and Greek legends, and constrained, like Herodotus, to explain coincidences by a theory of borrowing, constrained also, like most polytheists, to recognise his own gods in alien deities with which they may have had little real analogy—when such an inquirer narrates his national myths, his report must be received with caution. It is not as if we were dealing either with original documents like the Vedas or the Egyptian Book of the Dead, on the one hand, or with direct popular tradition, like the Red Indian or Mexican myths collected by Brébeuf or Sahagun, on the other. A man like Philo of Byblos will mingle early philosophies, allegorical and symbolical interpretations, theories of his own, confusions from the sphere of earlier creeds, and many other elements with the myths which he narrates. Nor does the topic become simpler when we are compelled regretfully to admit that there are many signs of misstatement, and a very strong suspicion of forgery, literary and pious.
There are several cosmogonic systems in the remains of the so-called Sanchoniathon. He begins by a kind of philosophic rather than mythical hypothesis of the origin of things. There was a troubled and windy atmosphere and a black weltering chaos; these were limitless and long enduring. Then the wind (here myth, or the mythical manner at least, comes in) became amorous of its own principles, and there was a mingling or return upon self, and this was called Desire. This unconscious "becoming," as one might say, was the begetter of all things, and thence sprang Môt, a kind of watery slime. Thence, again, were developed the seeds of all existence. In Môt, a sort of vaguely animated protoplasm, arose unconscious living beings. These produced conscious living beings called "contemplators of the heavens." "And Môt was egg-shaped, and shining, and there were sun and moon, stars and planets."
Eusebius objects that this system, in which a dimly conscious evolutionism is trammelled by old mythical ideas of the early loves of the world and the primeval egg, "leads straight to atheism." The document goes on to attribute the making of animal life to
- Renan, Memoires de l'Académie des Inscriptions. 1868, vol. xxiii. part ii. The fragments are quoted, correctly or not, by Eusebius, Præp. Ev., i. 10, and are translated and commented on by M. Lenormant, Les Origines de l'Histoire, Paris, 1880, vol. i. Appendices E., G., p. 536.
- Eusebius, op. cit., i. 10 ad init.