Page:Myth, Ritual, and Religion (Volume 1).djvu/317

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gists or learned Pagan defenders of Paganism in the first centuries during Christianity, and in the works of their opponents, the fathers of the Church. Though the fathers certainly do not understate the abominations of Paganism, and though the heathen apologists make free use of allegorical (and impossible) interpretations, the evidence of both is often useful and important.[1] The testimony of ancient art, vases, statues, pictures, and the descriptions of these where they no longer survive, are also of service and interest.

After this brief examination of the sources of our knowledge of Greek myth, we may approach the Homeric legends of the origin of things and the world's beginning. In Homer these matters are only referred to incidentally. He more than once calls Oceanus (that is, the fabled stream which flows all round the world, here regarded as a person) "the origin of the gods," "the origin of all things."[2] That Ocean is considered a person, and that he is not an allegory for water or the aqueous element, appears from the speech of Hera to Aphrodite: "I am going to visit the limits of the bountiful earth, and Oceanus, father of the gods, and mother Tethys, who reared me duly, and nurtured me in their halls, when far-seeing Zeus imprisoned Cronus beneath the earth and the unvintaged sea."[3] Homer does not appear to know Uranus as

  1. Gibbon's comment on the evidence is amusing: "Nous ne connaissons guère le système du Paganisme que par les poëtes, et par les pères de l'Église, les uns et les autres très adonnés aux fictions."—Essai sur l'Étude de la Littérature, p. 76 (Londres, 1762).
  2. Iliad, xiv. 201, 302, 246.
  3. In reading what Homer and Hesiod report about these matters, we must remember that all the forces and phenomena are conceived of