Page:The Mythology of the Aryan Nations.djvu/68

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36
MYTHOLOGY OF THE ARYAN NATIONS.
BOOK I.

Theogony, Nyx (night) is the mother of Hypnos, (sleep,) and Oneiros, (dream,) of Eris, (strife,) and Apate, (deceit,) and Mômos, (blame,) where we speak merely of sleeping and dreaming, and of evil deeds wrought in secrecy and darkness.[1]

Constant demand for new mythical narratives.If, again, the mythology of the Homeric poets, as handed down to us, points to an age long anterior to their own, yet the mythopoeic faculty still exerted itself, if not in the invention of myths altogether new, yet in the embellishment and expansion of the old. It was not easy to satisfy the appetite of an imaginative age which had no canon of historical criticism, and which constantly craved its fitting food. It was not easy to exhaust the vein opened in almost every mythical theme. The sun as toiling and suffering, the sky as brooding over and cherishing the earth, the light as gladdening and purifying all visible things, would suggest an infinity of details illustrating each original idea. The multiplication of miracles and marvels stimulated the desire for more ; and new labours were invented for Herakles, new loves for Zeus, as easily as their forefathers uttered the words to which the myths of Zeus and Herakles owed their existence. The mere fact of their human personification insured the growth of in- numerable fictions. If Zeus had the form and the passions of men, then the conditions of his life must be assimilated to theirs. He must have wife and children, he must have father and mother. The latter must be no less divine than himself; but as he is enthroned above them, they must belong to a dynasty which he has overthrown. Their defeat must have been preceded by a long and fierce struggle. Mighty beings of gigantic force must have fought on each side in that tremendous conflict ; but the victory must belong to the side which to brute force added wise forethought and prudent counsel.[2] Here would be the foundation for that marvellous supernatural machinery of which we have some indications in the Iliad, and which is drawn out with such careful detail in the Hesiodic Theogony. But Zeus, to whom there were children born in every land, must have his queen ; and the jealousy of Hêrê against Iô, or Semelê, or Alkmene would follow as a necessary consequence. The subject might be indefinitely expanded, and each subject would of itself suggest others ; but there was no fear that the poet should weary the patience of his hearers, if only his additions, whether of incident or detail, did not violate the laws of mythological credibility. Nothing

must be related of Herakles which was repugnant to the fundamental
  1. Max Müller, "Comparative Mythology," Chips from a German Workshop, ii. 64, et seq.
  2. Hence the mythical Prometheus.