Page:Books Condemned to be Burnt - James Anson Farrer.djvu/19

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3
Introduction.

avowed Agnostic, for he wrote a work on the gods, of which the very first remark was that the existence of gods at all he could not himself either affirm or deny. For this offensive sentiment his book was publicly burnt; but Protagoras, could he have foreseen the future, might have esteemed himself happy to have lived before the Christian epoch, when authors came to share with their works the purifying process of fire. The world grew less humane as well as less sensible as it grew older, and came to think more of orthodoxy than of any other condition of the mind.

The virtuous Romans appear to have been greater book-burners than the Greeks, both under the Repubhc and under the Empire. It was the Senate's function to condemn books to the flames, and the praetor's to see that it was done, generally in the Forum. But for this evil habit we might still possess many valuable works, such as the books attributed to Numa on Pontifical law (Livy xl.), and those eulogies of Pætus Thrasea and Helvidius, which were burnt, and their authors put to death, under the tyranny of Domitiao (Tacitus, Agricola 2). Let these cases suffice to connect the custom with Pagan Roriie, and to prove that this