Page:Euripides the Rationalist.djvu/96

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fluctuating, unsystematic, varying between city and city, shrine and shrine, and ready even to accommodate itself by arbitrary modifications to different moods of the same mind, was fundamentally incompatible with regular and consistent theory of any kind. The religious creeds of modern Europe are themselves to a large extent made up of science and philosophy. If they come into collision with 'science' in a more limited sense, this is not because their supporters do not hold as strongly as their opponents the necessity of system and regularity in thought. But the religion or rather the religious atmosphere of paganism was not a creed at all, nor able to take any such form without self-destruction. The duty preached by the philosophers, and by Euripides as a public teacher known to be in sympathy with philosophers, was the duty of thinking on system, of not adopting, without evidence or investigation, contradictory hypotheses on different days of the month or at different stages of a journey; a duty which, as was seen with ever increasing clearness, would if pursued make it impossible to use at all such conceptions as 'Apollo', or 'Artemis', or 'Demeter', and reduce even 'Zeus' to the position of an inconvenient and misleading name.

That these were the views of Euripides, and that he desired to impress them upon others, would have been manifest to his fellow-citizens, if they had had no evidence but what he himself put forth. And in such a community as that of Athens, where the doings even of people inconspicuous and unimportant were better known than London knows her 'celebrities', where it was worth the while of a comedian to bring up before the assembled state such little personal jests as now would scarcely catch in a parish-meeting, much that was not meant for publication must nevertheless have been widely known about any man who had won his way to the privilege, confined by necessity to few, of being an exhibitor in the great dramatic festival. As to Euripides, that it was the purpose and effect of his plays to destroy the old religious beliefs, is repeatedly taken by Aristophanes for notorious. To dwell upon the evidence is unnecessary, as if not quite undisputed it is not really open to reasonable dispute; and the whole subject has recently been re-stated, with knowledge and skill upon which I at least cannot