Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 22, 1911.djvu/231

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

King Midas and his Ass s Ears. 201

niastis caput asininum esse Deiim nostrum ; ^^ and the famous graffito, now deposited in the library of the Collegio Romano in Rome, which is usually supposed to represent our Lord with the head of an ass, by some regarded as a mere vulgar caricature directed against a Christian of the second century, but possibly embalming a reminiscence of some cult such as we have been discussing.^'

It is well known that priest-dynasts were a widely spread feature of the primitive social and religious life of Asia Minor,5s and we may be certain that the Phrygian princes were priest-kings, like those of the Semites. They may well have been in the habit of wearing the skins of sacrificed or sacred animals to indicate communion with the deity ; and such theriomorphic cults were common in that region, — Amathus represented in bestial form, with huge ears, a pair of stumpy horns on the top of the head, and a lion skin knotted round him ; the deity at Ibreez, his cap adorned with several pairs of horns ; the lion-god at Boghaz-keui.^^ "We may take it as probable," says Professor Frazer, " that the oriental deities who are represented standing or sitting in human form on the backs of lions and other animals were originally indis- tinguishable from the beasts, and that the complete separation of the bestial from the human or divine shape was a consequence of that growth of knowledge and of power which led man in time to respect himself more and the brutes less.*^'^

To sum up the suggestions which I have made in this paper, — the story of Midas and his ass's ears seems, from the geographical provenience of the variants, to

^^ Apologet., cxvi.

^W. Smith, Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, vol. i., p. 149; Lanciani, Ancient Rome in the Light of Recent Discoveries, p. 122 ; Farrar, Life of Christ in Art, p. 94.

^* Frazer, Adottis, Attis, Osiris-, p. 109 note, pp. 12 et seq.

^^ Ibid., pp. 91, 94, 103, 107. ^^ Ibid., p. 107.