of the tyrants or to that of the crowds, come tell us, for which of his excellences did you gods give your vote in favour of Euripides, that we may hasten at full speed to heaven in the track marked out by your praises.
'For surely there is no lack even now of Sapaeans or Lycambes ready to be caricatured, nor in the present day would either a Thyestes, or an Oedipus, or the hapless Phineus object to be made a subject of tragedy; nor would they, I think, be envious of any one who desired the friendship of the gods: but even those of old, if they had learned that there would be a certain Euripides, a man who came to be dear to the gods for having dressed them up, they would, I think, have ceased to care for their old misfortunes, and instead of giving their mind to better ways would have turned to making verses. And if they heard loud-sounding names of men of former times, they would use them for their journey to heaven, that on their arrival they might sit in Olympus among the boxers, in the hall of Zeus. For this is what the poet at Delphi says.
'Now let us look at the question which "the happy" Homer asks of the god: for I suppose it was something about heaven, and important enough to call forth an answer from the god; otherwise he would not so readily have pronounced him "happy," and in addition to this happiness have awarded him an answer.
"Thou seek'st a fatherland, but none is thine.
A motherland thou hast, nor near, nor far
From Minos' realm: there is thy doom to die,
When from the tongues of schoolboys thou hast heard
A long-drawn hymn thou canst not understand."
'Was it then a terrible thing, O thou wisest of men, or rather of gods, if this "happy" man should know neither where on earth he sprang from his mother's womb, nor where he should close his eyes and lie? I should have thought it of equal importance, whether a Homer or one of the beetles came to consult the god on these points, and that the god could no more have given any guidance on such unknown matters to Homer than to a beetle.
'As for example, if a beetle did not spend his life and his old age on that same dunghill on which he was begotten, but fell in with an adverse wind, and a cruel beetle-daemon, who caught him up into the air and carried him away by force to some other land and some other dunghill, and then he came to Delphi and inquired which was the dunghill of his fatherland, and what land would receive him when dead.'
Let this suffice then about the poets.
BUT since this wonderful god by his own responses has deified not only poets but even boxers and athletes, the author before mentioned seems to me to pass an appropriate censure on this also in the following words:
'O thou who knowest to number the sands and to measure the ocean
Who hast ears for the silent, and knowest the dumb man's meaning.' 39
'I would that thou wert ignorant of all such things, but knewest this, that the art of boxing is no better than that of kicking, that thou mightest either have immortalized asses also, or else not Cleomedes boxer of Astypalaea, in such words as these:
"Last of the heroes was he, Cleomedes of Astypalaea;
Now no longer a mortal with sacrifice honour him duly." 40
'For what then, O ancient interpreter of the religion of the Greeks, as Plato calls thee, didst thou deify this man? Was it because at the Olympic games he struck his antagonist a single blow and laid open his side, and thrust in his hand and seized his lung?
'By Apollo! how godlike a deed! Or was it not that alone, but also because, being punished by a fine of four talents for this act, he did not submit, but in wrath and indignation turned his anger against the boys in the school, by pulling away the column which upheld the roof. Is it for these deeds then, thou manufacturer of gods, that we ought to honour Cleomedes?
'Or wilt thou add this also, as the other proof at once of his manliness and his friendship with the gods, that having stepped into a sacred chest, and pulled the cover over it, he could not be caught by his pursuers when they wished to drag him out? A hero then no longer mortal art thou, O Cleomedes, for inventing such contrivances to attain immortality.
'The gods at least were immediately sensible of thy good deeds, and snatched thee up to heaven, just as Homer's gods snatched Ganymede; but him they chose for his beauty, and thee for thy strength, and for the good use made of it!
'I wish therefore, O prophet, as I said, that thou hadst let alone the sand and the sea, and instead of them hadst learned how much boxing is worth, that thou mightest regard the pugnacious asses as gods, and the wild asses as the very best of the gods: and there would have been some proper oracle over the death of a wild ass, rather than over thy boxer:
"Chief of the deathless gods is a wild ass, not Cleomedes;
Now no longer a mortal with sacrifice honour him duly."
'For indeed you must not wonder, if even a wild ass should lay claim to immortality, as being fully provided with divine qualifications, and should not endure what he heard, but should threaten that with a blow he would knock even Cleomedes himself into the pit, and not permit him to go up to heaven.
'For he would say that he was more worthy of the very gifts of the gods than Cleomedes, as being ready to fight not with him alone, even if he were to use thongs of iron, but also with the Thasian boxer, both at once, him I mean on account of whose statue the gods were aggrieved, and made the land of the Thasians barren.
'About this man also we trust to no human testimony but to that of the same god. And from these facts I clearly perceived that boxing was, as we said, a godlike pursuit, though most persons, even those who think themselves wise, were not aware of it: or they would have given up being gentlemen, and would have practised the art of the Thasian boxer, whom the gods, though they did not grant immortality to him, as they did to Cleomedes, yet loved much.
'Thus his statue of bronze exhibited a power beyond the images of other men, by falling down upon his enemy who was scourging it, which seems to show a kind of divine solicitude.
'But the senseless Thasians, having no experience in things divine, were indignant and accused the statue of a crime, and exacted punishment, and ventured to sink it in the sea.
'They did not escape however, these Thasians, but the gods showed them how great a wrong they had dared to commit, by sending a famine upon them as the minister of divine justice, which with difficulty taught them what the counsels of the gods were; and thou the most philanthropic of gods didst send them help in thine own fashion, saying:
"Bring thy banished ones home, and gather a liberal harvest."
'But again the stupid people supposed that they must recall the men who were in banishment: but they were mistaken; for as the gods have no love at all for mankind, what care they about men being recalled from banishment, in comparison with their care for statues? For this of course the land gained no help towards being relieved of its barrenness, but that some wise person who understood the mind of the gods conceived that the banished one was the statue which had been drowned in the sea. And so it was. For no sooner was it set up again, than immediately the land began to flourish, and the Thasians thenceforward (enjoying abundant harvests) wore long hair in honour of Ceres.
'Must not then these be clear proofs that a godlike athleticism is honoured by the gods? For again the gods were wroth because of an insult to the statue of a conqueror in the pentathlum, and for this the Locrians were famished, like the Thasians, until they found a remedy in thy oracle, running thus:
"Hold the dishonoured in honour, and then shalt thou plough up thy land."
'For neither did the Locrians perceive the meaning of the gods before they had thee to help them in the matter. But they had cast the pentathlete Euthycles into prison, on a charge of having received bribes against his country: and not only so, but after he was dead they committed outrages upon his statues, until the gods could not endure their conduct, and sent the most violent famine upon them. And they would have utterly perished by the famine, had there not come help from thee, saying that they ought to honour men trained and fattened, who are no less dear to the gods than the oxen which the millers fatten, and by sacrificing which men sometimes win your assent. Not less perhaps, but even much more, than fat cattle do you delight in fat men, so that sometimes you grow angry with a whole city and a whole nation, because one or two persons do wrong to these failings.
'How I wish then, O prophet, thou hadst been our trainer instead of prophet, or both prophet and trainer together, that as there is a Delphic oracle so there might have been a Delphic gymnasium. For it would not have been inappropriate to the Pythian contest that the gymnasium also should be Pythian.'
To this I will append what he says by way of proving that the gods whom we are discussing are also flatterers of tyrants.
'"HAPPY the man who now to my sacred dwelling approacheth,
Cypselus, son of Aetion, king of illustrious Corinth." 41
'So then tyrants also are happy, and not only those who conspire against tyrants:
"Cypselus, who shall work full many misfortunes to Corinth,"
and Melanippus, who wrought many blessings for the city of Gela.
'But if Cypselus was "happy," O thou miserable god, how could Phalaris fail to be liappy too, being of like character with Cypselus? So that your oracle would have run better in this other way:
"Phalaris, happy art thou, and Melanippus likewise,
Leaders and guides of mankind in the pathways of heavenly discord."
'But I have also heard an oracle of thine in prose concerning Phalaris, praising and honouring him, because after he had discovered their conspiracy and tortured them, he admired their endurance and released them. So Loxias and his father Zeus voted Phalaris a respite from death, because he behaved mercifully towards Chariton and Melanippus. But I wish thou hadst just taught us about death and life, that life is a most noble thing. To all this let us add the following:'
'"FAR better will Methymna's dwellers fare,
If Dionysus' wooden head they honour."
'For the cities offer sacrifice and keep festivals not only to wooden heads of Dionysus, but also to heads of stone, and bronze, and gold; not only to wooden heads but also to actual heads of Dionysus, and to very many of the other gods of Hesiod.
'For verily there are
"Three times ten thousand on the fruitful earth,"
not immortals, but rulers of mankind of wood and stone: and if they
"Man's insolence or just behaviour scanned," 42
there never would have been raised a crop of nonsense so great, that at length the evil has reached even to you gods, having passed over to Olympus, where, as they say,
"The abode of the gods is for ever secure."
'Yet surely if it were "secure," it would not be accessible to nonsense, nor would any one of the Olympians have reached such a pitch of insanity as to turn a log of olive-wood into a god. This log became entangled in the meshes of a net, and was dragged up by the Methymnaeans, who caught it in their nets twice, it may be, and thrice, or oftener in the same place, and thence ran out into the Libyan sea, and did not cast it out upon the land: for if they had done that, it would not have stuck fast in the meshes, no, by Dionysus!
'But as the top of the log was like a head (Apollo! what a strange contrivance!), one might ask, what business had it in the sea? Why, what else, to be sure, except that it sat waiting until some insane men (for I will not say, gods also) should meet with it, and believe it to be fallen not from Zeus, but from Poseidon, and then should carry it off to their town, as if it were some lucky prize, though in reality it was unlucky, and no prize, but a firebrand? Or perhaps it was not enough that of itself it utterly ruined them, but an increase of infatuation, so to say, fetched from Delphi gave it new strength and intensity.'
So far Oenomaus. But now, after what has been stated, pass again to The Philosophy to be derived from Oracles of the author who has made the compilation against us, and read from the responses of the Pythian god concerning Fate, and see whether it will not occur to you also that the account of the celebrated oracles is still more inconsistent with any divine power.
[Footnotes have been numbered and placed at the end]
1. 179 d 9 Porphyry, Against the Christians
2. 181 d 10 Ephes. vi. 12
3. 182 c 3 Ephes. vi. 12
4. 184 a 1 Plutarch, On the Cessation of Oracles, c. x. p. 414
5. 184 c 9 Plutarch, On the Cessation of Oracles, c. xii. p. 416 C ibid. c. xvi. p. 418 E b I Plutarch, ibid. p. 417 B
6. 185 a 1 Plutarch, b 9 Herod. ii. 171. 185 c 3 Pindar, Fr. 121 (224)
7. 187 a 1 Plutarch, On Isis and Osiris, c. xxv. p. 360 D
8. 187 d 3 Plutarch, On Isis, cc. xxvi, xxvii. p. 361 C
9. 187 d 5 Empedocles, Fr. 32
10. 188 b 1 Plutarch, On the Cessation of Oracles, c. xxi. p. 421 B
11. 190 a 1 Porphyry, Of the Philosophy to be derived from Oracles
12. 191 b 1 Porphyry, Of the Philosophy to be derived from Oracles
13. 191 d 6 Porphyry, Epistle to Anebo, § 28 (Parthey)
14. 193 a 3 Porphyry, Of the Philosophy to be derived from Oracles
15. 197 d 1 Porphyry, Epistle to Anebo, § 28
16. 199 a 3 Porphyry, Epistle to Anebo, § 4
17. 198 d 2 Porphyry, Of the Philosophy to be derived from Oracles
18. 201 c 1 The same lines are quoted above, 124 b 3
19. 203 c 2 Porphyry, Of the Philosophy to be derived from Oracles
20. 205 b 4 Plutarch, On the Cessation of Oracles, c. 5, p. 411 E
21. 205 d 3 Plutarch, l. c., c. xvi, p. 418 E
22. 209 b 2 Oenomaus, The Detection of Impostors, a Fragment preserved by Eusebius
23. 209 d 8 Hom. Od. xix. 179
24. 210 b 2 Oenomaus, The Detection of Impostors
25. 212 b a cf. Herod. i. 53
26. 212 c 1 Oenomaus
27. 212 c 3 Herod. i. 47: cf. p. 457 a
28. 213 d 3 Oenomaus, ibid.
29. 214 a 10 Hesiod, Works and Days, vv. 287-290
30. 216 b 5 Herodotus, vii. 140 (Rawlinson's translation)
31. 216 d 4 Herod. vii. 141 (Rawlinson)
32. 218 b 4 Herod, i. 55
33. 219 b I Herod. vii. 220
34. 220 c 2 Herod. i. 174
35. 221 c 1 Pausanias, iv. 12
36. 221 d 8 Compare the version of the oracle in Pausanias, iv. 9 Herod, i. 65; Themistius, Or. V (xix. p. 225; Theodoret 141) 240
37. 222 d 1 Oenomaus
38. 225 c 6 Pausanias, ix. 37
39. 230 b 4 Herod. i. 47
40. 230 c 3 Plato, Republic, 427 C
41. 233 a 1 cf. Herod. v. 92. b 6 cf. Athenaeus, xiii. 78
42. 233 d 8 Hesiod,Works and Days, 250; Hom. Od. xvii. 487
This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, 2003. All material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.
Greek text is rendered using unicode.
|Early Church Fathers - Additional Texts|