§ 1.1 BOOK I [abridged]
Amphion of Thebes and Arion of Methymna were both minstrels. Both are celebrated in legend, and to this day the story is sung by a chorus of Greeks how their musical skill enabled the one to lure a fish and the other to build the walls of Thebes. There was also a Thracian wizard [Orpheus], — so runs another Greek legend, — who used to tame wild beasts simply by his song, yes, and to transplant trees, oaks, by music. I can also tell you of another legend and another minstrel akin to these, namely, Eunomus the Locrian and the Pythian grasshopper. A solemn assembly of Greeks, held in honour of a dead serpent, was gathering at Pytho, and Eunomus sang a funeral ode for the reptile. Whether his song was a hymn in praise of the snake, or a lamentation over it, I cannot say; but there was a competition, and Eunomus was playing the lyre in the heat of the day, at the time when grasshoppers, warmed by the sun, were singing under the leaves along the hills. They were singing, you see, not to the dead serpent of Pytho, but to the all-wise God, a spontaneous natural song, better than the measured strains of Eunomus. A string breaks in the Locrian's hands; the grasshopper settles upon the neck of the lyre and begins to twitter there as if upon a branch: whereupon the minstrel, by adapting his music to the grasshopper's lay, supplied the place of the missing string. So it was not Eunomus that drew the grasshopper by his song, as the legend would have it, when it set up the bronze figure at Pytho, showing Eunomus with his lyre, and his ally in the contest. No, the grasshopper flew of its own accord, and sang of its own accord, although the Greeks thought it to have been responsive to music.
§ 1.2 How in the world is it that you have given credence to worthless legends, imagining brute beasts to be enchanted by music, while the bright face of truth seems alone to strike you as deceptive, and is regarded with unbelieving eyes? Cithaeron [sacred to Zeus], and Helicon [of the Muses], and the mountains of Odyrsians and Thracians [of Dionysus], temples of initiation into error, are held sacred on account of the attendant mysteries, and are celebrated in hymns. For my own part, mere legend though they are, I cannot bear the thought of all the calamities that are worked up into tragedy; yet in your hands the records of these evils have become dramas, and the actors of the dramas are a sight that gladdens your heart. But as for the dramas and the Lenaean poets, who are altogether like drunken men, let us wreathe them, if you like with ivy, while they are performing the mad revels of the Bacchic rite, and shut them up, satyrs and frenzied rout and all, — yes, and the rest of the company of daemons too, — in Helicon and Cithaeron now grown old; and let us bring down truth, with wisdom in all her brightness, from heaven above, to the holy mountain of God and the holy company of the prophets. Let truth, sending forth her rays of light into the farthest distance, shine everywhere upon those who are wallowing in darkness, and deliver men from their error, stretching out her supreme right hand, even understanding, to point them to salvation. And when they have raised their heads and looked up let them forsake Helicon and Cithaeron to dwell in Sion; "for out of Sion shall go forth the law, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem," that is, the heavenly Word, the true champion, who is being crowned upon the stage of the whole word. Aye, and this Eunomus of mine sings not the strain of Terpander or of Capio, nor yet in Phrygian or Lydian or Dorian mode; but the new music, with its eternal strain that bears the name of God. This is the new song, the song of Moses, "Soother of grief and wrath, that bids all ills be forgotten [Odyssey 4.221]. There is a sweet and genuine medicine of persuasion blended with this song.
§ 1.3 In my opinion, therefore, our Thracian, Orpheus and the Theban and the Methymnian two, are not worthy of the name of man, since they were deceivers. Under cover of music they have outraged human life, being influenced by daemons, through some artful sorcery, to compass man's ruin. By commemorating deeds of violence in their religious rites, and by bringing stories of sorrow into worship, they were the first to lead men by the hand to idolatory; yes, and with stocks and stones, that is to say, statues and pictures, to build up the stupid custom. By their chants and enchantments they have held captive in the lowest slavery that truly noble freedom which belongs to those who are citizens under heaven.
§ 1.4 But far different is my minstrel, for He has come to bring to a speedy end the bitter slavery of the daemons that lord it over us; and by leading us back to the mild and kindly yoke of piety He calls once again to heaven those who have been cast down to earth. He at least is the only one who ever tamed the most intractable of all wild beasts — man: for he tamed birds, that is, flighty men; reptiles, that is, crafty men; lions, that is, passionate men; swine, that is, pleasure-loving men; wolves, that is, rapacious men. Men without understanding are stocks and stones; indeed a man steeped in ignorance is even more senseless than stones ...[The rest of chapter 1, a purely Christian exhortation, is omitted.]
§ 2.1 BOOK II [complete]
Do not therefore seek diligently after godless sanctuaries, nor after mouths of caverns full of jugglery [oracle of Trophonius], nor the Thesprotian caldron, nor the Cirrhaean tripod [oracle of Apollo], nor the Dodonian copper [oracle of Zeus]. As for the old stump honoured by the desert sands [oracle of Zeus Ammon ], and the oracular shrine there gone to decay with the oak itself, abandon them both to the region of legends now grown old. The Castalian spring [of Delphi ], at least, is all silent. So is the spring of Colophon; and the rest of the prophetic springs are likewise dead. Stripped of their absurd pretensions, though none to soon, they are at last thoroughly exposed; the waters have run dry together with the legends attached to them. Relate to me the utterly vain utterances of that other form of divination, — I should rather say hallucination, — the oracles of Apollo, Clarian, Pythian and Didymena, and those of Amphiaraus and Amphilochus; and, if you will, devote to destruction along with them the soothsayers, augurs and interpreters of dreams. At the same time, take and place by the side of Pythian Apollo those who divine by flour, and by barley, and the ventriloquists [those who simulate the voice of spirits] still held in honour among the multitude. Yes, and let the sanctuaries of Egypt and the Tuscan oracles of the dead be delivered over to darkness. Homes of hallucination in very truth they are, these schools of sophistry for unbelieving men, these gambling-dens of sheer delusion. Partners in this business of trickery are goats, trained for divination; and ravens, taught by men to give oracular responses to men.
§ 2.2 But what if I were to recount the mysteries for you? I will not burlesque them, as Alcibiades is said to have done, but will thoroughly lay bare, in accordance with the principle of truth, the trickery they conceal; and as for your so-called gods themselves, to whom the mystic rites belong, I will display them on the stage of life, as it were, for the spectators of truth. The raving Dionysus is worshipped by Bacchants with orgies, in which they celebrate their sacred frenzy by a feast of raw flesh. Wreathed with snakes, they perform the distributions of portions of their victims, shouting the name of Eva, that Eva through whom error entered into the world [the Bacchic cry euai identified with Biblical Eve]; and a consecrated snake is the emblem of the Bacchic orgies. At any rate, according to the correct Hebrew speech, the word "hevia" with an aspirant means the female snake. Demeter and Persephone have come to be the subject of the mystic drama, and Eleusis celebrates with torches the rape of the daughter and the sorrowful wandering of the mother.
§ 2.3 Now it seems to me that the terms "orgy" and "mystery" must be derived, the former from the wrath (orge) of Demeter against Zeus, and the latter from the pollution (mysos) that took place in connexion with Dionysus. But if they are named after a certain Myus of Attica, who according to Apollodorus was killed in hunting, I make no objection. Your mysteries have received the glory of funeral honours! You may also, in another way, suppose them to be hunting-stories (mytheria), since the letters correspond; for as surely as there are men who hunt wild beasts, so do legends like these hunt the rudest among Thracians, the silliest among Phrygians, and the daemon-fearers among Greeks. A curse then upon the man who started the deception for mankind, whether it be Dardanus, who introduced the mysteries of the Mother of the Gods; or Eetion, who founded the Samothracian orgies and rites; or that Phrygian Midas, who learnt the artful deceit from Odrysus and then passed it on to his subjects. For I could never be beguiled by the claims of the islander Cinyras, of Cyprus, who had the audacity to transfer the lascivious orgies of Aphrodite from night to day, in his ambition to deify a harlot of his own country. Others say that it was Melampus the son of Amythaon who brought into Greece from Egypt the festivals of Demeter, that is, the story of her grief celebrated in hymns. These men I for my part would call originators of mischief, parents of godless legends and deadly daemon-worship, seeing that they implanted the mysteries in human life to be a seed of evil and corruption.
§ 2.4 But now, (and high time too,) I will convict your orgies themselves of being full of deception and jugglery, and if you have been initiated you will smile the more at these legends you are wont to honour. I will tell openly the secret things, and will not shrink from speaking of what you are not ashamed to worship. There is, then, the "foam-born" "Cyprus-born" goddess, the darling of Cinyras. I mean Aphrodite, who received the name Philomedes because she was born from the medea, those lustful members that were cut off from Uranus and after separation did violence to the wave. See how lewd are the members from which so worthy an offspring is born! And in the rites which celebrate this pleasure of the sea, as a symbol of her birth, the gift of a cake of salt and a phallus is made to those who are initiated in the art of fornication; and the initiated bring their tribute of a coin to the goddess, as lovers do to a mistress.
§ 2.5 The mysteries of Demeter commemorate the amorous embraces of Zeus with his mother Demeter, and the wrath of Demeter (I do not know what to call her for the future, mother or wife) on account of which she is said to have received the name Brimo (the Terrible One); also the supplications of Zeus, the drink of bile, the tearing out the heart of the victims, and unspeakable obscenities. The same rites are performed in honour of Attis and Cybele and he Corybantes by the Phrygians, who have spread it abroad how that Zeus tore off the testicles of a ram, and then brought and flung them into the midst of Demeter's lap, thus paying a sham penalty for his violent embrace by pretending that he had mutilated himself. If I go on further to quote the symbols of initiation into this mystery they will, I know, move you to laughter, even though you are in no laughing humour when your rites are being exposed. "I ate from the drum; I drank from the cymbal; I carried the sacred dish; I stole into the bridal chamber." [Phrygian formula] Are not these symbols an outrage? Are not the mysteries a mockery?
§ 2.6 But what if I were to add the rest of the story? Demeter becomes pregnant; the Maiden grows up; and this Zeus who begat her has further intercourse, this time with Persephone herself, his own daughter, after his union with her mother Demeter. Totally forgetful of his former pollution Zeus becomes the ravisher as well as father of the maiden, meeting her under the form of a serpent, his true nature being thus revealed. At any rate, in the Sabazian mysteries the sign given to those who are initiated is "the god over the breast"; this is a serpent drawn over the breast of the votaries, a proof of the licentiousness of Zeus. Persephone also bears a child, which has the form of a bull. To be sure, we are told by a certain mythological poet that "The bull begets a snake, the snake a bull; on hills the herdsman bears his mystic goad," the herdman's goad being, I think, a name for the wand which the Bacchants wreathe.
§ 2.7 Would you have me also tell you the story of Persephone gathering flowers, of her basket, and how she was seized by Hades, of the chasm that opened in the earth, and of the swine of Eubouleus that were swallowed up along with the two deities, which is the reason given from the custom of casting swine into the sacred caverns at the festival of the Thesmophoria? This is the tale which the women celebrate at their various feasts in the city, Themophoria, Scirophoria, Arretophoria, where in different ways they work up into tragedy the rape of Persephone.
§ 2.8 The mysteries of Dionysus [Zagreus] are of a perfectly savage character. He was yet a child, and the Curetes were dancing around him with warlike movement, when the Titans stealthily drew near. First they beguiled him with childish toys, and then, — these very Titans — tore him to pieces, though he was but an infant. Orpheus of Thrace, the poet of the Initiation, speaks of the "Top, wheel and jointed dolls, with beauteous fruit of gold from the clear-voiced Hesperides."
§ 2.9 And it is worth while to quote the worthless symbols of this rite of yours in order to excite condemnation: the knuckle-bone, the ball, the spinning-top, apples, wheel, mirror, fleece! Now Athena made off with the heart of Dionysus, and received the name Pallas from its palpitating (pallein). But the Titans, they who tore him to pieces, placed a caldron upon a tripod, and casting the limbs of Dionysus into it first boiled them down; then, piercing them with spits, they "held them over Hephaestus [i.e. fire]." Later on Zeus appeared; perhaps, since he was a god, because he smelt the steam of the flesh that was cooking, which your gods admit they "receive as their portion." He plagues the Titans with thunder, and entrusts the limbs of Dionysus to his son Apollo for burial. In obedience to Zeus, Apollo carries the mutilated corpse to Parnassus and lays it to rest.
§ 2.10 If you would like a vision of the Corybantic orgies [the Cabeiri] also, this is the story. Two of the Corybantes slew a third one, who was their brother, covered the head of the corpse with a purple cloak, and then wreathed and buried it, bearing it upon a brazen shield to the skirts of Mount Olympus. Here we see what the mysteries are, in one word, murders and burials! The priests of these mysteries, whom such as are interested in them call "Presidents of the Princes' rites," add a portent to the dismal tale. They forbid wild celery, root and all, to be placed on the table, for they actually believe that wild celery grows out of the blood that flowed from the murdered brother. It is a similar custom, of course, that is observed by the women who celebrate the Thesmophoria. They are careful not to eat any pomegranate seeds which fall to the ground, being of opinion that the pomegranates spring from the drops of Dionysus' blood. The Corybantes are called by the name Cabeiri, which proclaims the rite of the Cabeiri. For this very pair of fratricides got possession of the chest in which the virilia of Dionysus were deposited, and brought it to Tyrrhenia [Lemnos ], traders in glorious wares! There they sojourned, being exiles, and communicated their precious teaching of piety, the virilia and the chest, to Tyrrhenians for purposes of worship. For this reason not unnaturally some wish to call Dionysus Attis, because he was mutilated.
§ 2.11 Yet how can we wonder if Tyrrhenians, who are barbarians, are thus consecrated to base passions when Athenians and the rest of Greece — I blush even to speak of it — possess that shameful tale about Demeter? It tells how Demeter, wandering through Eleusis, which is a part of Attica, in search of her daughter the Maiden, becomes exhausted and sits down at a well in deep distress. This display of grief is forbidden, up to the present day, to those who are initiated, lest the worshippers should seem to imitate the goddess in her sorrow. At that time Eleusis was inhabited by aborigines, whose names were Baubo, Dysaules, Triptolemus, and also Eumolpus and Eubouleus. Triptolemus was a herdsman, Eumolpus a shepherd, and Eubouleus and swineherd. These were progenitors of the Eumolpidae and of the Heracles, who form the priestly [hierophantic] clan at Athens. But to continue; for I will not forbear to tell the rest of the story. Baubo, having received Demeter as a guest, offers her a draught of wine and meal. She declines to take it, being unwilling to drink on account of her mourning. Baubo is deeply hurt, thinking she has been slighted, and thereupon uncovers her secret parts and exhibits them to the goddess. Demeter is pleased at the sight, and now at least receives the draught, — delighted by the spectacle! These are the secret mysteries of the Athenians! These are also the subjects of Orpheus' poems. It will quote you the very lines of Orpheus, in order that you may have the originator of the mysteries as witness of their shamelessness: "This said, she drew aside her robes, and showed a sight of shame; child Iacchus was there, and laughing, plunged his hand below her breasts. Then smiled the goddess, in her heart she smiled, and drank the draught from out the glancing cup.
§ 2.12 And the formula of the Eleusinian mysteries is as follows: "I fasted; I drank the draught; I took from the chest; having done my task, I placed in the basket, and from the basket into the chest." Beautiful sights indeed, and fit for a goddess! Yes, such rites are meet for night and torch fires, and for the "great-hearted" — I should rather say empty-headed — people of the Erechtheidae, with the rest of the Greeks as well, "whom after death there await such things as they little expect." Against whom does Heracleitus of Ephesus utter this prophecy? Against "night-roamers, magicians, Bacchants, Lenaean revellers and devotees of the mysteries." These are the people whom he threatens with the penalties that follow death; for these he prophesies the fire. "For in unholy fashion are they initiated into mysteries customary among men."
§ 2.13 The mysteries, then, are mere custom and vain opinion, and it is a deceit of the serpent that men worship when, with spurious piety, they turn toward these sacred initiations that are really profanities, and solemn rites that are without sanctity. Consider, too, the contents of the mystic chests; for I must strip bare their holy things and utter the unspeakable. Are they not sesame cakes, pyramid and spherical cakes, cakes with many navels, also balls of salt and a serpent, the mystic sign of Dionysus Bassareus? Are they not also pomegranates, fig branches, fennel stalks, ivy leaves, round cakes and poppies? These are their holy things? In addition, there are the unutterable symbols of Ge Themis, marjoram, a lamp, a sword, and a woman's comb, which is a euphemistic expression used for a woman's secret parts. What manifest shamelessness! Formerly night, which drew a veil over the pleasures of temperate men, was a time for silence. But now, when night is for those who are being initiated a temptation to licentiousness, talk abounds, and the torch-fires convict unbridled passions. Quench the fire, thou priest. Shrink from the flaming brands, torchbearer. The light convicts your Iacchus. Suffer night to hide the mysteries. Let the orgies be honoured by darkness. The fire is not acting a part; to convict and to punish is its duty [i.e. the fire of God].
§ 2.14 These are the mysteries of the atheists. And I am right in branding as atheists men who are ignorant of the true God, but shamelessly worship a child being torn to pieces by Titans, a poor grief-stricken woman, and parts of the body which, from a sense of shame, are truly to sacred to speak of. It is a twofold atheism in which they are entangled; first, the atheism of being ignorant of God (since they do not recognize the true God); and then this second error, of believing in the existence of beings that have no existence, and calling by the name of gods those who are not really gods, — nay more, who do not even exist, but have only got the name. No doubt this is also the reason why the Apostle convicts us, when he says, "And ye were strangers from the covenants of the promise, being without hope and atheists in the world."
§ 2.15 Blessings be upon the Scythian king, whoever he was. When a countryman of his own was imitating among the Scythians the rite of the Mother of the Gods as practiced at Cyzicus, by beating a drum and clanging a cymbal, and by having images of the goddess suspended from his neck after the manner of a priest of Cybele (menagyrtes), this king slew him with an arrow [Herodotus 4.76], on the ground that the man, having been deprived of his own virility in Greece, was now communicating the effeminate disease to his fellow Scythians. All this — for I must not in the least conceal what I think — makes me amazed how the term atheist has been applied to Euhemerus of Acragas, Nicanor of Cyprus, Diagoras and Hippo of Melos, with that Cyrenian named Theodorus and a good many others besides, men who lived sensible lives and discerned more acutely, I imagine, than the rest of mankind the error connected with these gods. Even if they did not perceive the truth itself, they at least suspected the error; and this suspicion is a living spark of wisdom, and no small one, which grows up like a seed into truth. One of them [Xenophanes] thus directs the Egyptians: "If you believe they are gods, do not lament them, nor beat the breast; but if you mourn for them, no longer consider these beings to be gods." Another, having taken hold of a Heracles made from a log of wood — he happened, likely enough, to be cooking something at home — said: "Come, Heracles, now is your time to undertake this thirteenth labour for me, as you did the twelve for Eurystheus, and prepare Diagoras his dish!" Then he put him into the fire like a log.
§ 2.16 It appears then that atheism and daemon-worship are the extreme points of stupidity, from which we must earnestly endeavour to keep ourselves apart. Do you not see Moses, the sacred interpreter of the truth, ordering that no eunuch or mutilated man shall enter the assembly, nor the son of a harlot? By the first two expressions he refers in a figure to the atheistic manner of life, which has been deprived of divine power and fruitfulness; by the third and last, to the man who lays claim to many gods, falsely so called, in place of the only real God; just as the son of a harlot lays claim to many fathers, through ignorance of his true father. But there was of old implanted in man a certain fellowship with heaven, which, through darkened through ignorance, yet at times leaps suddenly out of the darkness and shines forth. Take for instance the well-known lines in which someone has said, "See thou this boundless firmament on high, whose arms enfold the earth in soft embrace?" [Euripides, Frag. 935] and these, "O stay of earth, that hast thy seat above, who'er thou art, by guessing scarce discerned; [Euripides, Trojan Women 884] and all the other similar things which the sons of the poets sing.
§ 2.17 But opinions that are mistaken and deviate from the right — deadly opinions, in very truth — turned aside man, the heavenly plant, from a heavenly manner of life, and stretched him upon earth, by inducing him to give heed to things formed out of earth. Some men were deceived from the first about the spectacle of the heavens. Trusting solely to sight, they gazed at the movements of the heavenly bodies, and in wonder deified them, giving them the name of gods from their running motion [derived from Plato, Cratylus 397]. Hence they worshipped the sun, as Indians do, and the moon, as Phrygians do. Others, when gathering the cultivated fruits of plants that spring from the earth, called the corn Demeter, as the Athenians, and the vine Dionysus, as the Thebans. Others, after reflecting upon the punishments of evil-doing, make gods out of their experiences of retribution, worshipping the very calamities. This is the source from which the Erinyes and Eumenides, goddess of expiation and vengeance, as well as the Alastors, have been fashioned by the poets of the stage. Even certain of the philosophers themselves, following the men of poetry, came to represent as deities the types of your emotions, such as Fear, Love, Joy, Hope; just as, of course, Epimenides did of old, when he set up altars in Athens to Insolence and Shamelessness. Some gods arise from the mere circumstances of life deified in men's eyes and fashioned in bodily form; such are the Athenian deities, Right (Dike), the Spinner (Clotho), the Giver of lots (Lachesis), the Inflexible One (Atropus), Destiny (Heimarmene), Growth (Auxo) and Abundance (Thallo). There is a sixth way of introducing deception and of procuring gods, according to which men reckon them to be twelve in number, of whose genealogy Hesiod sings his own story, and Homer, too, has much to say about them. Finally (for these ways of error are seven in all), there remains that which arises from the divine beneficence shown towards men; for, since men did not understand it was God who benefited them, they invented certain saviours, the Twin Brothers (Dioscuri), Heracles averter of evils, and Asclepius the doctor.
§ 2.18 These then are the slippery and harmful paths which lead away from the truth, dragging man down from heaven and overturning him into the pit. But I wish to display to you at close quarters the gods themselves, showing what their characters are, and whether they really exist; in order that at last you may cease from error and run back again to heaven. "For we too were once children of wrath, as also the rest; but God being rich in mercy, through His great love wherewith He loved us, when we were already dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ." For the Word is living, and he who has been buried with Christ is exhalted together with God. They who are still unbelieving are called "children of wrath," since they are being reared for wrath. We, one the contrary, are no longer creatures of wrath, for we have been torn away from error and are hastening toward the truth. Thus we who were once sons of lawlessness have now become sons of God thanks to the love of the Word for man. But you are they whom even your own poet, Empedocles of Acragas, points to in these lines: "So then, by grievous miseries distraught, ye ne'er shall rest your mind from painful woes." [Empedocles, Frag. 145]
§ 2.19 Now the most part of the stories about your gods are legends and fictions. But as many as are held to be real events are the records of base men who led dissolute lives: "Be ye in price and madness walk; ye left the true, straight path, and chose the way through thorns and stakes. Why err, ye mortals? Cease, vain men! Forsake the dark night, and cleave unto the light." [Sibylline Oracles, Preface 23]. This is what the prophetic and poetic Sibyl enjoins on us. And truth, too, does the same, when she strips these dreadful and terrifying masks from the crowd of gods, and adduces certain similarities of name to prove the absurdity of your rash opinions.
§ 2.20 For example, there are some who record three gods of the name Zeus: one in Arcadia, the son of Aether, the other two being sons of Cronus, the one in Crete, the other again in Arcadia. Some assume five Athenas: the daughter of Hephaestus, who is the Athenian; the daughter of Neilus, who is the Egyptian a third, the daughter of Cronus, who is the discoverer of war; a fourth, the daughter of Zeus, to whom the Messenians give the title Coryphassia after her mother. Above all, there is the child of Pallas and Titanis daughter of Oceanus. This is the one who impiously slaughtered her father and is arrayed in the paternal skin, as though it were a fleece. Further, with regard to Apollo, Aristotle enumerates, first, the son of Hephaestus and Athena [i.e. Erichthonius] (which puts an end to Athena's virginity); secondly, the son of Cyrbas in Crete; thirdly, the son of Zeus; and fourthly, the Arcadian, the son of Silenus, called among the Arcadians Nomius. In addition to these he reckons the Libyan, the son of Ammon; and Didymus the grammarian adds a sixth, the son of Magnes. And how many Apollos are there at the present time? A countless host, all mortal and perishable men, who have been called by similar names to the deities we have just mentioned. And what if I were to tell you of the many gods named Asclepius, or of every Hermes that is enumerated, or of every Hephaestus that occurs in your mythology? But the lands they dwelt in, the arts they practiced, the records of their lives, yes, and their very tombs, prove conclusively that they were men.
§ 2.22 this fickle and implacable god was, according to Epicharmus, a Spartan. But Sophocles knows him for a Thracian, others for an Arcadian. This is the god of whom Homer says that he was bound in chains for a space of thirteen months: "Such was the lot of Ares, when Otus and strong Ephialtes, sons of Aloeus, seized him, and chained his limbs in strong fetters; and in a dungeon of brass for thirteen months he lay captive." [Il 5.385] Blessing be upon the Carians, who sacrifice dogs to him! May Scythians never cease offering asses, as Apollodorus says they do, and Callimachus too, in the following verse: "In northern lands ass-sacrifice rise when Phoebus first appears." [Callimachus, Frag. 187] Elsewhere the same writer says: "Rich sacrifice of asses Phoebus loves." [Callimachus, Frag 188] Hephaestus, whom Zeus cast out of Olympus, "from the threshold of heaven," [Il 1.591] fell to earth in Lemnos and worked as a smith. He was lame in both feet, "but his slender legs moved quickly under him." [Il. 18.411] You have not only a smith among the gods, but a doctor as well. The doctor was fond of money, and his name was Asclepius. I will quote your own poet, Pindar the Boeotian: "Gold was his ruin; it shone in his hands, splendid reward for a deed of skill; Lo! from the arm of Zeus on high darted the gleaming bolt for ill; snatched from the man his new-found breath, whelmed the god in a mortal's death." [Pind. Pythian 3.97] And Euripides says: "'Twas due to Zeus; he slew Asclepius, my son, — with lightning flame that pierced his heart." [Eurip., Alcestis 3]
§ 2.23 This god, then, killed by the thunderbolt, lies on the frontier of Cynosuris. But Philochorus says that in Tenos Poseidon was honoured as a doctor. He adds that Sicily was placed upon Cronus, and there he lies buried. Both Patrocles of Thurium and the younger Sophocles relate the story of the Twin Brothers (Dioscuri) in some of their tragedies. These Brothers were simply two men, subject to death, if Homer's authority is sufficient for the statement, "they ere now by life-giving earth were enfolded, there in far Lacedemon, the well-loved land of their fathers."
§ 2.25 This last line is a poetic falsehood. But Homer is more worthy in credence that this poet in what he said about both the Dioscuri. In addition he has proved Heracles to be a shade. For to him "Heracles, privy to great deeds," is simply "a man." [Od 21.6] Heracles, then, is known to be mortal man even by Homer. Hieronymus the philosopher sketches his bodily characteristics also, — small stature, bristling hair, great strength. Dicaearchus adds that he was slim, sinewy, dark, with hooked nose, bright gleaming eyes and long, straight hair. This Heracles, after a life of fifty-two years, ended his days, and his obsequies were celebrated in the pyre on Mount Oita.
§ 2.26 As for the Muses, Alcman derives their origin from Zeus and Mnemosyne, and the rest of the poets and prose-writers deify and worship them; to such an extent that whole cities dedicate "temples of the Muses" in their honour. But these were Mysian serving-maids purchased by Megaclo, the daughter of Macar. Now Macar, who was [a mythical] king over the Lesbians, was constantly quarelling with his wife, and Megaclo was grieved for her mother's sake. How could she be otherwise? So she brought these Mysian servant-maids, to the correct number, and pronounced their names Moisai, according to the Aeolic dialect. She had them taught to sing of ancient deeds, and to play the lyre in melodious accompaniment; and they, by their continual playing and the spell of their beautiful singing, were wont to soothe Macar and rid him of his anger. As a thank-offering for these services Megaclo erected, on her mother's behalf, bronze statues of the maids, and commanded that they should be honoured in all the temples. Such is the origin of the Muses. The account of them is found in Myrsilus of Lesbos.
§ 2.27 Now listen to the loves of these gods of yours; to the extraordinary tales of their incontinence; to their wounds, imprisonments, fits of laughter, conflicts, and periods of servitude. Listen, too, to their revels, their embraces, their tears, passions and dissolute pleasures. Call Poseidon, and the band of maidens corrupted by him, Amphitrite, Amymone, Alope, Melanippe, Alcyone, Hippothoe, Chione, and the thousands of others. Yet in spite of this great number, the passions of your Poseidon were still unsatisfied. Call Apollo, too. He is Phoebus, a holy prophet and good counselor! But this is not the opinion of Sterope, or Aethusa, or Arsinoe, or Zeuxippe, or Prothoe, or Marpessa, or Hypsipyle. For Daphne was the only one who escaped the prophet and his corruption. Above all, let Zeus come to, he who is, according to you account, "father of gods and men." So completely was he given over to lust, that every woman not only excited his desire, but became a victim of it. Why, he would take his fill of women no less than the buck of the Thmuitans [sacred Egyptian goat] does of she-goats. I am astonished at these verses of yours, Homer: "Thus spake the son of Cronus, and nodded assent with his eyebrows; Lo! the ambrosial locks of the king flowed waving around him down from his deathless head; and great Olympus was shaken." [Il 1.528]
§ 2.28 It is a majestic Zeus that you portray Homer; and you invest him with a nod that is held in honour. Yet, my good sir, if you but let him catch a glimpse of a woman's girdle, even Zeus is exposed and his locks are put to shame. What a pitch of licentiousness did this great Zeus reach when he spent so many nights in pleasure with Alcmene! Nay, not even the nine nights were a long period for this debauchee, — indeed, a whole lifetime was short for his incontinence, — especially when the purpose was that he might beget for us the god whose work it is to avert evils. Heracles is the son of Zeus, begotten in this long night. And a true son he is; for long and weary as the time was in which he accomplished his twelve labours, yet in a single night he corrupted the fifty daughters of Thestius, becoming at once bridegroom and adulterer to all these maidens. Not without reason, then, do the poets dub him "abandoned" and "doer of evil deeds." It would be a long story to relate his varied adulteries and his corruption of boys. For your gods did not abstain from boys. One [Heracles] loved Hylas, another [Apollo] Hyacinthus, another [Poseidon] Chrysippus, another [Zeus] Ganymedes. These are the gods your wives are to worship! Such they must pray for their own husbands to be, similar models of virtue, — that they may be like the gods by aspiring after equally high ideals! Let these be they whom your boys are trained to reverence, in order that they may grow to manhood with the gods ever before them as a manifest pattern of fornication!
§ 2.29 But perhaps in the case of the gods, it is the males only who rush eagerly after sexual delights while "Each in her own home for shame the lady goddesses rested." as Homer says, because as goddesses they modestly shrank from the sight of Aphrodite taken in adultery. Yet these are more passionately given to licentiousness, being fast bound in adultery; as, for instance, Eos with Tithonus, Selene with Endymion, Nereis with Aeacus, Thetis with Peleus, Demeter with Iasion and Persephone with Adonis. Aphrodite, after having been put to shame for her love of Ares, courted Cinyras, married Anchises, entrapped Phaethon and loved Adonis. She, too, entered into a rivalry with [Hera] the "goddess of the large eyes," in which, for the sake of an apple, the goddesses stripped and presented themselves naked to the shepherd, to see whether he would pronounce one of them beautiful.
§ 2.30 Let us now proceed briefly to review the contests, and let us put an end to these solemn assemblages at tombs, the Isthmian, Nemean, Pythian, and, above all, the Olympian games. At Pytho worship is paid to the Pythian serpent, and the assembly held in honour of this snake is entitled Pythian. At the Isthmus the sea cast up a miserable carcass, and the Isthmian games are lamentations for Melicertes. At Nemea another, a child Archemorus, lies buried, and it is the celebrations held at the grave of this child that are called by the name Nemean. And Pisa, — mark it, ye Panhellenic peoples! — your Pisa is the tomb of a Phrygian charioteer, and the libations poured out for Pelops, which constitute the Olympian festivities, are appropriated by the Zeus of Pheidias. So it seems that contests, being held in honour of the dead, were of the nature of the mysteries, just as also the oracles were; and both have become public institutions. But the mysteries at Agra and those in Halimus of Attica have been confined to Athens; on the other hand, the contests are now a world-wide disgrace, as are also the phalloi consecrated to Dionysus, from the infection of evil which they have spread over human life.
§ 2.31 This is the origin of these phalloi. Dionysus was anxious to descend into Hades, but did not know the way. Thereupon a certain man, Prosymnus by name, promises to tell him; though not without reward. The reward was not a seemly one, though to Dionysus it was seemly enough. It was a favour of lust, this reward which Dionysus was asked for. The god is willing to grant the request; and so he promises in the event of his return, to fulfil the wish of Prosymnus, confirming the promise with an oath. Having learnt the way he set out, and came back again. He does not find Prosymnus, for he was dead. In fulfillment of the vow to his lover Dionysus hastens to the tomb and indulges his unnatural lust. Cutting of a branch from a fig-tree which was at hand, he shaped it into the likeness of a phallus, and then made a show of fulfilling his promise to the dead man. As a mystic memorial of this passion phalloi are set up to Dionysus in cities. "For if it were not to Dionysus that they held solemn procession and sang the phallic hymn, they would be acting most shamefully," says Heracleitus; "and Hades is the same as Dionysus, in whose honour they go mad and keep the Lenaean feast," not so much, I think, for the sake of bodily intoxication as for the shameful display of licentiousness.
§ 2.32 It would seem natural, therefore, for gods like these of yours to be slaves, since they have become slaves of their passions. What is more, even before the time of the Helots, as they were called among the Lacedemonians, Apollo bowed beneath the yoke of slavery to Admetus in Pherae, and Heracles to Omphale in Sardis. Poseidon and Apollo were serfs to Laomedon, Apollo, like a worthless servant, not having been able, I suppose, to obtain the gift of freedom from his former master. It was then that these two gods built the walls of Ilium for their Phrygian lord. Homer is not ashamed to speak of Athena lighting the way for Odysseus, "holding a golden lamp" [Odyssey 19.34] in her hands. We read of Aphrodite, how, like a wanton hussy, she brought the stool for Helen, and placed it in front of her paramour, in order that Helen might entice him to her arms [Iliad 3.424]. Panyasis, too, relates in addition very many other instances of gods, becoming servants to men. He writes in this way: — "Demeter bore the yoke; Hephaestus too; Poseidon; and Apollo, silver-bowed, one year endured to serve with mortal man; likewise strong Ares, by his sire constrained, [Panyasis, Heracleia, Frag. 16] — and so on.
§ 2.33 As a natural consequence, these amorous and passionate gods of yours are brought before us as subject to every sort of human emotion. "For truly mortal flesh is theirs." Homer gives evidence of this, when in precise terms he introduces Aphrodite uttering a loud and shrill cry over her wound [Iliad 5.343]; and when he tells how the arch-warrior himself, Ares, was pierced in the flank by Diomedes." [Iliad 5.855] Polemon says that Athena too was wounded by Ornytus; yes, and even Hades was struck with an arrow by Heracles, according to Homer [Iliad 5.395]; and Panyasis further relates that Hera, the goddess of marriage, was wounded by the same Heracles, "in sandy Pylos." [Panyasis, Heracleia, Frag 6] Sosibius says that Heracles himself was struck in the hand by the sons of Hippocoon. If there are wounds there is also blood; for the "ichor" of the poets is a more disgusting thing even than blood, the word ichor meaning putrefaction of the blood. It is necessary, therefore, to supply the gods with attendance and nourishment, of which they are in need; so they have feasts, carousings, bursts of laughter and acts of sexual intercourse, whereas if they were immortal, and in need of nothing, and untouched by age, they would not partake of the pleasures of human love, nor beget children, nor even go to sleep. Zeus himself shared a human table among the Ethiopians [Iliad 1.423], and an inhuman and unlawful table when feasting with Lycaon the Arcadian set before him, as a dainty dish, his own child, Nyctimus by name, whom he had slaughtered. What a fine Zeus he is, the diviner, the protector of guests, the hearer of suppliants, the gracious, the author of all oracles, the avenger of crime! Rather he ought to be called the unjust, the unrestrained, the lawless, the unholy, the inhuman, the violent, the seducer, the adulterer, the wanton lover. Still, there was life about him in those days, when he was all this, when he was a man; but by this time even your legends appear to me to have grown old. Zeus is no longer a snake, nor a swan, nor an eagle, nor an amorous man. He is not a god who flies, or corrupts boys, or kisses, or ravishes; and yet there are still many beautiful women left, fairer even than Leda and nearer their prime than Semele, and lads more blooming and more refined than the Phrygian herdsman [Ganymedes]. Where is now that famous eagle? Where is the swan? Where is Zeus himself? He has grown old, wings and all. For you may be sure he is not repentant because of his love affairs, nor is he training himself to live a sober life. See, the legend is laid bare. Leda is dead; the swan is dead; the eagle is dead. Search for your Zeus. Scour not heaven, but earth. Callimachus the Cretan, in whose land he lies buried, will tell you in his hymns: "for a tomb, O Prince, did the Cretans fashion for thee." [Callimachus Hymn to Zeus 8] Yes, Zeus is dead (take it not to heart), like Leda, like the swan, like the eagle, like the amorous man, like the snake.
§ 2.34 But it is clear that even the daemon-worshippers themselves are coming to understand, though against their will, the error about the gods; for "Not from the ancient oak nor rock do they take their beginning" No; they are of the race of men, though very shortly they will be found to be nothing but oaks and rocks. There is a Zeus Agamemnon honoured at Sparta, according to Staphylus; and Phanocles, in his book entitled Loves, or Fair Youths, says that Agamemnon the king of the Greeks set up a temple to Aphrodite Argynnus, in honour of Argynnus whom he loved. Arcadians worship an Artemis called "the goddess who is hanged" (Apachomene), as Callimachus says in his Causes; and at Methymna another, an Artemis Conylitis (Striking) is honoured. There is also another, a "gouty" (Podarge) Artemis, with a shrine in Laconia, as Sosibius says. Polemon knows a statue of "yawning" (Cechenotus) Apollo; and another, too, of Apollo "the epicure" (Opsophagus), honoured in Elis. These Eleans sacrifice to Zeus "averter of flies" (Apomius), and the Romans to Heracles of the same title, as well as to "Fever" (Pyretus) and "Fear" (Phobus) which they even enroll among the companions of Heracles. I pass by the Argives; Aphrodite the "grave-robber" (Tymborhychus) is worshipped by them, as well as by the Laconians. Furthermore, Spartans venerate Artemis Chelytis or the "coughing"Artemis, since the verb corresponding to Chelytis is their word for "to cough".
§ 2.35 Do you think that the examples which I am adducing are brought to you from some improper source? Why, it seems as if you do not recognize your own authors, whom I call as witnesses against your unbelief. Alas for you! They have filled your whole life with godless foolery, until life has become truly intolerable. Tell me, is there not a "bald" (Phalacrus) Zeus honoured in Argos, and another, an "avenger" (Timorus), in Cyprus? Do not Argives sacrifice to Aphrodite divaricatrix (Peribasus), Athenians to her as "courtesan" (Hetaira), and Syracusans to her "of the beautiful buttocks" (Callipygus), whom the poet Nicander has somewhere called "of the beautiful rump" (Callipluton)? I will be silent about Dionysus Choiropsalas. The Sikyonians worship Dionysus as the god who presides over the woman's secrete parts; thus they reverence the originator of licentiousness, as overseer of what is shameful. Such, then, is the character of the Greek gods; such, too, are the worshippers, who make a mockery of the divine, or rather, who mock and insult themselves. How much better are Egyptians, when in cities and villages they hold in great honour irrational animals, than Greeks who worship gods such as these? For though the Egyptian gods are beasts, still they are not adulterous, they are not lewd, and not one of them seeks for pleasure contrary to its own nature. But as for the characteristics of the Greek gods, what need is there to say more? They have been sufficiently exposed.
§ 2.36 Egyptians, however, whom I mentioned just now are divided in the matter of their religious cults. The people of Syene worship the fish phagrus; the inhabitants of Elephantine another fish, the maeotes; the people of Oxyrhynchus also worship a fish, that which bears the name of their land. Further, the people of Heracleopolis worship the ichneumon; of Sais and Thebes, the sheep; of Lycopolis, the wolf; of Cynopolis, the dog; of Memphis, the bull Apis; of Mendes, the goat. But as for you, who are in every way better than Egyptians, — I shrink from calling you worse — you who never let a day pass without laughing at the Egyptians, what is your attitude with regard to the irrational animals? The Thessalians among you give honour to storks by reason of old custom; Thebans to weasels on account of the birth of Heracles. What else of Thessalians? They are reported to worship ants, because they have been taught that Zeus, in the likeness of an ant, had intercourse with Eurymedusa the daughter of Cletor and begat Myrmidon. Polemon relates that the dwellers in the Troad worship the local mice (which they call sminthoi), because these used to gnaw through their enemies' bowstrings; and they named Apollo 'Smintheus" after these mice. Heracleides, in his work on The Founding of Temples in Acarnania, says that on the promontory of Actium, where stands the temple of Apollo of Actium, a preliminary sacrifice of an ox is made to the flies. Nor shall I forget the Samians, who, as Euphorion says, worship the sheep; no, nor yet the Syrian inhabitants of Phoenicia, some of whom worship doves, and others fish [Syrian goddesses Derceto and Semiramis], as extravagantly as the Eleans worship Zeus.
§ 2.37 Very well! since they whom you serve are not gods, I am resolved to make a fresh examination to see whether it is true that they are daemons, and should be enrolled, as you say, in this second rank of divinities. For if they really are daemons, they are greedy and foul ones. We can discover perfectly clear examples of daemons of local origin who glean honour in cities, as Menedemus among the Cynthians, Callistagoras among the Tenians, Anius among the Delians and Astrabacus among the Laconians. Honour is paid also at Phalerum to a certain hero "at the stern" [Androgeus], and the Pythian prophetess prescribed that the Plataeans should sacrifice to Androcrates, Democrates, Cylaeus and Leucon when the struggles with the Medes were at their height. And the man who is able to make even a slight investigation can get a view of very many other daemons;
§ 2.38 For thrice ten thousand dwell on mother earth, immortal daemons, guards of mortal men." [Hesiod, Works and Days 252] Who are these guardians, thou Boeotian bard? Do not refuse to tell us. Or is it clear that they are these whom I have just mentioned, and others more honoured than they, namely the great daemons, Apollo, Artemis, Leto, Demeter, the Maiden, Pluto, Heracles, and Zeus himself? But it is not to prevent us from running away that they guard us, poet of Ascra! Perhaps it is to prevent us from sinning, seeing that they, to be sure, have had no experience of sins. Here indeed we may fitly utter the proverbial line, "The father warns his child but not himself.
§ 2.39 Yet if, after all, they really are guardians, they are not moved by feelings of good will towards us; but, being intent upon your destruction, they beset human life after the manner of flatterers, allured by the sacrificial smoke, In one place the daemons themselves admit this gluttony of theirs, when they say, "Wine and odorous steam; for that we receive as our portion." [Il 4.49] If Egyptian gods, such as cats and weasels, were to be endowed with speech, what other cry are they likely to give forth than this from Homer's poems, proclaiming a love for savoury odours and cookery? Be that as it may, such is the character of the daemons and gods you worship, and of the demigods too, if you have any called by this name, on the analogy of mules, or demi-asses; for you have no poverty — not even of words to form into the compounds needed for your impiety.
§ 3.1 BOOK III [complete]
Come then, let us add this, that your gods are inhuman and man-hating daemons, who not only exult over the insanity of men, but go so far as to enjoy human slaughter. They provide for themselves sources of pleasure, at one time in the armed contests of the stadium, at another in the innumerable rivalries of war, in order to secure every possible opportunity of glutting themselves to the full with human blood. Before now, too, they have fallen like plagues on whole cities and nations, and have demanded drink-offerings of a savage character. For instance, Aristomenes the Messenian slaughtered three hundred men to Zeus of Ithome, in the belief that favourable omens are secured by sacrifices of such magnitude and quality. Among the victims was even Theopompus, the Lacedemonian king, a noble offering. The Taurian race, who dwell along the Taurian peninsula, whenever they capture strangers in their territory, that is to say, men who have been shipwrecked, sacrifice them on the spot to Tauric Artemis. These are your sacrifices which Euripides represents in tragedy upon the stage. Monimus, in his collection of Wonderful Events, relates that in Pella of Thessaly human sacrifice is offered to Peleus and Cheiron, the victim being an Achaean. Thus too, Anticleides in his Homecomings, declares that the Lyctians, a race of Cretans, slaughter men to Zeus; and Dosidas says that Lesbians offer a similar sacrifice to Dionysus. As for Phocaeans, — for I shall not pass them over either — these people are reported by Pythocles in his third book On Concord to offer a burnt sacrifice of a man to Taurian Artemis. Erechtheus the Athenian and Marius the Roman sacrificed their own daughters, the former to Persephone, as Demaratus relates in the first book of his Subjects of Tragedy; the latter, Marius, to the "Averters of evil," as Dorotheus relates in the fourth book of his Italian History.
§ 3.2 Kindly beings to be sure the daemons are, as these instances plainly show! And how can the daemon-worshippers help being holy in a corresponding way? The former are hailed as saviours; the latter beg for safety from those who plot to destroy safety. Certainly while they suppose that they are offering acceptable sacrifices to the daemons, they quite forget that they are slaughtering human beings. For murder does not become a sacred offering because of the place in which it is committed, not even if you solemnly dedicate a man and then slaughter him in a so-called sacred spot for Artemis or Zeus, rather than for anger or covetousness, other daemons of the same sort, or upon altars rather than in roads. On the contrary, such sacrifice is murder and human butchery. Why then is it, O men, wisest of all living creatures, that we fly from savage wild beasts and turn aside if perchance we meet a bear or a lion, and "As in a mountain glade when the wayfarer spieth a serpent, swiftly turning his steps, his weak limbs trembling beneath him, backward he maketh his way;" [Il 3.33] yet when faced by deadly and accursed daemons, you do not turn aside nor avoid them, although you have already perceived and know quite well that they are plotters and man-haters and destroyers? What possible truth could evil beings utter, or whom could they benefit? At any rate, I can at once prove to you that man is better than these gods of yours, the daemons; that Cyrus and Solon are better than Apollo the prophet. Your Phoebus is a lover of gifts but not of men. He betrayed his friend Croesus [historical Lydian king], and, forgetful of the reward he had received (such was his love of honour), led the king across the river Halys to his funeral pyre. This is how the daemons love; they guide men to the fire! But do thou, O man of kinder heart and truer speech than Apollo, pity him who lies bound upon the pyre. Do thou, Solon, utter an oracle of truth. Do thou, Cyrus, bid the flaming pyre be quenched. Come to thy senses at the eleventh hour, Croesus, when suffering has taught thee better. Ungrateful is the whom thou dost worship. He takes the reward of gold, and then deceives thee once again. Mark! it is not the daemon, but the man who tells thee the issue of life. Unlike Apollo, Solon utters no double-meaning prophecies. This oracle alone shalt thou find true, O barbarian. This shalt thou prove upon the pyre.
§ 3.3 I cannot help wondering, therefore, what delusive fancies could have led astray those who were the first to be themselves deceived, and the first also, by the laws they established for the worship of accursed daemons, to proclaim their superstition to mankind. I mean such men as the well-known Phoroneus, or Merops [mythical kings], or others like them, who set up temples and altars to the daemons, and are also said in legend to have been the first to offer sacrifices. There can be no doubt that in succeeding ages men used to invent gods whom they might worship. This Eros, for instance, who is said to be amongst the oldest of gods, — why, not a single person honoured him before Charmus carried off a young lad and erected an altar in Academia, as a thank-offering for the satisfaction of his lust; and this disease of debauchery is what men call Eros, making unbridled lust into a god! Nor did Athenians know who even Pan was, before Philippides told them.
§ 3.4 We must not then be surprised that, once daemon-worship had somewhere taken a beginning, it became a fountain of insensate wickedness. Then, not being checked, but ever increasing and flowing in full stream, it establishes itself as creator of a multitude of daemons. It offers great public sacrifices; it holds solemn festivals; it sets up statues and builds temples. These temples — for I will not keep silence even about them, but will expose them also — are called by a fair-sounding name, but in reality they are tombs. But I appeal to you, even at this late hour forget daemon-worship, feeling ashamed to honour tombs. In the temple of Athena in the acropolis at Larissa there is the tomb of Acrisius; and in the Acropolis at Athens the tomb of Cecrops, as Antiochus says in his ninth book of Histories. And what of Erichthonius? Does he not lie in the temple of Athena Polias? And does not Immaradus, the son of Eumolpus and Daeira, lie in the enclosure of the Eleusinium which is under the Acropolis? Are not the daughters of Celeus buried in Eleusis? Why recount to you the Hyperborean women? They are called Hyperoche and Laodice, and they lie in the Artemisium at Delos; this is in the temple precincts of Delian Apollo. Leandrius says that Cleochus is buried in the Didymaion at Miletus. Here, following Zeno of Myndus, we must not omit the sepulcher of Leucophryne, who lies in the temple of Artemis in Magnesia; nor yet the altar of Apollo at Telmessus, which is reported to be a monument to the prophet Telmessus. Ptolemaeus the son of Agesarchus in the first volume of his work About Philopator says that in the temple of Aphrodite at Paphos both Cinyras and his descendants lie buried. But really, if I were to go through all the tombs held sacred in your eyes, the whole of time would not suffice my need. As for you, unless a touch of shame steals over you for these audacities, then you are going about utterly dead, like the dead in whom you have put your trust. "Oh! most wretched of men, what evil is this that ye suffer? Darkness hath shrouded your heads." [Od 20.351]
§ 4.1 #BOOK IV [complete]
If, in addition to this, I bring the statues themselves and place them by your side for inspection, you will find on going through them that custom is truly nonsense, when it leads you to adore senseless things, "the works of men's hands." In ancient times, then, the Scythians used to worship the dagger, the Arabians their sacred stone, the Persians their river. Other peoples still more ancient erected conspicuous wooden poles and set up pillars of stones, to which they gave the name xoana, meaning scraped objects, because the rough surface of the material had been scraped off. Certainly the statue of Artemis in Icarus was a piece of unwrought timber, and that of Cithaeronian Hera in Thespiae was a felled tree-trunk. The statue of Samian Hera, as Aethlius says, was at first a wooden beam, but afterwards, when Procles was ruler, it was made into human form. When these rude images began to be shaped to the likeness of men, they acquired the additional name brete, from brotoi meaning mortals. In Rome, of old time, according to Varro the prose-writer, the object that represented Ares was a spear, since craftsmen had not yet entered upon the fair-seeming but mischievous art of sculpture. But the moment art flourished, error increased.
§ 4.2 It is now, therefore, self-evident that out of stones and blocks of wood, and, in one word, out of matter, men fashioned statues resembling the human form, to which you offer a semblance of piety, calumniating the truth. Still, since the point calls for a certain amount of argument, we must not decline to furnish it. Now everyone, I suppose, will admit that the statues of Zeus at Olympia and Athena Polias at Athens were wrought of gold and ivory by Pheidias; and Olympichus in his Samian History relates that the image of Hera in Samos was made by Smilis the son of Eucleides. Do not doubt, then, that of the goddesses at Athens called "venerable" (Semnai) two were made by Scopas out of the stone called lychneus, and the middle one by Calos; I can point out to you the account given by Polemon in the fourth volume of his work Against Timaeus. Neither doubt that the statues of Zeus and Apollo in Lycian Patara were also wrought by the great Pheidias, just as were the lions that are dedicated along with them. But if, as some say, the art is that of Bryaxis, I do not contradict. He also is one of your sculptors; put down which of the two you like. Further, the nine-cubit statues of Poseidon and Amphitrite worshipped in Tenos are the work of the Athenian Tlesius, as Philochorus tells us. Demetrius in his second book of Argolis History, speaking of the image of Hera in Tiryns, records its material, pear-tree wood, as well as its maker, Argus. Many would perhaps be astonished to learn that the image of Pallas called "heaven-sent" (because it fell from heaven), which Diomedes and Odysseus are related to have stolen away from Troy, and to have entrusted to the keeping of Demophon, is made out of the bones of Pelops, just as the Olympian Zeus is also made out of bones, — those of an Indian beast. I give you, too, my authority for this, namely Dionysius, who relates the story in the fifth section of his Cycle. Apellas in his Delphic History says that there are two such images of Pallas, and that both are of human workmanship. I will also mention the statue of Morychian Dionysus at Athens, — in order that no one may suppose me to have omitted these facts through ignorance, — that it is made out of the stone called phellatas, and is the work of Sicon the son of Eupalamus, as Polemon says in a certain letter. There were also two other sculptors, Cretans I believe, whose name were Scyllis and Dipoenus. This pair made the statues of the Twin Brothers (Dioscuri) at Argos, the figure of Heracles at Tiryns and the image of Munychian Artemis at Sikyon.
§ 4.3 But why do I linger over these, when I can show you the origin of the arch-daemon himself, the one who, we are told, is pre-eminently worthy of veneration by all men, whom they have dared to say is made without hands, the Egyptians Sarapis? Some relate that he was sent by the people of Sinope as a thank-offering to Ptolemy Philadelphus king of Egypt, who had earned their gratitude at a time when they were worn out with hunger and had sent for corn from Egypt; and that this image was a statue of Pluto. On receiving the figure, the king set it up upon the promontory which they now call Rhacotis, where stands the honoured temple of Sarapis; and the spot is close to the burial-places. And they say that Ptolemy had his mistress Blistiche, who had died in Canobus, brought here and buried under the before mentioned shrine. Others say that Sarapis was an image from Pontus, and that it was conveyed to Alexandria with the honour of a solemn festival. Isidorus alone states that the statue was brought from the people of Seleucia near to Antioch, when they too had been suffering from dearth of corn and had been sustained by Ptolemy. But Athenodorus the son of Sandon, while intending to establish the antiquity of Sarapis, stumbled in some unaccountable way, for he has proved him to be a statue made by man. He says that Sesostris the Egyptian king, having subdued most of the nations of Greece, brought back on his return to Egypt a number of skilful craftsmen. He gave them personal orders, therefore, that a statue of Osiris his own ancestor should be elaborately wrought at great expense; and the statue was made by the artist Bryaxis, — not the famous Athenian, but another of the same name, — who has used a mixture of various materials in its construction. He had filings of gold, silver, bronze, iron, lead, and even tin; and not a single Egyptian stone was lacking, there being pieces of sapphire, hematite, emerald, and topaz also. Having reduced them all to powder and mixed the, he stained the mixture dark blue (on account of which the colour of the statue is nearly black), and, mingling the whole with the pigment left over from the funeral rites of Osiris and Apis, he moulded Sarapis; whose very name implies this connexion with the funeral rites, and the construction out of material for burial, Osirapis being a compound form Osiris and Apis.
§ 4.4 Another fresh divinity was created in Egypt — and very nearly among Greeks too, — when the Roman king [Hadrian] solemnly elevated to the rank of god his favourite whose beauty was unequalled. He consecrated Antinous in the same way that Zeus consecrated Ganymedes. For lust is not easily restrained, when it has no fear; and today men observe the sacred nights of Antinous, which were really shameful, as the lover who kept them with him well knew. Why, I ask, do you reckon as a god one who is honoured for fornication? Why did you order that he should be mourned for as a son? Why, too, do you tell the story of his beauty? Beauty is a shameful thing when it has been blighted by outrage. Be not a tyrant, O man, over beauty, neither outrage him who is in the flower of his youth. Guard it in purity, that it may remain beautiful. Become a king over beauty, not a tyrant. Let is remain free. When you have kept its image pure, then I will acknowledge your beauty. Then I will worship beauty, when it is the true archetype of things beautiful. But now we have a tomb of the boy who was loved, a temple and city of Antinous: and it seems to me that tombs are objects of reverence in just he same way as temples are; in fact, pyramids, mausoleums and labyrinths are as it were temples of dead men, just as temples are tombs of the gods. As your instructor I will quote the prophetic Sibyl, "Whose words divine come not from Phoebus' lips, that prophet false, by foolish men called god, but from great God, whom no man's hands have made, like speechless idols framed from polished stone." [Sibylline Oracles 4.4] She, however, calls the temples ruins. The temple of Ephesian Artemis she predicts will be swallowed up by "yawning gulfs and earthquakes," thus: "Prostrate shall Ephesus groan, when, deep in tears, she seeks along her banks a vanished shrine." [Sibylline Oracles 5.295] That of Isis and Sarapis in Egypt she says will be overthrown and burnt up: "Thrice wretched Isis, by Nile's streams thou stayst lone, dumb with frenzy on dark Acheron's sands." Then lower down: "And thou, Sarapis, piled with useless stones, in wretches Egypt liest, a ruin great."
§ 4.5 If, however, you refuse to listen to the prophetess, hear at least your own philosopher, Heracleitus of Ephesus, when he taunts the statues for their want of feeling: "and they pray to these statues just as if one were to chatter to his house." Are they not amazing, these men who make supplication to stones, and yet set them up before their gates as if alive and active, worshipping the image of Hermes as a god, and setting up the "god of the Ways" (Agyieus) as door-keeper? For if they treat them with contumely as being without feeling, why do they worship them as gods? But if they believe them to partake of feeling, why do they set them up as door-keepers? The Romans, although they ascribe their greatest successes to Fortuna, and believe her to the greatest deity, carry her statue to the privy and erect it there, thus assigning to her a fit temple.
§ 4.6 But indeed the senseless wood and stone and precious gold pay not the smallest regard to the steam, the blood, and the smoke. They are blackened by the cloud of smoke which is meant to honour them, but they heed neither the honour nor the insult. There is not a single living creature that is not more worthy of honour than these statues; and how it comes to pass that senseless things have been deified I am at a loss to know, and I deeply pity for their lack of understanding the men who are thus miserably wandering in error. For even though there are some living creatures which do not possess all the senses, as worms and caterpillars, and all those that appear to be imperfect from the first through the conditions of their birth, such as moles and the field-mouse, which Nicander calls "blind and terrible"; yet these are better than those images and statues which hare entirely dumb. For they have at any rate some one sense, that of hearing, let us say, or of touch, or something corresponding to smell or taste; but these statues do not even partake of one sense. There are also many kinds of living creatures, such as the oyster family, which possess neither sight nor hearing nor yet speech; nevertheless they live and grow and are even affected by the moon. But the statues are motionless things incapable of action or sensation; they are bound and nailed and fastened, melted, filed, sawn, polished, carved. The dumb earth is dishonoured when sculptors pervert its peculiar nature and by their art entice men to worship it; while the god-makers, if there is any sense in me, worship not gods and daemons, but earth and art, which is all the statues are. For a statue is really lifeless matter shaped by a craftsman's hand; but in our view the image of God is not an object of sense made from matter perceived by the senses, but a mental object. God, that is, the only true God, is perceived not by the sense but by the mind.
§ 4.7 On the other hand, whenever a crisis arises, the daemon-worshippers, the adorers of stones, learn by experience not to revere senseless matter; for they succumb to the needs of the moment, and this fear of daemons is their ruin. And if while at heart despising the statues they are unwilling to show themselves utterly contemptuous of them, their folly is exposed by the impotence of the very gods to whom the statues are dedicated. For instance, the tyrant Dionysius the younger stripped the statue of Zeus in Sicily of its golden cloak and ordered it to be clothed with a woolen one, with the witty remark that this was better than the golden one, being both lighter in summer and warmer in winter. Antiochus of Cyzicus, when he was in want of money, ordered the golden statue of Zeus, fifteen cubits high, to be melted down, and a similar statue of cheaper material covered with gold leaf to be set up in its place. Swallows also and most other birds settle on these very statues and defile them, paying no heed to Olympian Zeus or Epidaurian Asclepius, no, nor yet to Athena Polias or Egyptian Sarapis; and even their example does not bring home to you how destitute of feeling the statues are. But there are certain evil-doers or enemies at war who from base love of gain ravaged the temples, plundering the votive offerings and even melting down the statues. Now if Cambyses or Darius or some other put his hands to such deeds in a fit of madness; and if one of them [Cambyses] slew the Egyptian god Apis, while I laugh at the thought of him slaying their god, I am indignant when gain is the motive of the offence. I will therefore willingly forget these evil deeds, holding them to be works of covetousness and not an exposure of the helplessness of the idols. But fire and earthquakes are in no way intent on gain; yet they are not frightened or awed either by the daemons or by their statues, any more than are the waves by the pebbles strewn in heaps along the seashore. I know that fire can expose and cure your fear of daemons; if you wish to cease from folly, the fire shall be your guiding light. This fire it was that burnt up the temple in Argos together with its priestess Chrysis, and also that of Artemis in Ephesus (the second after the time of the Amazons); and it has often devoured the Capitol of Rome, nor did it spare even the temple of Sarapis in the city of Alexandria. The temple of Dionysus Eleuthereus at Athens was brought to ruin in the same way, and that of Apollo at Delphi was first caught by a storm and then utterly destroyed by the "discerning fire." Here you see a kind of prelude to what the fire promises to do hereafter.
§ 4.8 Take next the makers of the statues; do not they shame the sensible among you into a contempt for mere matter? The Athenian Pheidias inscribed on the finger of Olympian Zeus, "Pantarces is beautiful," though it was not Zeus Pantarces whom he though beautiful, but his own favourite of that name. Praxiteles, as Poseidippus shows clearly in his book on Cnidus, when fashioning the statue of Cnidian Aphrodite, made the goddess resemble the form of his mistress Cratina, that the miserable people might have the sculptor's mistress to worship. When Phryne the Thespian courtesan was in her flower, the painters used all to imitate her beauty in their pictures of Aphrodite, just as the marble-masons copied Alcibiades in the busts of Hermes at Athens. It remains to bring your own judgment into play, and decide whether you wish to extend your worship to courtesans.
§ 4.9 Such were the facts, I think, that moved the kings of old, in their contempt for these legends, to proclaim themselves gods; which they did without hesitation, since there was no danger from men. In this way they teach us that the other gods were also men, made immortal for their renown. Ceyx the son of Aeolus was addressed as Zeus by his wife Alcyone, while she in turn was addressed as Hera by her husband. Ptolemy the fourth was called Dionysus, as was also Mithridates of Pontus. Alexander wished to be thought the son of Ammon, and to be depicted with horns by the sculptors, so eager was he to outrage the beautiful face of man by a horn. Aye, and not kings only, but private persons too used to exalt themselves with divine titles, as Menecrates the doctor, who was styled Zeus. Why need I reckon Alexarchus? As Aristus of Salamis relates, he was a scholar in virtue of his knowledge, but he transformed himself into the Sun-god (Helius). And why mention Nicagoras, a man of Zeleia by race, living in the time of Alexander, who was addressed as Hermes and wore the garb of Hermes, according to his own evidence? For indeed whole nations and cities with all their inhabitants, putting on the mask of flattery, belittle the legends about the gods, mere men, puffed up with vain-glory, transforming men like themselves into the equals of the gods and voting them extravagant honours. At one time they establish by law at Cynosarges the worship of Philip the son of Amyntas, the Macedonian from Pella, him of the "broken collar-bone and lame leg," with one eye knocked out. At another, they proclaim Demetrius to be a god in his turn; and the spot where he dismounted on entering Athens is now a temple of Demetrius the Alighter (Cataebatus), while his altars are everywhere. Arrangements were being made by the Athenians for his marriage with Athena, but he disdained the goddess, not being able to marry her statue. He went up the Acropolis, however, in company with the courtesan Lamia, and lay with her in Athena's bridal chamber, exhibiting to the old virgin the postures of the young courtesan. We must not be angry, therefore, even with Hippo, who represented his death as a deification of himself. This Hippo ordered the following couplet to be inscribed on his monument: "Behold the tomb of Hippo, whom in death Fate made an equal of the immortal gods.
§ 4.10 Well done, Hippo, you point out for us the error of men! For though they have not believed you when you could speak, let them become disciples now you are a corpse. This is the oracle of Hippo; let us understand its meaning. Those whom you worship were once men, who afterwards died. Legend and the lapse of time have given them their honours. For somehow the present is wont to be despised through our familiarity with it, whereas the past, being cut off from immediate exposure by the obscurity which time brings, is invested with a fictitious honour; and while events of the present are distrusted, those of the past are regarded with reverent wonder. As an example, the dead men of old, being exalted by the long period of error, are believed to be gods by those who come after. You have proof of all this in your mysteries themselves, in the solemn festivals, in fetters, wounds and weeping gods: "Woe, yea, woe be to me! that Sarpedon, dearest of mortals, doomed is to fall by the spear of Patroclus son of Menoetius." [Il 16.433] The will of Zeus has been overcome, and your supreme god, defeated, is lamenting for Sarpedon's sake.
§ 4.11 You are right then in having yourselves called the gods "shadows" (eidolon) and "daemons." For Homer spoke of Athena herself and her fellow-deities as "daemons," paying them a malicious compliment. But she was gone to Olympus, home of shield-bearing Zeus, to join the rest of the daemons." [Iliad 1.221]
§ 4.12 How then can the shadows and daemons any longer be gods, when they are in reality unclean and loathsome spirits, admitted by all to be earthy and foul, weighed down to the ground, and "prowling round graves and tombs," where also they dimly appear as "ghostly apparitions" [Plato, Phaedo 81C]? These are your gods, these shadows and ghosts; and along with them go those "lame and wrinkled cross-eyed deities" [Iliad 9.502], the Prayers, daughters of Zeus, though they are more like daughters of Thersites; so that I think Bion made a witty remark when he asked how men could rightly ask Zeus for goodly children, when he had not even been able to provide them for himself. Alas for such atheism! You sink in the earth, so far as you are able, the incorruptible existence, and that which is stainless and holy you have buried in the tombs. Thus you have robbed the divine of its real and true being. Why, I ask, did you assign to those who are no gods the honours due to God alone? Whey have you forsaken heaven to pay honour to earth? For what else is gold, or silver, or steel, or iron, or bronze, or ivory, or precious stones? Are they not earth, and made from earth? Are not all these things that you see the offspring of one mother, the earth? Why then, vain and foolish men, — once again I will ask the question, — did you blaspheme highest heaven and drag down piety to the ground by fashioning for yourselves gods of earth? Why have you fallen into deeper darkness by going after these created things instead of the uncreated God? The Parian marble is beautiful, but it is not yet a Poseidon. The ivory is beautiful, but it is not yet an Olympian Zeus. Matter will ever be in need of art, but God has no such need. Art develops, matter is invested with shape; and the costliness of the substance makes it worth carrying off for gain, but it is the shape alone which makes it an object of veneration. Your statue is god; it is wood; it is stone; or if in thought you trace it to its origin, it is earth, which has received form at the artist's hands. But my practice is to walk upon earth, not to worship it. For I hold it sin ever to entrust the hopes of the soul to soulless things.
§ 4.13 We must, then, approach the statues closely as we possibly can in order to prove from their very appearance that they are inseparably associated with error. For their forms are unmistakably stamped with the characteristic marks of the daemons. At least, if one were to go round inspecting the paintings and statues, he would immediately recognize your gods from their undignified figures; Dionysus from his dress, Hephaestus from his handicraft, Demeter from her woe, Ino from her veil, Poseidon from his trident, Zeus from his swan. The pyre indicates Heracles, and if one sees a woman represented naked, he understands it is "golden" Aphrodite. So the well-known Pygmalion of Cyprus fell in love with an ivory statue; it was of Aphrodite and was naked. The man of Cyprus is captivated by its shapeliness and embraces the statue. This is related by Philostephanus. There was also an Aphrodite in Cnidus, made of marble and beautiful. Another man fell in love with this and has intercourse with the marble, as Poseidippus relates. The account of the first author is in his book on Cyprus; that of the second in his book on Cnidus. Such strength had art to beguile that it became for amorous men a guide to the pit of destruction. Now craftsmanship is powerful, but it cannot beguile a rational being, nor yet those who have lived according to reason. It is true that, through lifelike portraiture, pigeons have been known to fly towards painted doves, and horses to neigh at well-drawn mares. They say that a maiden once fell in love with an image, and a beautiful youth with a Cnidian statue; but it was their sight that was beguiled by the art. For no man in his senses would have embraced the statue of a goddess, or have been buried with a lifeless paramour, or have fallen in love with a daemon and a stone. But in your case art has another illusion not to be in love with the statues and paintings, yet to honour and worship them. The painting, you say, is lifelike. Let the art be praised, but let it not beguile man by pretending to be truth. The horse stands motionless; the dove flutters not; its wings are at rest. Yet the cow of Daedalus, made of wood, infatuated a wild bull; and the beast, led astray by the art, was constrained to approach a love-sick woman. Such insane passion did the arts, by their vicious artifices, implant in creatures without sense. Even monkeys know better than this. They astonish their rearers and keepers, because no manner of waxen or clay figures or girls' toys can deceive them. But you, strange to say, will prove yourselves inferior even to monkeys through the heed you pay to statues of stone and wood, gold and ivory, and to paintings. Such are the pernicious playthings made for you be marble-masons, sculptors, painters, carpenters and poets, who introduce this great multitude of gods, Satyrs and Pans in the fields, mountain and tree Nymphs in the woods, as well as Naiads about the lakes, rivers and springs, and Nereids by the sea. Magicians go so far as to boast that daemons are assistants in their impious deeds; they have enrolled them as their own servants, having made them slaves perforce by means of their incantations.
§ 4.14 Further, the marriages of gods, their acts of child-begetting and child-bearing which are on men's lips, their adulteries which are sung by bards, their feastings which are a theme of comedy, and the bursts of laughter which occur over their cups, these exhort me to cry aloud, even if I would fain keep silence, — Alas for such atheism! You have turned heaven into a stage. You look upon the divine nature as a subject for drama. Under the masks of daemons you have made comedy of that which is holy. For the true worship of God you have substituted a travesty, the fear of daemons. Sing us that beautiful strain, Homer, "Telling the love of Ares and Aphrodite fair-girdled, how at he first they met in the halls of Hephaestus in secret; many the gifts he gave, and the bed and couch of Hephaestus sullied with shame." [Odyssey 8.267]
§ 4.15 Cease the song, Homer. There is no beauty in that; it teaches adultery. We have declined to lend our ears to fornication. For we, yes we, are they who, in this living and moving statue, man, bear about the image of God, an image which dwells with us, is our counselor, companion, the sharer of our hearth, which feels with us, feels for us. We have been made a consecrated offering to God for Christ's sake. "We are the elect race, the royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, who in time past were not a people but now are the people of God." We are they who, according to John, are not "from below," but have learnt the whole truth from Him who came from above, who have apprehended the dispensation of God, who have studied "to walk in newness of life."
§ 4.16 But most men are not of this mind. Casting off shame and fear, they have their homes decorated with pictures representing the unnatural lust of the daemons. In the lewdness to which their thoughts are given, they adorn their chambers with painted tablets hung on high like votive offerings, regarding licentiousness as piety; and, when lying upon the bed, while still in the midst of their own embraces, they fix their gaze upon that naked Aphrodite, who lies bound in her adultery. Also, to show they approve the representation of effeminacy, they engrave in the hoops of their rings the amorous bird hovering over Leda, using a seal which reflects the licentiousness of Zeus. These are the patterns for your voluptuousness; these are the stories that give divine sanction for wanton living; these are the lessons taught by gods who are fornicators like yourselves. "For what a man desires, that he also imagines to be true," says the Athenian orator [Demosthenes, Olynthiacs 3.19]. Look, too, at other of your images, — little figures of Pan, naked girls, drunken satyrs; and obscene emblems, plainly exhibited in pictures, and self-condemned by their indecency. More than that, you behold without a blush the postures of the whole art of licentiousness openly pictured in public. But when they are hung on high [in houses] you treasure them still more, just as if they were actually the images of your gods; for you dedicate these monuments of shamelessness in your homes, and are as eager to procure paintings of the postures of Philaenis as of the labours of Heracles. We declare that not only the use, but also the sight and the very hearing of these things should be forgotten. Your ears have committed fornication; your eyes have prostituted themselves; and, stranger still, before the embrace you have committed adultery by your looks. You who have done violence to man, and erased by dishonour the divine image in which he was created, you are utter unbelievers in order that you may give way to your passions. You believe in the idols because you crave after their incontinence; you disbelieve in God because you cannot bear self-control. You have hated the better, and honoured the worse. You have shown yourselves onlookers with regard to virtue, but active champions of vice.
§ 4.17 The only men, therefore, who can with one consent, so to speak, be called "blessed," are those whom the Sibyl describes, "Who, seeing the temples, will reject them all, and altars, useless shrines of senseless stones; stone idols too, and statues made by hand defiled with blood yet warm, and sacrifice of quadruped and biped, bird and beast." [Sibylline Oracles 4.24]
§ 4.18 What is more, we are expressly forbidden to practice a deceitful art. For the prophet says, "Thou shalt not make a likeness of anything that is in heaven above or in the earth beneath." Is it possible that we can still suppose the Demeter and Persephone and the mystic Iacchus of Praxiteles to be gods? Or are we to regard as gods the masterpieces of Lysippus or the works of Apelles, since it is these which have bestowed upon matter the fashion of the divine glory? But as for you, while you take great pains to discover how a statue may be shaped to the highest possible pitch of beauty, you never give a thought to prevent yourselves turning out like statues owning to want of sense. Any way, with the utmost plainness and brevity the prophetic word refutes the custom of idolatry, when it says, "All the gods of the nations are images of daemons; but God made the heavens," and the things in heaven. Some, it is true, starting from this pint, go astray, — I know not how, — and worship not God but His handiwork, the sun, moon, and the host of stars besides, absurdly supposing these to be gods, though they are but instruments for measuring time; for "by His word were they firmly established; and all their power by the breath of His mouth." But while human handiwork fashions houses, ships, cities, paintings, how can I speak of all that God creates? See the whole universe; that is His work. Heaven, the sun, angels and men are "the works of His fingers." How great is the power of God! His mere will is creation; for God alone created, since He alone is truly God. By a bare wish His work is done, and the world's existence follows upon a single act of His will. Here the host of philosophers turn aside, when they admit that man is beautifully made for the contemplation of heaven, and yet worship the things which appear in heaven and are apprehended by sight. For although the heavenly bodies are not the works of man, at least they have been created for man. Let none of you worship the sun; rather let him yearn for the maker of the sun. Let no one deify the universe; rather let him seek after the creator of the universe. It seems, then, that but one refuge remains for the man who is to reach the ages of salvation, and that is divine wisdom. From thence, as from a holy inviolate temple, no longer can any daemon carry him off, as he presses onward to salvation.
§ 5.1 BOOK V [complete]
Let us now, if you like, run though the opinions which the philosophers, on their part, asset confidently about the gods. Perchance we may find philosophy herself, through vanity, forming her conceptions of the godhead out of matter; or else we may be able to show in passing that, when deifying certain divine powers, she sees the truth in a dream. Some philosophers, then, left us the elements as first principles of all things. Water was selected for praise by Thales of Miletus; air by Anaximenes of the same city, who was followed afterwards by Diogenes of Apollonia. Fire and earth were introduced as gods by Parmenides of Elea; but only one of this pair, namely fire, is god according to the supposition of both Hippasus of Metapontum and Heracleitus of Ephesus. As to Empedocles of Acragas, he chooses plurality, and reckons "love" and "strife" in his list of gods, in addition to these four elements.
§ 5.2 These men also were really atheists, since with a foolish show of wisdom they worshipped matter. They did not, it is true, honour stocks or stones, but they made a god out of earth, which is the mother of these. They do not fashion a Poseidon, but they adore water itself. For what in the world is Poseidon, except a kind of liquid substance named from posis, drink? Just as, without a doubt, warlike Ares is so called from arsis and anairesis, abolition and destruction; which is the chief reason, I think, why many tribes simply fix their sword in the ground and then offer sacrifice to it as if to Ares. Such is the custom of the Scythians, as Eudoxus says in his second book of Geography, while the Sauromantians, a Scythian tribe, worship a dagger, according to Hicesius in his book on Mysteries. This too is the case with the followers of Heracleitus when they worship fire as the source of all; for this fire is what others named Hephaestus. The Persian Magi and many of the inhabitants of Asia have assigned honour to fire; so have the Macedonians, as Diogenes says in the first volume of his Persian History. Why need I instance Sauromatians, whom Nymphodorus in Barbarian Customs reports as worshipping fire; or the Persians, Medes and Magi? Dinon says that these Magi sacrifice under the open sky, believing that fire and water are the sole elements of divinity. Even their ignorance I do not conceal; for although they are quite convinced that they are escaping the error of idolatry, yet they slip into another delusion. They do not suppose, like Greeks, that stocks and stones are emblems of divinity, nor ibises and ichneumons, after the manner of Egyptians; but they admit fire and water, as philosophers do. It was not, however, till many ages had passed that they began to worship statues in human form, as Berosus shows in his third book of Chaldaean History; for this custom was introduced by Artaxerxes the son of Darius and father of Ochus, who was the first to set up the statue of Aphrodite Anaitis in Babylon, Susa and Ecbatana, and to enjoin this worship upon Persians and Bactrians, upon Damascus and Sardis. Let the philosophers therefore confess that Persians, Sauromatians, and Magi are their teachers, from whom they have learnt the atheistic doctrine of their venerated "first principles." The great original, the maker of all things, and creator of the "first principles" themselves, God without beginning, they know not, but offer adoration to these "weak and beggarly elements," as the apostle calls them, made for the service of men.
§ 5.3 Other philosophers went beyond the elements and sought diligently for a more sublime and excellent principle. Some of them celebrated the praises of the Infinite, as Anaximander of Miletus, Anaxagoras of Clazomenae, and Archelaus of Athens. The two latter agreed in placing Mind above the Infinite; while on the other hand Leucippus of Miletus and Metrodorus of Chios also left, as it seems, a pair of first principles, "fullness" and "void." Democritus of Abdera took these two and added to them "images." Nor was this all; Alcmaeon of Croton thought that the stars were endowed with life and therefore gods. I will not refrain from mentioning the audacity of these others. Xenocrates of Chalcedon intimates that the planets are seven gods and that the ordered arrangement of the fixed stars is an eighth. Nor will I omit the Stoics, who say that the divine nature permeates all matter, even in its lowest forms; these men simply cover philosophy with shame. At this point there is, I think, nothing to hinder me from mentioning the Peripatetics also. The father of this sect [Aristotle], because he did not perceive the Father of all things, thinks that he who is called the "Highest" is the soul of the universe; that is today, he supposes the soul of the world to be God, and so is pierced with his own sword. For he first declares that providence extends only as far as the moon; then by holding the opinion that the universe is God he contradicts himself, asserting that that which has no share in God is God. Aristotle's disciple, the celebrated Theophrastus of Eresus, suspects in one place that God is heaven, and elsewhere that God is spirit. Epicurus alone I will banish from memory, and that willingly, for he, pre-eminent in impiety, thinks that God has no care for the world. What of Heracleides of Pontus? Is there a single place where he too is not drawn away to the "images" of Democritus?