Myth, Ritual, and Religion/Volume 2/Chapter 17

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Myth, Ritual, and Religion, Volume 2 by Andrew Lang
Chapter 17: Greek divine myths



Gods in myth, and God in religion—The society of the gods like that of men in Homer—Borrowed elements in Greek belief—Zeus—His name—Development of his legend—His bestial shapes explained—Zeus in religion—Apollo—Artemis—Dionysus—Athene—Aphrodite—Hermes—Demeter—Their names, natures, rituals, and legends—Conclusions.

In the gods of Greece, when represented in ideal art and in the best religious sentiment, as revealed by poets and philosophers, from Homer to Plato, from Plato to Porphyry, there is something truly human and truly divine. It cannot be doubted that the religion of Apollo, Athene, Artemis, and Hermes was, in many respects, an adoration directed to the moral and physical qualities that are best and noblest. Again, even in the oldest Greek literature, in Homer and in all that follows, the name of the chief god, Zeus, might in many places be translated by our word "God."[1] It is God that takes from man half his virtue on the day of slavery; it is God that gives to each his lot in life, and ensures that as his day is so shall his strength be. This spiritual conception of deity, undifferentiated by shape or attributes, or even by name, declares itself in the Homeric terms τὸ δαιμόνιον and in the τὸ θεῖον of Herodotus. These are spiritual forces or tendencies ruling the world, and these conceptions are present to the mind even of Homer, whose pictures of the gods are so essentially anthropomorphic; even of Herodotus, in all things so cautiously reverent in his acceptation of the popular creeds and rituals. When Socrates, therefore, was doomed to death for his theories of religion, he was not condemned so much for holding a pure belief in a spiritual divinity, as for bringing that opinion (itself no new thing) into the marketplace, and thereby shocking the popular religion, on which depended the rites that were believed to preserve the fortune of the state.

It is difficult or impossible quite to unravel the tangled threads of mythical legend, of sacerdotal ritual, of local religion, and of refined religious sentiment in Greece. Even in the earliest documents, the Homeric poems, religious sentiment deserts, in moments of deep and serious thought, the brilliant assembly of the Olympians, and takes refuge in that fatherhood of the divine "after which all men yearn."[2] Yet, even in Pausanias, in the second century of the Christian era, and still more in Plutarch and Porphyry, there remains an awful acquiescence in such wild dogmas and sacred traditions as antiquity handed down. We can hardly determine whether even Homer actually believed in his own turbulent cowardly Ares, in his own amorous and capricious Zeus. Did Homer, did any educated Greek, turn in his thoughts, when pain, or sorrow, or fear fell on him, to a hope in the help of Hermes or Athene? He was ready to perform all their rites and offer all the sacrifices due, but it may be questioned whether, even in such a god-fearing man as Nicias, this ritualism meant more than a desire to "fulfil all righteousness," and to gratify a religious sentiment in the old traditional forms.

In examining Greek myths, then, it must be remembered that they have far less concern with religion in its true guise—with the yearning after the divine which "is not far from any one of us," after the God "in whom we live, and move, and have our being"—than with the religio, which is a tissue of old barbarous fears, misgivings, misapprehensions. The religion which retained most of the myths was that ancient superstition which is afraid of "changing the luck," and which, therefore, keeps up acts of ritual that have lost their significance in their passage from a dark and dateless past. It was the local priesthoods of demes and remote rural places that maintained the old usages of the ancient tribes and kindreds—usages out of keeping with the mental condition of the splendid city state, or with the national sentiment of Hellenism. But many of the old tales connected with, and explanatory of, these ritual practices, after "winning their way to the mythical," as Thucydides says, won their way into literature, and meet us in the odes of Pindar, the plays of Æschylus and Sophocles, the notes of commentators, and the apologetic efforts of Plutarch and Porphyry. It is with these antique stories that the mythologist is concerned. But even here he need not lose liis reverence for the nobler aspects of the gods of Greece. Like the archæologist and excavator, he must touch with careful hand these—

     "Strange clouded fragments of the ancient glory,
     Late lingerers of the company divine;
     For even in ruin of their marble limbs
     They breathe of that far world wherefrom they came,
     Of liquid light and harmonies serene,
     Lost halls of heaven and far Olympian air."[3]

"Homer and Hesiod named the gods for the Greeks;" so Herodotus thought, and constructed the divine genealogies. Though the gods were infinitely older than Homer, though a few of them probably date from before the separation of the Indo-Aryan and Hellenic stocks, it is certain that Homer and Hesiod stereotyped, to some extent, the opinions about the deities which were current in their time.[4] Hesiod codified certain priestly and Delphian theories about their origins and genealogies. Homer minutely described their politics and society. His description, however, must inevitably have tended to develop a later scepticism. While men lived in city states under heroic kings, acknowledging more or less the common sway of one king at Argos or Mycenæ, it was natural that the gods should be conceived as dwelling in a similar society, with Zeus for their Agamemnon, a ruler supreme but not absolute, not safe from attempts at resistance and rebellion. But when Greek politics and society developed into a crowd of republics, with nothing answering to a certain imperial sway, then men must have perceived that the old divine order was a mere survival from the time when human society was similarly ordained. Thus Xenophanes very early proclaimed that men had made the gods in their own likeness, as a horse, could he draw, would design his deity in equine semblance. But the detection by Xenophanes of the anthropomorphic tendency in religion could not account for the instinct which made Greeks, like other peoples, as Aristotle noticed, figure their gods not only in human shape, but in the guise of the lower animals. For that zoomorphic element in myth an explanation, as before, will be sought in the early mental condition which takes no great distinction between man and the beasts. The same method will explain, in many cases, the other peculiarly un-Hellenic elements in Greek divine myth. Yet here, too, allowance must be made for the actual borrowing of rites and legends from contiguous peoples.

The Greeks were an assimilative race. The alphabet of their art they obtained, as they obtained their written alphabet, from the kingdoms of the East.[5] Like the Romans, they readily recognised their own gods, even under the barbarous and brutal disguises of Egyptian popular religion; and, while recognising their god under an alien shape, they may have taken over legends alien to their own national character.[6] Again, we must allow, as in India, for myths which are really late, the inventions, perhaps, of priests or oracle-mongers. But in making these deductions, we must remember that the later myths would be moulded, in many cases, on the ancient models. These ancient models, there is reason to suppose, were often themselves of the irrational and savage character which has so frequently been illustrated from the traditions of the lower races.

The elder dynasties of Greek gods, Uranus and Cronos, with their adventures and their fall, have already been examined.[7] We may now turn to the deity who was the acknowledged sovereign of the Greek Olympus during all the classical period from the date of Homer and Hesiod to the establishment of Christianity. We have to consider the legend of Zeus. It is necessary first to remind the reader that all the legends in the epic poems date after the time when an official and national Olympus had been arranged. Probably many tribal gods, who had originally no connection with gods of other tribes, had, by Homer's age, thus accepted places and relationships in the Olympic family. Even rude low-born Pelasgian deities may have been adopted into the highest circles, and fitted out with a divine pedigree in perfect order.

To return to Zeus, his birth (whether as the eldest or the youngest of the children of Cronus) has already been studied; now we have to deal with his exploits and his character.

About the meaning of the name of Zeus the philologists seem more than commonly harmonious. They regard the Greek Zeus as the equivalent of the Sanskrit Dyaus, "the bright one," a term for the sky.[8] He was especially worshipped on hill-tops (like the Aztec rain-god); for example, on Ithome, Parnes, Cithæron, and the Lycæan hill of Arcadia. On the Arcadian mountain, a centre of the strangest and oldest rites, the priest of Zeus acted as what the African races call a "rainmaker." There was on the hill the sacred well of the nymph Hagno, one of the nurses of the child Zeus. In time of drought the priest of Zeus offered sacrifice and prayer to the water, according to ritual law, and it would be interesting to know what it was that he sacrificed. He then gently stirred the well with a bough from the oak, the holy tree of the god, and when the water was stirred, a cloud arose like mist, which attracted other clouds and caused rain. As the priest on a mountain practically occupied a meteorological observatory, he probably did not perform these rites till he knew that a "depression" might be expected from one quarter or another.[9] As soon as we meet Zeus in Homer, we find that he is looked on, not as the sky, but as the deity who "dwells in the heights of air," and who exercises supreme sway over all things, including storm and wind and cloud. He casts the lightning forth (τερπικέραυνος), he thunders on high (ὑψιβρεμέτης), he has dark clouds for his covering (κελαινεφής). Under all these imposing aspects he is religiously regarded by people who approach him in prayer. These aspects may be readily explained by the theory that Zeus, after having been the personal sky, came to be thought a powerful being who dwelt in the sky. Much in the same way, as M. Maspero points out, in Egypt the animals were worshipped first, and then later the gods supposed to be present in the animals. So the sky, a personal sky, was first adored, later a god dwelling in the sky. But it is less easy to show how this important change in opinion took place. A philological theory of the causes which produced the change is set forth by Mr. Keary in his book Primitive Belief. In his opinion the sky was first worshipped as a vast non-personal phenomenon, "the bright thing" (Dyaus). But, to adopt the language of Mr. Max Müller, who appears to hold the same views, "Dyaus ceased to be an expressive predicate; it became a traditional name;"[10] it "lost its radical meaning." Thus where a man had originally said, "It thunders," or rather "He thunders," he came to say, "Dyaus" (that is, the sky) "thunders." Next Dyaus, or rather the Greek form Zeus, almost lost its meaning of the sky, and, the true sense being partially obscured, became a name supposed to indicate a person. Lastly the expression became "Zeus thunders," Zeus being regarded as a person, because the old meaning of his name, "the sky," was forgotten, or almost forgotten. The nomen (name) has become a numen (god). As Mr. Keary puts it, "The god stands out as clear and thinkable in virtue of this name as any living friend can be." The whole doctrine resolves itself into this, a phenomenon originally (according to the theory) considered impersonal, came to be looked on as personal, because a word survived in colloquial expressions after it had lost, or all but lost, its original meaning. As a result, all the changes and processes of the impersonal sky came to be spoken of as personal actions performed by a personal being, Zeus. The record of these atmospheric processes on this theory is the legend of Zeus. Whatever is irrational and abominable in the conduct of the god is explained as originally a simple statement of meteorological phenomena. "Zeus weds his mother;" that must mean the rain descends on the earth, from which it previously arose in vapour. "Zeus weds his daughter," that is, the rain falls on the crop, which grew up from the rainy embrace of sky and earth.

Here then we have the philological theory of the personality and conduct of Zeus. To ourselves and those who have followed us the system will appear to reverse the known conditions of the working of the human mind among early peoples. On the philological theory, man first regards phenomena in our modern way as impersonal; he then gives them personality as the result of a disease of language, of a forgetfulness of the sense of words. Thus Mr. Keary writes: "The idea of personality as apart from matter must have been growing more distinct when men could attribute personality to such an abstract phenomenon as the sky." Where is the distinctness in a conception which produces such confusion? We have seen that as the idea of personality becomes more distinct the range of its application becomes narrower, not wider. The savage, it has been shown, attributes personality to everything without exception. As the idea of personality grows more distinct it necessarily becomes less extensive, till we withdraw it from all but intelligent human beings. Thus we must look for some other explanation of the personality of Zeus, supposing his name to mean the sky. This explanation we find in a survival of the savage mental habit of regarding all phenomena, even the most abstract, as persons. Our theory will receive confirmation from the character of the personality of Zeus in his myth. Not only is he a person, but a very savage person, with all the powers of the medicine-man and all the passions of the barbarian. Why should this be so on the philological theory? When we examine the legend of Zeus, we shall see which explanation best meets the difficulties of the problem. But the reader must again be reminded that the Zeus of myth, in Homer and elsewhere, is a very different being from the Zeus of Achilles's prayer, from the Zeus whom the Athenians implored to rain on their fields, and from the Zeus who was the supreme being of the tragedians, of the philosophers, and of later Greece.

The early career, la jeunesse orageuse, of Zeus has been studied already. The child of Cronus and Rhea, countless places asserted their claim to be the scene of his birth, though the Cretan claim was most popular.[11] In Crete too was the grave of Zeus: a scandal to pious heathendom. The euhemerists made this tomb a proof that Zeus was a deified man. Preller takes it for an allegory of winter and the death of the god of storm, who in winter is especially active. Zeus narrowly escaped being swallowed by his father, and, after expelling and mediatising that deity, he changed his own wife, Metis, into a fly, swallowed her, and was delivered out of his own head of Athene, of whom his wife had been pregnant. He now became ruler of the world, with his brother Poseidon for viceroy, so to speak, of the waters, and his brother Hades for lord of the world of the dead. Like the earlier years of Louis XIV., the earlier centuries of the existence of Zeus were given up to a series of amours, by which he, like Charles II., became the father of many noble families. His legitimate wife was his sister Hera, whom he seduced before wedlock "without the knowledge of their dear parents," says Homer,[12] who neglects the myth that one of the "dear parents" ate his own progeny, "like him who makes his generation messes to gorge his appetite." Hera was a jealous wife, and with good cause.[13] The Christian fathers calculated that he sowed his wild oats and persecuted mortal women with his affections through seventeen generations of men. His amours with his mother and daughters, with Deo and Persephone, are the great scandals of Clemens Alexandrinus and Arnobius.[14] Zeus seldom made love in propria persona, in all his meteorological pomp. When he thus gratified Semele she was burned to a cinder.[15] The amour with Danaë, when Zeus became a shower of gold, might be interpreted as a myth of the yellow sunshine. The amours of Zeus under the disguise of various animal forms were much more usual, and are familiar to all.[16] As Cronus when in love metamorphosed himself into a stallion, as Prajapati pursued his own daughter in the shape of a roebuck, so Zeus became a serpent, a bull, a swan, an eagle, a dove,[17] and, to woo the daughter of Cletor, an ant. Similar disguises are adopted by the sorcerers among the Algonkins for similar purposes. When the crow-god, in the Australian myth of the Pleiades, was in love with a native girl, he changed himself into one of those grubs in the bark of trees which the Blacks think edible, and succeeded as well as Zeus did when he became an ant.[18] It is not improbable that the metamorphosis of Zeus into an ant is the result of a volks-etymologie which derived "Myrmidons" from μύρμηξ, an ant. Even in that case the conversion of the ant into an avatar of Zeus would be an example of the process of gravitation or attraction, whereby a great mythical name and personality attracts to itself floating fables.[19] The remark of Clemens on this last extraordinary intrigue is suggestive. The Thessalians, he says, are reputed to worship ants because Zeus took the semblance of an ant when he made the daughter of Cletor mother of Myrmidon. Where people worship any animal from whom they claim descent (in this case through Myrmidon, the ancestor of the famed Myrmidons), we have an example of straightforward totemism. To account for the adoration of the animal on the hypothesis that it was the incarnation of a god, is the device which has been observed in Egyptian as in Samoan religion, and in that of aboriginal Indian tribes, whose animal gods become saints "when the Brahmans get a turn at them."[20]

The most natural way of explaining such tales about the amours and animal metamorphoses of so great a god, is to suggest that Zeus inherited,[21] as it were, legends of a lower character long current among separate families and in different localities. In the same way, where a stone had been worshipped, the stone was, in at least one instance, dubbed with the name of Zeus.[22] The tradition of descent from this or that beast or plant has been shown to be most widely prevalent. On the general establishment of a higher faith in a national deity, these traditions, it is presumed, would not wholly disappear, but would be absorbed into the local legend of the god. The various beasts would become sacred to him, as the sheep was sacred to Hera in Samos, according to Mandrobulus,[23] and images of the animals would congregate in his temple. The amours of Zeus, then, are probably traceable to the common habit of tracing noble descents to a god, and in the genealogical narrative older totemistic and other local myths found a place.[24] Apart from his intrigues, the youth of Zeus was like that of some masquerading and wandering king, such as James V. in Scotland. Though Plato, in the Republic, is unwilling that the young should be taught how the gods go about disguised as strangers, this was their conduct in the myths. Thus we read of—

"Lycaon and his fifty sons, whom Zeus
In their own house spied on, and unawares
Watching at hand, from his disguise arose,
And overset the table where they sat
Around their impious feast, and slew them all."[25]

Clemens of Alexandria[26] contrasts the "human festival" of Zeus among the Ethiopians with the inhuman banquet offered to him by Lycaon in Arcadia.[27] The permanence of Arcadian human sacrifice has already been alluded to, and it is confirmed by the superstition that whoever tasted the human portion in the mess sacrificed to Zeus became a were-wolf, resuming his original shape if for ten years he abstained from the flesh of men.[28]

A very quaint story of the domestic troubles of Zeus was current in Platæa, where it was related at the festival named Dædala. It was said that Hera, indignant at the amours of her lord, retired to Eubœa. Zeus, wishing to be reconciled to her, sought the advice of Cithæron, at that time king of Platæa. By his counsel the god celebrated a sham marriage with a wooden image, dressed up to personate Platæa, daughter of Asopus. Hera flew to the scene and tore the bridal veil, when, discovering the trick, she laughed, and was reconciled to her husband.[29] Probably this legend was told to explain some incident of ritual or custom in the feast of the Dædala, and it is certainly a more innocent myth than most that were commemorated in local mystery-plays.

It was not only when he was en bonne fortune that Zeus adopted the guise of a bird or beast. In the very ancient temple of Hera near Mycenæ there was a great statue of the goddess, of gold and ivory, the work of Polycletus, and therefore comparatively modern. In one hand the goddess held a pomegranate, in the

other a sceptre, on which was perched a cuckoo, like the Latin woodpecker Picus on his wooden post. About the pomegranate there was a myth which Pausanias declines to tell, but he does record the myth of the cuckoo. "They say that when Zeus loved the yet virgin Hera, he changed himself into a cuckoo, which she pursued and caught to be her playmate." Pausanias admits that he did not believe this legend. Probably it was invented to account for the companionship of the cuckoo, which, like the cow, was one of the sacred animals of Hera. Myths of this class are probably later than the period in which the divine relationships of gods and animals had passed out of the totemistic into the Samoan condition of belief. The more general explanation is, that the cuckoo, as a symbol of the vernal season, represents the heaven in its wooing of the earth. On the whole, as we have tried to show, the symbolic element in myth is late, and was meant to be explanatory of rites and usages whose original significance was forgotten.

An extremely wild legend of Zeus was current among the Galatæ, where Pausanias expressly calls it a "local myth," differing from the Lydian variant. Zeus in his sleep became, by the earth, father of Attes, a being both male and female in his nature. Agdistis was the local name of this enigmatic character, whom the gods feared and mutilated. From the blood grew up, as in so many myths, an almond tree. The daughter of Sangarius, Nana, placed some of the fruit in her bosom, and thereby became pregnant, like the girl in the Kalewala by the berry, or the mother of Huitzilopochtli, in Mexico, by the floating feather. The same set of ideas recurs in Grimm's Märchen Machandelboom,[30] if we may suppose that in an older form the juniper tree and its berries aided the miraculous birth.[31] It is customary to see in these wild myths a reflection of the Phrygian religious tradition, which leads up to the birth of Atys, who again is identified with Adonis as a hero of the spring and the reviving year. But the story has been introduced in this place as an example of the manner in which floating myths from all sources gravitate towards one great name and personality, like that of Zeus. It would probably be erroneous to interpret these and many other myths in the vast legend of Zeus, as if they had originally and intentionally described the phenomena of the heavens. They are, more probably, mere accretions round the figure of Zeus conceived as a personal god, a "magnified non-natural man."[32]

Another example of local accretion is the fable that Zeus, after carrying off Ganymede to be his cup-bearer, made atonement to the royal family of Troy by the present of a vine of gold fashioned by Hephæstus.[33] The whole of the myth of Callisto, again, whom Zeus loved, and who bore Arcas, and later was changed into a bear, and again into a star, is clearly of local Arcadian origin. If the Arcadians, in very remote times, traced their descent from a she-bear, and if they also, like other races, recognised a bear in the constellation, they would naturally mix up those fables later with the legend of the all-powerful Zeus.[34]

So far we have studied some of the details in the legend of Zeus which did not conspicuously win their way into the national literature. The object has been to notice a few of the myths which appear the most ancient, and the most truly native and original. These are the traditions preserved in mystery-plays, tribal genealogies, and temple legends, the traditions surviving from the far-off period of the village Greeks. It has already been argued, in conformity with the opinion of C. O. Müller, that these myths are most antique and thoroughly local. "Any attempt to explain these myths in order, such, for instance, as we now find them in the collection of Apollodorus, as a system of thought and knowledge, must prove a fruitless task." Equally useless is it to account for them all as stories originally told to describe, consciously or unconsciously, or to explain any atmospheric and meteorological phenomena. Zeus is the bright sky; granted, but the men who told how he became an ant, or a cuckoo, or celebrated a sham wedding with a wooden image, or offered Troy a golden vine, "the work of Hephæstus," like other articles of jewellery, were not thinking of the bright sky when they repeated the story. They were merely strengthening some ancient family or tribal tradition by attaching it to the name of a great, powerful, personal being, immortal and accomplished to perfection in all the supernatural arts of the sorcerer. This being, not the elemental force that was Zeus, not the power "making for righteousness" that is Zeus, not the pure spiritual ruler of the world, the Zeus of philosophy, is the hero of the myths that have been investigated.

In the tales that actually won their way into national literature, beginning with Homer, there is observable the singular tendency to combine, in one figure, the highest religious ideas with the fables of a capricious, and often unjust and lustful supernatural being. Taking the myths first, their contrast with the religious conception of Zeus will be the more remarkable.

Zeus is the king of all gods and father of some, but he cannot keep his subjects and family always in order. In the first book of the Iliad, Achilles reminds his mother, the sea-nymph Thetis, how she once "rescued the son of Cronus, lord of the storm-clouds, from shameful wreck, when all other Olympians would have bound him, even Hera, and Poseidon, and Pallas Athene." Thetis brought the hundred-handed Briareus to the help of the out-numbered and over-mastered Zeus. Then Zeus, according to the Scholiast, hung Hera out of heaven in chains, and gave Apollo and Poseidon for slaves to Laomedon, king of Troy. So lively was the recollection of this coup d'état in Olympus, that Hephæstus implores Hera (his mother in Homer) not to anger Zeus, "lest I behold thee, that art so dear, chastised before mine eyes, and then shall I not be able to save thee for all my sorrow."[35] He then reminds Hera how Zeus once tossed him out of heaven (as the master of life tossed Ataentsic in the Iroquois myth), and how he fell in Lemnos, "and little life was left in me." The passage is often interpreted as if the fall of Hephæstus, the fire-god, were a myth of lightning; but in Homer assuredly the incident has become thoroughly personal, and is told with much humour. The offence of Hera was the raising of a magic storm (which she could do as well as any Lapland witch) and the wrecking of Heracles on Cos. For this she was chained and hung out of heaven, as on the occasion already described.[36] The constant bickerings between Hera and Zeus in the Iliad are merely the reflection in the upper Olympian world of the wars and jealousies of men below. Ilios is at war with Argos and Mycenæ, therefore the chief protecting gods of each city take part in the strife. This conception is connected with the heroic genealogies. Noble and royal families, as in most countries, feigned a descent from the gods. It followed that Zeus was a partisan of his "children," that is, of the royal houses in the towns where he was the most favoured deity. Thus Hera when she sided with Mycenæ had a double cause of anger, and there is an easy answer to the question, quo numine læso? She had her own townsmen's quarrel to abet, and she had her jealousy to incite her the more; for to become father of the human families Zeus must have been faithless to her. Indeed, in a passage (possibly interpolated) of the fourteenth Iliad he acts as his own Leporello, and recites the list of his conquests. The Perseidæ. the Heraclidæ, the Pirithoidæ, with Dionysus, Apollo, and Artemis spring from the amours there recounted.[37] Moved by such passions, Hera urges on the ruin of Troy, and Zeus accuses her of a cannibal hatred. "Perchance wert thou to enter within the gates and long walls, and devour Priam raw, and Priam's sons, and all the Trojans, then mightest thou assuage thine anger."[38] That great stumbling-block of Greek piety, the battle in which the gods take part,[39] was explained as a physical allegory by the Neo-Platonists.[40] It is in reality only a refraction of the wars of men, a battle produced among the heavenly folk by men's battles, as the earthly imitations of rain in the Vedic ritual beget rain from the firmament. The favouritism which Zeus throughout shows to Athene[41] is explained by that rude and ancient myth of her birth from his brain after he had swallowed her pregnant mother.[42]

But Zeus cannot allow the wars of the gods to go on unreproved, and[43] he asserts his power, and threatens to cast the offenders into Tartarus, "as far beneath Hades as heaven is high above earth." Here the supremacy of Zeus is attested, and he proposes to prove it by the sport called "the tug of war." He says, "Fasten ye a chain of gold from heaven, and all ye gods lay hold thereof, and all goddesses, yet could ye not drag from heaven to earth Zeus, the supreme counsellor, not though ye strove sore. But if once I were minded to drag with all my heart, then I could hang gods, and earth, and sea, to a pinnacle of Olympus."[44] The supremacy claimed here on the score of strength, "by so much I am beyond gods and men," is elsewhere based on primogeniture,[45] though in Hesiod Zeus is the youngest of the sons of Cronos. But there is, as usual in myth, no consistent view, and Zeus cannot be called omnipotent. Not only is he subject to fate, but his son Heracles would have perished when he went to seek the hound of hell but for the aid of Athene.[46] Gratitude for his relief does not prevent Zeus from threatening Athene as well as Hera with Tartarus, when they would thwart him in the interest of the Achæans. Hera is therefore obliged to subdue him by the aid of love and sleep, in that famous and beautiful passage,[47] which is so frankly anthropomorphic, and was such a scandal to religious minds.[48]

Not to analyse the whole divine plot of the Iliad, such is Zeus in the mythical portions of the epic. He is the father and master of gods and men, and the strongest; but he may be opposed, he may be deceived and cajoled; he is hot-tempered, amorous, luxurious, by no means omnipotent or omniscient. He cannot avert even from his children the doom that Fate span into the threads at their birth; he is no more omniscient than omnipotent, and if he can affect the weather, and bring storm and cloud, so at will can the other deities, and so can any sorcerer, or Jossakeed, or Biraark of the lower races.

In Homeric religion, as considered apart from myth, in the religious thoughts of men at solemn moments of need, or dread, or prayer, Zeus holds a far other place. All power over mortals is in his hands, and is acknowledged with almost the fatalism of Islam. "So meseems it pleaseth mighty Zeus, who hath laid low the head of many a city, yea, and shall lay low, for his is the highest power."[49] It is Zeus who gives sorrows to men,[50] and he has, in a mythical picture, two jars by him full of evil and good, which he deals to his children on earth. In prayer[51] he is addressed as Zeus, most glorious, most great, veiled in the storm-cloud, that dwelleth in the heaven. He gives his sanction to the oath,[52] "Father Zeus, that rulest from Ida, most glorious, most great, and thou sun, that seest all things, and hearest all things, and ye rivers, and thou earth, and ye that in the underworld punish men forsworn, whosoever sweareth falsely, be ye witnesses, and watch over the faithful oath." Again it is said, "Even if the Olympian bring not forth the fulfilment" (of the oath) "at once, yet doth he fulfil at the last, and men make dear amends, even with their own heads, and their wives and little ones."[53] Again, "Father Zeus will be no helper of liars."[54]

As to the religious sentiment towards Zeus of a truly devout man in that remote age, Homer has left us no doubt. In Eumæus the swineherd of Odysseus, a man of noble birth stolen into slavery when a child, Homer has left a picture of true religion and undefiled. Eumæus attributes everything that occurs to the will of the gods, with the resignation of a child of Islam or a Scot of the Solemn League and Covenant.[55] "From Zeus are all strangers and beggars," he says, and believes that hospitality and charity are well pleasing in the sight of the Olympian. When he flourishes, "it is God that increaseth this work of mine whereat I abide." He neither says "Zeus" nor "the gods," but in this passage simply "god." "Verily the blessed gods love not froward deeds, but they reverence justice and the righteous acts of men;" yet it is "Zeus that granteth a prey to the sea-robbers." It is the gods that rear Telemachus like a young sapling, yet is it the gods who "mar his wits within him" when he sets forth on a perilous adventure. It is to Zeus Cronion that the swineherd chiefly prays,[56] but he does not exclude the others from his supplication.[57] Being a man of scrupulous piety, when he slays a swine for supper, he only sets aside a seventh portion "for Hermes and the nymphs" who haunt the lonely uplands.[58] Yet his offering has no magical intent of constraining the immortals. "One thing god will give, and another withhold, even as he will, for with him all things are possible."[59]

Such is a Homeric ideal of piety, and it would only gain force from contrast with the blasphemy of Aias, "who said that in the god's despite he had escaped the great deep of the sea."[60]

The epics sufficiently prove that a noble religion may coexist with a wild and lawless mythology. That ancient sentiment of the human heart which makes men listen to a human voice in the thunder and yearn for immortal friends and helpers, lives its life little disturbed by the other impulse which inspires men when they come to tell stories and romances about the same transcendent beings.

There are moments when, as we study the legend of Zeus, we could almost pity a god who is by no means so black as he was painted.

As to the actual original form of the faith in Zeus, we can only make guesses. To some it will appear that Zeus was originally the clear bright expanse which was taken for an image or symbol of the infinite. Others will regard Zeus as the bright sky, but the bright sky conceived of in savage fashion, as a being with human parts and passions, a being with all the magical accomplishments of metamorphosis, rain-making, and the rest, with which the medicine-man is credited. A third set of mythologists, remembering how gods and medicine-men have often interchangeable names, and how, for example, the Australian Biraark, who is thought to command the west wind, is himself styled "West Wind," will derive Zeus from the ghost of some ancestral sorcerer named "Sky." This euhemerism seems an exceedingly inadequate explanation of the origin of Zeus. In his moral aspect Zeus again inherits the quality of that supernatural and moral watcher of man's deeds who is recognised (as we have seen) even by the most backward races, and who, for all we can tell, is as old as any beast-god or god of the natural elements. Thus, whatever Zeus was in his earliest origin, he had become, by the time we can study him in ritual, poem, or sacred chapter, a complex of qualities and attributes, spiritual, moral, elemental, animal, and human.

It is curious that, on our theory, the mythical Zeus must have morally degenerated at a certain period as the Zeus of religion more and more approached the rank of a pure and almost supreme deity. On our hypothesis, it was while Greece was reaching a general national consciousness, and becoming more than an aggregate of small local tribes, that Zeus attracted the worst elements of his myth. In deposing or relegating to a lower rank a crowd of totems and fetishes and ancestral ghosts, he inherited the legends of their exploits. These were attached to him still more by the love of genealogies derived from the gods. For each such pedigree an amour was inevitably invented, and, where totems had existed, the god in this amour borrowed the old bestial form. For example, if a Thessalian stock had believed in descent from an ant, and wished to trace their pedigree to Zeus, they had merely to say, "Zeus was that ant." Once more, as Zeus became supreme among the other deities of men in the patriarchal family condition, those gods were grouped round him as members of his family, his father, mother, brothers, sisters, wife, mistresses, and children. Here was a noble field in which the mythical fancy might run riot; hence came stories of usurpations, rebellions, conjugal skirmishes, and jealousies, a whole world of incidents in which humour had free play. Nor would foreign influences be wanting. A wandering Greek, recognising his Zeus in a deity of Phœnicia or Babylon, might bring home some alien myth which would take its place in the general legend, with other myths imported along with foreign objects of art, silver bowls and inlaid swords. Thus in all probability grew the legend of the Zeus of myth, certainly a deplorable legend, while all the time the Greek intellect was purifying itself and approaching the poetical, moral, and philosophical conception of the Zeus of religion. At last, in the minds of the philosophically religious, Zeus became pure deity, and the details of the legend were explained away by this or that system of allegory; while in the minds of the sceptical Zeus yielded his throne to the "vortex" of the Aristophanic comedy. Yet his rites endured, and human victims were slain on the altars of Zeus till Christianity was the established religion. "So let it be," says Pausanias, "as it hath been from the beginning."

The gods who fill the court of Zeus and surround his throne are so numerous that a complete account of each would exceed the limits of our space. The legend of Zeus is typical, on the whole, of the manner in which the several mythical chapters grew about the figures of each of the deities. Some of these were originally, it is probable, natural forces or elemental phenomena, conceived of at first as personal beings; while, later, the personal earth or sun shaded off into the informing genius of the sun or earth, and still later was almost freed from all connection with the primal elemental phenomenon or force. In these processes of evolution it seems to have happened occasionally that the god shed, like a shell or chrysalis, his original form, which continued to exist, however, as a deity of older family and inferior power. By such processes, at least, it would not be difficult to explain the obvious fact that several gods have "under-studies" of their parts in the divine comedy. It may be well to begin a review of the gods by examining those who were, or may be supposed to have been, originally forces or phenomena of Nature.


This claim has been made for almost all the Olympians, but in some cases appears more plausible than in others. For example, Apollo is regarded as a solar divinity, and the modes in which he attained his detached and independent position as a brilliant anthropomorphic deity, patron of art, the lover of the nymphs, the inspirer of prophecy, may have been something in this fashion. First the sun may have been regarded (in the manner familiar to savage races) as a personal being. In Homer he is still the god "who sees and hears all things,"[61] and who beholds and reveals the loves of Ares and Aphrodite. This personal character of the sun is well illustrated in the Homeric hymn to Hyperion, the sun that dwells on high, where, as Mr. Max Müller says, "the words would seem to imply that the poet looked upon Helios as a half-god, almost as a hero, who had once lived upon earth."[62] It has already been shown that this mythical theory of the origin of the sun is met with among the Aztecs and the Bushmen.[63] In Homer, the sun, Helios Hyperion, though he sees and hears all things,[64] needs to be informed by one of the nymphs that the companions of Odysseus have devoured his sacred cattle. He then speaks in the Olympian assembly, and threatens that if he is not avenged he will "go down to Hades and shine among the dead." The sun is capable of marriage, as in the Bulgarian Volkslied, where he marries a peasant girl,[65] and, by Perse, he is the father of Circe and Ætes.[66] According to the early lyric poet Stesichorus, the sun sails over ocean in a golden cup or bowl. "Then Helios Hyperionides went down into his golden cup to cross Ocean-stream, and come to the deeps of dark and sacred Night, to his mother, and his wedded wife, and his children dear." This belief, in more barbaric shape, still survives in the Greek islands.[67] "The sun is still to them a giant, like Hyperion, bloodthirsty when tinged with gold. The common saying is that the sun 'when he seeks his kingdom' expects to find forty loaves prepared for him by his mother. . . . Woe to her if the loaves be not ready! The sun eats his brothers, sisters, father, and mother in his wrath."[68] A well-known amour of Helios was his intrigue with Rhode by whom he had Phaethon and his sisters. The tragedians told how Phaethon drove the chariot of the sun, and upset it, while his sisters were turned into poplar trees, and their tears became amber.[69]

Such were the myths about the personal sun, the hero or demigod, Helios Hyperion. If we are to believe that Apollo also is a solar deity, it appears probable that he is a more advanced conception, not of the sun as a person, but of a being who represents the sun in the spiritual world, and who exercises, by an act of will, the same influence as the actual sun possesses by virtue of his rays. Thus he brings pestilence on the Achæans in the first book of the Iliad, and his viewless shafts slay men suddenly, as sunstroke does. It is a pretty coincidence that a German scholar, Otfried Müller, who had always opposed Apollo's claim to be a sun-god, was killed by a sunstroke at Delphi. The god avenged himself in his ancient home. But if this deity was once merely the sun, it may be said, in the beautiful phrase of Paul de St. Victor, "Pareil à une statue qui surgit des flammes de son moule, Apollo se dégage vite du soleil."[70] He becomes a god of manifold functions and attributes, and it is necessary to exercise extreme caution in explaining any one myth of his legend as originally a myth of the sun.[71] Phoibos certainly means "the brilliant" or "shining." It is, however, unnecessary to hold that such epithets as Lyceius, Lycius, Lycegenes, indicate "light," and are not connected, as the ancients, except Macrobius, believed, with the worship of the wolf.[72] The character of Apollo as originally a sun-god is asserted on the strength not only of his names, but of many of his attributes and his festivals. It is pointed out that he is the deity who superintends the measurement of time.[73] "The chief days in the year's reckoning, the new and full moons, and the seventh and twentieth days of the month, also the beginning of the solar year, are reckoned Apolline." That curious ritual of the Daphnephoria, familiar to many English people from Sir Frederick Leighton's picture, is believed to have symbolised the year. Proclus says that a staff of olive wood decorated with flowers supported a central ball of brass, beneath which was a smaller ball, and thence little globes were hung.[74] The greater ball means the sun, the smaller the moon, the tiny globes the stars, and the 365 laurel garlands used in the feast are understood to symbolise the days. Pausanias[75] says that the ceremony was of extreme antiquity. Heracles had once been the youth who led the procession, and the tripod which Amphitryon dedicated for him was still to be seen at Thebes in the second century of our era. Another proof of Apollo's connection with the sun is derived from the cessation of his rites at Delphi during the three winter months which were devoted to Dionysus.[76] The sacred birthday feasts of the god are also connected with the year's renewal.[77] Once more, his conflict with the great dragon, the Pytho, is understood as a symbol of the victory of light and warmth over the darkness and cold of winter.

The discomfiture of a dragon by a god is familiar in the myth of the defeat of Ahi or Vritra by Indra, and it is a curious coincidence that Apollo, like Indra, fled in terror after slaying his opponent. Apollo, according to the myth, was purified of the guilt of the slaying (a ceremony unknown to Homer) at Tempe.[78] According to the myth, the Python was a snake which forbade access to the chasm whence rose the mysterious fumes of divination. Apollo slew the snake and usurped the oracle. His murder of the serpent was more or less resented by the Delphians of the time.[79] The snake, like the other animals, frogs and lizards, in Andaman, Australian, and Iroquois myth, had swallowed the waters before its murder.[80] Whether the legend of the slaying of the Python was or was not originally an allegory of the defeat of winter by sunlight, it certainly at a very early period became mixed up with ancient legal ideas and local traditions. It is almost as necessary for a young god or hero to slay monsters as for a young lady to be presented at court; and we may hesitate to explain all these legends of an useful feat of courage as nature-myths. In the Homeric Hymn to Apollo, Pythius, the monster, is called Dracæna, the female form of drakon. The Drakos and his wife are still popular bogies in modern Greek superstition and folk-song.[81] The monster is the fosterling of Hera in the Homeric hymn, and the bane of flocks and herds. She is somehow connected with the fable of the birth of the monster Typhœus, son of Hera without a father. The Homeric hymn derives Pythius, the name of the god, from πύθω, "rot," the disdainful speech of Apollo to the dead monster, "for there the pest rotted away beneath the beams of the sun." The derivation is a volks-etymologie. It is not clear whether the poet connected in his mind the sun and the god. The local legend of the dragon-slaying was kept alive in men's minds at Delphi by a mystery-play, in which the encounter was represented in action. In one version of the myth the slavery of Apollo in the house of Admetus was an expiation of the dragon's death.[82] Through many of the versions runs the idea that the slaying of the serpent was a deed which required purification, and almost apology. If the serpent was really the deity of an elder faith, this would be intelligible, or, if he had kinsfolk, a serpent-tribe in the district, we could understand it. Apollo's next act was to open a new spring of water, as the local nymph was hostile and grudged him her own. This was an inexplicable deed in a sun-god, whose business it is to dry up rather than to open water-springs. He gave oracles out of the laurel of Delphi, as Zeus out of the oaks of Dodona.[83] Presently Apollo changed himself into a huge dolphin, and in this guise approached a ship of the Cretan mariners.[84] He guided, in his dolphin shape, the vessel to Crisa, the port of Delphi, and then emerged splendid from the waters, and filled his fane with light, a sun-god indeed. Next, assuming the shape of a man, he revealed himself to the Cretans, and bade them worship him in his Delphic seat as Apollo Delphinios, the Dolphin-Apollo.

Such is the ancient tale of the founding of the Delphic oracle, in which gods, and beasts, and men are mixed in archaic fashion. It is open to students to regard the dolphin as only one of the many animals whose earlier worship is concentrated in Apollo, or to take the creature for the symbol of spring, when seafaring becomes easier to mortals, or to interpret the dolphin as the result of a volks-etymologie, in which the name Delphi (meaning originally a hollow in the hills) was connected with delphis, the dolphin.[85]

On the whole, it seems impossible to get a clear view of Apollo as a sun-god from a legend built out of so many varied materials of different dates as the myth of the slaying of the Python and the founding of the Delphic oracle. Nor does the tale of the birth of the god—les enfances Apollon—yield much more certain information. The most accessible and the oldest form of the birth-myth is preserved in the Homeric hymn to the Delian Apollo, a hymn intended for recital at the Delian festival of the Ionian people.

The hymn begins without any account of the amours of Zeus and Leto; it is merely said that many lands refused to allow Leto a place wherein to bring forth her offspring. But barren Delos listened to her prayer, and for nine days Leto was in labour, surrounded by all the goddesses, save jealous Hera and Eilithyia, who presides over childbirth. To her Iris went with the promise of a golden necklet set with amber studs, and Eilithyia came down to the isle, and Leto, grasping the trunk of a palm tree, brought forth Apollo and Artemis.[86]

Such is the narrative of the hymn, in which some interpreters, such as M. Decharme, find a rich allegory of the birth of Light. Leto is regarded as Night or Darkness, though it is now admitted that this meaning cannot be found in the etymology of her name.[87] M. Decharme presumes that the palm tree (φοῖνιξ) originally meant the morning red, by aid of which night gives birth to the sun, and if the poet says the young god loves the mountain tops, why, so does the star of day. The moon, however, does not usually arise simultaneously with the dawn, as Artemis was born with Apollo. It is vain, in fact, to look for minute touches of solar myth in the tale, which rests on the womanly jealousy of Hera, and explains the existence of a great fane and feast of Apollo, not in one of the rich countries that refused his mother sanctuary, but in a small barren and remote island.[88]

Among the wilder myths which grouped themselves round the figure of Apollo was the fable that his mother Leto was changed into a wolf. The fable ran that Leto, in the shape of a wolf, came in twelve days from the Hyperboreans to Delos.[89] This may be explained as a volks-etymologie from the god's name, "Lycegenes," which is generally held to mean "born of light." But the presence of very many animals in the Apollo legend and in his temples, corresponding as it does to similar facts already observed in the religion of the lower races, can scarcely be due to popular etymologies alone. The Dolphin-Apollo has already been remarked. There are many traces of connection between Apollo and the wolf. In Athens there was the Lyceum of Apollo Lukios, Wolf-Apollo, which tradition connected with the primeval strife wherein Ægeus (goat-man) defeated Lukios (wolf-man). The Lukian Apollo was the deity of the defeated side, as Athene of the ægis (goat-skin) was the deity of the victors.[90] The Argives had an Apollo of the same kind, and the wolf was stamped on their coins.[91] According to Pausanias, when Danaus came seeking the kingship of Argos, the people hesitated between him and Gelanor. While they were in doubt, a wolf attacked a bull, and the Argives determined that the bull should stand for Gelanor, the wolf for Danaus. The wolf won; Danaus was made king, and in gratitude raised an altar to Apollo Lukios, Wolf-Apollo. That is (as friends of the totemic system would argue), a man of the wolf-stock dedicated a shrine to the wolf-god.[92] In Delphi the presence of a bronze image of a wolf was explained by the story that a wolf once revealed the place where stolen temple treasures were concealed. The god's beast looked after the god's interest.[93] In many myths the children of Apollo by mortal girls were exposed, but fostered by wolves.[94] In direct contradiction with Pausanias, but in accordance with a common rule of mythical interpretation, Sophocles[95] calls Apollo "the wolf-slayer." It has very frequently happened that when animals were found closely connected with a god, the ancients explained the fact indifferently by calling the deity the protector or the destroyer of the beasts in question. Thus, in the case of Apollo, mice were held sacred and were fed in his temples in the Troad and elsewhere, the people of Hamaxitus especially worshipping mice.[96] The god's name Smintheus was understood to mean "Apollo of the Mouse," or "Mouse-Apollo."[97] But while Apollo was thus at some places regarded as the patron of mice, other narratives declared that he was adored as Sminthian because from mice he had freed the country. This would be a perfectly natural explanation if the vermin which had once been sacred became a pest in the eyes of later generations.[98]

Flies were in this manner connected with the services of Apollo. It has already been remarked that an ox was sacrificed to flies near the temple of Apollo in Leucas. The sacrifice was explained as a device for inducing flies to settle in one spot, and leave the rest of the coast clear. This was an expensive, and would prove a futile arrangement. There was a statue of the Locust-Apollo (Parnopios) in Athens. The story ran that it was dedicated after the god had banished a plague of locusts.[99] A most interesting view of the way in which pious heathens of a late age regarded Apollo's menagerie may be got from Plutarch's essay on the Delphic responses. It is the description of a visit to Delphi. In the hall of the Corinthians the writer and his friends examine the sacred palm tree of bronze, and "the snakes and frogs in relief round the root of the tree." "Why," said they, "the palm tree is not a marsh plant, and frogs are not a Corinthian crest." And indeed one would think ravens and swans, and hawks and wolves, and anything else than these reptiles would be agreeable to the god." Then one of the visitors, Serapion, very learnedly showed that Apollo was the sun, and that the sun arises from water. "Still slipping into the story your lightings up and your exhalations," cried Plutarch, and chaffed him, as one might chaff Kuhn, or Schwartz, or Decharme, about his elemental interpretations. In fact, the classical writers knew rather less than we do about the origin of many of their religious peculiarities.

In connection with sheep, again, Apollo was worshipped as the ram Apollo.[100] At the festival of the Carneia a ram was his victim.[101] These facts are commonly interpreted as significant of the god's care for shepherds and the pastoral life, a memory of the days when Apollo kept a mortal's sheep and was the hind of Admetus of Thessaly. He had animal names derived from sheep and goats, such as Malœis and Tragios.[102] The tale which made Apollo the serf and shepherd of mortal men is as old as the Iliad[103] and is not easy to interpret, whether as a nature-myth or a local legend. Laomedon, one of Apollo's masters, not only refused him his wage, but threatened to put him in chains and sell him to foreign folk across the sea, and to crop his ears with the blade of bronze. These legends may have brought some consolation to the hearts of free men enslaved. A god had borne like calamities, and could feel for their affliction.

To return to the beasts of Apollo, in addition to dolphins, mice, rams, and wolves, he was constantly associated with lizards (powerful totems in Australia), cicalas, hawks, swans, ravens, crows, vultures, all of which are, by mythologists, regarded as symbols of the sun-god, in one or other capacity or function. In the Iliad,[104] Apollo puts on the gear of a hawk, and flits on hawk's wings down Ida, as the Thlinkeet Yehl does on the feathers of a crane or a raven.

The loves of Apollo make up a long and romantic chapter in his legend. They cannot all be so readily explained, as are many of the loves of Zeus, by the desire to trace genealogical pedigrees to a god. It is on this principle, however, that the birth of Ion, for example, is to be interpreted. The ideal eponymous hero of the Ionian race was naturally feigned to be the son of the deity by whose fatherhood all Ionians became "brethren in Apollo." Once more, when a profession like that of medicine was in the hands of a clan conceiving themselves to be of one blood, and when their common business was under the protection of Apollo, they inevitably traced their genealogy to the god. Thus the medical clan of the Asclepiadæ, of which Aristotle was a member, derived their origin from Asclepius or (as the Romans called Mm) Æsculapius.

So far everything in this myth appears natural and rational, granting the belief in the amours of an anthropomorphic god. But the details of the story are full of that irrational element which is said to "make mythology mythological." In the third Pythian ode Pindar sings how Apollo was the lover of Coronis; how she was faithless to him with a stranger. Pindar does not tell how the crow or the raven flew to Apollo with the news, and how the god cursed the crow, which had previously been white, that it should for ever be black. Then he called his sister, Artemis, to slay the false nymph, but snatched from her funeral pyre the babe Asclepius, his own begotten. This myth, which explains the colour of the crow as the result of an event and a divine curse, is an example of the stage of thought already illustrated in the Namaqua myth of Heitsi Eibib, and the peculiarities which his curse attached to various animals. There is also a Bushman myth according to which certain blackbirds have white breasts, because some women once tied pieces of white fat round their necks.[105] It is instructive to observe, as the Scholiast on Pindar quotes Artemon, that Pindar omits the incident of the crow as foolish and unworthy. Apollo, according to the ode, was himself aware, in his omniscience, of the frailty of Coronis. But Hesiod, a much earlier poet, tells the story in the usual way, with the curse of the crow, and his consequent change of colour.[106] The whole story, in its most ancient shape, and with the omissions suggested by the piety of a later age, is an excellent example of the irrational element in Greek myth, of its resemblance to savage myth, and of the tendency of more advanced thought to veil or leave out features revolting to pure religion.[107]

In another myth Apollo succeeds to the paternal honours of a totem. The Telmissians in Lycia claimed descent from Telmessus, who was the child of an amour in which Apollo assumed the form of a dog. "In this guise he lay with a daughter of Antenor." Probably the Lycians of Telmissus originally derived their pedigree from a dog, sans phrase, and, later, made out that the dog was Apollo metamorphosed. This process of veiling a totem, and explaining him away as a saint of the same name, is common in modern India.[108]

The other loves of Apollo are numerous, but it may be sufficient to have examined one such story in detail. Where the tale of the amour was not a necessary consequence of the genealogical tendency to connect clans with gods, it was probably, as Roscher observes in the case of Daphne, an ætiological myth. Many flowers and trees, for example, were nearly connected with the worship and ritual of Apollo; among these were notably the laurel, cypress, and hyacinth. It is no longer possible to do more than conjecture why each of these plants was thus favoured, though it is a plausible guess that the god attracted into his service various local tree-worships and plant-worships. People would ask why the deity was associated with the flowers and boughs, and the answer would be readily developed on the familiar lines of nature-myth. The laurel is dear to the gods because the laurel was once a girl whom he pursued with his love, and who, to escape his embraces, became a tree. The hyacinth and cypress were beautiful youths, dear to Apollo, and accidentally slain by him in sport. After their death they became flowers. Such myths of metamorphoses, as has been shown, are an universal growth of savage fancy, and spring from the want of a sense of difference between men and things.[109]

The legend of Apollo has only been slightly sketched, but it is obvious that many elements from many quarters enter into the sum .of his myths and rites.[110] If Apollo was originally the sun-god, it is certain that his influence on human life and society was as wide and beneficent as that of the sun itself. He presides over health and medicine, and over purity of body and soul. He is the god of song, and the hexameter, which first resounded in his temples, uttered its latest word in the melancholy music of the last oracle from Delphi:—

"Say to the king that the beautiful fane hath fallen asunder,
     Phœbus no more hath a sheltering roof nor a sacred cell,
And the holy laurels are broken and wasted, and hushed is the wonder
     Of water that spake as it flowed from the deeps of the Delphian well."

In his oracle he appears as the counsellor of men, between men and Zeus he is a kind of mediator, tempering the austerity of justice with a yearning and kind compassion. He sanctifies the pastoral life by his example, and, as one who had known bondage to a mortal, his sympathy lightens the burden of the slave. He is the guide of colonists, he knows all the paths of earth and all the ways of the sea, and leads wanderers far from Greece into secure havens, and settles them on fertile shores. But he is also the god before whom the Athenians first flogged and then burned their human scapegoats.[111] His example consecrated the abnormal post-Homeric vices of Greece. He is capable of metamorphosis into various beasts, and his temple courts are thronged with images of frogs, and mice, and wolves, and dogs, and ravens, over whose elder worship he throws his protection. He is the god of sudden death; he is amorous and revengeful. The fair humanities of old religion boast no figure more beautiful; yet he, too, bears the birth-marks of ancient creeds, and there is a shadow that stains his legend and darkens the radiance of his glory.


If Apollo soon disengages himself from the sun, and appears as a deity chiefly remarkable for his moral and prophetic attributes, Artemis retains as few traces of any connection with the moon. "In the development of Artemis may most clearly be distinguished," says Claus, "the progress of the human intellect from the early, rude, and, as it were, natural ideas, to the fair and brilliant fancies of poets and sculptors."[112] There is no goddess more beautiful, pure, and maidenly in the poetry of Greece. There she shines as the sister of Apollo; her chapels are in the wild wood; she is the abbess of the forest nymphs, "chaste and fair," the maiden of the precise life, the friend of the virginal Hippolytus; always present, even if unseen, with the pure of heart.[113] She is like Milton's lady in the revel rout of the Comus, and among the riot of Olympian lovers she alone, with Athene, satisfies the ascetic longing for a proud remoteness and reserve. But though it is thus that the poets dream of her, from the author of the Odyssey to Euripides, yet the local traditions and cults of Artemis, in many widely separated districts, combine her worship and her legend with hideous cruelties, with almost cannibal rites, with relics of the wild worship of the beasts whom, in her character as the goddess of the chase, she "preserves," rather than protects. To her human victims are sacrificed; for her bears, deer, doves, wolves, all the tameless herds of the hills and forests, are driven through the fire in Achæa. She is adored with bear-dances by the Attic girls; there is a gloomy Chthonian or sepulchral element in her worship, and she is even blended in ritual with a monstrous many-breasted divinity of Oriental religion. Perhaps it is scarcely possible to separate now all the tangled skeins in the mixed conception of Artemis, or to lay the finger on the germinal conception of her nature. "Dark," says Schreiber, "is the original conception, obscure the meaning of the name of Artemis."[114] It is certain that many tribal worships are blended in her legend, and each of two or three widely different notions of her nature may be plausibly regarded as the most primitive.

In the attempt to reach the original notion of Artemis, philology offers her distracting aid and her competing etymologies. What is the radical meaning of her name? On this point Claus[115] has a long dissertation. In his opinion Artemis was originally (as Dione) the wife, not the daughter, of Zeus, and he examines the names Dione, Diana, concluding that Artemis, Dione, and Diana are essentially one, and that Diana is the feminine of Janus (Djanus), corresponding to the Greek Ζάν or Ζήν. As to the etymology of Artemis, Curtius wisely professes himself uncertain.[116] A crowd of hypotheses have been framed by more sanguine and less cautious etymologists. Artemis has been derived from ἀρτεμὴς, "safe," "unharmed," "the stainless maiden." Goebel[117] suggests the root στρατ or ῥατ, "to shake," and makes Artemis mean the thrower of the dart or the shooter. But this is confessedly conjectural. The Persian language has also been searched for the root of Artemis, which is compared with the first syllables in Artaphernes, Artaxerxes, Artaxata, and so forth. It is concluded that Artemis would simply mean "the great goddess." Claus again, returning to his theory of Artemis as originally the wife of Zeus, inclines to regard her as originally the earth, the "mighty mother."[118] As Schreiber observes, the philological guesses really throw no light on the nature of Artemis. Welcker, Preller, and Lauer take her for the goddess of the midnight sky, and "the light of the night."[119] Claus, as we have seen, is all for night, not light; for "Night is identical in conception with the earth,"—night being the shadow of earth, a fact probably not known to the very early Greeks. Claus, however, seems well inspired when he refuses to deduce all the many properties, myths, and attributes of Artemis from lunar aspects and attributes. The smallest grain of ingenuity will always suffice as the essential element in this mythological alchemy, this "transmutation" of the facts of legend into so many presumed statements about any given natural force or phenomenon.

From all these general theories and vague hypotheses it is time to descend to facts, and to the various local or tribal cults and myths of Artemis. Her place in the artistic poetry, which wrought on and purified those tales, will then be considered. This process is the converse of the method, for example, of M. Decharme. He first accepts the "queen and huntress, chaste and fair," of poetry, and then explains her local myths and rituals as accidental corruptions of and foreign additions to that ideal.

The Attic and Arcadian legends of Artemis are confessedly among the oldest.[120] Both in Arcadia and Attica, the goddess is strangely connected with that animal worship, and those tales of bestial metamorphosis, which are the characteristic elements of myths and beliefs among the most backward races.

The Arcadian myth of Artemis and the she-bear is variously narrated. According to Pausanias, Lycaon, king of Arcadia, had a daughter, Callisto, who was loved by Zeus. Hera, in jealous wrath, changed Callisto into a she-bear; and Artemis, to please Hera, shot the beast. At this time the she-bear was pregnant with a child by Zeus, who sent Hermes to save the babe, Areas, just as Dionysus was saved at the burning of Semele, and Asclepius at the death of his mother, whom Apollo slew. Zeus then transformed Callisto into a constellation, the bear.[121] No more straightforward myth of descent from a beast (for the Arcadians claimed descent from Areas, the she-bear's son) and of starry or bestial metamorphosis was ever told by Cahrocs or Kamilaroi. Another story ran that Artemis herself, in anger at the unchastity of Callisto, caused her to become a bear. So the legend ran in a Hesiodic poem, according to the extract in Eratosthenes.[122]

Such is the ancient myth, which Otfried Müller endeavours to explain by the light of his lucid common sense, without the assistance which we can now derive from anthropological research. The nymph Callisto, in his opinion, is a mere refraction from Artemis herself, under her Arcadian and poetic name of Calliste, "the most beautiful." Hard by the tumulus known as the grave of Callisto was a shrine, Pausanias tells us, of Artemis Calliste.[123] Pamphos, he adds, was the first poet known to him who praised Artemis by this title, and he learned it from the Arcadians. Müller next remarks on the attributes of Artemis in Athens, the Artemis known as Brauronia. "Now," says he, "we set out from this, that the circumstance of the goddess who is served at Brauron by she-bears having a friend and companion changed into a bear, cannot possibly be a freak of chance, but that this metamorphosis has its foundation in the fact that the animal was sacred to the goddess."

It will become probable that the animal actually was the goddess at an extremely remote period, or, at all events, that the goddess succeeded to, and threw her protection over, an ancient worship of the animal.

Passing, then, from Arcadia, where the friend of the goddess becomes a she-bear, to Brauron and Munychia in Attica, we find that the local Artemis there, an Artemis connected by legend with the fierce Taurian goddess, is served by young girls, who imitate, in dances, the gait of bears, who are called little bears, ἄρκτοι, and whose ministry is named ἀρκτεία, that is, "a playing the bear." They even in archaic ages wore bear-skins, which we have seen to be a common rite in the dances of totemistic peoples, when the worshippers clothe themselves in the skin of the animal whose feast they celebrate.[124] Familiar examples in ancient and classical times of this religious service by men in bestial guise are the wolf-dances of the Hirpini or "wolves," and the use of the ram-skin (Δίος κώδων) in Egypt and Greece.[125] These Brauronian rites point to a period when the goddess was herself a bear, and this inference is confirmed by the singular tradition that she was not only a bear, but a bear who craved for human blood.[126]

The connection between the Arcadian Artemis, the Artemis of Brauron, and the common rituals and creeds of totemistic worship, are now, perhaps, undeniably apparent. Perhaps in all the legend and all the cult of the gooddess there is no more archaic element than this. The speech of the women in the Lysistrata, recalling the days of their childhood when they "were bears," takes us back to a remote past, when the tribes settled at Brauron were bear-worshippers, and, in all probability, claimed to be of the bear stock or kindred. Their distant descendants still imitated the creature's movements in a sacred dance; and the girls of Periclean Athens acted at that moment like the young men of the Mandans or Nootkas in their wolf-dance or buffalo-dance. Another very remarkable example of the goddess's connection with animal-worship may be derived from a rite in her services at Munychium in Attica. It has been seen that in totemistic religion the sacred animal is often sacramentally sacrificed, "himself to himself," as it were, and that his hide is worn by the priest as evidence of the kinship between the creature and the men who claim to be of his stock. The converse of this rite, namely, the investing of the sacrificed beast with human garments, occurs among the Nootkas of North-West America, will be found latter in the worship of Dionysus. It is also present in the ritual of Munychium at Artemis, where a fawn dressed in a girl's raiment was sacrificed to the goodess.[127] The existence of these rude primeval traits in the religion of Artemis may be explained as local survivals. But two questions remain unanswered: how did a goddess of the name of Artemis, and with her wide and beneficent functions, succeed to a cult so barbarous? or how, on the other hand, did the cult of a ravening she-bear develop into the humane and pure religion of Artemis?

Here is a moment in mythical and religious evolution which almost escapes our inquiry. We find, in actual historical processes, nothing more akin to it than the relation borne by the Samoan gods to the various totems in which they are supposed to be manifest. How did the complex theory of the nature of Artemis arise? what was its growth? at what precise hour did it emancipate itself on the whole from the lower savage creeds? or how was it developed out of their unpromising materials? The science of mythology may perhaps never find a key to these obscure problems.[128]

The goddess of Brauron, succeeding probably to the cult of a she-bear, called for human blood. With human blood the Artemis Orthia of Sparta was propitiated. Of this goddess and her rights Pausanias tells a very remarkable story. The image of the goddess, he declares, is barbarous; which probably means that even among the archaic wooden idols of Greece it seemed peculiarly savage in style. Astrabacus and Alopecus (the ass and the fox), sons of Agis, are said to have found the idol in a bush, and to have been struck mad at the sight of it. Those who sacrificed to the goddess fell to blows and slew each other; a pestilence followed, and it became clear that the goddess demanded human victims. "Her altar must be drenched in the blood of men," the victim being chosen by lot. Lycurgus got the credit of substituting the rite in which boys were flogged before the goddess to the effusion of blood for the older human sacrifices.[129] The Taurian Artemis, adored with human sacrifice, and her priestess, Iphigenia, perhaps a form of the goddess, are familiar examples of this sanguinary ritual.[130] Suchier is probably correct in denying that these sacrifices are of foreign origin. They are closely interwoven with the oldest idols and oldest myths of the districts least open to foreign influence. An Achaean example is given by Pausanias.[131] Artemis was adored with the offering of a beautiful girl and boy. Not far from Brauron, at Halæ, was a very ancient temple of Artemis Tauropolos, in which blood was drawn from a man's throat by the edge of the sword, clearly a modified survival of human sacrifice. The whole connection of Artemis with Taurian rites has been examined by Müller,[132] in his Orchomenos.[133] Horns grow from the shoulders of Artemis Tauropolos, on the coins of Amppipolis, and on Macedonian coins she rides on a bull. According to Decharme,[134] the Taurian Artemis, with her hideous rites, was confused, by an accidental resemblance of names, with this Artemis Tauropolos, whose "symbol" was a bull, and who (whatever we may think of the symbolic hypothesis) used bulls as her "vehicle," and wore bull's horns. Müller, on the other hand,[135] believes the Greeks found in Tauria (i.e., Lemnos) a goddess with bloody "rites, whom they identified, by reason of those very human sacrifices, with their own Artemis Iphigenia." Their own worship of that deity bore so many marks of ancient barbarism that they were willing to consider the northern barbarians as its authors. Yet it is possible that the Tauric Artemis was no more derived from the Taurians than Artemis Æthiopia from the Æthiopians.

The nature of the famous Diana of the Ephesians, or Artemis of Ephesus, is probably quite distinct in origin from either the Artemis of Arcadia and Attica or the deity of literary creeds. As late as the time of Tacitus[136] the Ephesians maintained that Leto's twins had been born in their territory. "The first which showed themselves in the senate were the Ephesians, declaring that Diana and Apollo were not born in the island Delos, as the common people did believe; and there was in their country a river called Cenchrius, and a wood called Ortegia, where Latona, being great with child, and leaning against an olive tree which is yet in that place, brought forth these two gods, and that by the commandment of the gods the wood was made sacred."[137] This was a mere adaptation of the Delian legend, the olive (in Athens sacred to Athene) taking the place of the Delian palm-tree. The real Artemis of Ephesus, "the image that fell from heaven," was an Oriental survival. Nothing can be less Greek in taste than her many-breasted idol, which may be compared with the many-breasted goddess of the beer-producing maguey plant in Mexico.[138]

The wilder elements in the local rites and myths of Diana are little if at all concerned with the goddess in her Olympian aspect as the daughter of Leto and sister of Apollo. It is from this lofty rank that she descends in the national epic to combat on the Ilian plain among warring gods and men. Claus has attempted, from a comparison of the epithets applied to Artemis, to show that the poets of the Iliad and the Odyssey take different views of her character. In the Iliad she is a goddess of tumult and passion; in the Odyssey, a holy maiden with the "gentle darts" that deal sudden and painless death. But in both poems she is a huntress, and the death-dealing shafts are hers both in Iliad and Odyssey. Perhaps the apparent difference is due to nothing but the necessity for allotting her a part in that battle of the Olympians which rages in the Iliad. Thus Hera in the Iliad addresses her thus:[139] "How now! art thou mad, bold vixen, to match thyself against me? Hard were it for thee to match my might, bow-bearer though thou art, since against women Zeus made thee a lion, and giveth thee to slay whomso of them thou wilt. Truly it is better on the mountains to slay wild beasts and deer than to fight with one that is mightier than thou."

These taunts of Hera, who always detests the illegitimate children of Zeus, doubtless refer to the character of Artemis as the goddess of childbirth. Here she becomes confused with Ilithyia and with Hecate; but it is unnecessary to pursue the inquiry into these details.[140]

Like most of the Olympians, Artemis was connected not only with beast-worship, but with plant-worship. She was known by the names Daphnæa and Cedreatis; at Ephesus not only the olive but the oak was sacred to her; at Delos she had her palm tree. Her idol was placed in or hung from the branches of these trees, and it is not improbable that she succeeded to the honours either of a tree worshipped in itself and for itself, or of the spirit or genius which was presumed to dwell in and inform it. Similar examples of one creed inheriting the holy things of its predecessor are common enough where either missionaries, as in Mexico and China, or the early preachers of the gospel in Brittany or Scandinavia, appropriated to Christ the holy days of pagan deities and consecrated fetish stones with the mark of the cross. Unluckily, we have no historical evidence as to the moment in which the ancient tribal totems and fetishes and sacrifices were placed under the protection of the various Olympians, in whose cult they survive, like flies in amber. But that this process did take place is the most obvious explanation of the rude factors in the religion of Artemis, as of Apollo, Zeus, or Dionysus.

It was ever the tendency of Greek thought to turn from the contemplation of dark and inscrutable things in the character of the gods, and to endow them with the fairest attributes. The primitive formless Xoana give place to the ideal statues of gold and ivory. The Artemis to whom a fawn in a maiden's dress is sacrificed does not haunt the memory of Euripides; his Artemis is fair and honourable, pure and maidenly, a goddess wandering in lonely places unbeholden of man. It is thus, if one may rhyme the speech of Hippolytus, that her votary addresses her.[141]

     "For thee soft crowns in thine untrampled mead
          I weave, my lady, and to thee I bear;
     Thither no shepherd drives his flocks to feed,
          Nor scythe of steel has ever laboured there;
          Nay, through the spring among the blossoms fair
     The brown bee comes and goes, and with good heed
     Thy maiden, Reverence, sweet streams doth lead
          About the grassy close that is her care!

     "Souls only that are gracious and serene
          By gift of God, in human lore unread,
     May pluck these holy blooms and grasses green
          That now I wreathe for thine immortal head,
     I who may walk with thee, thyself unseen,
          And by thy whispered voice am comforted."

In passages like this we find the truly natural religion, the religion to which man's nature tends, "groaning and travailing" till the goal is won. But it is long in the winning; the paths are rough; humanity is "led by a way that it knew not." Or, again, religion is developed out of larva-like forms which she leaves behind her, a puzzle and a trouble to those who follow and study her and her progress

towards perfection.


Among deities whose origin has been sought in the personification, if not of the phenomena, at least of the forces of Nature, Dionysus is prominent.[142] He is regarded by many mythologists[143] as the "spiritual form" of the new vernal life, the sap and pulse of vegetation and of the new-born year, especially as manifest in the vine and the juice of the grape. Thus Preller[144] looks on his mother, Semele, as a personification of the pregnant soil in spring.[145] The name of Semele is explained with the familiar diversity of conjecture. Whether the human intellect, at the time of the first development of myth, was capable of such abstract thought as is employed in the recognition of a deity presiding over "the revival of earth-life" or not, and whether, having attained to this abstraction, men would go on to clothe it in all manner of animal and other symbolisms, are questions which mythologists seem to take for granted. The popular story of the birth of Dionysus is well known. His mother, Semele, desired to see Zeus in all his glory, as he appeared when he made love to Hera. Having promised to grant all the nymph's requests, Zeus was constrained to approach her in thunder and lightning. She was burned to death, but the god rescued her unborn child and sowed him up in his own thigh. In this wild narrative Preller finds the wedlock of heaven and earth, "the first day that it thunders in March." The thigh of Zeus is to be interpreted as "the cool moist clouds." If, on the other hand, we may take Dionysus himself to be the rain, as Kuhn does, and explain the thigh of Zeus by comparison with certain details in the soma sacrifice and the right thigh of Indra, as described in one of the Brahmanas, why then, of course, Preller's explanation cannot be admitted.[146]

These examples show the difficulty, or rather indicate the error, of attempting to interpret all the details in any myth as so many statements about natural phenomena and natural forces. Such interpretations are necessarily conjectural. Certainly Dionysus, the god of orgies, of wine, of poetry, became in later Greek thought something very like the "spiritual form" of the vine, and the patron of Nature's moods of revelry. But that he was originally conceived of thus, or that this conception may be minutely traced through each incident of his legend, cannot be scientifically established. Each mythologist, as has been said before, is, in fact, asking himself, "What meaning would I have had if I told this or that story of the god of the vine or the god of the year's renewal?" The imaginations in which the tale of the double birth of Dionysus arose were so unlike the imagination of an erudite modern German that these guesses are absolutely baseless. Nay, when we are told that the child was sheltered in his father's body, and was actually brought to birth by the father, we may be reminded, like Bachofen, of that wide-spread savage custom, the couvade. From Brazil to the Basque country it has been common for the father to pretend to lie-in while the mother is in childbed; the husband undergoes medical treatment, in many cases being put to bed for days.[147] This custom, "world-wide," as Mr. Tylor calls it, has been used by Bachofen as the source of the myth of the double birth of Dionysus. Though other explanations of the couvade have been given, the most plausible theory represents it as a recognition of paternity by the father. Bachofen compares the ceremony by which, when Hera became reconciled to Herakles, she adopted him as her own through the legal fiction of his second birth. The custom by which, in old French marriage rites, illegitimate children were legitimised by being brought to the altar under the veil of the bride is also in point.[148] Diodorus says that barbarians still practise the rite of adoption by a fictitious birth. Men who returned home safely after they were believed to be dead had to undergo a similar ceremony.[149] Bachofen therefore explains the names and myths of the "double-mothered Dionysus" as relics of the custom of the couvade, and of the legal recognition of children by the father, after a period of kinship through women only. This theory is put by Lucian in his usual bantering manner. Poseidon wishes to enter the chamber of Zeus, but is refused admission by Hermes.

"Is Zeus en bonne fortune?" he asks.

"No, the reverse. Zeus has just had a baby."

"A baby! why there was nothing in his figure . . . ! Perhaps the child was born from his head, like Athene?"

"Not at all—his thigh; the child is Semele's."

"Wonderful God! what varied accomplishments! But who is Semele?"

"A Theban girl, a daughter of Cadmus, much noticed by Zeus."

"And so he kindly was confined for her?"


"So Zeus is both father and mother of the child."

"Naturally! And now I must go and make him comfortable."[150]

We need not necessarily accept Bachofen's view. This learned author employed indeed a widely comparative method, but he saw everything through certain mystic speculations of his own. It may be deemed, however, that the authors of the myth of the double birth of Dionysus were rather in the condition of men who practise the couvade than capable of such vast abstract ideas and such complicated symbolism as are required in the system of Preller. It is probable enough that the struggle between the two systems of kindred—maternal and paternal—has left its mark in Greek mythology. Undeniably it is present in the Eumenides of Æschylus, and perhaps it inspires the tales which represent Hera and Zeus as emulously producing offspring (Athene and Hephæstus) without the aid of the opposite sex.[151]

In any case, Dionysus, Semele's son, the patron of the vine, the conqueror of India, is an enigmatic figure of dubious, origin, but less repulsive than Dionysus Zagreus.

Even among the adventures of Zeus the amour which resulted in the birth of Dionysus Zagreus was conspicuous. "Jupiter ipse filiam incestavit, natum hinc Zagreum."[152] Persephone, fleeing her hateful lover, took the shape of a serpent, and Zeus became the male dragon. The story is on a footing with the Brahmanic myth of Prajapati and his daughter as buck and doe. The Platonists explained the legend, as usual, by their "absurd symbolism."[153]

The child of two serpents, Zagreus, was born, curious as it may seem, with horns on his head. Zeus brought him up in secret, but Hera sent the Titans to kill him. According to Clemens Alexandrinus[154] and other authorities, the Titans won his heart with toys, including the bull-roarer or turn-dun of the Australians.[155] His enemies, also in Australian fashion, daubed themselves over with pipeclay.[156] By these hideous foes the child was torn to pieces, though, according to Nonnus, he changed himself into as many beasts as Proteus by the Nile, or Tamlane by the Ettrick. In his bull-shape, Zagreus was finally chopped up small, cooked (except the heart), and eaten by the Titans.[157] Here we are naturally reminded of the dismemberment of Osiris, Ymir, Purusha, Chokanipok, and so many other gods and beasts in Egypt, India, Scandinavia, and America. This point must not be lost sight of in the controversy as to the origin and date of the story of Dionysus Zagreus. Nothing can be much more repulsive than these hideous incidents to the genius, for example, of Homer. He rarely tells anything worse about the gods than the tale of Ares' imprisonment in the large bronze pot, an event undignified, indeed, but not in the ferocious taste of the Zagreus legend. But it need not, therefore, be decided that the story of Dionysus and the Titans is later than Homer because it is inconsistent with the tone of Homeric mythology, and because it is found in more recent authorities. Details like the use of the "turn-dun" (ῥόμβος) in the Dionysiac mysteries, and the bodies of the celebrants daubed with clay, have a primitive, or at least savage, appearance. It was the opinion of Lobeck that the Orphic poems, in which the legend first comes into literature, were the work of Onomacritus.[158] On the other hand, Müller argued that the myth was really archaic, although it had passed through the hands of Onomacritus. On the strength of the boast of the Delphian priests that they possessed the grave in which the fragments of the god were buried, Müller believed that Onomacritus received the story from Delphi.[159] Müller writes, "The way in which these Orphics went to work with ancient myths can be most distinctly seen in the mythus of the tearing asunder of Bacchus, which, at all events, passed through the hands of Onomacritus, an organiser of Dionysian orgies, according to Pausanias, an author of Orphean poems also, and therefore, in all probability, an Orphicus."

The words of Pausanias are (viii. 37, 3), "Onomacritus, taking from Homer the name of the Titans, established Dionysiac orgies, and represented the Titans as the authors of the sorrows of the god."

Now it is perhaps impossible to decide with certainty whether, as Lobeck held, Onomacritus "adapted" the myth, and the Delphians received it into their religion, with rites purposely meant to resemble those of Osiris in Egypt, or whether Müller more correctly maintains that Onomacritus, on the other hand, brought an old temple mystery and "sacred chapter" into the light of literature. But it may very plausibly be maintained that a myth so wild, and so analogous in its most brutal details to the myths of many widely scattered races, is more probably ancient than a fresh invention of a poet of the sixth century. It is much more likely that Greece, whether at Delphi or elsewhere, possessed a legend common to races in distant continents, than that Onomacritus either invented the tale or borrowed it from Egypt and settled it at Delphi. O. Müller could not appeal to the crowd of tales of divine dismemberment in savage and civilised lands, because with some he was unacquainted, and others (like the sacrifice of Purusha, the cutting up of Omorca, the rending of Ymir) do not seem to have occurred to his memory. Though the majority of these legends of divine dismemberment are connected with the making of the world, yet in essentials they do resemble the tale of Dionysus and the Titans. Thus the balance of probability is in favour of the theory that the myth is really old, and was borrowed, not invented, by Onomacritus.[160] That very shifty person may have made his own alterations in the narrative, but it cannot be rash to say with O. Müller, "If it has been supposed that he was the inventor of the entire fable, which Pausanias by no means asserts, I must confess that I cannot bring myself to think so. According to the notions of the ancients, it must have been an unholy, an accursed man who could, from a mere caprice of his own, represent the ever-young Dionysus, the god of joy, as having been torn to pieces by the Titans." A reply to this might, no doubt, be sought in the passages describing the influx of new superstitions which are cited by Lobeck.[161] The Greek comic poets especially derided these religious novelties, which corresponded very closely to our "Esoteric Buddhism" and similar impostures. But these new mysteries and trumpery cults of the decayed civilisation were things very different from the worship of Dionysus Zagreus and his established sacrifices of oxen in the secret penetralia of Delphi.[162] It may be determined, therefore, that the tale and the mystery-play of Dionysus and the Titans are, in essentials, as old as the savage state of religion, in which their analogues abound, whether at Delphi they were or were not of foreign origin, and introduced in times comparatively recent. The fables, wherever they are found, are accompanied by savage rites, in which (as in some African tribes when the chief is about to declare war) living animals were torn asunder and eaten raw. These horrors were a kind of representation of the sufferings of the god. O. Müller may well observe,[163] "We can scarcely take these rites to be new usages and the offspring of a post-Homeric civilisation." These remarks apply to the custom of nebrismus, or tearing fawns to pieces and dancing about draped in the fawn-skins. Such rites were part of the Bacchic worship, and even broke out during a pagan revival in the time of Valens, when dogs were torn in shreds by the worshippers.[164]

Whether the antiquity of the Zagrean ritual and legend be admitted or not, the problem as to their original significance remains. Although the majority of heathen rites of this kind were mystery-plays, setting forth in action some story of divine adventure or misadventure,[165] yet Lobeck imagines the story of Zagreus and the Titans to have been invented or adapted from the Osiris legend, as an account of the mystic performances themselves. What the myth meant, or what the furious actions of the celebrants intended, it is only possible to conjecture. Commonly it is alleged that the sufferings of Dionysus are the ruin of the summer year at the hands of storm and winter, while the revival of the child typifies the vernal resurrection; or, again, the slain Dionysus is the vintage. The old English song tells how "John Barleycorn must die," and how potently he came back to life and mastered his oppressors. This notion, too, may be at the root of "the passion of Dionysus," for the grapes suffer at least as many processes of torture as John Barleycorn before they declare themselves in the shape of strong drink.[166] While Preller talks about the tiefste Erd- und Naturschmerz typified in the Zagrean ritual, Lobeck remarks that Plato would be surprised if he could hear these "drunken men's freaks" decoratively described as ein erhabene Naturdienst. Lobeck looks on the wild acts, the tearing of fawns and dogs, the half-naked dances, the gnawing of raw bleeding flesh as the natural expression of fierce untutored folk, revelling in freedom, leaping and shouting. But the odd thing is that the most civilised of peoples should so long have retained the manners of ingenia inculta et indomita. Whatever the original significance of the Dionysiac revels, that significance was certainly expressed in a ferocious and barbaric fashion, more worthy of Australians than Athenians.

On this view of the case, it might perhaps be maintained that the germ of the myth is merely the sacrifice itself, the barbaric and cruel dismembering of an animal victim, which came to be identified with the god. The sufferings of the victim would thus finally be transmuted into a legend about the passion of the deity. The old Greek explanation that the ritual was designed "in imitation of what befell the god" would need to be reversed. The truth would be that the myth of what befell the god was borrowed from the actual torture of the victim, with which the god was identified. Examples of this mystic habit of mind, in which the slain beast, the god, and even the officiating celebrant were confused in thought with each other, are sufficiently common in ritual.[167]

The sacrifices in the ritual of Dionysus have a very marked character, and here, more commonly than in other Hellenic cults, the god and the victim are recognised as essentially the same. The sacrifice, in fact, is a sacrament, and in partaking of the victim the communicants eat their god. This detail is so prominent, that it has not escaped the notice even of mythologists who prefer to take an ideal view of myths and customs, to regard them as symbols in a nature-worship originally pure. Thus M. Decharme says of the bull- feast in the Dionysiac cult, "Comme le taureau est un des formes de Dionysos, c'était le corps du dieu dont se repaissaient les inities, c'était son sang dont ils s'abreuvaient dans ce banquet mystique." Now it was the peculiarity of the Bacchici who maintained these rites, that, as a rule, they abstained from the flesh of animals altogether, or at least their conduct took this shape when adopted into the Orphic discipline.[168] This ritual, therefore, has points in common with the totemistic usages which appear also to have survived into the cult of the ram-god in Egypt.[169] The conclusion suggested is that where Dionysus was adored with this sacrament of bull's flesh, he had either been developed out of, or had succeeded to, the worship of a bull-totem, and had inherited his characteristic ritual. This is rendered more plausible by the famous Elean chant, in which the god was thus addressed: "Come, hero Dionysus, come with the Graces to thy holy house by the shores of the sea; hasten with thy bull-foot." Then the chorus repeated, "Goodly bull, goodly bull."[170] M. Decharme publishes a cameo[171] in which the god is represented as a bull, with the three Graces standing on his neck, and seven stars in the field. M. Decharme decides that the stars are the Pleiades, the Graces the rays of the vernal sun, and Dionysus as a bull the symbol of the vernal sun itself. But all such symbolical explanations are apt to be mere private conjectures, and they are of no avail in face of the ritual which, on the other hypothesis, is to be expected, and is actually found, in connection with the bull Dionysus. Where Dionysus is not absolutely called a bull, he is addressed as the "horned deity," the "bull-horned," the "horned child."[172] A still more curious incident of the Dionysiac worship was the sacrifice of a booted calf, a calf with cothurns on its feet.[173] The people of Tenedos, says Ælian, used to tend their goodliest cow with great care, to treat it, when it calved, like a woman in labour, to put the calf in boots and sacrifice it, and then to stone the sacrificer and drive him into the sea to expiate his crime. In this ceremony, as in the Diipolia at Athens, the slain bull is, as it were, a member of the blood-kindred of the man who immolates him, and who has to expiate the deed as if it were a murder.[174] In this connection it is worth remarking that Dionysus Zagreus, when, according to the myth, he was attacked by the Titans, tried to escape his enemies by assuming various forms. It was in the guise of a bull that he was finally captured and rent asunder. The custom of rending the living victims of his cult was carried so far that, when PentHeus disturbed His mysteries, the king was torn piecemeal by the women of his own family.[175] The pious acquiescence of the author of the so-called Theocritean idyll in this butchery is a curious example of the conservatism of religious sentiment. The connection of Dionysus with the bull in particular is attested by various ritual epithets, such as "the bull," "bull-born,"[176] "bull-horned," and "bull-browed."[177] He was also worshipped with sacrifice of he-goats; according to the popular explanation, because the goat gnaws the vine, and therefore is odious to the god. The truth is, that animals, as the old commentator on Virgil remarks, were sacrificed to the various gods, "aut per similitudinem, aut per contrarietatem," either because there was a community of nature between the deity and the beast, or because the beast had once been sacred in a hostile clan or tribe.[178] The god derived some of his ritual names from the goat as well as from the bull. According to one myth, Dionysus was changed into a kid by Zeus, to enable him to escape the jealousy of Hera.[179] "It is a peculiarity," says Voigt, "of the Dionysus ritual that the god is one with his offering." But though the identity of the god and the victim is manifest, the phenomenon is too common in religion to be called peculiar.[180] Plutarch[181] especially mentions that "many of the Greeks make statues of Dionysus in the form of a bull."

Dionysus was not only an animal-god, or a god who absorbed in his rites and titles various elder forms of beast-worship. Trees also stood in the same relation to him. As Dendrites, he is, like Artemis, a tree-god, and probably succeeded to the cult of certain sacred trees; just as, for example, St. Bridget, in Ireland, succeeded to the cult of the fire-goddess and to her ceremonial.[182] Dionysus was even called ἔνδενδρος, "the god in the tree,"[183] reminding us of Artemis Dendritis, and of the village gods which in India dwell in the peepul or the bo tree.[184] Thus Pausanias[185] tells us that, when Pentheus went to spy on the Dionysiac mysteries, the women found him hidden in a tree, and there and then tore him piecemeal. According to a Corinthian legend, the Delphic oracle bade them seek this tree and worship it with no less honour than the god (Dionysus) himself. Hence the wooden images of Dionysus were made of that tree, the fig tree, non ex qnovis ligno, and the god had a ritual name, "The fig-tree Dionysus." In the idols the community of nature between the god and the fig tree was expressed and commemorated. An unhewn stump of wood was the Dionysus idol of the rustic people.[186]

Certain antique elements in the Dionysus cult have now been sketched; we have seen the god in singularly close relations with animal and plant worship, and have noted the very archaic character of certain features in his mysteries. Doubtless these things are older than the bright anthropomorphic Dionysus of the poets—the beautiful young deity, vine-crowned, who rises from the sea to comfort Ariadne in Tintoretto's immortal picture. At his highest, at his best, Dionysus is the spirit not only of Bacchic revel and of dramatic poetry, but of youth, health, and gaiety. Even in this form he retains something tricksy and enigmatic, the survival perhaps of earlier ideas; or, again, it may be the result of a more or less conscious symbolism. The god of the vine and of the juice of the vine maketh glad the heart of man; but he also inspires the kind of metamorphosis which the popular speech alludes to when a person is said to be "disguised in drink." For this reason, perhaps, he is now represented in art as a grave and bearded man, now as a manly youth, and again as an effeminate lad of girlish loveliness. The bearded type of the god is apparently the earlier; the girlish type may possibly be the result merely of decadent art, and its tendency to a sexless or bisexual prettiness.[187]

Turning from the ritual and local cults of the god, which, as has been shown, probably retain the earlier elements in his composite nature, and looking at his legend in the national literature of Greece, we find little that throws any light on the origin and primal conception of his character. In the Iliad Dionysus is not one of the great gods whose politics sways Olympus, and whose diplomatic or martial interference is exercised in the leaguer of the Achæans or in the citadel of Ilios. The longest passage in which he is mentioned is Iliad vi. 130, a passage which clearly enough declares that the worship of Dionysus, or at least that certain of his rites, were brought in from without, and that his worshippers endured persecution. Diomedes, encountering Glaucus in battle, refuses to fight him if he is a god in disguise. "Nay, moreover, even Dryas' son, mighty Lykourgos, was not for long when he strove with heavenly gods; he that erst chased through the goodly land of Nysa the nursing mothers of frenzied Dionysus; and they all cast their wands upon the ground, smitten with murderous Lykourgos' ox-goad. Then Dionysus fled, and plunged beneath the salt sea-wave, and Thetis took him to her bosom, affrighted, for mighty trembling had seized him at his foe's rebuke. But with Lykourgos the gods that live at ease were wroth, and Kronos's son made him blind, and he was not for long, because he was hated of all the immortal gods."

Though Dionysus is not directly spoken of as the wine-god here, yet the gear (θύσθλα) of his attendants, and his own title, "the frenzied," seem to identify him with the deity of orgiastic frenzy. As to Nysa, volumes might be written to little or no purpose on the learning connected with this obscure place-name, so popular in the legend of Dionysus. It has been identified as a mountain in Thrace, in Bœotia, in Arabia, India, Libya, and Naxos, as a town in Caria or the Caucasus, and as an island in the Nile. The flight of Dionysus into the sea may possibly recall the similar flight of Agni in Indian myth.

The Odyssey only mentions Dionysus[188] in connection with Ariadne, whom Artemis is said to have slain "by reason of the witness of Dionysus,"[189] and where the great golden urn of Thetis is said to have been a present from the god. The famous and beautiful hymn proves, as indeed may be learned from Hesiod,[190] that the god was already looked on as the patron of the vine. When the pirates had seized the beautiful young man with the dark-blue eyes, and had bound him in their ship, he "showed marvels among them," changed into the shape of a bear, and turned his captors into dolphins, while wine welled up from the timbers of the vessel, and vines and ivy trees wreathed themselves on the mast and about the rigging.

Leaving aside the Orphic poems, which contain most of the facts in the legend of Dionysus Zagreus, the Bacchæ of Euripides is the chief classical record of ideas about the god. Dionysus was the patron of the drama, which itself was an artistic development of the old rural songs and dances of his Athenian festival. In the Bacchæ, then, Euripides had to honour the very patron of his art. It must be said that his praise is but half-hearted. A certain ironical spirit, breaking out here and there (as when old Cadmus dances, and shakes a grey head and a stiff knee) into actual burlesque, pervades the play. Tradition and myth doubtless retained some historical truth when they averred that the orgies of the god had been accepted with reluctance into state religion. The tales about Lycurgus and Pentheus, who persecuted the Bacchæ in Thebes, and was dismembered by his own mother in a divine madness, are survivals of this old distrust of Dionysus. It was impossible for Euripides, a sceptic, even in a sceptical age, to approve sincerely of the god whom he was obliged to celebrate. He falls back on queer etymological explanations of the birth of Dionysus from the thigh of Zeus. This myth, as Cadmus very learnedly sets forth, was the result of forgetfulness of the meaning of words, was born of a Volks-etymologie. Zeus gave a hostage (ὅμηρος) to Hera, says Cadmus, and in "process of time" (a very short time) men forgot what they meant when they said this, and supposed that Dionysus had been sewn up in the thigh (ὁ μηρός) of his father.[191] The explanation is absurd, but it shows how Euripides could transfer the doubt and distrust of his own age, and its attempt at a philological interpretation of myth, to the remote heroic times. Throughout the play the character and conduct of the god, and his hideous revenge on the people who reject his wild and cruel rites, can only be justified because they are articles of faith. The chorus may sing—"Ah! blessed he who dwelleth in happiness, expert in the rites of the gods, and so hallows his life, fulfilling his soul with the spirit of Dionysus, revelling on the hills with charms of holy purity."[192] This was the interpretation which the religious mind thrust upon rites which in themselves were so barbarously obscene that they were feigned to have been brought by Dionysus from the barbaric East,[193] and to be the invention of Rhea, an alien and orgiastic goddess.[194] The bull-horned, snake-wreathed god,[195] the god who, when bound, turns into a bull (618); who manifests himself as a bull to Pentheus (920), and is implored by the chorus to appear "as bull, or burning lion, or many-headed snake" (1017–19), this god is the ancient barbarous deity of myth, in manifest contrast with the artistic Greek conception of him as "a youth with clusters of golden hair, and in his dark eyes the grace of Aphrodite" (235–236).

The Bacchæ, then, expresses the sentiments of a moment which must often have occurred in Greek religion. The Greek reverence accepts, hallows, and adorns an older faith, which it feels to be repugnant and even alien, but none the less recognises as human and inevitable. From modern human nature the ancient orgiastic impulse of savage revelry has almost died away. In Greece it was dying, but before it expired it sanctified and perpetuated itself by assuming a religious form, by draping its naked limbs in the fawn-skin or the bull-skin of Dionysus. In precisely the same spirit Christianity, among the Negroes of the Southern States, has been constrained to throw its mantle over what the race cannot discard. The orgies have become camp-meetings; the Voodoo-dance is consecrated as the "Jerusalem jump." In England the primitive impulse is but occasionally recognised at "revivals." This orgiastic impulse, the impulse of Australian corroboree and Cherokee fetish-dances, and of the "dancing Dervishes" themselves, occasionally seizes girls in modern Greece. They dance themselves to death on the hills, and are said by the peasants to be victims of the Nereids. In the old classic world they would have been saluted as the nurses and companions of Dionysus, and their disease would have been hallowed by religion. Of that religion the "bull-horned," "bull-eating," "cannibal" Dionysus was the deity; and he was refined away into the youth with yellow-clustered curls, and sleepy eyes, and smiling lips, the girlish youth of the art of Praxiteles. So we see him in surviving statues, and seeing him, forget his ghastly rites, and his succession to the worship of goats, and deer, and bulls.


Among deities for whom an origin has been sought in the personification of elemental phenomena, Athene is remarkable. Perhaps no divine figure has caused more diverse speculations. The study of her legend is rather valuable for the varieties of opinion which it illustrates than for any real contribution to actual knowledge which it supplies. We can discover little, if anything, about the rise and development of the conception of Athene. Her local myths and local sacra seem, on the whole, less barbaric than those of many other Olympians. But in comparing the conjectures of the learned, one lesson comes out with astonishing clearness. It is most perilous, as this comparison demonstrates, to guess at an origin of any god in natural phenomena, and then to explain the details of the god's legend with exclusive reference to that fancied elemental origin.

As usual, the oldest literary references to Athene are found in the Iliad and Odyssey. It were superfluous to collect and compare texts so numerous and so familiar. Athene appears in the Iliad as a martial maiden, daughter of Zeus, and, apparently, of Zeus alone without female mate.[196] She is the patron of valour and the inspirer of counsel; she arrests the hand of Achilles when his sword is half drawn from the sheath in his quarrel with Agamemnon; she is the constant companion and protector of Odysseus; and though she is worshipped in the citadel of Troy, she is constant to the cause of the Achæans. Occasionally it is recorded of her that she assumed the shape of various birds; a sea-bird and a swallow are among her metamorphoses; and she could put on the form of any man she pleased; for example, of Deiphobus.[197] It has often been observed that, among the lower races, the gods are either animals sans phrase or habitually appear in the form of animals. "Entre ces facultés qui possedent les immortels, l'une des plus frappantes est celle de se metamorphoser, de prendre des apparences non seulement animales, mais encore de se transformer en objets inanimes."[198] Of this faculty, inherited from the savage stage of thought, Athene has her due share even in Homer. But in almost every other respect she is free from the heritage of barbarism, and might very well be regarded as the ideal representative of wisdom, valour, and manfulness in man, of purity, courage, and nobility in woman, as in the Phæacian maid Nausicaa.

In Hesiod, as has already been shown, the myth of the birth of Athene retains the old barbaric stamp. It is the peculiarity of the Hesiodic poems to preserve the very features of religious narrative which Homer disregards. According to Hesiod, Zeus, the youngest child of child-swallowing Cronus, married Metis after he had conquered and expelled his father. Now Metis, like other gods and goddesses, had the power of transforming herself into any shape she pleased. Her husband learned that her child—for she was pregnant—would be greater than its father, as in the case of the child of Thetis. Zeus, therefore, persuaded Metis to oblige the Olympians with an exhibition of her accomplishments, and to transform herself into a fly. No sooner was the metamorphosis complete than he swallowed the fly, and himself produced the child of Metis out of his head.[199] The later philosophers explained this myth[200] by a variety of metaphysical interpretations, in which the god is said to contain the all in himself, and again to reproduce it. Any such ideas must have been alien to the inventors of a tale which, as we have shown, possesses many counterparts among the lowest and least Platonic races.[201] C. 0. Müller remarks plausibly that "the figure of the swallowing is employed in imitation of still older legends," such as those of Africa and Australia. This leaves him free to imagine a philosophic explanation of the myth based on the word Metis.[202] We may agree with Müller that the "swallow-myth" is extremely archaic in character, as it is so common among the backward races. As to the precise amount, however, of, philosophic reflection and allegory which was present to the cosmogonic poet's mind when he used Metis as the name of the being who could become a fly, and so be swallowed by her husband, it is impossible to speak with confidence. Very probably the poet meant to read a moral and speculative meaning into a barbaric märchen surviving in religious tradition.

To the birth of Athene from her father's head savage parallels are not lacking. In the legends of the South Pacific, especially of Mangaia, Tangaroa is fabled to have been born from the head of Papa.[203] In the Vafthrudismal (31) a maid and a man-child are born from under the armpits of a primeval gigantic being. The remarks of Lucian on miraculous birth have already been quoted.[204]

With this mythical birth for a starting-point, and relying on their private interpretations of the cognomina of the goddess, of her sacra, and of her actions in other parts of her legend, the modern mythologists have built up their various theories. Athene is now the personification of wisdom, now the dawn, now the air or æther, now the lightning as it leaps from the thunder-cloud; and if she has not been recognised as the moon, it is not for lack of opportunity.[205] These explanations rest on the habit of twisting each detail of a divine legend into conformity with aspects of certain natural and elemental forces, or they rely on etymological conjecture. For example, Welcker[206] maintains that Athene is "a feminine personification of the upper air, daughter of Zeus, the dweller in æther." Her name Tritogenia is derived[207] from an ancient word for water, which, like fire, has its source in æther.[208] Welcker presses the title of the goddess, "Glaucopis," the "grey-green-eyed," into the service. The heaven in Attica oft ebenfalls wunderhar grün ist.[209] Moreover, there was a temple at Methone of Athene of the Winds (Anemotis), which would be a better argument had there not been also temples of Athene of the Pathway, Athene of the Ivy, Athene of the Crag, Athene of the Market-place, Athene of the Trumpet, and so forth. Moreover, the olive tree is one of the sacred plants of Athene. Now why should this be? Clearly, thinks Welcker, because olive-oil gives light from a lamp, and light also comes from æther.[210] Athene also gives Telemachus a fair wind in the Odyssey, and though any Lapland witch could do as much, this goes down to her account as a goddess of the air.[211]

Leaving Welcker, who has many equally plausible proofs to give, and turning to Mr. Max Müller, we learn that Athene was the dawn. This theory is founded on the belief that Athene = Ahanâ, which Mr. Max Müller regards as a Sanskrit word for dawn. "Phonetically there is not one word to be said against Ahanâ = Athene, and that the morning light offers the best starting-point for the later growth of Athene has been proved, I believe, beyond the reach of doubt, or even of cavil." Mr. Müller adds that "nothing really important could be brought forward against my equation Ahanâ = Athene."

It is no part of our province here to decide between the conjectures of rival etymologists, nor to pronounce on their relative merits. But the world cannot be expected to be convinced by philological scholars before they have convinced each other. Mr. Max Müller had not convinced Benfey, who offered another etymology of Athene, as the feminine of the Zend Thrætana athwyana, an etymology of which Mr. Müller remarks, that "whoever will take the trouble to examine its phonetic foundation will be obliged in common honesty to confess that it is untenable."[212] Meanwhile Curtius[213] is neither for Ahanâ and Sanskrit and Mr. Max Müller, nor for Benfey and Zend. He derives Athene from the root ἀθ, "whence perhaps comes Athene, the blooming one" = the maiden. Preller, again,[214] finds the source of the name Athene in αἰθ, whence αἴθηρ, "the air," or ἀνθ, whence ἄνθος, "a flower." He does not regard these etymologies as certain, though he agrees with Welcker that Athene is the clear height of æther.

Manifestly no one can be expected to accept as matter of faith an etymological equation which is rejected by philologists. The more fashionable theory for the moment is that maintained some time since by Lauer and Schwartz, and now by Furtwängler in Roscher's Lexikon, that Athene is the "cloud-goddess," or the goddess of the lightning as it springs from the clouds.[215] As the lightning in mythology is often a serpent, and as Athene had her sacred serpent, "which might be Erichthonios,"[216] Schwartz conjectures that the serpent is the lightning and Athene the cloud. A long list of equally cogent reasons for identifying Athene with the lightning and the thunder-cloud has been compiled by Furtwängler, and deserves some attention. The passage excellently illustrates the error of taking poetic details in authors as late as Pindar for survivals of the absolute original form of an elemental myth.

Furtwängler finds the proof of his opinion that Athene is originally the goddess of the thunder-cloud and the lightning that leaps from it in the Olympic ode.[217] "By Hephaistos' handicraft beneath the bronze-wrought axe from the crown of her father's head Athene leapt to light, and cried aloud an exceeding cry, and heaven trembled at her coming, and earth, the mother." The "cry" she gave is the thunder-peal; the spear she carried is the lightning; the ægis or goat-skin she wore is the cloud again, though the cloud has just been the head of Zeus.[218] Another proof of Athene's connection with storm is the miracle she works when she sets a flame to fly from the head of Diomede or of Achilles,[219] or fleets from the sky like a meteor.[220] Her possession, on certain coins, of the thunderbolts of Zeus is another argument. Again, as the Trumpet-Athene she is connected with the thunder-peal, though it seems more rational to account for her supposed invention of a military instrument by the mere fact that she is a warlike goddess. But Furtwängler explains her martial attributes as those of a thunder-goddess, while Preller finds it just as easy to explain her moral character as goddess of wisdom by her elemental character as goddess, not at all of the cloud, but of the clear sky.[221] "Lastly, as goddess of the heavenly clearness, she is also goddess of spiritual clearness." Again, "As goddess of the cloudless heaven, she is also goddess of health."[222] There could be no more instructive examples of the levity of conjecture than these, in which two scholars interpret a myth with equal ease and freedom, though they start from diametrically opposite conceptions. Let Athene be lightning and cloud, and all is plain to Furtwängler. Let Athene be cloudless sky, and Preller finds no difficulties. Athene as the goddess of woman's work as well as of man's, Athene Ergane, becomes clear to Furtwängler as he thinks of the fleecy clouds. Probably the storm-goddess, when she is not thundering, is regarded as weaving the fleeces of the upper air. Hence the myth that Arachne was once a woman, changed by Athene into a spider because she contended with her in spinning.[223] The metamorphosis of Arachne is merely one of the half-playful ætiological myths of which we have seen examples all over the world. The spider, like the swallow, the nightingale, the dolphin, the frog, was once a human being, metamorphosed by an angry deity. As Preller makes Athene goddess of wisdom because she is goddess of clearness in the sky, so Furtwängler derives her intellectual attribute from her skill in weaving clouds. It is tedious and unprofitable to examine these and similar exercises of facile ingenuity. There is no proof that Athene was ever a nature-goddess at all, and if she was, there is nothing to show what was her department of nature. When we meet her in Homer, she is patroness of moral and physical excellence in man and woman. Manly virtue she typifies in her martial aspect, the armed and warlike maid of Zeus; womanly excellence she protects in her capacity of Ergane the toiler. She is the companion and guardian of Perseus no less than of Odysseus.[224]

The sacred animals of Athene were the owl, the snake (which accompanies her effigy in Athens, and is a form of her foster-child Erechtheus), the cock,[225] and the crow.[226] Probably she had some connection with the goat, which might not be sacrificed in her fane on the Acropolis, where she was settled by Ægeus ("goat-man"?). She wears the goat-skin, ægis, in art, but this is usually regarded as another type of the storm-cloud.[227]

Athene's maiden character is stainless in story, despite the brutal love of Hephæstus. This characteristic perhaps is another proof that she neither was in her origin nor became in men's minds one of the amorous deities of natural phenomena. In any case, it is well to maintain a sceptical attitude towards explanations of her myth, which only agree in the determination to make Athene a "nature power" at all costs, and which differ destructively from each other as to whether she was dawn, storm, or clear heaven. Where opinions are so radically divided and so slenderly supported, suspension of belief is natural and necessary.


No polytheism is likely to be without a goddess of love, and love is the chief, if not the original, department of Aphrodite in the Greek Olympus. In the Iliad and Odyssey and the Homeric Hymn she is already the queen of desire, with the beauty and the softness of the laughter-loving dame. Her cestus or girdle holds all the magic of passion, and is borrowed even by Hera when she wishes to win her fickle lord. She disturbs the society of the gods by her famous amours with Ares, deceiving her husband, Hephæstus, the lord of fire; and she even stoops to the embraces of mortals, as of Anchises. In the Homeric poems the charm of "Golden Aphrodite" does not prevent the singer from hinting a quiet contempt for her softness and luxury. But in this oldest Greek literature the goddess is already thoroughly Greek, nor did later ages make any essential changes in her character. Concerning her birth Homer and Hesiod are not in the same tale; for while Homer makes her a daughter of Zeus, Hesiod prefers, as usual, the more repulsive, and probably older story, which tells how she sprang from the sea-foam and the mutilated portions of Cronus.[228] But even in the Hesiodic myth it is remarkable that the foam-born goddess first landed at Cythera, or again "was born in wave-washed Cyprus." Her ancient names—the Cyprian and the Cytherean—with her favoured seats in Paphos, Idalia, and the Phœnician settlement of Eryx in Sicily, combine with historical traditions to show that the Greek Aphrodite was, to some extent, of Oriental character and origin. It is probable, or rather certain, that even without foreign influence the polytheism of Greece must have developed a deity of love, as did the Mexican and Scandinavian polytheisms. But it is equally certain that portions of the worship and elements in the myth of Aphrodite are derived from the ritual and the legends of the Oriental queen of heaven, adored from old Babylon to Cyprus and on many other coasts and isles of the Grecian seas. The Greeks themselves recognised Asiatic influence. Pausanias speaks of the temple of heavenly Aphrodite in Cythera as the holiest and most ancient of all her shrines among the Hellenes.[229] Herodotus, again, calls the fane of the goddess in Askalon of the Philistines "the oldest of all, and the place whence her worship travelled to Cyprus," as the Cyprians say, and the Phœnicians planted it in Cythera, being themselves emigrants from Syria. The Semitic element in this Greek goddess and her cult first demand attention.

Among the Semitic races, with whose goddess of love Aphrodite was thus connected, the deity had many names. She was regarded as at once the patroness of the moon, and of fertility in plants, beasts, and women. Among the Phœnicians her title is Astarte; among the Assyrians she was Istar; among the Syrians Aschera; in Babylon, Mylitta.[230] Common practices in the ritual of the Eastern and Western goddesses were the license of the temple-girls, the sacrifices of animals supposed to be peculiarly amorous (sparrows, doves, he-goats), and, above all, the festivals and fasts for Adonis. There can scarcely be a doubt that Adonis—the young hunter beloved by Aphrodite, slain by the boar, and mourned by his mistress—is a symbol of the young season, the renouveau, and of the spring vegetation, ruined by the extreme heats, and passing the rest of the year in the under-world. Adonis was already known to Hesiod, who called him, with obvious meaning, the son of Phœnix and Alphesibœa, while Pausanias attributed to him, with equal significance, Assyrian descent.[231] The name of Adonis is manifestly a form of the Phœnician Adon, "Lord." The nature of his worship among the Greeks is most familiar from the fifteenth Idyll of Theocritus, with its lively picture of dead Adonis lying in state, of the wailing for him by Aphrodite, of the little "gardens" of quickly growing flowers which personified him, and with the beautiful nuptial hymn for his resurrection and reunion to Aphrodite. Similar rites were customary at Athens.[232] Mannhardt gives the main points in the ritual of the Adonis-feast thus:—The fresh vegetation is personified as a fair young man, who in ritual is represented by a kind of idol, and also by the plants of the "Adonis-gardens." The youth comes in spring, the bridegroom to the bride, the vernal year is their honeymoon. In the heat of summer the bridegroom perishes for the nonce, and passes the winter in the land of the dead. His burial is bewailed, his resurrection is rejoiced in. The occasions of the rite are spring and midsummer. The idol and the plants are finally cast into the sea, or into well-water. The union of the divine lovers is represented by pairing of men and maidens in bonds of a kindly sentimental sort,—the flowery bonds of valentines.

The Oriental influence in all these rites has now been recognised; it is perfectly attested both by the Phœnician settlements, whence Aphrodite-worship spread, and by the very name of her lover, the spring. But all this may probably be regarded as little more than the Semitic colouring of a ritual and a belief which exist among Indo-European peoples, quite apart from Phœnician influence. Mannhardt traces the various points in the Aphrodite cult already enumerated through the folklore of the German peasants. The young lover, the spring, is the Mai-könig or Laubmann; his effigy is a clothed and crowned idol or puppet, or the Mai-baum. The figure is thrown into the water and bewailed in Russia, or buried or burned with lamentations.[233] He is wakened and kissed by a maiden, who acts as the bride.[234] Finally, we have the "May-pairs," a kind of valentines united in a nominal troth.

The probable conclusion seems to be that the Adonis ritual expresses certain natural human ways of regarding the vernal year. It is not unlikely that the ancestors of the Greeks possessed these forms of folklore previous to their contact with the Semitic races, and their borrowing of the very marked Semitic features in the festivals.

For the rest, the concern of Aphrodite with the passion of love in men and with general productiveness in nature is a commonplace of Greek literature. It would be waste of space to recount the numerous and familiar fables in which she inspires a happy or an ill-fated affection in gods or mortals. Like most other mythical figures, Aphrodite has been recognised by Mr. Max Müller as the dawn; but the suggestion has not been generally accepted.[235] If Aphrodite retains any traces of an elemental origin, they show chiefly in that part of her legend which is peculiarly Semitic in colour. For the rest, though she, like Hermes, gives good luck in general, she is a recognised personification of passion and the queen of love.


Another child of Zeus whose elemental origin and character have been much debated is Hermes. The meaning of the name[236] (Ἑρμείας, Ἑρμέας, Ἑρμῆς) is confessedly obscure.

Opinion, then, is divided about the elemental origin of Hermes, and the meaning of his name. His character must be sought, as usual, in ancient poetic myth and in ritual and religion. Herodotus recognised his rites as extremely old, for that is the meaning of his remark[237] that the Athenians borrowed them from the Pelasgians, who are generally recognised as prehistoric Greeks. In the rites spoken of, the images of the god were in one notable point like well-known Bushmen and Admiralty Island divine representations, and like those of Priapus.[238] In Cyllene, where Hermes was a great resident god, Artemidorus[239] saw a representation of Hermes which was merely a large phallus, and Pausanias beheld the same sacred object, which was adored with peculiar reverence.[240] Such was Hermes in the Elean region, whence he derived his name, Cyllenian.[241] He was a god of "the liberal shepherds," conceived of in the rudest aspect, perhaps as the patron of fruitfulness in their flocks. Manifestly he was most unlike the graceful swift messenger of the gods, and guide of the ghosts of men outworn, the giver of good fortune, the lord of the crowded marketplace, the teacher of eloquence and of poetry, who appears in the literary mythology of Greece. Nor is there much in his Pelasgian or his Cyllenian form to suggest the elemental deity either of gloaming, or of twilight, or of the storm.[242] But whether the pastoral Hermes of the Pelasgians was refined into the messenger-god of Homer, or whether the name and honours of that god were given to the rude Priapean patron of the shepherds by way of bringing him into the Olympic circle, it seems impossible to ascertain. These combinations lie far behind the ages of Greece known to us in poetry and history. The province of the god as a deity of flocks is thought to be attested by his favourite companion animal the ram, which often stood beside him in works of art.[243] In one case, where he is represented with a ram on his shoulder, the legend explained that by carrying a ram round the walls he saved the city of Tanagra from a pestilence.[244] The Arcadians also represented him carrying a ram under his arm.[245] As to the phallic Hermæ, it is only certain that the Athenian taste agreed with that of the Admiralty Islanders in selecting such unseemly images to stand beside every door. But the connection of Hermes with music (he was the inventor of the lyre, as the Homeric Hymn sets forth) may be explained by the musical and poetical character of old Greek shepherd life.

If we could set aside the various elemental theories of Hermes as the storm-wind, the twilight, the child of dawn, and the rest, it would not be difficult to show that one moral conception is common to his character in many of its varied aspects. He is the god of luck, of prosperity, of success, of fortunate adventure. This department of his activity is already recognised in Homer. He is giver of good luck.[246] He is "Hermes, who giveth grace and glory to all the works of men." Hence comes his Homeric name, ἐριούνιος, the luck-bringer. The last cup at a feast is drunk to his honour "for luck." Where we cry "Shares!" in a lucky find, the Greek cried "Hermes in common!" A godsend was ἕρμαιον. Thus among rough shepherd-folk the luck-bringing god displayed his activity chiefly in making fruitful the flocks, but among city -people he presided over the mart and the public assembly, where he gave good fortune, and over musical contests.[247] It is as the lucky god that Hermes holds his "fair wand of wealth and riches, three-leafed and golden, which wardeth off all evil."[248] Hermes has thus, among his varied departments, none better marked out than the department of luck, a very wide and important province in early thought. But while he stands in this relation to men, to the gods he is the herald and messenger, and, in some undignified myths, even the pander and accomplice. In the Homeric Hymn this child of Zeus and Maia shows his versatile character by stealing the oxen of Apollo, and fashioning the lyre on the day of his birth. The theft is sometimes explained as a solar myth; the twilight steals the bright day of the sun-god. But he could only steal them day by day, whereas Hermes lifts the cattle in an hour.[249] The surname of Hermes, Ἄργειφόντης, is usually connected with the slaying of Argus, a supernatural being with many eyes, set by Hera to watch Io, the mistress of Zeus.[250] Hermes lulled the creature to sleep with his music and cut off his head. This myth yields a very natural explanation if Hermes be the twilight of dawn, and if Argus be the many-eyed midnight heaven of stars watching Io, the moon. If Hermes be the storm-wind, it seems just as easy to say that he kills Argus by driving a cloud over the face of heaven. In his capacity as the swift-winged messenger, who, in the Odyssey, crosses the great gulf of the sea, and scarce brushes the brine with his feathers, Hermes might be explained, by any one so minded, either as lightning or wind. Neither hypothesis suits very well with his duties as guide of the ghosts, whom he leads down darkling ways with his wand of gold.[251] In this capacity he and the ghosts wore honoured at the Athenian All-Souls' day, in February.[252]

Such are the chief mythic aspects of Hermes. He has many functions; common to all of them is the power of bringing all to a happy end. This resemblance to twilight, "which bringeth all things good," as Sappho sang, may be welcome to interpreters who see in Hermes a personification of twilight. How ingeniously, and even beautifully, this crepuscular theory can be worked out, and made to explain all the activities of Hermes, may be read in an essay of Paul de St. Victor.[253] "What is the dawn? The passage from night to day. Hermes therefore is the god of all such fleet transitions, blendings, changes. The messenger of the gods, he flits before them, a heavenly ambassador to mortals. Two light wings quiver on his rounded cap, the vault of heaven in little. . . . The highways cross and meet and increase the meetings of men; so Hermes, the ceaseless voyager, is their protecting genius. . . . Who should guide the ghosts down the darkling ways but the deity of the dusk; sometimes he made love to fair ghostly maids whom he attended." So easy is it to interpret all the functions of a god as reflections of elemental phenomena. The origin of Hermes remains obscure; but he is, in his poetical shape, one of the most beautiful and human of the deities. He has little commerce with the beasts; we do not find him with many animal companions, like Apollo, nor adored, like Dionysus, with a ritual in which are remnants of animal-worship. The darker things of his oldest phallic forms remain obscure in his legends, concealed by beautiful fancies, as the old wooden phallic figure, the gift of Cecrops, which Pausanias saw in Athens, was covered with myrtle boughs. Though he is occasionally in art represented with a beard, he remains in the fancy as Odysseus met him, "Hermes of the golden wand, like unto a young man, with the first down on his cheek, when youth is loveliest."


The figure of Demeter, the mater dolorosa of Paganism, the sorrowing mother seated on the stone of lamentation, is the most touching in Greek mythology. The beautiful marble statue found by Mr. Newton at Cnidos, and now in the British Museum, has the sentiment and the expression of a Madonna. Nowhere in ancient religion was human love, regret, hope, and desiderium or wistful longing typified so clearly as in the myth and ritual of Demeter. She is severed from her daughter, Persephone, who goes down among the dead, but they are restored to each other in the joy of the spring's renewal. The mysteries of Eleusis, which represented these events in a miracle-play, were certainly understood by Plato, and Pindar, and Æschylus to have a mystic and pathetic significance. They shadowed forth the consolations that the soul has fancied for herself, and gave promise of renewed and undisturbed existence in the society of all who have been dear on earth. Yet Aristophanes, in the Frogs, ventures even here to bring in his raillery, and makes Xanthias hint that the mystæ, the initiate, "smell of roast-pig." No doubt they had been solemnly sacrificing, and probably tasting the flesh of the pig, the sacred animal of Demeter, whose bones, with clay or marble figurines representing him, are found in the holy soil of her temples. Thus even in the mystery of Demeter the grotesque, the barbaric element appears, and it often declares itself in her legend and in her ritual.

A scientific study of Demeter must endeavour to disentangle the two main factors in her myth and cult, and to hold them apart. For this purpose it is necessary to examine the development of the cult as far as it can be traced.

As to the name of the goddess, for once there is agreement, and even certainty. It seems hardly to be disputed that Demeter is Greek, and means mother-earth or earth the mother.[254] There is nothing peculiarly Hellenic or Aryan in the adoration of earth. A comparative study of earth-worship would prove it to be very widely diffused, even among non-European tribes. The Demeter cult, however, is distinct enough from the myth of Gæa, the Earth, considered as, in conjunction with Heaven, the parent of the gods. Demeter is rather the fruitful soil regarded as a person than the elder Titanic formless earth personified as Gæa. Thus conceived as the foster-mother of life, earth is worshipped in America by the Shawnees and Potawatomies as Me-suk-kum-mik-o-kwi, the "mother of earth." It will be shown that this goddess appears casually in a Potawatomie legend, which is merely a savage version of the sacred story of Eleusis.[255] Tacitus found that Mother Hertha was adored in Germany with rites so mysterious that the slaves who took part in them were drowned. "Whereof ariseth a secret terror and an holy ignorance what that should be which they only see who are a-perishing."[256] It is curious that in the folklore of Europe, up to this century, food-offering's to the earth were buried in Germany and by Gipsies; for the same rite is practised by the Potawatomies.[257] The Mexican Demeter, Centeotl, is well known, and Acosta's account of religious ceremonies connected with harvest in Mexico and Peru might almost be taken for a description of the Greek Eiresionê. The god of agriculture among the Tongan Islanders has one very curious point of resemblance to Demeter. In the Iliad (v. 505) we read that Demeter presides over the fanning of the grain. "Even as a wind carrieth the chaff about the sacred threshing-floors when men are winnowing, what time golden Demeter, in rush of wind, maketh division of grain and chaff." . . . Now the name of the "god of wind, and weather, rain, harvest, and vegetation in general" in the Tongan Islands is Álo-Álo, literally "to fan."[258] One is reminded of Joachim Des Bellay's poem, "To the Winnowers of Corn." Thus from all these widely diffused examples it is manifest that the idea of a divinity of earth, considered as the mother of fruits, and as powerful for good or harm in harvest-time, is anything but peculiar to Greece or to Aryan peoples. In her character as potent over this department of agriculture, the Greek goddess was named "she of the rich threshing-floors," "of the corn heaps," "of the corn in the ear," "of the harvest-home," "of the sheaves," "of the fair fruits," "of the goodly gifts," and so forth.[259]

In popular Greek religion, then, Demeter was chiefly regarded as the divinity of earth at seed-time and harvest. Perhaps none of the gods was worshipped in so many different cities and villages, or possessed so large a number of shrines and rustic chapels. There is a pleasant picture of such a chapel, with its rural disorder, in the Golden Ass of Apuleius. Psyche, in her search for Cupid, "came to the temple and went in, whereas behold she espied sheaves of corn lying on a heap, blades with withered garlands, and reeds of barley. Moreover, she saw hooks, scythes, sickles, and other instruments to reape, but everie thing laide out of order, and as it were cast in by the hands of labourers; which when Psyche saw she gathered up and put everything in order." The chapel of Demeter, in short, was a tool-house, dignified perhaps with some rude statue and a little altar. Every village, perhaps every villa, would have some such shrine.

Behind these observances, and behind the harvest-homes and the rites—half ritual, half folklore—which were expected to secure the fertility of the seed sown, there lurked in the minds of priests and in the recesses of sanctuaries certain mystic and secret practices of adoration. In these mysteries Demeter was doubtless worshipped in her Chthonian character as a goddess of earth, powerful over those who are buried in her bosom, over death and the dead. In these hidden mysteries of her cult, moreover, survived ancient legends of the usual ugly sort, tales of the amours of the goddess in bestial guise. Among such rites Pausanias mentions, at Hermione of Dryopian Argolis, the fête of Chthonian Demeter, a summer festival. The procession of men, women, boys, and priests dragged a struggling heifer to the doors of the temple, and thrust her in unbound. Within the fane she was butchered by four old women armed with sickles. The doors were then opened, and a second and third heifer were driven in and slain by the old women. "This marvel attends the sacrifice, that all the heifers fall on the same side as the first that was slain." There remains somewhat undivulged. "The things which they especially worship, I know not, nor any man, neither native or foreigner, but only the ancient women concerned in the rite."[260] In Arcadia there was a temple of Demeter, whose priests boasted a connection with Eleusis, and professed to perform the mysteries in the Eleusinian manner. Here stood two great stones, with another over them, probably (if we may guess) a prehistoric dolmen. Within the dolmen, which was so revered that the neighbours swore their chief oath by it ("by the πέτρωμα"), were kept certain sacred scriptures. These were read aloud once a year to the initiated by a priest who covered his face with a mask of Demeter. At the same time he smote the earth with rods, and called on the folk below the earth. Precisely the same practice, smiting the earth with rods, is employed by those who consult diviners among the Zulus.[261] The Zulu woman having a spirit of divination says, "Strike the ground for them" (the spirits). "See, they say you came to inquire about something." The custom of wearing a mask of the deity worshipped is common in the religions of animal-worship in Egypt, Mexico, the South Seas, and elsewhere. The Aztec celebrant, we saw, wore a mask made of the skin of the thigh of the human victim. Whether this Arcadian Demeter was represented with the head of a beast does not appear; she had a mare's head in Phigalia. One common point between this Demeter of the Pheneatæ and the Eleusinian is her taboo on beans, which are so strangely mystical a vegetable in Greek and Roman ritual.[262]

The Black Demeter of the Phigalians in Arcadia was another most archaic form of the goddess. In Phigalia the myth of the wrath and reconciliation of the goddess assumed a brutal and unfamiliar aspect. The common legend, universally known, declares that Demeter sorrowed for the enlèvement of her daughter, Persephone, by Hades. The Phigalians added another cause; the wandering Demeter had assumed the form of a mare, and was violently wooed by Poseidon in the guise of a stallion.[263] The goddess, in wrath at this outrage, attired herself in black mourning raiment, and withdrew into a cave, according to the Phigalians, and the fruits of the earth perished. Zeus learned from Pan the place of Demeter's retreat, and sent to her the Mœræ or Fates, who persuaded her to abate her anger. The cave became her holy place, and there was set an early wooden xoanon, or idol, representing the goddess in the shape of a woman with the head and mane of a mare, in memory of her involuntary intrigue in that shape. Serpents and other creatures were twined about her head, and in one hand, for a mystic reason undivulged, she held a dolphin, in the other a dove. The wooden image was destroyed by fire, and disasters fell on the Phigalians. Onatas was then employed to make a bronze statue like the old idol, whereof the fashion was revealed to him in a dream. This restoration was made about the time of the Persian war. The sacrifices offered to this Demeter were fruits, grapes, honey, and uncarded wool; whence it is clear that the black goddess was a true earth-mother, and received the fruits of the earth and the flock. The image by Onatas had somewhat mysteriously disappeared before the days of Pausanias.[264]

Even in her rude Arcadian shape Demeter is a goddess of the fruits of earth. It is probable that her most archaic form survived from the "Pelasgian" days in remote mountainous regions. Indeed Herodotus, observing the resemblance between the Osirian mysteries in Egypt and the Thesmophoria of Demeter in Greece, boldly asserts that the Thesmophoria were Egyptian, and were brought to the Pelasgians from Egypt (ii. 171). The Pelasgians were driven out of Peloponnesus by the Dorians, but the Arcadians, who were not expelled, retained the rites. As Pelasgians also lingered long in Attica, Herodotus recognised the Thesmophoria as in origin Egyptian. In modern language this theory means that the Thesmophoria were thought to be a rite of prehistoric antiquity older than the Dorian invasion. Herodotus naturally explained resemblances in the myth and ritual of distant peoples as the result of borrowing, usually from Egypt. These analogies, however, are more frequently produced by the working out of similar ideas, presenting themselves to minds similarly situated in a similar way. The mysteries of Demeter offer an excellent specimen of the process. While the Greeks, not yet collected into cities, lived in village settlements, each village would possess its own feasts, mysteries, and "medicine-dances," as the Red Indians say, appropriate to seed-time and harvest. For various reasons, certain of these local rites attained high importance in the development of Greek civilisation. The Eleusinian performances, for instance, were adopted into the state ritual of a famous city, Athens, and finally acquired a national status, being open to all not disqualified Hellenes. In this development the old local ritual for the propitiation of Demeter, for the fertility of the seed sown, and for the gratification of the dead ancestors, was caught up into the religion of the state, and was modified by advancing ideas of religion and morality. But the local Athenian mystery of the Thesmophoria probably retained more of its primitive shape and purpose.

The Thesmophoria was the feast of seed-time, and Demeter was adored by the women as the patroness of human as well as of universal fertility. Thus a certain jocund and licentious element was imparted to the rites, which were not to be witnessed by men. The Demeter of the Thesmophoria was she who introduced and patronised the θεσμός of marriage.

ὁι μὲν ἔπειτα
Ἀσπάσιοι λέκτροιο παλαιοῦ θεσμὸν ἵκοντο,

as Homer says of Odysseus and Penelope.[265] What was done at the Thesmophoria Herodotus did not think fit to tell. A scholiast on Lucian's Dialogues of Courtesans let out the secret in a much later age. He repeats the story of the swineherd Eubuleus, whose pigs were swallowed up by the earth when it opened to receive Hades and Persephone. In honour and in memory of Eubuleus, pigs were thrown into the cavern (χάσματα) of Demeter. Then certain women brought up the decaying flesh of the dead pigs, and placed it on the altar. It was believed that to mix this flesh with the seed-corn secured abundance of harvest. Though the rite is magical in character, perhaps the decaying flesh might act as manure, and be of real service to the farmer. Afterwards images of pigs, such as Mr. Newton found in a hole in the holy plot of Demeter at Cnidos, were restored to the place whence the flesh had been taken. The practice was believed to make marriage fruitful; its virtues were for the husband as well as for the husbandman.[266]

However the Athenians got the rite, whether they evolved it or adapted it from some "Pelasgian" or other prehistoric people, similar practices occur among the Khonds in India and the Pawnees in America. The Khonds sacrifice a pig and a human victim, the Pawnees a girl of a foreign tribe. The fragments of flesh are not mixed with the seed-corn, but buried on the borders of the fields.[267]

The ancient, perhaps "Pelasgian," ritual of Demeter had thus its savage features and its savage analogues. More remarkable still is the Pawnee version, as we may call it, of the Eleusinia. Curiously, the Red Indian myth which resembles that of Demeter and Persephone is not told about Me-suk-kum-mik-o-kwi, the Red Indian Mother Earth, to whom offerings are made, valuable objects being buried for her in brass kettles.[268] The American tale is attached to the legend of Manabozho and his brother Chibiabos, not to that of the Earth Mother and her daughter, if in America she had a daughter.

The account of the Pawnee mysteries and their origin is worth quoting in full, as it is among the most remarkable of mythical coincidences. If we decline to believe that Père De Smet invented the tale for the mere purpose of mystifying mythologists, we must, apparently, suppose that the coincidences are due to the similar workings of the human mind, in the Prairies as at Eleusis. We shall first give the Red Indian version. It was confided to De Smet, as part of the general tradition of the Pawnees, by an old chief, and was first published by De Smet in his Oregon Mission.[269] Tanner speaks of the legend as one that the Indians chant in their "medicine-songs," which record the sacred beliefs of the race.[270] He adds that many of these songs are noted down by a method probably peculiar to the Indians, on birch-bark or small flat pieces of wood, the ideas being conveyed by emblematical figures. When it is remembered that the luck of the tribe depends on these songs and rites, it will be admitted that they are probably of considerable antiquity, and that the Indians probably did not borrow the story about the origin of their ritual from some European conversant with the Homeric hymn to Demeter.

Here follows the myth, as borrowed (without acknowledgment) by Schoolcraft from De Smet:[271]

"The Manitos (powers or spirits) were jealous of Manabozho and Chibiabos. Manabozho warned his brother never to be alone, but one day he ventured on the frozen lake and was drowned by the Manitos. Manabozho wailed along the shores. He waged a war against all the Manitos. . . . He called on the dead body of his brother. He put the whole country in dread by his lamentations. He then besmeared his face with black, and sat down six years to lament, uttering the name of Chibiabos. The Manitos consulted what to do to assuage his melancholy and his wrath. The oldest and wisest of them, who had had no hand in the death of Chibiabos, offered to undertake the task of reconciliation. They built a sacred lodge close to that of Manabozho, and prepared a sumptuous feast. They then assembled in order, one behind the other, each carrying under his arm a sack of the skin of some favourite animal, as a beaver, an otter, or a lynx, and filled with precious and curious medicines culled from all plants. These they exhibited, and invited him to the feast with pleasing words and ceremonies. He immediately raised his head, uncovered it, and washed off his besmearments and mourning colours, and then followed them. They offered him a cup of liquor prepared from the choicest medicines, at once as a propitiation and an initiatory rite. He drank it at a single draught, and found his melancholy departed. They then commenced their dances and songs, united with various ceremonies. All danced, all sang, all acted with the utmost gravity, with exactness of time, motion, and voice. Manabozho was cured; he ate, danced, sang, and smoked the sacred pipe.

"In this manner the mysteries of the great medicine-dance were introduced.

"The Manitos now united their powers to bring Chibiabos to life. They did so, and brought him to life, but it was forbidden to enter the lodge. They gave him, through a chink, a burning coal, and told him to go and preside over the country of souls and reign over the land of the dead.

"Manabozho, now retired from men, commits the care of medicinal plants to Misukumigakwa, or the Mother of the Earth, to whom he makes offerings."

In all this the resemblance to the legend of the Homeric hymn to Demeter is undeniable. The hymn is too familiar to require a long analysis. We read how Demeter had a fair daughter, Persephone; how the Lord of the Dead carried her off as she was gathering flowers; how Demeter sought her with burning torches; and how the goddess came to Eleusis and the house of Celeus in the guise of an old wife. There she dwelt in sorrow, neither eating nor drinking, till she tasted of a mixture of barley and water (cyceon), and was moved to smile by the mirth of Iambe. Yet she still held apart in wrath from the society of the gods, and still the earth bore not her fruits, till the gods bade Hermes restore Persephone. But Persephone had tasted one pomegranate-seed in Hades, and therefore, according to a world-wide belief, she was under bonds to Hades. For only half the year does she return to earth; yet by this Demeter was comforted; the soil bore fruits again, and Demeter showed forth to the chiefs of Eleusis her sacred mysteries and the ritual of their performance.[272]

The Persephone myth is not in Homer, though in Homer Persephone is Lady of the Dead. Hesiod alludes to it in the Theogony (912–914 ; but the chief authority is the Homeric hymn, which Matthæus found (1777) in a farmyard at Moscow. "Inter pullos et porcos latuerat,"—the pigs of Demeter had guarded the poem of her mysteries.[273] As to the date and authorship of the hymn, the learned differ in opinion. Probably most readers will regard it as a piece of poetry, like the liymn to Aphrodite, rather than as a "mystic chain of verse" meant solely for hieratic purposes. It is impossible to argue with safety that the Eleusinian mysteries and legend were later than Homer, because Homer does not allude to them. He has no occasion to speak of them. Possibly the mysteries were, in his time, but the rites of a village or little town; they attained celebrity owing to their adoption by Athens, and they ended by becoming the most famous national festival. The meaning of the legend, in its origin, was probably no more than a propitiation of earth, and a ceremony that imitated, and so secured, the return of spring and vegetation. This early conception, which we have found in America, was easily combined with doctrines of the death and revival, not of the year, not of the seed sown, but of the human soul. These ideas were capable of endless illustration and amplification by priests; and the mysteries, by Plato's time, and even by Pindar's, were certainly understood to have a purifying influence on conduct and a favourable effect on the fortunes of the soul in the next world.

"Happy whosoever of mortal men has looked on these things; but whoso hath had no part nor lot in this sacrament hath no equal fate when once he hath perished and passed within the pall of darkness."[274] Of such rites we may believe that Plato was thinking when he spoke of "beholding apparitions innocent and simple, and calm and happy, as in a mystery."[275] Nor is it strange that, when Greeks were seeking for a sign, and especially for some creed that might resist the new worship of Christ, Plutarch and the Neo-Platonic philosophers tried to cling to the promise of the mysteries of Demeter. They regarded her secret things as "a dreamy shadow of that spectacle and that rite," the spectacle and rite of the harmonious order of the universe, some time to be revealed to the souls of the blessed.[276] It may not have been a drawback to the consolations of the hidden services that they made no appeal to the weary and wandering reason of the later heathens. Tired out with endless discourse on fate and free will, gods and demons, allegory and explanation, they could repose on mere spectacles and ceremonies and pious ejaculations, "without any evidence or proof offered for the statements." Indeed, writers like Plutarch show almost the temper of Pascal, trying to secure rest for their souls by a wise passiveness and pious contemplation, and participation in sacraments not understood.

As to the origin of these sacraments, we may believe, with Lobeck, that it was no priestly system of mystic and esoteric teaching, moral or physical. It was but the "medicine-dance" of a very old Greek tribal settlement. But from this, thanks to the genius of Hellas, sprang all the beauty of the Eleusinian ritual, and all the consolation it offered the bereaved, all the comfort it yielded to the weary and heavy laden.[277] That the popular religious excitement caused by the mysteries and favoured by the darkness often produced scenes of lustful revelry, may be probable enough. "Revivals" everywhere have this among other consequences. But we may share Lobeck's scepticism as to the wholesale charges of iniquity (ἔρωτες ἄτοποι καὶ παίδων ὕβρεις καὶ γάμων διαφθοραὶ) brought by the Fathers. Doubtless there were survivals of barbaric license, and of performances like those of the Zunis in their snake-feast; but it is certain that even if there had been no debauchery, the Fathers would have invented it and maligned the mysteries of their opponents, exactly as the opponents maligned the mysteries of Christianity.

In spite of survivals and slanders, the religion of Demeter was among the most natural, beautiful, and touching of Greek beliefs. The wild element was not lacking; but a pious contemporary of Plato, when he bathed in the sea with his pig before beholding the mystery-play, probably made up his mind to blink the barbaric and licentious part of the performances.


This brief review of Greek divine myths does not of course aim at exhausting the subject. We do not pretend to examine the legends of all the Olympians. But enough has been said to illustrate the method of interpretation, and to give specimens of the method at work. It has been seen that there is only agreement among philologists as to the origin and meaning of two out of nearly a dozen divine names. Zeus is admitted to be connected with Dyaus, and to have originally meant "sky." Demeter is accepted as Greek, with the significance of "Mother Earth." But the meaning and the roots of Athene, Apollo, Artemis, Hermes, Cronus, Aphrodite, Dionysus—we might add Poseidon and Hephæstus—are very far from being known. Nor is there much more general agreement as to the original elemental phenomena or elemental province held by all of these gods and goddesses. The moon, the wind, the twilight, the sun, the growth and force of vegetation, the dark, the night, the atmosphere, have been shuffled and dealt most variously to the various deities by learned students of myth. This complete diversity of opinion must be accepted as a part in the study.

The learned, as a rule, only agree in believing (1) that the names hold the secret of the original meaning of the gods; and (2) that the gods are generally personifications of elements or of phenomena, or have been evolved out of such personifications. Beyond this almost all is confusion, doubt, "the twilight of the gods."

In this darkness there is nothing to surprise. We are not wandering in a magical mist poured around us by the gods, but in a fog which has natural causes. First, there is the untrustworthiness of attempts to analyse proper names. "With every proper name the etymological operation is by one degree more difficult than with an appellative. . . . We have to deal with two unknown quantities," origin and meaning; whereas in appellatives we know the meaning and have only to hunt for the origin. And of all 2proper names mythological names are the most difficult to interpret. Curtius has shown how many paths may be taken in the analysis of the name Achilles. The second part may be of the stem λαο = people, or the stem λας = stone. Does the first part of the word mean "water" (cf. aqua), or is it equivalent to Ἔχε as in Ἐχέλαος ("bulwark" or "the people")? Or is it akin to Ἄχι, as in ἄχος ("one who causes pain")? Or is the "prothetic"? and is χελ the root, and does it mean "clear-shining"? Or is the Word related to ἀχλύς, and does it mean "dark"?

All these and other explanations are offered by the learned, and are chosen by Curtius to show the uncertainty and difficulty of the etymological process as applied to names in myth. Cornutus remarked long ago that the great antiquity of the name of Athene made its etymology difficult. Difficult it remains.[278] Whatever the science of language may accomplish in the future, it is baffled for the present by the divine names of Greece, or by most of them, and these the most important.[279]

There is another reason for the obscurity of the topic besides the darkness in which the origin of the names has been Wrapped by time. The myths had been very long in circulation before we first meet them in Homer and Hesiod. We know not whence the gods came. Perhaps some of them were the chief divine conceptions of various Hellenic clans before the union of clans into states. However this may be, when we first encounter the gods in Homer and Hesiod, they have been organised into a family, with regular genealogies and relationships. Functions have been assigned to them, and departments. Was Hermes always the herald? Was Hephæstus always the artisan? Was Athene from the first the well-be-loved daughter of Zeus? Was Apollo from the beginning the mediator with men by oracles? Who can reply? We only know that the divine ministry has been thoroughly organised, and departments assigned, as in a cabinet, before we meet the gods on Olympus. What they were in the ages before this organisation, we can only conjecture. Some may have been adopted from clans whose chief deity they were. If any one took all the Samoan gods, he could combine them into a family with due functions and gradations. No one man did this, we may believe, for Greece: though Herodotus thought it was done by Homer and Hesiod. The process went on through centuries we know not of; still less do we know what or where the gods were before the process began.

Thus the obscurity in which the divine origins are hidden is natural and inevitable. Our attempt has been to examine certain birth-marks which the gods bear from that hidden antiquity, relics of fur and fin and feather, inherited from ancestral beasts like those which ruled Egyptian, American, and Australian religions. We have also remarked the brilliant divinity of beautiful form which the gods at last attained, in marble, in gold, in ivory, and in the fancy of poets and sculptors. Here is the truly Hellenic element, here is the ideal,—Athene arming, Hera with the girdle of Aphrodite, Hermes with his wand, Apollo with the silver bow,—to this the Hellenic intellect attained; this ideal it made more imperishable than bronze. Finally, the lovely shapes of gods "defæcate to a pure transparency" in the religion of Aristotle and Plutarch. But the gods remain beautiful in their statues, beautiful in the hymns of Pindar and the plays of Sophocles; hideous, often, in temple myth, and ancient xoanon, and secret rite, till they are all, good and evil, cast out by Christianity. The most brilliant civilisation of the world never expelled the old savage from its myth and its ritual.

In conclusion, we may deprecate the charge of exclusivism. The savage element is something, nay, is much, in Greek myth and ritual, but it is not everything. The truth, grace, and beauty of the myths are given by "the clear spirit" of Hellas. Nor is all that may be deplored necessarily native. We may well believe in borrowing from Phoenicians, who in turn may have borrowed from Babylon. Examples of this process have occasionally been noted. It will be urged by some students that the wild element was adopted from the religion of prehistoric races, whom the Greeks found in possession when first they seized the shores of the country. This may be true in certain cases, but historical evidence is not to be obtained. We lose ourselves in theories of Pelasgians and Pre-Pelasgians, and "la Grèce avant les Grecs." In any case, the argument that the more puzzling part of Greek myth is a "survival" would not be affected. Borrowed, or inherited, or imitated, certain of the stories and rites are savage in origin, and the argument insists on no more as to that portion of Greek religion.[280]


  1. Postea, "Zeus."
  2. Odyssey, iii. 48.
  3. Ernest Myers, Hermes, in The Judgment of Prometheus.
  4. As a proof of the pre-Homeric antiquity of Zeus, it has often been noticed that Homer makes Achilles pray to Zeus of Dodona (the Zeus, according to Thrasybulus, who aided Deucalion after the deluge) as the "Pelasgian" Zeus (Iliad, xvi. 233). "Pelasgian" may be regarded as equivalent to "pre-historic Greek." Sophocles (Trach., 65; see Scholiast) still speaks of the Selli, the priests of Dodonean Zeus, as "mountain-dwelling and couching on the earth." They retained, it seems, very primitive habits. Be it observed that Achilles has been praying for confusion and ruin to the Achæans, and so invokes the deity of an older, perhaps hostile, race. Probably the oak-oracle at Dodona, the message given by "the sound of a going in the tree-tops" or by the doves, was even more ancient than Zeus, who, on that theory, fell heir to the rites of a peasant oracle connected with tree- worship. Zeus, according to Hesiod, "dwelt in the trunk of the oak tree" (cited by Preller, i. 98), much as an Indian forest-god dwells in the peepul or any other tree. It is rather curious that, according to Eustathius (The Iliad (Butler)/Book XVI|Iliad, xvi]]. 233), "Pelargicus," "connected with storks," was sometimes written for Pelasgicus; that there was a Dodona in Thessaly, and that storks were worshipped by the Thessalians.
  5. Helbig, Homerische Epos aus dem Denkmälern.
  6. On the probable amount of borrowing in Greek religion see Maury, Religions de la Greece, iii. 70–75; Newton, Nineteenth Century, 1878, p. 305. Gruppe, Griech. Culte u. Mythen., pp. 153–163.
  7. "Greek Cosmogonic Myths," antea.
  8. Max Müller, Selected Essays, ii. 419; Preller, Gr. Myth., i. 92.
  9. See similar examples of popular magic in Gervase of Tilbury, Olia Imperialia; Liebrecht, ii. 146. The citation is due to Preller, i. 102.
  10. Select Essays, ii. 419.
  11. Hesiod, Theog., 468; Paus., iv. 33, 2.
  12. It is probable that this myth of the seduction of Hera is of Samian origin, and was circulated to account for and justify the Samian custom by which men seduced their loves first and celebrated the marriage afterwards (Scholia on Iliad, xiv. 201). "Others say that Samos was the place where Zeus betrayed Hera, whence it comes that the Samians, when they go a-wooing, anticipate the wedding first in secret, and then celebrate it openly." Yet another myth (Iliad, xiv. 295, Scholiast) accounts for the hatred which Zeus displayed to Prometheus by the fable that, before her wedding with Zeus, Hera became the mother of Prometheus by the giant Eurymedon. Euphorion was the authority for this tale. Yet another version occurs in the legend of Hephæstus. See also Schol. Theoc., xv. 64.
  13. Iliad, xiv. 307, 340.
  14. Arnobius, Adv. Nat., v. 9, where the abominations described defy repetition. The myth of a rock which became the mother of the offspring of Zeus may recall the maternal flint of Aztec legend and the vagaries of Iroquois tradition. Compare Clemens Alex., Oxford, 1719, i. 13, for the amours of Zeus, Deo, and Persephone, with their representations in the mysteries; also Arnob., Adv. Gent., v. 20. Zeus adopted the shape of a serpent in his amour with his daughter. An ancient Tarentine sacred ditty is quoted as evidence, Taurus draconem genuit, et taurum draco, and certain repulsive performances with serpents in the mysteries are additional testimony.
  15. Apollodorus, iii. 4, 3.
  16. The mythologists, as a rule, like the heathen opponents of Arnobius, Clemens, and Eusebius, explain the amours of Zeus as allegories of the fruitful union of heaven and earth, of rain and grain. Preller also allows for the effects of human vanity, noble families insisting on tracing themselves to gods. On the whole, says Preller, "Zeuguug in der Natur-religion und Mythologie, dasselbe ist was Schöpfung in den deistischen Religionen" (i. 110). Doubtless all these elements come into the legend; the unions of Zeus with Deo and Persephone especially have much the air of a nature-myth told in an exceedingly primitive and repulsive manner. The amours in animal shape are explained in the text as in many cases survivals of the totemistic belief in descent from beasts, sans phrase.
  17. Ælian., Hist. Var., i. 15.
  18. Dawson, Australian Aborigines; Custom and Myth, p. 126.
  19. Clemens, p. 34.
  20. See Mr. H. H. Risley on "Primitive Marriage in Bengal," in Asiatic Quarterly Review, June 1886.
  21. In Pausanias's opinion Cecrops first introduced the belief in Zeus, the most highest.
  22. Paus., iii. 21, I; but the reading is doubtful.
  23. Ap. Clem. Alex., i. 36.
  24. Compare Heyne, Observ. in Apollodor., i. 3, 1.
  25. Bridges, Prometheus the Firegiver.
  26. Clem. Alex., i. 31.
  27. Paus., viii. 2, 1.
  28. The wolves connected with the worship of Zeus, like his rams, goats, and other animals, are commonly explained as mythical names for elemental phenomena, clouds, and storms. Thus the ram's fleece, Δίος κώδων, used in certain expiatory rites (Hesych., s.v., Lobeck, p. 183), is presumed by Preller to be a symbol of the cloud. In the same way his ægis or goat-skin is the storm-wind or the thunder-cloud. The opposite view will be found in Professor Robertson Smith's article on "Sacrifice" in Encyc. Brit., where the similar totemistic rites of the lower races are adduced. The elemental theory is set forth by Decharme, Mythologie de la Grece Antique (Paris, 1879), p. 16. For the "storm-wolf," see Preller, i. 100. It seems a little curious that the wolf, which, on the solar hypothesis, was a brilliant beast connected with the worship of the sun-god, Apollo Lycæus, becomes a cloud or storm wolf when connected with Zeus. On the whole subject of the use of the skins of animals as clothing of the god or the ministrant, see Lobeck, Aglaoph., pp. 183–186, and Robertson Smith, op. cit.
  29. Paus., ix. 3, 1.
  30. Mrs. Hunt's translation, i. 187.
  31. For parallels to this myth in Chinese, Aztec, Indian, Phrygian, and other languages, see Le Fils de la Vierge, by M. H. de Charency, Havre, 1879. See also "Les Deux Frères" in M. Maspero's Contes Egyptiens.
  32. As to the Agdistis myth, M. de Charency writes (after quoting forms of the tale from all parts of the world), "This resemblance between different shapes of the same legend, among nations separated by such expanses of land and sea, may be brought forward as an important proof of the antiquity of the myth, as well as of the distant date at which it began to be diffused."
  33. Scholia on Odyssey, xi. 521; Iliad, xx. 234; Eurip., Orestes, 1392, and Scholiast quoting the Little Iliad.
  34. Compare C. O. Müller, Introduction to a Scientific System of Mythology, London, 1884, pp. 16, 17; Pausanias, i. 25, 1, viii. 35, 7.
  35. Iliad, i. 587.
  36. Iliad, i. 590; Scholia, xiv. 255. The myth is derived from Pherecydes.
  37. Pherecydes is the authority for the treble night, in which Zeus persuaded the sun not to rise when he wooed Alcmena.
  38. See the whole passage, Iliad, iv. 160.
  39. Iliad, v. 385.
  40. Scholia, ed. Dindorf, vol. iii.; Iliad, v. 385.
  41. Iliad, v. 875.
  42. Cf. "Hymn to Apollo Pythius," 136.
  43. Iliad, viii. ad init.
  44. M. Decharme regards this challenge to the tug of war as a very noble and sublime assertion of supreme sovereignty. Mythl de la Greece, p. 19.
  45. Iliad, xv. 166.
  46. Iliad, viii. 369.
  47. Iliad, xiv. 150–350.
  48. Schol. Iliad, xiv, 346; Dindorf, vol. iv. In the Scholiast's explanation the scene is an allegorical description of spring; the wrath of Hera is the remains of winter weather; her bath represents the April showers; when she busks her hair, the new leaves on the boughs, "the high leafy tresses of the trees," are intended, and so forth.
  49. Iliad, ii. 117.
  50. Iliad, ii. 378.
  51. Iliad, ii. 408.
  52. Iliad, iii. 277.
  53. Iliad, iv. 160.
  54. Iliad, iv. 235.
  55. Odyssey, xiv. passim.
  56. Odyssey, xiv. 406.
  57. Odyssey, iv. 423.
  58. Odyssey, xiv. 435.
  59. Odyssey, xiv. 444–445.
  60. Odyssey, iv. 504.
  61. Odyssey, viii. 270.
  62. Selected Essays, i. 605, note 1.
  63. "Nature Myths," antea.
  64. Iliad, iii. 277.
  65. Dozon, Chansons Bulgares.
  66. Odyssey, x. 139.
  67. Bent's Cyclades, p. 57.
  68. Stesichorus, Poetæ Lyrici Græci, Pomtow, vol. i. p. 148; cf. also Mimnermus, op. cit., i. 78.
  69. Odyssey, xvii. 208; Scholiast. The story is ridiculed by Lucian, De Electro.
  70. Hommes et Dieux, p. 11.
  71. There is no agreement nor certainty about the etymology and original meaning of the name Apollo. See Preller, Gr. Myth., i. 189. "Comparative philologists have not yet succeeded in finding the true etymology of Apollo" (Max Müller, Selected Essays, i. 467).
  72. Compare Zeus Lyceius and his wolf-myths; compare also Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon, p. 423.
  73. Sonnengott als Zeitordner, Roscher, op. cit., p. 423.
  74. Cf. Photius, Bibl., 321.
  75. ix. 10, 4.
  76. Plutarch, De Εἰ ap. Delph., 9.
  77. Roscher, op. cit., p. 427.
  78. Proclus, Chrest., ed. Gaisford, p. 387; Homer, Hymn to Apollo, 122, 178; Apollod,, i. 4, 3; Plutarch, Quæst. Græc., 12.
  79. Apollod., Heyne, Observationes, p. 19. Compare the Scholiast on the argument to Pindar's Pythian odes.
  80. Preller, i. 194.
  81. Forchhammer takes the Dracæna to be a violent winter torrent, dried up by the sun's rays. Cf. Decharme, Myth. Grec., p. 100. It is also conjectured that the snake is only the sacred serpent of the older oracle of the earth on the same site. Æschylus, Eumenides, 2.
  82. Eurip., Alcestis, Schol., line 1.
  83. Hymn. 215.
  84. Op. cit., 220–225.
  85. Roscher, Lexikon; Preller, i. 208; Schol. ad Lycophr., v. 208.
  86. Compare Theognis, 5–10.
  87. Preller, i. 190, note 4; Curtius, Gr. Et., 120.
  88. The French excavators in Delos found the original unhewn stone on which, in later days, the statue of the anthropomorphic god was based.
  89. Aristotle, Hist. An., vi. 35; Ælian., N. A., iv. 4; Schol. on Apol. Rhod., ii. 123.
  90. Paus., i. 19, 4.
  91. Preller, i. 202, note 3; Paus., ii. 19, 3.
  92. Encyc. Brit., s.v. "Sacrifice."
  93. Paus., x. 14, 4.
  94. Ant. Lib., 30.
  95. Electra, 6.
  96. Ælian., H. A., xii. 5.
  97. Strabo, xiii. 604.
  98. It is the explanation Preller gives of the Mouse-Apollo, i. 202.
  99. Paus., i. 24, 8; Strabo, xiii. 912.
  100. Karneios, from κάρνος (Heyschius, s.v.), a ram.
  101. Theocritus, Idyll, v. 82.
  102. Preller, i. 215, note 1.
  103. ii, 766; xxi. 448.
  104. xv. 237.
  105. Bleek, Bushman Folk-Lore; Pindar, Pyth., iii., with notes of the Scholiast.
  106. Pindar, Estienne, Geneva, 1599, p. 219.
  107. For the various genealogies of Asclepius and a discussion of the authenticity of the Hesiodic fragments, see Roscher, Lexikon, pp. 615, 616. The connection of Asclepius with the serpent was so close that he was received into Roman religion in the form of a living snake, while dogs were so intimately connected with his worship that Panofka believed him to have been originally a dog-god (Roscher, p. 629; Revue Archeologique).
  108. Suidas, s. v. τελμισσεῖς. His authority is Dionysius of Chalcis, 200 B.C. See "Primitive Marriage in Bengal," Asiatic Quarterly, June 1886.
  109. See "Nature-Myths," antea. Schwartz, as usual, takes Daphne to be connected, not with the dawn, but with lightning. "Es ist der Gewitterbaum." Der Ursprung der Mythologie, Berlin, 1860, pp. 160–162.
  110. For the influence of Apollo-worship on Greek civilisation, see Curtius's History of Greece, English transl., vol. i. For a theory that Apollo answers to Mitra among "the Arians of Iran," see Duncker's History of Greece, vol. i. 173.
  111. At the Thargelia. See Meursius, Græcia Feriata.
  112. De Dianæ Antiquissima apud Græcos Natura, Vratislaviæ, 1881.
  113. Hippolytus, Eurip., 73–87.
  114. Roscher's Lexikon, s. v.
  115. Op. cit., p. 7.
  116. Etym. Gr., 5th ed., p. 556.
  117. Lexilogus, i. 554.
  118. For many other etymologies of Artemis, see Roscher's Lexikon, p. 558. Among these is ἀερότεμις, "she who cuts the air." Even Ἄρκτεμις, connected with ἄρκτος, the bear, has occurred to inventive men.
  119. Welcker, Griechische Götterlehre, i. 561, Göttingen, 1857; Preller, i. 239.
  120. Roscher, Lexikon, 580.
  121. Paus., viii. 3, 5.
  122. O. Müller, Engl, transl., p. 15; Catast, i.; Apollodor., iii. 82; Hyginus, 176, 177. A number of less important references are given in Bachofen's Der Bär in den Religionen des Alterthums.
  123. Paus., viii. 3.
  124. Claus, op. cit., p. 76. [Suchier, De Dian Brauron, p. 33.] The bear-skin seems later to have been exchanged for a saffron raiment, κροκωτός. Compare Harpokration, ἀρκτεῦσαι, Aristophanes, Lysistrata, 646. The Scholiast on that passage collects legendary explanations, setting forth that the rites were meant to appease the goddess for the slaying of a tame bear (cf. Apostolius, vii. 10).
  125. Servius, Æn., xi. 785. For a singular parallel in modern French folklore to the dance of the Hirpi, see Mannhardt, Wald und Feld Cultus, ii. 324, 325. For the ram, see Herodotus, ii. 42. In Thebes the ram's skin was on the yearly festival flayed, and placed on the statue of the god. Compare, in the case of the buzzard, Bancroft, iii. 168. Great care is taken in preserving the skin of the sacrificed totem, the buzzard, as it makes part of a sacred dress.
  126. Apostolius, viii. 19, vii. 10, quoted by O. Müller (cf. Welcker, i. 573).
  127. Paræm. Gr., i. 402; Claus, op. cit., p. 37; Jewett's Adventures and Sufferings among the Natives of Nootka Sound, p. 133.
  128. The symbolic explanation of Bachofen, Claus, and others is to the effect that the she-bear (to take that case) is a beast in which the maternal instinct is very strong, and apparently that the she-bear, deprived of her whelps, is a fit symbol of a goddess notoriously virginal, and without offspring.
  129. Paus., iii. 8, 16. Cf. Müller, Dorians, book ii. chap. 9, 6. Pausanias, viii. 23, i, mentions a similar custom, ordained by the Delphian oracle, the flogging of women at the feast of Dionysus in Alea of Arcadia.
  130. Cf. Müller, Dorians, ii. 9, 6, and Glaus, op. cit., cap. v.
  131. Paus., vii. 19.
  132. Op. cit., ii. 9, 6.
  133. Op. cit., p. 311. Cf. Euripides, Iph. Taur., 1424, and Roscher, Lexikon, p. 568.
  134. Mythol. de la Grece, p. 137.
  135. Op. cit., ii, 9, 7.
  136. Annals, iii. 61.
  137. Greenwey's Tacitus, 1622.
  138. For an alabaster statuette of the goddess, see Roscher's Lexikon, p. 588.
  139. Iliad, xxi. 481.
  140. Cf. Preller, i. 256–257. Bacchylides makes Hecate the daughter of "deep-bosomed Night" (40). The Scholiast on the second idyll of Theocritus, in which the sorceress appeals to the magic of the moon, makes her a daughter of Zeus and Demeter, and identified with Artemis. Here, more clearly than elsewhere, the Artemis appears sub luce maligna, under the wan uncertain light of the moon.
  141. Hippol., 73–87.
  142. It is needless to occupy space with the etymological guesses at the sense of the name "Dionysus." Greek, Sanskrit, and Assyrian have been tortured by the philologists, but refuse to give up their secret, and Curtis does not even offer a conjecture (Gr. Etym., 609).
  143. Preller, i. 544.
  144. i. 546.
  145. The birth of Dionysus is recorded (Iliad, xiv. 323; Hesiod, Theog., 940) without the story of the death of Semele, which occurs in Æschylus, Frg., 217–218; Eurip., Bacchæ, i, 3.
  146. Kuhn, Herabkunft, pp. 166–167, where it appears that the gods buy soma and place it on the right thigh of Indra.
  147. Tylor, Prim. Cult., i. 94; Early History of Mankind, p. 293.
  148. Bachofen, Das Mutterrecht, Stuttgart, 1861, p. 254.
  149. Plutarch, Quæst. Rom., 5.
  150. Dial. Deor., ix.
  151. Comp. Roscher's Lexikon, p. 1046.
  152. Lobeck, Aglaoph., p. 547, quoting Callimachus and Euphorio.
  153. Lobeck, p. 550.
  154. Admon., p. II; Nonnus, xxiv. 43; ap. Aglaoph., p. 555.
  155. Custom and Myth, p. 39.
  156. Cf. Demosthenes, Pro. Or., 313; Lobeck, pp. 556, 646, 700.
  157. Proclus in Crat., p. 115.
  158. Aglaoph., p. 616. "Onomacritum architectum istius mythi."
  159. Müller's Proleg., English transl., p. 319.
  160. Lobeck, Aglaoph., p. 671.
  161. Aglaoph., 625–630.
  162. Lycophron, 206, and the Scholiast.
  163. Op. cit., p. 322.
  164. Theodoretus, ap. Lobeck, p. 653. Observe the number of examples of daubing with clay in the mysteries here adduced by Lobeck, and compare the Mandan tribes described by Catlin in O-Kee-Pa, London, 1867, and by Theal in Kaffir Folk-Lore.
  165. Lactantius, v. 19, 15; Ovid, Fasti, iv. 211.
  166. Decharme, Mythologie de la Grece, p. 437. Compare Preller, i. 572, on tiefste Naturschmerz, and so forth.
  167. As to the torch-dances of the Maenads, compare Roscher, Lexikon, p. 1041, and Mannhardt, Wald und Feld Kultus, i. 534, for parallels in European folklore.
  168. Lobeck, Aglaoph., i. 244; Plato, Laws, vi. 782; Herodot, ii. 81. Porphyry says that this also was the rule of Pythagoras (Vita Pyth., 1630, p. 22).
  169. Herodot., ii. 42.
  170. Plutarch, Qu. Gr., 36.
  171. Op. cit., p. 431.
  172. Clemens Alex., Adhort., ii. 16–18; Nonnus, vi. 264; Diodorus, iv. 4, 3, 64.
  173. Ælian., H. A., xii. 34.
  174. O. Müller, Proleg., Engl. transl., 322, attributes the Tenedos Dionysus rites to "the Bœotic Achæan emigrants." Cf. Aglaoph., 674–677.
  175. Theocritus, Idyll xxvi.
  176. Pollux, iv. 86.
  177. Athenæus, xi. 476, A.
  178. Cf. Roscher, Lexikon, p. 1059; Robertson Smith on "Sacrifice," Encyc. Brit.
  179. Apollodorus, iii, 4, 9.
  180. "Dionysos selber Stier, Zicklein ist, und als Zagreus-kind selber den Opfertod erleidet." Ap. Roscher, p. 1059.
  181. De Is. et Os.
  182. Elton, Origins of English History, p. 2S0, and the authorities there quoted.
  183. Hesychius.
  184. Cf. Roscher, p. 1062.
  185. ii. 2, 5.
  186. Max. Tyr., 8, 1.
  187. See Thræmer in Roscher, pp. 1090–1143.
  188. xi. 325.
  189. xxiv. 74.
  190. Works and Days, 614.
  191. Bacchæ, 291, 296.
  192. Bacchæ, 73, 76.
  193. Bacchæ, 10–20.
  194. Bacchæ, 59.
  195. Bacchæ, 100–101.
  196. Iliad, v. 875, 880. This is stated explicitly in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo, where Athene is said to have been born from the head of Zeus (Pindar, Olympic Odes, vii.)
  197. Iliad, xxii. 227, xvii, 351; Od. iii. 372, v. 353; Iliad, vii. 59.
  198. Maury, Religion de la Grece, i. 256.
  199. Hesiod, Theog., 886, and the Scholiast.
  200. Lobeck, i. 613, note 2.
  201. See the Cronus myth.
  202. Proleg., Engl, transl., p. 308.
  203. Gill, Myths and Songs, p. 10.
  204. Cf. Dionysus.
  205. Welcker, i. 305.
  206. Griechische Götterlehre, Göttingen, 1857, i. 303.
  207. Op. cit., 311.
  208. The ancients themselves were in doubt whether Trito were the name of a river or mere, or whether the Cretan for the head was intended. See Odyssey, Butcher and Lang, note 10, p. 415, 4th edition.
  209. Op. cit., i. 303.
  210. Op. cit. i. 318.
  211. Mr. Ruskin's Queen of the Air is full of similar ingenuities.
  212. Nineteenth Century, October 1885, pp. 636, 639.
  213. Gr. Et., Engl, transl., i. 300.
  214. Preller, i. 151.
  215. Cf. Lauer, System der Griesch. Myth., Berlin, 1853, p. 220; Schwartz, Ursprung der Mythol., Berlin, 1860, p. 38.
  216. Paus., i. xxiv. 7.
  217. Ode, vii. 35, Myers.
  218. Cf. Schwartz, Ursprung, &c., pp. 68, 83.
  219. Iliad, v. 7, 18. 203.
  220. Iliad, iv. 74.
  221. Preller, i. 183.
  222. Preller, i. 179.
  223. Ovid, Metamorph., vi. 5–145.
  224. Pindar, Olymp., x. ad fin.
  225. Paus., vi, 262.
  226. Paus., iv. 34, 6.
  227. Roscher, in his Lexikon, s.v. Ægis, with his arguments there. Compare, on this subject of Athene as the goddess of a goat-stock, Robertson Smith on "Sacrifice" in the Encycl. Brit.
  228. Iliad, v. 312; Theog., 188–206.
  229. Paus., iii. 23, 1.
  230. So Roscher, Ausführ. Lexik, pp. 391, 647. See also Astarte, p. 655.
  231. Apollod., Bibliothec, iii. 14, 4.
  232. Aristoph., Lysistrata, 389; Mannhardt, Feld und Wald Kultus, ii. 276.
  233. i. 418; ii. 287.
  234. i. 435.
  235. Roscher, Lexikon, p. 406.
  236. Preller, i. 307. The name of Hermes is connected by Welcker (Greisch. Göt., i. 342) with ὁρμᾶν, and he gives other examples of the Æolic use of ο for ε. Compare Curtius's Greek Etymology, English translation, 1886, vol. i. p. 420. Kuhn compares ὁρμή with Indic Sarámā, and Sārāmējās, the son of the latter, with Ἑρμείας, ascribing to both the same meaning, "storm." Mr. Max Müller, on the other hand (Lectures, ii. 468), takes Hermes to be the son of the Dawn. Curtius reserves his opinion. Mr. Max Müller recognises Saramejas and Hermes as deities of twilight. Preller (i. 309) takes him for a god of dark and gloaming.
  237. Herod., ii. 51.
  238. Can the obscene story of Cicero (De Nat. Deor., iii. 22, 56) be a repetition of the sacred chapter, ἰρόν τινα λὀγον, by which Herodotus says the Pelasgians explained the attribute of the image?
  239. Artem., i. 45.
  240. Paus., vi. 26, 3.
  241. Homeric Hymns, iii. 2.
  242. But see Welcker, i. 343, for connection between his name and his pastoral functions.
  243. Pausanias, ii. 3, 4.
  244. For Hermes, god of herds and flocks, see Preller, i. 322–325.
  245. Pausanias, v. 27, 5.
  246. Iliad, xiv. 491; Od. 15, 319.
  247. See also Preller, i. 326, note 3.
  248. Hymn, 529. See Custom and Myth, "The Divining Rod."
  249. Preller, i. 316, note 2; Welcker, Gr. Göt., i. 338, and note II.
  250. Æsch., Prom. Vinct., 568.
  251. Odyssey, xxiv. 1–14.
  252. Preller, i. 330, and see the notes on the passage. The ceremonies were also reminiscent of the Deluge.
  253. Les Deux Masques, i. 316–326.
  254. Welcker, Griech. Gött., i, 385–387; Preller, i. 618, note 2; Maury, Rel. des Grècs, i. 69. Apparently Δὲ still means earth in Albanian; Max Müller, Selected Essays, ii. 428.
  255. Compare Maury, Religions de la Grèce, i. 72.
  256. Germania, 40, translation of 1622.
  257. Compare Tylor, Prim. Cult., ii, 273, with Father De Smet, Oregon Missions, New York, 1847, p. 351.
  258. Mariner's Tonga Islands, 1827, ii. 107. The Attic Eireicone may be studied in Mannhardt, Wald und Feld Cultus, ii. 212, and Aztec and Peruvian harvest rites of a similar character in Custom and Myth, pp. 17–20. See also Prim. Cult., ii. 306, for other examples.
  259. Welcker, ii. 468–470, a collection of such titles.
  260. Paus., ii. 35.
  261. Callaway, Izinyanga Zokubula, p. 362.
  262. For a collection of passages see Aglaophamus, 251–254.
  263. The same story was told of Cronus and Philyra, of Agni and a cow in the Satapatha Brahmana (English translation, i. 326), of Saranyu, daughter of Tvashtri, who "fled in the form of a mare." Vivasvat, in like manner, assumed the shape of a horse, and followed her. From their intercourse sprang the two Asvins. See Muir, Sanskrit Texts, v. 227, or Rig-Veda, x. 17, I. Here we touch a very curious point. Erinnys was an Arcadian cognomen of the Demeter, who was wedded as a mare (Paus., viii. 25). Now, Mr. Max Müller says that "Erinnys is the Vedic Saranyu, the Dawn," and we have seen that both Demeter Erinnys and Saranyu were wooed and won in the form of mares (Select Essays, i. 401, 492–622). The curious thing is that, having so valuable a proof in his hand as the common bestial amours of both Saranyu and Erinnys Demeter, Mr. Max Müller does not produce it. The Scandinavian horse-loves of Loki also recur to the memory. Prajapati's loves in the shape of a deer are familiar in the Brahmanas. If Saranyu = Erinnys, and both = Dawn, then a dawn-myth has been imported into the legend of Demeter, whom nobody, perhaps, will call a dawn-goddess. Schwartz, as usual, makes the myth a storm-myth, and Demeter a goddess of storms (Unsprung der Myth., p. 164).
  264. Paus., viii. 42. Compare viii. 25, 4, for the horse Arion, whom Demeter bore to Poseidon.
  265. Odyssey, xxiii. 295.
  266. Newton, Halicarnassus, plate lv., pp. 331, 371–391.
  267. De Smet, Oregon Missions, p. 359; Mr. Russell's "Report" in Major Campbell's Personal Narrative, 1864, pp. 55, 113.
  268. Tanner's Narrative, 1830, p. 155.
  269. New York, 1847.
  270. Tanner's Narrative, New York, 1830, pp. 192, 193.
  271. Schoolcraft, i, 318.
  272. The superstition about the food of the dead is found in New Zealand, Melanesia, Scotland, Finland, and among the Ojibbeways. Compare "Wandering Willie's" tale in Redgauntlet.
  273. Ruhnken, ap. Hignard, Les Hymnes Homériques, p. 292, Paris, 1864.
  274. Homeric Hymn, 480–482.
  275. Phædrus, 250.
  276. Plutarch, De Def. Orac., xxii.
  277. Lobeck, Aglaoph., 133.
  278. Cf. Curtius, Greek Etym., Engl. transl., i. 137–139.
  279. Gruppe, Griech. Culte und Mythus, p. 169, selects Iapetos, Kadmos, Kabeiros, Adonis, Baitylos, Typhon, Nysos (in Dionysus), Acheron, Kimmerians, and Gryps, as certainly Phœnician. But these are not the names of the high gods.
  280. I much regret that Herr Gruppe's work, nearly finished, I believe, on Greek Religion and Myth has not been published in time for me to profit by its learning in these volumes, and to correct such opinions as Herr Gruppe's book might induce me to modify. Some early sheets which, by the courtesy of the publisher, have reached me, show that it is a work of great interest and learning.