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Title: Beacon Lights of History, Volume 01 - The Old Pagan Civilizations
Author: Lord, John, 1810-1894
Language: English
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To the Memory of






This Work




In preparing a new edition of Dr. Lord's great work, the "Beacon Lights
of History," it has been necessary to make some rearrangement of
lectures and volumes. Dr. Lord began with his volume on classic
"Antiquity," and not until he had completed five volumes did he return
to the remoter times of "Old Pagan Civilizations" (reaching back to
Assyria and Egypt) and the "Jewish Heroes and Prophets." These issued,
he took up again the line of great men and movements, and brought it
down to modern days.

The "Old Pagan Civilizations," of course, stretch thousands of years
before the Hebrews, and the volume so entitled would naturally be the
first. Then follows the volume on "Jewish Heroes and Prophets," ending
with St. Paul and the Christian Era. After this volume, which in any
position, dealing with the unique race of the Jews, must stand by
itself, we return to the brilliant picture of the Pagan centuries, in
"Ancient Achievements" and "Imperial Antiquity," the latter coming down
to the Fall of Rome in the fourth century A.D., which ends the era of
"Antiquity" and begins the "Middle Ages."

NEW YORK, September 15, 1902.


It has been my object in these Lectures to give the substance of
accepted knowledge pertaining to the leading events and characters of
history; and in treating such a variety of subjects, extending over a
period of more than six thousand years, each of which might fill a
volume, I have sought to present what is true rather than what is new.

Although most of these Lectures have been delivered, in some form,
during the last forty years, in most of the cities and in many of the
literary institutions of this country, I have carefully revised them
within the last few years, in order to avail myself of the latest light
shed on the topics and times of which they treat.

The revived and wide-spread attention given to the study of the Bible,
under the stimulus of recent Oriental travels and investigations, not
only as a volume of religious guidance, but as an authentic record of
most interesting and important events, has encouraged me to include a
series of Lectures on some of the remarkable men identified with
Jewish history.

Of course I have not aimed at an exhaustive criticism in these Biblical
studies, since the topics cannot be exhausted even by the most learned
scholars; but I have sought to interest intelligent Christians by a
continuous narrative, interweaving with it the latest accessible
knowledge bearing on the main subjects. If I have persisted in adhering
to the truths that have been generally accepted for nearly two thousand
years, I have not disregarded the light which has been recently shed on
important points by the great critics of the progressive schools.

I have not aimed to be exhaustive, or to give minute criticism on
comparatively unimportant points; but the passions and interests which
have agitated nations, the ideas which great men have declared, and the
institutions which have grown out of them, have not, I trust, been
uncandidly described, nor deductions from them illogically made.

Inasmuch as the interest in the development of those great ideas and
movements which we call Civilization centres in no slight degree in the
men who were identified with them, I have endeavored to give a faithful
picture of their lives in connection with the eras and institutions
which they represent, whether they were philosophers, ecclesiastics, or
men of action.

And that we may not lose sight of the precious boons which illustrious
benefactors have been instrumental in bestowing upon mankind, it has
been my chief object to present their services, whatever may have been
their defects; since it is for _services_ that most great men are
ultimately judged, especially kings and rulers. These services,
certainly, constitute the gist of history, and it is these which I have
aspired to show.







Ancient religions
Christianity not progressive
Jewish monotheism
Religion of Egypt
Its great antiquity
Its essential features
Complexity of Egyptian polytheism
Egyptian deities
The worship of the sun
The priestly caste of Egypt
Power of the priests
Future rewards and punishments
Morals of the Egyptians
Functions of the priests
Egyptian ritual of worship
Transmigration of souls
Animal worship
Effect of Egyptian polytheism on the Jews
Assyrian deities
Phoenician deities
Worship of the sun
Oblations and sacrifices
Idolatry the sequence of polytheism
Religion of the Persians
Character of the early Iranians
Comparative purity of the Persian religion



Religions of India
Antiquity of Brahmanism
Sanskrit literature
The Aryan races
Original religion of the Aryans
Aryan migrations
The Vedas
Ancient deities of India
Laws of Menu
Hindu pantheism
Corruption of Brahmanism
The Brahmanical caste
Character of the Brahmans
Rise of Buddhism
Experiences of Gautama
Travels of Buddha
His religious system
Spread of his doctrine
Buddhism a reaction against Brahmanism
Gloominess of Buddhism
Buddhism as a reform of morals
Sayings of Siddârtha
His rules
Failure of Buddhism in India



Religion of the Greeks and Romans
Greek myths
Greek priests
Greek divinities
Greek polytheism
Greek mythology
Adoption of Oriental fables
Greek deities the creation of poets
Peculiarities of the Greek gods
The Olympian deities
The minor deities
The Greeks indifferent to a future state
Augustine view of heathen deities
Artists vie with poets in conceptions of divine
Temple of Zeus in Olympia
Greek festivals
No sacred books among the Greeks
A religion without deities
Roman divinities
Peculiarities of Roman worship
Ritualism and hypocrisy
Character of the Roman



Early condition of China
Youth of Confucius
His public life
His reforms
His fame
His wanderings
His old age
His writings
His philosophy
His definition of a superior man
His ethics
His views of government
His veneration for antiquity
His beautiful character
His encouragement of learning
His character as statesman
His exaltation of filial piety
His exaltation of friendship
The supremacy of the State
Necessity of good men in office
Peaceful policy of Confucius
Veneration for his writings
His posthumous influence



Intellectual superiority of the Greeks
Early progress of philosophy
The Greek philosophy
The Ionian Sophoi
Thales and his principles
Diogenes of Apollonia
Heraclitus of Ephesus
Pythagoras and his school
Zeno of Elea
Empedocles and the Eleatics
Loftiness of the Greek philosopher
Progress of scepticism
The Sophists
His exposure of error
Socrates as moralist
The method of Socrates
His services to philosophy
His disciples
Ideas of Plato
Archer Butler on Plato
His services
The syllogism
The Epicureans
Sir James Mackintosh on Epicurus
The Stoics
Principles of the Stoical philosophy
Philosophy among the Romans



Mission of Socrates
Era of his birth; view of his times
His personal appearance and peculiarities
His lofty moral character
His sarcasm and ridicule of opponents
The Sophists
Neglect of his family
His friendship with distinguished people
His philosophic method
His questions and definitions
His contempt of theories
Imperfection of contemporaneous physical science
The Ionian philosophers
Socrates bases truth on consciousness
Uncertainty of physical inquiries in his day
Superiority of moral truth
Happiness, Virtue, Knowledge,--the Socratic trinity
The "daemon" of Socrates
His idea of God and Immortality
Socrates a witness and agent of God
Socrates compared with Buddha and Marcus Aurelius
His resemblance to Christ in life and teachings
Unjust charges of his enemies
His unpopularity
His trial and defence
His audacity
His condemnation
The dignity of his last hours
His easy death
Tardy repentance of the Athenians; statue by Lysippus
Posthumous influence



General popular interest in Art
Principles on which it is based
Phidias taken merely as a text
Not much known of his personal history
His most famous statues; Minerva and Olympian Jove
His peculiar excellences as a sculptor
Definitions of the word "Art"
Its representation of ideas of beauty and grace
The glory and dignity of art
The connection of plastic with literary art
Architecture, the first expression of art
Peculiarities of Egyptian and Assyrian architecture
Ancient temples, tombs, pyramids, and palaces
General features of Grecian architecture
The Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian orders
Simplicity and beauty of their proportions...
The horizontal lines of Greek and the vertical lines of
  Gothic architecture
Assyrian, Egyptian, and Indian sculpture
Superiority of Greek sculpture
Ornamentation of temples with statues of gods, heroes, and
  distinguished men
The great sculptors of antiquity
Their ideal excellence
Antiquity of painting in Babylon and Egypt
Its gradual development in Greece
Famous Grecian painters
Decline of art among the Romans
Art as seen in literature
Literature not permanent without art
Artists as a class
Art a refining influence rather than a moral power



Richness of Greek classic poetry
Greek lyrical poetry
Dramatic poetry
Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides
Greek comedy: Aristophanes
Roman poetry
Naevius, Plautus, Terence
Roman epic poetry: Virgil
Lyrical poetry: Horace, Catullus
Didactic poetry: Lucretius
Elegiac poetry: Ovid, Tibullus
Satire: Horace, Martial, Juvenal
Perfection of Greek prose writers
History: Herodotus
Thucydides, Xenophon
Roman historians
Julius Caesar
Learned men: Varro



Agapè, or Love Feast among the Early Christians _Frontispiece_
_After the painting by J.A. Mazerolle_.

Procession of the Sacred Bull Apis-Osiris
_After the painting by E.F. Bridgman_.

Driving Sacrificial Victims into the Fiery Mouth of Baal
_After the painting by Henri Motte_.

Apollo Belvedere
_From a photograph of the statue in the Vatican, Rome._

Confucian Temple, Forbidden City, Pekin
_From a photograph_.

The School of Plato
_After the painting by O. Knille_.

Socrates Instructing Alcibiades
_After the painting by H.F. Schopin_.

_From the bust in the National Museum, Naples_.

Pericles and Aspasia in the Studio of Phidias
_After the painting by Hector Le Roux_.

Zeuxis Choosing Models from among the Beauties of Kroton for his Picture
  of Helen
_After the painting by E. Pagliano_.

_From the bust in the National Museum, Naples_.

_From the statue in the Vatican, Rome_.






It is my object in this book on the old Pagan civilizations to present
the salient points only, since an exhaustive work is impossible within
the limits of these volumes. The practical end which I have in view is
to collate a sufficient number of acknowledged facts from which to draw
sound inferences in reference to the progress of the human race, and the
comparative welfare of nations in ancient and modern times.

The first inquiry we naturally make is in regard to the various
religious systems which were accepted by the ancient nations, since
religion, in some form or other, is the most universal of institutions,
and has had the earliest and the greatest influence on the condition and
life of peoples--that is to say, on their civilizations--in every
period of the world. And, necessarily, considering what is the object in
religion, when we undertake to examine any particular form of it which
has obtained among any people or at any period of time, we must ask, How
far did its priests and sages teach exalted ideas of Deity, of the soul,
and of immortality? How far did they arrive at lofty and immutable
principles of morality? How far did religion, such as was taught,
practically affect the lives of those who professed it, and lead them to
just and reasonable treatment of one another, or to holy contemplation,
or noble deeds, or sublime repose in anticipation of a higher and
endless life? And how did the various religions compare with what we
believe to be the true religion--Christianity--in its pure and ennobling
truths, its inspiring promises, and its quiet influence in changing and
developing character?

I assume that there is no such thing as a progressive Christianity,
except in so far as mankind grow in the realization of its lofty
principles; that there has not been and will not be any improvement on
the ethics and spiritual truths revealed by Jesus the Christ, but that
they will remain forever the standard of faith and practice. I assume
also that Christianity has elements which are not to be found in any
other religion,--such as original teachings, divine revelations, and
sublime truths. I know it is the fashion with many thinkers to maintain
that improvements on the Christian system are both possible and
probable, and that there is scarcely a truth which Christ and his
apostles declared which cannot be found in some other ancient religion,
when divested of the errors there incorporated with it. This notion I
repudiate. I believe that systems of religion are perfect or imperfect,
true or false, just so far as they agree or disagree with Christianity;
and that to the end of time all systems are to be measured by the
Christian standard, and not Christianity by any other system.

The oldest religion of which we have clear and authentic account is
probably the pure monotheism held by the Jews. Some nations have claimed
a higher antiquity for their religion--like the Egyptians and
Chinese--than that which the sacred writings of the Hebrews show to have
been communicated to Abraham, and to earlier men of God treated of in
those Scriptures; but their claims are not entitled to our full
credence. We are in doubt about them. The origin of religions is
enshrouded in mystical darkness, and is a mere speculation. Authentic
history does not go back far enough to settle this point. The primitive
religion of mankind I believe to have been revealed to inspired men,
who, like Shem, walked with God. Adam, in paradise, knew who God was,
for he heard His voice; and so did Enoch and Noah, and, more clearly
than all, Abraham. They believed in a personal God, maker of heaven and
earth, infinite in power, supreme in goodness, without beginning and
without end, who exercises a providential oversight of the world
which he made.

It is certainly not unreasonable to claim the greatest purity and
loftiness in the monotheistic faith of the Hebrew patriarchs, as handed
down to his children by Abraham, over that of all other founders of
ancient religious systems, not only since that faith was, as we believe,
supernaturally communicated, but since the fruit of that stock,
especially in its Christian development, is superior to all others. This
sublime monotheism was ever maintained by the Hebrew race, in all their
wanderings, misfortunes, and triumphs, except on occasions when they
partially adopted the gods of those nations with whom they came in
contact, and by whom they were corrupted or enslaved.

But it is not my purpose to discuss the religion of the Jews in this
connection, since it is treated in other volumes of this series, and
since everybody has access to the Bible, the earlier portions of which
give the true account not only of the Hebrews and their special
progenitor Abraham, but of the origin of the earth and of mankind; and
most intelligent persons are familiar with its details.

I begin my description of ancient religions with those systems with
which the Jews were more or less familiar, and by which they were more
or less influenced. And whether these religions were, as I think,
themselves corrupted forms of the primitive revelation to primitive man,
or, as is held by some philosophers of to-day, natural developments out
of an original worship of the powers of Nature, of ghosts of ancestral
heroes, of tutelar deities of household, family, tribe, nation, and so
forth, it will not affect their relation to my plan of considering this
background of history in its effects upon modern times, through Judaism
and Christianity.

       *       *       *       *       *

The first which naturally claims our attention is the religion of
ancient Egypt. But I can show only the main features and characteristics
of this form of paganism, avoiding the complications of their system and
their perplexing names as much as possible. I wish to present what is
ascertained and intelligible rather than what is ingenious and obscure.

The religion of Egypt is very old,--how old we cannot tell with
certainty. We know that it existed before Abraham, and with but few
changes, for at least two thousand years. Mariette places the era of the
first Egyptian dynasty under Menes at 5004 B.C. It is supposed that the
earliest form of the Egyptian religion was monotheistic, such as was
known later, however, only to a few of the higher priesthood. What the
esoteric wisdom really was we can only conjecture, since there are no
sacred books or writings that have come down to us, like the Indian
Vedas and the Persian Zend-Avesta. Herodotus affirms that he knew the
mysteries, but he did not reveal them.

But monotheism was lost sight of in Egypt at an earlier period than the
beginning of authentic history. It is the fate of all institutions to
become corrupt, and this is particularly true of religious systems. The
reason of this is not difficult to explain. The Bible and human
experience fully exhibit the course of this degradation. Hence, before
Abraham's visit to Egypt the religion of that land had degenerated into
a gross and complicated polytheism, which it was apparently for the
interest of the priesthood to perpetuate.

The Egyptian religion was the worship of the powers of Nature,--the sun,
the moon, the planets, the air, the storm, light, fire, the clouds, the
rivers, the lightning, all of which were supposed to exercise a
mysterious influence over human destiny. There was doubtless an
indefinite sense of awe in view of the wonders of the material universe,
extending to a vague fear of some almighty supremacy over all that could
be seen or known. To these powers of Nature the Egyptians gave names,
and made them divinities.

The Egyptian polytheism was complex and even contradictory. What it
lost in logical sequence it gained in variety. Wilkinson enumerates
seventy-three principal divinities, and Birch sixty-three; but there
were some hundreds of lesser gods, discharging peculiar functions and
presiding over different localities. Every town had its guardian deity,
to whom prayers or sacrifices were offered by the priests. The more
complicated the religious rites the more firmly cemented was the power
of the priestly caste, and the more indispensable were priestly services
for the offerings and propitiations.

Of these Egyptian deities there were eight of the first rank; but the
list of them differs according to different writers, since in the great
cities different deities were worshipped. These were Ammon--the
concealed god,--the sovereign over all (corresponding to the Jupiter of
the Romans), whose sacred city was Thebes. At a later date this god was
identified with Ammon Ra, the physical sun. Ra was the sun-god,
especially worshipped at Heliopolis,--the symbol of light and heat.
Kneph was the spirit of God moving over the face of the waters, whose
principal seat of worship was in Upper Egypt. Phtha was a sort of
artisan god, who made the sun, moon, and the earth, "the father of
beginnings;" his sign was the scarabaeus, or beetle, and his patron city
was Memphis. Khem was the generative principle presiding over the
vegetable world,--the giver of fertility and lord of the harvest. These
deities are supposed to have represented spirit passing into matter and
form,--a process of divine incarnation.

But the most popular deity was Osiris. His image is found standing on
the oldest monument, a form of Ra, the light of the lower world, and
king and judge of Hades. His worship was universal throughout Egypt, but
his chief temples were at Abydos and Philae. He was regarded as mild,
beneficent, and good. In opposition to him were Set, malignant and evil,
and Bes, the god of death. Isis, the wife and sister of Osiris, was a
sort of sun goddess, representing the productive power of Nature. Khons
was the moon god. Maut, the consort of Ammon, represented Nature. Sati,
the wife of Kneph, bore a resemblance to Juno. Nut was the goddess of
the firmament; Ma was the goddess of truth; Horus was the mediator
between creation and destruction.

But in spite of the multiplicity of deities, the Egyptian worship
centred in some form upon heat or fire, generally the sun, the most
powerful and brilliant of the forces of Nature. Among all the ancient
pagan nations the sun, the moon, and the planets, under different names,
whether impersonated or not, were the principal objects of worship for
the people. To these temples were erected, statues raised, and
sacrifices made.

No ancient nation was more devout, or more constant to the service of
its gods, than were the Egyptians; and hence, being superstitious, they
were pre-eminently under the control of priests, as the people were in
India. We see, chiefly in India and Egypt, the power of
caste,--tyrannical, exclusive, and pretentious,--and powerful in
proportion to the belief in a future state. Take away the belief in
future existence and future rewards and punishments, and there is not
much religion left. There may be philosophy and morality, but not
religion, which is based on the fear and love of God, and the destiny of
the soul after death. Saint Augustine, in his "City of God," his
greatest work, ridicules all gods who are not able to save the soul, and
all religions where future existence is not recognized as the most
important thing which can occupy the mind of man.

We cannot then utterly despise the religion of Egypt, in spite of the
absurdities mingled with it,--the multiplicity of gods and the doctrine
of metempsychosis,--since it included a distinct recognition of a future
state of rewards and punishments "according to the deeds done in the
body." On this belief rested the power of the priests, who were supposed
to intercede with the deities, and who alone were appointed to offer to
them sacrifices, in order to gain their favor or deprecate their wrath.
The idea of death and judgment was ever present to the thoughts of the
Egyptians, from the highest to the lowest, and must have modified their
conduct, stimulating them to virtue, and restraining them from vice; for
virtue and vice are not revelations,--they are instincts implanted in
the soul. No ancient teacher enjoined the duties based on an immutable
morality with more force than Confucius, Buddha, and Epictetus. Who in
any land or age has ignored the duties of filial obedience, respect to
rulers, kindness to the miserable, protection to the weak, honesty,
benevolence, sincerity, and truthfulness? With the discharge of these
duties, written on the heart, have been associated the favor of the
gods, and happiness in the future world, whatever errors may have crept
into theological dogmas and speculations.

Believing then in a future state, where sin would be punished and virtue
rewarded, and believing in it firmly and piously, the ancient Egyptians
were a peaceful and comparatively moral people. All writers admit their
industry, their simplicity of life, their respect for law, their loyalty
to priests and rulers. Hence there was permanence to their institutions,
for rapine, violence, and revolution were rare. They were not warlike,
although often engaged in war by the command of ambitious kings.
Generally the policy of their government was conservative and pacific.
Military ambition and thirst for foreign conquest were not the peculiar
sins of Egyptian kings; they sought rather to develop national
industries and resources. The occupation of the people was in
agriculture and the useful arts, which last they carried to considerable
perfection, especially in the working of metals, textile fabrics, and
ornamental jewelry. Their grand monuments were not triumphal arches, but
temples and mausoleums. Even the pyramids may have been built to
preserve the bodies of kings until the soul should be acquitted or
condemned, and therefore more religious in their uses than as mere
emblems of pride and power; and when monuments were erected to
perpetuate the fame of princes, their supreme design was to receive the
engraven memorials of the virtuous deeds of kings as fathers of
the people.

The priests, whose business it was to perform religious rites and
ceremonies to the various gods of the Egyptians, were extremely
numerous. They held the highest social rank, and were exempt from taxes.
They were clothed in white linen, which was kept scrupulously clean.
They washed their whole bodies twice a day; they shaved the head, and
wore no beard. They practised circumcision, which rite was of extreme
antiquity, existing in Egypt two thousand four hundred years before
Christ, and at least four hundred years before Abraham, and has been
found among primitive peoples all over the world. They did not make a
show of sanctity, nor were they ascetic like the Brahmans. They were
married, and were allowed to drink wine and to eat meat, but not fish
nor beans, which disturbed digestion. The son of a priest was generally
a priest also. There were grades of rank among the priesthood; but not
more so than in the Roman Catholic Church. The high-priest was a great
dignitary, and generally belonged to the royal family. The king himself
was a priest.

The Egyptian ritual of worship was the most complicated of all rituals,
and their literature and philosophy were only branches of theology.
"Religious observances," says Freeman Clarke, "were so numerous and so
imperative that the most common labors of daily life could not be
performed without a perpetual reference to some priestly regulation."
There were more religious festivals than among any other ancient nation.
The land was covered with temples; and every temple consecrated to a
single divinity, to whom some animal was sacred, supported a large body
of priests. The authorities on Egyptian history, especially Wilkinson,
speak highly, on the whole, of the morals of the priesthood, and of
their arduous and gloomy life of superintending ceremonies, sacrifices,
processions, and funerals. Their life was so full of minute duties and
restrictions that they rarely appeared in public, and their aspect as
well as influence was austere and sacerdotal.

One of the most distinctive features of the Egyptian religion was the
idea of the transmigration of souls,--that when men die; their souls
reappear on earth in various animals, in expiation of their sins. Osiris
was the god before whose tribunal all departed spirits appeared to be
judged. If evil preponderated in their lives, their souls passed into a
long series of animals until their sins were expiated, when the purified
souls, after thousands of years perhaps, passed into their old bodies.
Hence it was the great object of the Egyptians to preserve their mortal
bodies after death, and thus arose the custom of embalming them. It is
difficult to compute the number of mummies that have been found in
Egypt. If a man was wealthy, it cost his family as much as one thousand
dollars to embalm his body suitably to his rank. The embalmed bodies of
kings were preserved in marble sarcophagi, and hidden in gigantic

The most repulsive thing in the Egyptian religion was animal-worship. To
each deity some animal was sacred. Thus Apis, the sacred bull of
Memphis, was the representative of Osiris; the cow was sacred to Isis,
and to Athor her mother. Sheep were sacred to Kneph, as well as the
asp. Hawks were sacred to Ra; lions were emblems of Horus, wolves of
Anubis, hippopotami of Set. Each town was jealous of the honor of its
special favorites among the gods.

"The worst form of this animal worship," says Rawlinson, "was the belief
that a deity absolutely became incarnate in an individual animal, and so
remained until the animal's death. Such were the Apis bulls, of which a
succession was maintained at Memphis in the temple of Phtha, or,
according to others, of Osiris. These beasts, maintained at the cost of
the priestly communities in the great temples of their respective
cities, were perpetually adored and prayed to by thousands during their
lives, and at their deaths were entombed with the utmost care in huge
sarcophagi, while all Egypt went into mourning on their decease."

Such was the religion of Egypt as known to the Jews,--a complicated
polytheism, embracing the worship of animals as well as the powers of
Nature; the belief in the transmigration of souls, and a sacerdotalism
which carried ritualistic ceremonies to the greatest extent known to
antiquity, combined with the exaltation of the priesthood to such a
degree as to make priests the real rulers of the land, reminding us of
the spiritual despotism of the Middle Ages. The priests of Egypt ruled
by appealing to the fears of men, thus favoring a degrading
superstition. How far they taught that the various objects of worship
were symbols merely of a supreme power, which they themselves perhaps
accepted in their esoteric schools, we do not know. But the priests
believed in a future state of rewards and punishments, and thus
recognized the soul to be of more importance than the material body, and
made its welfare paramount over all other interests. This recognition
doubtless contributed to elevate the morals of the people, and to make
them religious, despite their false and degraded views of God, and their
disgusting superstitions.

The Jews could not have lived in Egypt four hundred years without being
influenced by the popular belief. Hence in the wilderness, and in the
days of kingly rule, the tendency to animal worship in the shape of the
golden calves, their love of ritualistic observances, and their easy
submission to the rule of priests. In one very important thing, however,
the Jews escaped a degrading superstition,--that of the transmigration
of souls; and it was perhaps the abhorrence by Moses of this belief that
made him so remarkably silent as to a future state. It is seemingly
ignored in the Old Testament, and hence many have been led to suppose
that the Jews did not believe in it. Certainly the most cultivated and
aristocratic sect--the Sadducees--repudiated it altogether; while the
Pharisees held to it. They, however, were products of a later age, and
had learned many things--good and bad--from surrounding nations or in
their captivities, which Moses did not attempt to teach the simple souls
that escaped from Egypt.

       *       *       *       *       *

Of the other religions with which the Jews came in contact, and which
more or less were in conflict with their own monotheistic belief, very
little is definitely known, since their sacred books, if they had any,
have not come down to us. Our knowledge is mostly confined to monuments,
on which the names of their deities are inscribed, the animals which
they worshipped, symbolic of the powers of Nature, and the kings and
priests who officiated in religious ceremonies. From these we learn or
infer that among the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Phoenicians religion
was polytheistic, but without so complicated or highly organized a
system as prevailed in Egypt. Only about twenty deities are alluded to
in the monumental records of either nation, and they are supposed to
have represented the sun, the moon, the stars, and various other powers,
to which were delegated by the unseen and occult supreme deity the
oversight of this world. They presided over cities and the elements of
Nature, like the rain, the thunder, the winds, the air, the water. Some
abode in heaven, some on the earth, and some in the waters under the
earth. Of all these graven images existed, carved by men's hands,--some
in the form of animals, like the winged bulls of Nineveh. In the very
earliest times, before history was written, it is supposed that the
religion of all these nations was monotheistic, and that polytheism was
a development as men became wicked and sensual. The knowledge of the one
God was gradually lost, although an indefinite belief remained that
there was a supreme power over all the other gods, at least a deity of
higher rank than the gods of the people, who reigned over them as
Lord of lords.

This deity in Assyria was Asshur. He is recognized by most authorities
as Asshur, a son of Shem and grandson of Noah, who was probably the hero
and leader of one of the early migrations, and, as founder of the
Assyrian Empire, gave it its name,--his own being magnified and deified
by his warlike descendants. Assyria was the oldest of the great empires,
occupying Mesopotamia,--the vast plain watered by the Tigris and
Euphrates rivers,--with adjacent countries to the north, west, and east.
Its seat was in the northern portion of this region, while that of
Babylonia or Chaldaea, its rival, was in the southern part; and although
after many wars freed from the subjection of Assyria, the institutions
of Babylonia, and especially its religion, were very much the same as
those of the elder empire. In Babylonia the chief god was called El, or
Il. In Babylon, although Bab-el, their tutelary god, was at the head of
the pantheon, his form was not represented, nor had he any special
temple for his worship. The Assyrian Asshur placed kings upon their
thrones, protected their armies, and directed their expeditions. In
speaking of him it was "Asshur, my Lord." He was also called "King of
kings," reigning supreme over the gods; and sometimes he was called the
"Father of the gods." His position in the celestial hierarchy
corresponds with the Zeus of the Greeks, and with the Jupiter of the
Romans. He was represented as a man with a horned cap, carrying a bow
and issuing from a winged circle, which circle was the emblem of
ubiquity and eternity. This emblem was also the accompaniment of
Assyrian royalty.

These Assyrian and Babylonian deities had a direct influence on the Jews
in later centuries, because traders on the Tigris pushed their
adventurous expeditions from the head of the Persian Gulf, either around
the great peninsula of Arabia, or by land across the deserts, and
settled in Canaan, calling themselves Phoenicians; and it was from the
descendants of these enterprising but morally debased people that the
children of Israel, returning from Egypt, received the most pertinacious
influences of idolatrous corruption. In Phoenicia the chief deity was
also called Bel, or Baal, meaning "Lord," the epithet of the one divine
being who rules the world, or the Lord of heaven. The deity of the
Egyptian pantheon, with whom Baal most nearly corresponds, was Ammon,
addressed as the supreme God.

Ranking after El in Babylon, Asshur in Assyria, and Baal in
Phoenicia,--all shadows of the same supreme God,--we notice among these
Mesopotamians a triad of the great gods, called Anu, Bel, and Hea. Anu,
the primordial chaos; Hea, life and intelligence animating matter; and
Bel, the organizing and creative spirit,--or, as Rawlinson thinks, "the
original gods of the earth, the heavens, and the waters, corresponding
in the main with the classical Pluto, Jupiter, and Neptune, who divided
between them the dominion over the visible creation." The god Bel, in
the pantheon of the Babylonians and Assyrians, is the God of gods, and
Father of gods, who made the earth and heaven. His title
expresses dominion.

In succession to the gods of this first trio,--Anu, Bel, and Hea,--was
another trio, named Siu, Shamas, and Vul, representing the moon, the
sun, and the atmosphere. "In Assyria and Babylon the moon-god took
precedence of the sun-god, since night was more agreeable to the
inhabitants of those hot countries than the day." Hence, Siu was the
more popular deity; but Shamas, the sun, as having most direct
reference to physical nature, "the lord of fire," "the ruler of the
day," was the god of battles, going forth with the armies of the king
triumphant over enemies. The worship of this deity was universal, and
the kings regarded him as affording them especial help in war. Vul, the
third of this trinity, was the god of the atmosphere, the god of
tempests,--the god who caused the flood which the Assyrian legends
recognize. He corresponds with the Jupiter Tonans of the Romans,--"the
prince of the power of the air," destroyer of crops, the scatterer of
the harvest, represented with a flaming sword; but as god of the
atmosphere, the giver of rain, of abundance, "the lord of fecundity," he
was beneficent as well as destructive.

All these gods had wives resembling the goddesses in the Greek
mythology,--some beneficent, some cruel; rendering aid to men, or
pursuing them with their anger. And here one cannot resist the
impression that the earliest forms of the Greek mythology were derived
from the Babylonians and Phoenicians, and that the Greek poets, availing
themselves of the legends respecting them, created the popular religion
of Greece. It is a mooted question whether the Greek civilization is
chiefly derived from Egypt, or from Assyria and Phoenicia,--probably
more from these old monarchies combined than from the original seat of
the Aryan race east of the Caspian Sea. All these ancient monarchies
had run out and were old when the Greeks began their settlements and

There was still another and inferior class of deities among the
Assyrians and Babylonians who were objects of worship, and were supposed
to have great influence on human affairs. These deities were the planets
under different names. The early study of astronomy among the dwellers
on the plains of Babylon and in Mesopotamia gave an astral feature to
their religion which was not prominent in Egypt. These astral deities
were Nin, or Bar (the Saturn of the Romans); and Merodach (Jupiter), the
august god, "the eldest son of Heaven," the Lord of battles. This was
the favorite god of Nebuchadnezzar, and epithets of the highest honor
were conferred upon him, as "King of heaven and earth," the "Lord of all
beings," etc. Nergal (Mars) was a war god, his name signifying "the
great Hero," "the King of battles." He goes before kings in their
military expeditions, and lends them assistance in the chase. His emblem
is the human-headed winged lion seen at the entrance of royal palaces.
Ista (Venus) was the goddess of beauty, presiding over the loves of both
men and animals, and was worshipped with unchaste rites. Nebo (Mercury)
had the charge over learning and culture,--the god of wisdom, who
"teaches and instructs."

There were other deities in the Assyrian and Babylonian pantheon whom I
need not name, since they played a comparatively unimportant part in
human affairs, like the inferior deities of the Romans, presiding over
dreams, over feasts, over marriage, and the like.

The Phoenicians, like the Assyrians, had their goddesses. Astoreth, or
Astarte, represented the great female productive principle, as Baal did
the male. It was originally a name for the energy of God, on a par with
Baal. In one of her aspects she represented the moon; but more commonly
she was the representative of the female principle in Nature, and was
connected more or less with voluptuous rites,--the equivalent of
Aphrodite, or Venus. Tanith also was a noted female deity, and was
worshipped at Carthage and Cyprus by the Phoenician settlers. The name
is associated, according to Gesenius, with the Egyptian goddess Nut, and
with the Grecian Artemis the huntress.

An important thing to be observed of these various deities is that they
do not uniformly represent the same power. Thus Baal, the Phoenician
sun-god, was made by the Greeks and Romans equivalent to Zeus, or
Jupiter, the god of thunder and storms. Apollo, the sun-god of the
Greeks, was not so powerful as Zeus, the god of the atmosphere; while in
Assyria and Phoenicia the sun-god was the greater deity. In Babylonia,
Shamas was a sun-god as well as Bel; and Bel again was the god of the
heavens, like Zeus.

While Zeus was the supreme deity in the Greek mythology, rather than
Apollo the sun, it seems that on the whole the sun was the prominent and
the most commonly worshipped deity of all the Oriental nations, as being
the most powerful force in Nature. Behind the sun, however, there was
supposed to be an indefinite creative power, whose form was not
represented, worshipped in no particular temple by the esoteric few who
were his votaries, and called the "Father of all the gods," "the Ancient
of days," reigning supreme over them all. This indefinite conception of
the Jehovah of the Hebrews seems to me the last flickering light of the
primitive revelation, shining in the souls of the most enlightened of
the Pagan worshippers, including perhaps the greatest of the monarchs,
who were priests as well as kings.

The most distinguishing feature in the worship of all the gods of
antiquity, whether among Egyptians, or Assyrians, or Babylonians, or
Phoenicians, or Greeks, or Romans, is that of oblations and sacrifices.
It was even a peculiarity of the old Jewish religion, as well as that of
China and India. These oblations and sacrifices were sometimes offered
to the deity, whatever his form or name, as an expiation for sin, of
which the soul is conscious in all ages and countries; sometimes to
obtain divine favor, as in military expeditions, or to secure any object
dearest to the heart, such as health, prosperity, or peace; sometimes to
propitiate the deity in order to avert the calamities following his
supposed wrath or vengeance. The oblations were usually in the form of
wine, honey, or the fruits of the earth, which were supposed to be
necessary for the nourishment of the gods, especially in Greece. The
sacrifices were generally of oxen, sheep, and goats, the most valued and
precious of human property in primitive times, for those old heathen
never offered to their deities that which cost them nothing, but rather
that which was dearest to them. Sometimes, especially in Phoenicia,
human beings were offered in sacrifice, the most repulsive peculiarity
of polytheism. But the instincts of humanity generally kept men from
rites so revolting. Christianity, as one of its distinguishing features,
abolished all forms of outward sacrifice, as superstitious and useless.
The sacrifices pleasing to God are a broken spirit, as revealed to David
and Isaiah amid all the ceremonies and ritualism of Jewish worship, and
still more to Paul and Peter when the new dispensation was fully
declared. The only sacrifice which Christ enjoined was self-sacrifice,
supreme devotion to a spiritual and unseen and supreme God, and to his
children: as the Christ took upon himself the form of a man, suffering
evil all his days, and finally even an ignominious death, in obedience
to his Father's will, that the world might be saved by his own

With sacrifices as an essential feature of all the ancient religions, if
we except that of Persia in the time of Zoroaster, there was need of an
officiating priesthood. The priests in all countries sought to gain
power and influence, and made themselves an exclusive caste, more or
less powerful as circumstances favored their usurpations. The priestly
caste became a terrible power in Egypt and India, where the people, it
would seem, were most susceptible to religious impressions, were most
docile and most ignorant, and had in constant view the future welfare of
their souls. In China, where there was scarcely any religion at all,
this priestly power was unknown; and it was especially weak among the
Greeks, who had no fear of the future, and who worshipped beauty and
grace rather than a spiritual god. Sacerdotalism entered into
Christianity when it became corrupted by the lust of dominion and power,
and with great force ruled the Christian world in times of ignorance and
superstition. It is sad to think that the decline of sacerdotalism is
associated with the growth of infidelity and religious indifference,
showing how few worship God in spirit and in truth even in Christian
countries. Yet even that reaction is humanly natural; and as it so
surely follows upon epochs of priestcraft, it may be a part of the
divine process of arousing men to the evils of superstition.

Among all nations where polytheism prevailed, idolatry became a natural
sequence,--that is, the worship of animals and of graven images, at
first as symbols of the deities that were worshipped, generally the sun,
moon, and stars, and the elements of Nature, like fire, water, and air.
But the symbols of divine power, as degeneracy increased and ignorance
set in, were in succession worshipped as deities, as in India and Africa
at the present day. This is the lowest form of religion, and the most
repulsive and degraded which has prevailed in the world,--showing the
enormous difference between the primitive faiths and the worship which
succeeded, growing more and more hideous with the progress of ages,
until the fulness of time arrived when God sent reformers among the
debased people, more or less supernaturally inspired, to declare new
truth, and even to revive the knowledge of the old in danger of being
utterly lost.

It is a pleasant thing to remember that the religions thus far treated,
as known to the Jews, and by which they were more or less contaminated,
have all passed away with the fall of empires and the spread of divine
truth; and they never again can be revived in the countries where they
nourished. Mohammedanism, a monotheistic religion, has taken their
place, and driven the ancient idols to the moles and the bats; and where
Mohammedanism has failed to extirpate ancient idolatries, Christianity
in some form has come in and dethroned them forever.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was one form of religion with which the Jews came in contact which
was comparatively pure; and this was the religion of Persia, the
loftiest form of all Pagan beliefs.

The Persians were an important branch of the Iranian family. "The
Iranians were the dominant race throughout the entire tract lying
between the Suliman mountains and the Pamir steppe on the one hand, and
the great Mesopotamian valley on the other." It was a region of great
extremes of temperature,--the summers being hot, and the winters
piercingly cold. A great part of this region is an arid and frightful
desert; but the more favored portions are extremely fertile. In this
country the Iranians settled at a very early period, probably 2500 B.C.,
about the time the Hindus emigrated from Central Asia to the banks of
the Indus. Both Iranians and Hindus belonged to the great Aryan or
Indo-European race, whose original settlements were on the high
table-lands northeast of Samarkand, in the modern Bokhara, watered by
the Oxus, or Amon River. From these rugged regions east of the Caspian
Sea, where the means of subsistence are difficult to be obtained, the
Aryans emigrated to India on the southeast, to Iran on the southwest, to
Europe on the west,--all speaking substantially the same language.

Of those who settled in Iran, the Persians were the most prominent,--a
brave, hardy, and adventurous people, warlike in their habits, and moral
in their conduct. They were a pastoral rather than a nomadic people, and
gloried in their horses and cattle. They had great skill as archers and
horsemen, and furnished the best cavalry among the ancients. They lived
in fixed habitations, and their houses had windows and fireplaces; but
they were doomed to a perpetual struggle with a severe and uncertain
climate, and a soil which required ceaseless diligence. "The whole
plateau of Iran," says Johnson, "was suggestive of the war of
elements,--a country of great contrasts of fertility and
desolation,--snowy ranges of mountains, salt deserts, and fields of
beauty lying in close proximity."

The early Persians are represented as having oval faces, raised
features, well-arched eyebrows, and large dark eyes, now soft as the
gazelle's, now flashing with quick insight. Such a people were extremely
receptive of modes and fashions,--the aptest learners as well as the
boldest adventurers; not patient in study nor skilful to invent, but
swift to seize and appropriate, terrible breakers-up of old religious
spells. They dissolved the old material civilization of Cushite and
Turanian origin. What passion for vast conquests! "These rugged tribes,
devoted to their chiefs, led by Cyrus from their herds and
hunting-grounds to startle the pampered Lydians with their spare diet
and clothing of skins; living on what they could get, strangers to wine
and wassail, schooled in manly exercises, cleanly even to superstition,
loyal to age and filial duties; with a manly pride of personal
independence that held a debt the next worst thing to a lie; their
fondness for social graces, their feudal dignities, their chiefs giving
counsel to the king even while submissive to his person, esteeming
prowess before praying; their strong ambition, scorning those who
scorned toil." Artaxerxes wore upon his person the worth of twelve
thousand talents, yet shared the hardships of his army in the march,
carrying quiver and shield, leading the way to the steepest places, and
stimulating the hearts of his soldiers by walking twenty-five miles
a day.

There was much that is interesting about the ancient Persians. All the
old authorities, especially Herodotus, testify to the comparative purity
of their lives, to their love of truth, to their heroism in war, to the
simplicity of their habits, to their industry and thrift in battling
sterility of soil and the elements of Nature, to their love of
agricultural pursuits, to kindness towards women and slaves, and above
all other things to a strong personality of character which implied a
powerful will. The early Persians chose the bravest and most capable of
their nobles for kings, and these kings were mild and merciful. Xenophon
makes Cyrus the ideal of a king,--the incarnation of sweetness and
light, conducting war with a magnanimity unknown to the ancient nations,
dismissing prisoners, forgiving foes, freeing slaves, and winning all
hearts by a true nobility of nature. He was a reformer of barbarous
methods of war, and as pure in morals as he was powerful in war. In
short, he had all those qualities which we admire in the chivalric
heroes of the Middle Ages.

There was developed among this primitive and virtuous people a religion
essentially different from that of Assyria and Egypt, with which is
associated the name of Zoroaster, or Zarathushtra. Who this
extraordinary personage was, and when he lived, it is not easy to
determine. Some suppose that he did not live at all. It is most probable
that he lived in Bactria from 1000 to 1500 B.C.; but all about him is
involved in hopeless obscurity.

The Zend-Avesta, or the sacred books of the Persians, are mostly hymns,
prayers, and invocations addressed to various deities, among whom Ormazd
was regarded as supreme. These poems were first made known to European
scholars by Anquetil du Perron, an enthusiastic traveller, a little more
than one hundred years ago, and before the laws of Menu were translated
by Sir William Jones. What we know about the religion of Persia is
chiefly derived from the Zend-Avesta. _Zend_ is the interpretation of
the Avesta. The oldest part of these poems is called the Gâthâs,
supposed to have been composed by Zoroaster about the time of Moses.

As all information about Zoroaster personally is unsatisfactory, I
proceed to speak of the religion which he is supposed to have given to
the Iranians, according to Dr. Martin Haug, the great authority on
this subject.

Its peculiar feature was dualism,--two original uncreated principles;
one good, the other evil. Both principles were real persons, possessed
of will, intelligence, power, consciousness, engaged from all eternity
in perpetual contest. The good power was called Ahura-Mazda, and the
evil power was called Angro-Mainyus. Ahura-Mazda means the "Much-knowing
spirit," or the All-wise, the All-bountiful, who stood at the head of
all that is beneficent in the universe,--"the creator of life," who made
the celestial bodies and the earth, and from whom came all good to man
and everlasting happiness. Angro-Mainyus means the black or dark
intelligence, the creator of all that is evil, both moral and physical.
He had power to blast the earth with barrenness, to produce earthquakes
and storms, to inflict disease and death, destroy flocks and the fruits
of the earth, excite wars and tumults; in short, to send every form of
evil on mankind. Ahura-Mazda had no control over this Power of evil; all
he could do was to baffle him.

These two deities who divided the universe between them had each
subordinate spirits or genii, who did their will, and assisted in the
government of the universe,--corresponding to our idea of angels
and demons.

Neither of these supreme deities was represented by the early Iranians
under material forms; but in process of time corruption set in, and
Magism, or the worship of the elements of Nature, became general. The
elements which were worshipped were fire, air, earth, and water.
Personal gods, temples, shrines, and images were rejected. But the most
common form of worship was that of fire, in Mithra, the genius of light,
early identified with the sun. Hence, practically, the supreme god of
the Persians was the same that was worshipped in Assyria and Egypt and
India,--the sun, under various names; with this difference, that in
Persia there were no temples erected to him, nor were there graven
images of him. With the sun was associated a supreme power that presided
over the universe, benignant and eternal. Fire itself in its pure
universality was more to the Iranians than any form. "From the sun,"
says the Avesta, "are all things sought that can be desired." To fire,
the Persian kings addressed their prayers. Fire, or the sun, was in the
early times a symbol of the supreme Power, rather than the Power itself,
since the sun was created by Ahura-Mazda (Ormazd). It was to him that
Zoroaster addressed his prayers, as recorded in the Gâthâs. "I worship,"
said he, "the Creator of all things, Ahura-Mazda, full of light....
Teach thou me, Ahura-Mazda, out of thyself, from heaven by thy mouth,
whereby the world first arose." Again, from the Khorda-Avesta we read:
"In the name of God, the giver, forgiver, rich in love, praise be to the
name of Ormazd, who always was, always is, and always will be; from whom
alone is derived rule." From these and other passages we infer that the
religion of the Iranians was monotheistic. And yet the sun also was
worshipped under the name of Mithra. Says Zoroaster: "I invoke Mithra,
the lofty, the immortal, the pure, the sun, the ruler, the eye of
Ormazd." It would seem from this that the sun was identified with the
Supreme Being. There was no other power than the sun which was
worshipped. There was no multitude of gods, nothing like polytheism,
such as existed in Egypt. The Iranians believed in one supreme, eternal
God, who created all things, beneficent and all-wise; yet this supreme
power was worshipped under the symbol of the sun, although the sun was
created by him. This confounding the sun with a supreme and intelligent
being makes the Iranian religion indefinite, and hard to be
comprehended; but compared with the polytheism of Egypt and Babylon, it
is much higher and purer. We see in it no degrading rites, no offensive
sacerdotalism, no caste, no worship of animals or images; all is
spiritual and elevated, but little inferior to the religion of the
Hebrews. In the Zend-Avesta we find no doctrines; but we do find prayers
and praises and supplication to a Supreme Being. In the Vedas--the Hindu
books--the powers of Nature are gods; in the Avesta they are spirits, or
servants of the Supreme.

"The main difference between the Vedic and Avestan religions is that in
the latter the Vedic worship of natural powers and phenomena is
superseded by a more ethical and personal interest. Ahura-Mazda
(Ormazd), the living wisdom, replaces Indra, the lightning-god. In Iran
there grew up, what India never saw, a consciousness of world-purpose,
ethical and spiritual; a reference of the ideal to the future rather
than the present; a promise of progress; and the idea that the law of
the universe means the final deliverance of good from evil, and its
eternal triumph." [1]

[Footnote 1: Samuel Johnson's Religion of Persia.]

The loftiness which modern scholars like Haug, Lenormant, and Spiegel
see in the Zend-Avesta pertains more directly to the earlier portions of
these sacred writings, attributable to Zoroaster, called the Gâthâs. But
in the course of time the Avesta was subjected to many additions and
interpretations, called the Zend, which show degeneracy. A world of myth
and legend is crowded into liturgical fragments. The old Bactrian tongue
in which the Avesta was composed became practically a dead language.
There entered into the Avesta old Chaldaean traditions. It would be
strange if the pure faith of Zoroaster should not be corrupted after
Persia had conquered Babylon, and even after its alliance with Media,
where the Magi had great reputation for knowledge. And yet even with the
corrupting influence of the superstitions of Babylon, to say nothing of
Media, the Persian conquerors did not wholly forget the God of their
fathers in their old Bactrian home. And it is probable that one reason
why Cyrus and Darius treated the Jews with so much kindness and
generosity was the sympathy they felt for the monotheism of the Jewish
religion in contrast with the polytheism and idolatry of the conquered
Babylonians. It is not unreasonable to suppose that both the Persians
and Jews worshipped substantially the one God who made the heaven and
the earth, notwithstanding the dualism which entered into the Persian
religion, and the symbolic worship of fire which is the most powerful
agent in Nature; and it is considered by many that from the Persians the
Jews received, during their Captivity, their ideas concerning a personal
Devil, or Power of Evil, of which no hint appears in the Law or the
earlier Prophets. It would certainly seem to be due to that monotheism
which modern scholars see behind the dualism of Persia, as an elemental
principle of the old religion of Iran, that the Persians were the
noblest people of Pagan antiquity, and practised the highest morality
known in the ancient world. Virtue and heroism went hand in hand; and
both virtue and heroism were the result of their religion. But when the
Persians became intoxicated with the wealth and power they acquired on
the fall of Babylon, then their degeneracy was rapid, and their faith
became obscured. Had it been the will of Providence that the Greeks
should have contended with the Persians under the leadership of
Cyrus,--the greatest Oriental conqueror known in history,--rather than
under Xerxes, then even an Alexander might have been baffled. The great
mistake of the Persian monarchs in their degeneracy was in trusting to
the magnitude of their armies rather than in their ancient discipline
and national heroism. The consequence was a panic, which would not have
taken place under Cyrus, whenever they met the Greeks in battle. It was
a panic which dispersed the Persian hosts in the fatal battle of Arbela,
and made Alexander the master of western Asia. But degenerate as the
Persians became, they rallied under succeeding dynasties, and in
Artaxerxes II. and Chosroes the Romans found, in their declining
glories, their most formidable enemies.

Though the brightness of the old religion of Zoroaster ceased to shine
after the Persian conquests, and religious rites fell into the hands of
the Magi, yet it is the only Oriental religion which entered into
Christianity after its magnificent triumph, unless we trace early
monasticism to the priests of India. Christianity had a hard battle with
Gnosticism and Manichaeism,--both of Persian origin,--and did not come
out unscathed. No Grecian system of philosophy, except Platonism,
entered into the Christian system so influentially as the disastrous
Manichaean heresy, which Augustine combated. The splendid mythology of
the Greeks, as well as the degrading polytheism of Egypt, Assyria, and
Phoenicia, passed away before the power of the cross; but Persian
speculations remained. Even Origen, the greatest scholar of Christian
antiquity, was tainted with them. And the mighty myths of the origin of
evil, which perplexed Zoroaster, still remain unsolved; but the belief
of the final triumph of good over evil is common to both Christians and
the disciples of the Bactrian sage.

       *       *       *       *       *


Rawlinson's Egypt and Babylon; History of Babylonia, by A.H. Sayce;
Smith's Dictionary of the Bible; Rawlinson's Herodotus; George Smith's
History of Babylonia; Lenormant's Manuel d'Histoire Ancienne; Layard's
Nineveh and Babylon; Journal of Royal Asiatic Society; Heeren's Asiatic
Nations; Dr. Pusey's Lectures on Daniel; Birch's Egypt from the Earliest
Times; Brugsch's History of Egypt; Records of the Past; Rawlinson's
History of Ancient Egypt; Wilkinson's Ancient Egyptians; Sayce's Ancient
Empires of the East; Rawlinson's Religions of the Ancient World; James
Freeman Clarke's Ten Great Religions; Religion of Ancient Egypt, by P.
Le Page Renouf; Moffat's Comparative History of Religions; Bunsen's
Egypt's Place in History; Persia, from the Earliest Period, by W. S. W.
Vaux; Johnson's Oriental Religions; Haug's Essays; Spiegel's Avesta.

The above are the more prominent authorities; but the number of books on
ancient religions is very large.



That form of ancient religion which has of late excited the most
interest is Buddhism. An inquiry into its characteristics is especially
interesting, since so large a part of the human race--nearly five
hundred millions out of the thirteen hundred millions--still profess to
embrace the doctrines which were taught by Buddha, although his religion
has become so corrupted that his original teachings are nearly lost
sight of. The same may be said of the doctrines of Confucius. The
religions of ancient Egypt, Assyria, and Greece have utterly passed
away, and what we have had to say of these is chiefly a matter of
historic interest, as revealing the forms assumed by the human search
for a supernatural Ruler when moulded by human ambitions, powers, and
indulgence in the "lust of the eye and the pride of life," rather than
by aspirations toward the pure and the spiritual.

Buddha was the great reformer of the religious system of the Hindus,
although he lived nearly fifteen hundred or two thousand years after the
earliest Brahmanical ascendency. But before we can appreciate his work
and mission, we must examine the system he attempted to reform, even as
it is impossible to present the Protestant Reformation without first
considering mediaeval Catholicism before the time of Luther. It was the
object of Buddha to break the yoke of the Brahmans, and to release his
countrymen from the austerities, the sacrifices, and the rigid
sacerdotalism which these ancient priests imposed, without essentially
subverting ancient religious ideas. He was a moralist and reformer,
rather than the founder of a religion.

Brahmanism is one of the oldest religions of the world. It was
flourishing in India at a period before history was written. It was
coeval with the religion of Egypt in the time of Abraham, and perhaps at
a still earlier date. But of its earliest form and extent we know
nothing, except from the sacred poems of the Hindus called the Vedas,
written in Sanskrit probably fifteen hundred years before Christ,--for
even the date of the earliest of the Vedas is unknown. Fifty years ago
we could not have understood the ancient religions of India. But Sir
William Jones in the latter part of the last century, a man of immense
erudition and genius for the acquisition of languages, at that time an
English judge in India, prepared the way for the study of Sanskrit, the
literary language of ancient India, by the translation and publication
of the laws of Menu. He was followed in his labors by the Schlegels of
Germany, and by numerous scholars and missionaries. Within fifty years
this ancient and beautiful language has been so perseveringly studied
that we know something of the people by whom it was once spoken,--even
as Egyptologists have revealed something of ancient Egypt by
interpreting the hieroglyphics; and Chaldaean investigators have found
stores of knowledge in the Babylonian bricks.

The Sanskrit, as now interpreted, reveals to us the meaning of those
poems called Vedas, by which we are enabled to understand the early laws
and religion of the Hindus. It is poetry, not history, which makes this
revelation, for the Hindus have no history farther back than five or six
hundred years before Christ. It is from Homer and Hesiod that we get an
idea of the gods of Greece, not from Herodotus or Xenophon.

From comparative philology, a new science, of which Prof. Max Müller is
one of the greatest expounders, we learn that the roots of various
European languages, as well as of the Latin and Greek, are
substantially the same as those of the Sanskrit spoken by the Hindus
thirty-five hundred years ago, from which it is inferred that the Hindus
were a people of like remote origin with the Greeks, the Italic races
(Romans, Italians, French), the Slavic races (Russian, Polish,
Bohemian), the Teutonic races of England and the Continent, and the
Keltic races. These are hence alike called the Indo-European races; and
as the same linguistic roots are found in their languages and in the
Zend-Avesta, we infer that the ancient Persians, or inhabitants of Iran,
belonged to the same great Aryan race.

The original seat of this race, it is supposed, was in the high
table-lands of Central Asia, in or near Bactria, east of the Caspian
Sea, and north and west of the Himalaya Mountains. This country was so
cold and sterile and unpropitious that winter predominated, and it was
difficult to support life. But the people, inured to hardship and
privation, were bold, hardy, adventurous, and enterprising.

It is a most interesting process, as described by the philologists,
which has enabled them, by tracing the history of words through their
various modifications in different living languages, to see how the
lines of growth converge as they are followed back to the simple Aryan
roots. And there, getting at the meanings of the things or thoughts the
words originally expressed, we see revealed, in the reconstruction of a
language that no longer exists, the material objects and habits of
thought and life of a people who passed away before history began,--so
imperishable are the unconscious embodiments of mind, even in the airy
and unsubstantial forms of unwritten speech! By this process, then, we
learn that the Aryans were a nomadic people, and had made some advance
in civilization. They lived in houses which were roofed, which had
windows and doors. Their common cereal was barley, the grain of cold
climates. Their wealth was in cattle, and they had domesticated the cow,
the sheep, the goat, the horse, and the dog. They used yokes, axes, and
ploughs. They wrought in various metals; they spun and wove, navigated
rivers in sailboats, and fought with bows, lances, and swords. They had
clear perceptions of the rights of property, which were based on land.
Their morals were simple and pure, and they had strong natural
affections. Polygamy was unknown among them. They had no established
sacerdotal priesthood. They worshipped the powers of Nature, especially
fire, the source of light and heat, which they so much needed in their
dreary land. Authorities differ as to their primeval religion, some
supposing that it was monotheistic, and others polytheistic, and others
again pantheistic.

Most of the ancient nations were controlled more or less by priests,
who, as their power increased, instituted a caste to perpetuate their
influence. Whether or not we hold the primitive religion of mankind to
have been a pure theism, directly revealed by God,--which is my own
conviction,--it is equally clear that the form of religion recorded in
the earliest written records of poetry or legend was a worship of the
sun and moon and planets. I believe this to have been a corruption of
original theism; many think it to have been a stage of upward growth in
the religious sense of primitive man. In all the ancient nations the
sun-god was a prominent deity, as the giver of heat and light, and hence
of fertility to the earth. The emblem of the sun was fire, and hence
fire was deified, especially among the Hindus, under the name of
Agni,--the Latin _ignis_.

Fire, caloric, or heat in some form was, among the ancient nations,
supposed to be the _animus mundi_. In Egypt, as we have seen, Osiris,
the principal deity, was a form of Ra, the sun-god. In Assyria, Asshur,
the substitute for Ra, was the supreme deity. In India we find Mitra,
and in Persia Mithra, the sun-god, among the prominent deities, as
Helios was among the Greeks, and Phoebus Apollo among the Romans. The
sun was not always the supreme divinity, but invariably held one of the
highest places in the Pagan pantheon.

It is probable that the religion of the common progenitors of the
Hindus, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Kelts, Teutons, and Slavs, in their
hard and sterile home in Central Asia, was a worship of the powers of
Nature verging toward pantheism, although the earliest of the Vedas
representing the ancient faith seem to recognize a supreme power and
intelligence--God--as the common father of the race, to whom prayers and
sacrifices were devoutly offered. Freeman Clarke quotes from Müller's
"Ancient Sanskrit Literature" one of the hymns in which the unity of God
is most distinctly recognized:--

"In the beginning there arose the Source of golden light. He was the
only Lord of all that is. He established the earth and sky. Who is the
God to whom we shall offer our sacrifices? It is he who giveth life, who
giveth strength, who governeth all men; through whom heaven was
established, and the earth created."

But if the Supreme God whom we adore was recognized by this ancient
people, he was soon lost sight of in the multiplied manifestations of
his power, so that Rawlinson thinks[2] that when the Aryan race
separated in their various migrations, which resulted in what we call
the Indo-European group of races, there was no conception of a single
supreme power, from whom man and nature have alike their origin, but
Nature-worship, ending in an extensive polytheism,--as among the
Assyrians and Egyptians.

[Footnote 2: Religions of the Ancient World, p. 105.]

As to these Aryan migrations, we do not know when a large body crossed
the Himalaya Mountains, and settled on the banks of the Indus, but
probably it was at least two thousand years before Christ. Northern
India had great attractions to those hardy nomadic people, who found it
so difficult to get a living during the long winters of their primeval
home. India was a country of fruits and flowers, with an inexhaustible
soil, favorable to all kinds of production, where but little manual
labor was required,--a country abounding in every kind of animals, and
every kind of birds; a land of precious stones and minerals, of hills
and valleys, of majestic rivers and mountains, with a beautiful climate
and a sunny sky. These Aryan conquerors drove before them the aboriginal
inhabitants, who were chiefly Mongolians, or reduced them to a degrading
vassalage. The conquering race was white, the conquered was dark, though
not black; and this difference of color was one of the original causes
of Indian caste.

It was some time after the settlement of the Aryans on the banks of the
Indus and the Ganges before the Vedas were composed by the poets, who as
usual gave form to religious belief, as they did in Persia and Greece.
These poems, or hymns, are pantheistic. "There is no recognition," says
Monier Williams, "of a Supreme God disconnected with the worship of
Nature." There was a vague and indefinite worship of the Infinite under
various names, such as the sun, the sky, the air, the dawn, the winds,
the storms, the waters, the rivers, which alike charmed and terrified,
and seemed to be instinct with life and power. God was in all things,
and all things in God; but there was no idea of providential agency or
of personality.

In the Vedic hymns the number of gods is not numerous, only
thirty-three. The chief of these were Varuna, the sky; Mitra, the sun;
and Indra, the storm: after these, Agni, fire; and Soma, the moon. The
worship of these divinities was originally simple, consisting of prayer,
praise, and offerings. There were no temples and no imposing
sacerdotalism, although the priests were numerous. "The prayers and
praises describe the wisdom, power, and goodness of the deity
addressed," [3] and when the customary offerings had been made, the
worshipper prayed for food, life, health, posterity, wealth, protection,
happiness, whatever the object was,--generally for outward prosperity
rather than for improvement in character, or for forgiveness of sin,
peace of mind, or power to resist temptation. The offerings to the gods
were propitiatory, in the form of victims, or libations of some juice.
Nor did these early Hindus take much thought of a future life. There is
nothing in the Rig-Veda of a belief in the transmigration of souls[4],
although the Vedic bards seem to have had some hope of immortality. "He
who gives alms," says one poet, "goes to the highest place in heaven: he
goes to the gods[5].... Where there is eternal light, in the world where
the sun is placed,--in that immortal, imperishable world, place me, O
Soma! ... Where there is happiness and delight, where joy and pleasures
reside, where the desires of our heart are attained, there make me

[Footnote 3: Rawlinson, p. 121.]
[Footnote 4: Wilson: Rig-Veda, vol. iii. p. 170.]
[Footnote 5: Müller: Chips from a German Workshop, vol. i. p. 46.]

In the oldest Vedic poems there were great simplicity and joyousness,
without allusion to those rites, ceremonies, and sacrifices which formed
so prominent a part of the religion of India at a later period.

Four hundred years after the Rig-Veda was composed we come to the
Brahmanic age, when the laws of Menu were written, when the Aryans were
living in the valley of the Ganges, and the caste system had become
national. The supreme deity is no longer one of the powers of Nature,
like Mitra or Indra, but according to Menu he is Brahm, or Brahma,--"an
eternal, unchangeable, absolute being, the soul of all beings, who,
having willed to produce various beings from his own divine substance,
created the waters and placed in them a productive seed. The seed became
an egg, and in that egg he was born, but sat inactive for a year, when
he caused the egg to divide itself; and from its two divisions he framed
the heaven above, and the earth beneath. From the supreme soul Brahma
drew forth mind, existing substantially, though unperceived by the
senses; and before mind, the reasoning power, he produced consciousness,
the internal monitor; and before them both he produced the great
principle of the soul.... The soul is, in its substance, from Brahma
himself, and is destined finally to be resolved into him. The soul,
then, is simply an emanation from Brahma; but it will not return unto
him at death necessarily, but must migrate from body to body, until it
is purified by profound abstraction and emancipated from all desires."

This is the substance of the Hindu pantheism as taught by the laws of
Menu. It accepts God, but without personality or interference with the
world's affairs,--not a God to be loved, scarcely to be feared, but a
mere abstraction of the mind.

The theology which is thus taught in the Brahmanical Vedas, it would
seem, is the result of lofty questionings and profound meditation on the
part of the Indian sages or priests, rather than the creation of poets.

In the laws of Menu, intended to exalt the Brahmanical caste, we read,
as translated by Sir William Jones:--

"To a man contaminated by sensuality, neither the Vedas, nor liberality,
nor sacrifices, nor strict observances, nor pious austerities, ever
procure felicity.... Let not a man be proud of his rigorous devotion;
let him not, having sacrificed, utter a falsehood; having made a
donation, let him never proclaim it.... By falsehood the sacrifice
becomes vain; by pride the merit of devotion is lost.... Single is each
man born, single he dies, single he receives the reward of the good, and
single the punishment of his evil, deeds.... By forgiveness of injuries
the learned are purified; by liberality, those who have neglected their
duty; by pious meditation, those who have secret thoughts; by devout
austerity, those who best know the Vedas.... Bodies are cleansed by
water; the mind is purified by truth; the vital spirit, by theology and
devotion; the understanding, by clear knowledge.... A faithful wife who
wishes to attain in heaven the mansion of her husband, must do nothing
unkind to him, be he living or dead; let her not, when her lord is
deceased, even pronounce the name of another man; let her continue till
death, forgiving all injuries, performing harsh duties, avoiding every
sensual pleasure, and cheerfully practising the incomparable rules of
virtue.... The soul itself is its own witness, the soul itself is its
own refuge; offend not thy conscious soul, the supreme internal witness
of man, ... O friend to virtue, the Supreme Spirit, which is the same
as thyself, resides in thy bosom perpetually, and is an all-knowing
inspector of thy goodness or wickedness."

Such were the truths uttered on the banks of the Ganges one thousand
years before Christ. But with these views there is an exaltation of the
Brahmanical or sacerdotal life, hard to be distinguished from the
recognition of divine qualities. "From his high birth," says Menu, "a
Brahman is an object of veneration, even to deities." Hence, great
things are expected of him; his food must be roots and fruit, his
clothing of bark fibres; he must spend his time in reading the Vedas; he
is to practise austerities by exposing himself to heat and cold; he is
to beg food but once a day; he must be careful not to destroy the life
of the smallest insect; he must not taste intoxicating liquors. A
Brahman who has thus mortified his body by these modes is exalted into
the divine essence. This was the early creed of the Brahman before
corruption set in. And in these things we see a striking resemblance to
the doctrines of Buddha. Had there been no corruption of Brahmanism,
there would have been no Buddhism; for the principles of Buddhism, were
those of early Brahmanism.

But Brahmanism became corrupted. Like the Mosaic Law, under the sedulous
care of the sacerdotal orders it ripened into a most burdensome
ritualism. The Brahmanical caste became tyrannical, exacting, and
oppressive. With the supposed sacredness of his person, and with the
laws made in his favor, the Brahman became intolerable to the people,
who were ground down by sacrifices, expiatory offerings, and wearisome
and minute ceremonies of worship. Caste destroyed all ideas of human
brotherhood; it robbed the soul of its affections and its aspirations.
Like the Pharisees in the time of Jesus, the Brahmans became oppressors
of the people. As in Pagan Egypt and in Christian mediaeval Europe, the
priests held the keys of heaven and hell; their power was more than

But the Brahman, when true to the laws of Menu, led in one sense a lofty
life. Nor can we despise a religion which recognized the value and
immortality of the soul, a state of future rewards and punishments,
though its worship was encumbered by rites, ceremonies, and sacrifices.
It was spiritual in its essential peculiarities, having reference to
another world rather than to this, which is more than we can say of the
religion of the Greeks; it was not worldly in its ends, seeking to save
the soul rather than to pamper the body; it had aspirations after a
higher life; it was profoundly reverential, recognizing a supreme
intelligence and power, indefinitely indeed, but sincerely,--not an
incarnated deity like the Zeus of the Greeks, but an infinite Spirit,
pervading the universe. The pantheism of the Brahmans was better than
the godless materialism of the Chinese. It aspired to rise to a
knowledge of God as the supremest wisdom and grandest attainment of
mortal man. It made too much of sacrifices; but sacrifices were common
to all the ancient religions except the Persian.

     "He who through knowledge or religious acts
     Henceforth attains to immortality,
     Shall first present his body, Death, to thee."

Whether human sacrifices were offered in India when the Vedas were
composed we do not know, but it is believed to be probable. The oldest
form of sacrifice was the offering of food to the deity. Dr. H. C.
Trumbull, in his work on "The Blood Covenant," thinks that the origin of
animal sacrifices was like that of circumcision,--a pouring out of blood
(the universal, ancient symbol of _life_) as a sign of devotion to the
deity; and the substitution of animals was a natural and necessary mode
of making this act of consecration a frequent and continuing one. This
presents a nobler view of the whole sacrificial system than the common
one. Yet doubtless the latter soon prevailed; for following upon the
devoted life-offerings to the Divine Friend, came propitiatory rites to
appease divine anger or gain divine favor. Then came in the natural
human self-seeking of the sacerdotal class, for the multiplication of
sacrifices tended to exalt the priesthood, and thus to perpetuate caste.

Again, the Brahmans, if practising austerities to weaken sensual
desires, like the monks of Syria and Upper Egypt, were meditative and
intellectual; they evolved out of their brains whatever was lofty in
their system of religion and philosophy. Constant and profound
meditation on the soul, on God, and on immortality was not without its
natural results. They explored the world of metaphysical speculation.
There is scarcely an hypothesis advanced by philosophers in ancient or
modern times, which may not be found in the Brahmanical writings. "We
find in the writings of these Hindus materialism, atomism, pantheism,
Pyrrhonism, idealism. They anticipated Plato, Kant, and Hegel. They
could boast of their Spinozas and their Humes long before Alexander
dreamed of crossing the Indus. From them the Pythagoreans borrowed a
great part of their mystical philosophy, of their doctrine of
transmigration of souls, and the unlawfulness of eating animal food.
From them Aristotle learned the syllogism.... In India the human mind
exhausted itself in attempting to detect the laws which regulate its
operation, before the philosophers of Greece were beginning to enter the
precincts of metaphysical inquiry." This intellectual subtlety, acumen,
and logical power the Brahmans never lost. To-day the Christian
missionary finds them his superiors in the sports of logical
tournaments, whenever the Brahman condescends to put forth his powers of

Brahmanism carried idealism to the extent of denying any reality to
sense or matter, declaring that sense is a delusion. It sought to leave
the soul emancipated from desire, from a material body, in a state which
according to Indian metaphysics is _being_, but not _existence_. Desire,
anger, ignorance, evil thoughts are consumed by the fire of knowledge.

But I will not attempt to explain the ideal pantheism which Brahmanical
philosophers substituted for the Nature-worship taught in the earlier
Vedas. This proved too abstract for the people; and the Brahmans, in the
true spirit of modern Jesuitism, wishing to accommodate their religion
to the people,--who were in bondage to their tyranny, and who have ever
been inclined to sensuous worship,--multiplied their sacrifices and
sacerdotal rites, and even permitted a complicated polytheism. Gradually
piety was divorced from morality. Siva and Vishnu became worshipped, as
well as Brahma and a host of other gods unknown to the earlier Vedas.

In the sixth century before Christ, the corruption of society had become
so flagrant under the teachings and government of the Brahmans, that a
reform was imperatively needed. "The pride of race had put an
impassable barrier between the Aryan-Hindus and the conquered
aborigines, while the pride of both had built up an equally impassable
barrier between the different classes among the Aryan people
themselves." The old childlike joy in life, so manifest in the Vedas,
had died away. A funereal gloom hung over the land; and the gloomiest
people of all were the Brahmans themselves, devoted to a complicated
ritual of ceremonial observances, to needless and cruel sacrifices, and
a repulsive theology. The worship of Nature had degenerated into the
worship of impure divinities. The priests were inflated with a puerile
but sincere belief in their own divinity, and inculcated a sense of duty
which was nothing else than a degrading slavery to their own caste.

Under these circumstances Buddhism arose as a protest against
Brahmanism. But it was rather an ethical than a religious movement; it
was an attempt to remove misery from the world, and to elevate ordinary
life by a reform of morals. It was effected by a prince who goes by the
name of Buddha,--the "Enlightened,"--who was supposed by his later
followers to be an incarnation of Deity, miraculously conceived, and
sent into the world to save men. He was nearly contemporary with
Confucius, although the Buddhistic doctrines were not introduced into
China until about two hundred years before the Christian era. He is
supposed to have belonged to a warlike tribe called Sâkyas, of great
reputed virtue, engaged in agricultural pursuits, who had entered
northern India and made a permanent settlement several hundred years
before. The name by which the reformer is generally known is Gautama,
borrowed by the Sâkyas after their settlement in India from one of the
ancient Vedic bard-families. The foundation of our knowledge of Sâkya
Buddha is from a Life of him by Asvaghosha, in the first century of our
era; and this life is again founded on a legendary history, not framed
after any Indian model, but worked out among the nations in the north
of India.

The Life of Buddha by Asvaghosha is a poetical romance of nearly ten
thousand lines. It relates the miraculous conception of the Indian sage,
by the descent of a spirit on his mother, Maya,--a woman of great purity
of mind. The child was called Siddârtha, or "the perfection of all
things." His father ruled a considerable territory, and was careful to
conceal from the boy, as he grew up, all knowledge of the wickedness and
misery of the world. He was therefore carefully educated within the
walls of the palace, and surrounded with every luxury, but not allowed
even to walk or drive in the royal gardens for fear he might see misery
and sorrow. A beautiful girl was given to him in marriage, full of
dignity and grace, with whom he lived in supreme happiness.

At length, as his mind developed and his curiosity increased to see and
know things and people beyond the narrow circle to which he was
confined, he obtained permission to see the gardens which surrounded the
palace. His father took care to remove everything in his way which could
suggest misery and sorrow; but a _deva_, or angel, assumed the form of
an aged man, and stood beside his path, apparently struggling for life,
weak and oppressed. This was a new sight to the prince, who inquired of
his charioteer what kind of a man it was. Forced to reply, the
charioteer told him that this infirm old man had once been young,
sportive, beautiful, and full of every enjoyment.

On hearing this, the prince sank into profound meditation, and returned
to the palace sad and reflective; for he had learned that the common lot
of man is sad,--that no matter how beautiful, strong, and sportive a boy
is, the time will come, in the course of Nature, when this boy will be
wrinkled, infirm, and helpless. He became so miserable and dejected on
this discovery that his father, to divert his mind, arranged other
excursions for him; but on each occasion a _deva_ contrived to appear
before him in the form of some disease or misery. At last he saw a dead
man carried to his grave, which still more deeply agitated him, for he
had not known that this calamity was the common lot of all men. The same
painful impression was made on him by the death of animals, and by the
hard labors and privations of poor people. The more he saw of life as it
was, the more he was overcome by the sight of sorrow and hardship on
every side. He became aware that youth, vigor, and strength of life in
the end fulfilled the law of ultimate destruction. While meditating on
this sad reality beneath a flowering Jambu tree, where he was seated in
the profoundest contemplation, a _deva_, transformed into a religious
ascetic, came to him and said, "I am a Shaman. Depressed and sad at the
thought of age, disease, and death, I have left my home to seek some way
of rescue; yet everywhere I find these evils,--all things hasten to
decay. Therefore I seek that happiness which is only to be found in that
which never perishes, that never knew a beginning, that looks with equal
mind on enemy and friend, that heeds not wealth nor beauty,--the
happiness to be found in solitude, in some dell free from molestation,
all thought about the world destroyed."

This embodies the soul of Buddhism, its elemental principle,--to escape
from a world of misery and death; to hide oneself in contemplation in
some lonely spot, where indifference to passing events is gradually
acquired, where life becomes one grand negation, and where the thoughts
are fixed on what is eternal and imperishable, instead of on the mortal
and transient.

The prince, who was now about thirty years of age, after this interview
with the supposed ascetic, firmly resolved himself to become a hermit,
and thus attain to a higher life, and rise above the misery which he saw
around him on every hand. So he clandestinely and secretly escapes from
his guarded palace; lays aside his princely habits and ornaments;
dismisses all attendants, and even his horse; seeks the companionship of
Brahmans, and learns all their penances and tortures. Finding a patient
trial of this of no avail for his purpose, he leaves the Brahmans, and
repairs to a quiet spot by the banks of a river, and for six years
practises the most severe fasting and profound meditation. This was the
form which piety had assumed in India from time immemorial, under the
guidance of the Brahmans; for Siddârtha as yet is not the
"enlightened,"--he is only an inquirer after that saving knowledge which
will open the door of a divine felicity, and raise him above a world of
disease and death.

Siddârtha's rigorous austerities, however, do not open this door of
saving truth. His body is wasted, and his strength fails; he is near
unto death. The conviction fastens on his lofty and inquiring mind that
to arrive at the end he seeks he must enter by some other door than
that of painful and useless austerities, and hence that the teachings of
the Brahmans are fundamentally wrong. He discovers that no amount of
austerities will extinguish desire, or produce ecstatic contemplation.
In consequence of these reflections a great change comes over him, which
is the turning-point of his history. He resolves to quit his
self-inflicted torments as of no avail. He meets a shepherd's daughter,
who offers him food out of compassion for his emaciated and miserable
condition. The rich rice milk, sweet and perfumed, restores his
strength. He renounces asceticism, and wanders to a spot more congenial
to his changed views and condition.

Siddârtha's full enlightenment, however, has not yet come. Under the
shade of the Bôdhi tree he devotes himself again to religious
contemplation, and falls into rapt ecstasies. He remains a while in
peaceful quiet; the morning sunbeams, the dispersing mists, and lovely
flowers seem to pay tribute to him. He passes through successive stages
of ecstasy, and suddenly upon his opened mind bursts the knowledge of
his previous births in different forms; of the causes of
re-birth,--ignorance (the root of evil) and unsatisfied desires; and of
the way to extinguish desires by right thinking, speaking, and living,
not by outward observance of forms and ceremonies. He is emancipated
from the thraldom of those austerities which have formed the basis of
religious life for generations unknown, and he resolves to teach.

Buddha travels slowly to the sacred city of Benares, converting by the
way even Brahmans themselves. He claims to have reached perfect wisdom.
He is followed by disciples, for there was something attractive and
extraordinary about him; his person was beautiful and commanding. While
he shows that painful austerities will not produce wisdom, he also
teaches that wisdom is not reached by self-indulgence; that there is a
middle path between penance and pleasures, even _temperance_,---the use,
but not abuse, of the good things of earth. In his first sermon he
declares that sorrow is in self; therefore to get rid of sorrow is to
get rid of self. The means to this end is to forget self in deeds of
mercy and kindness to others; to crucify demoralizing desires; to live
in the realm of devout contemplation.

The active life of Buddha now begins, and for fifty years he travels
from place to place as a teacher, gathers around him disciples, frames
rules for his society, and brings within his community both the rich and
poor. He even allows women to enter it. He thus matures his system,
which is destined to be embraced by so large a part of the human race,
and finally dies at the age of eighty, surrounded by reverential
followers, who see in him an incarnation of the Deity.

Thus Buddha devoted his life to the welfare of men, moved by an
exceeding tenderness and pity for the objects of misery which he beheld
on every side. He attempted to point out a higher life, by which sorrow
would be forgotten. He could not prevent sorrow culminating in old age,
disease, and death; but he hoped to make men ignore their miseries, and
thus rise above them to a beatific state of devout contemplation and the
practice of virtues, for which he laid down certain rules and

It is astonishing how the new doctrines spread,--from India to China,
from China to Japan and Ceylon, until Eastern Asia was filled with
pagodas, temples, and monasteries to attest his influence; some
eighty-five thousand existed in China alone. Buddha probably had as many
converts in China as Confucius himself. The Buddhists from time to time
were subjected to great persecution from the emperors of China, in which
their sacred books were destroyed; and in India the Brahmans at last
regained their power, and expelled Buddhism from the country. In the
year 845 A.D. two hundred and sixty thousand monks and nuns were made to
return to secular life in China, being regarded as mere drones,--lazy
and useless members of the community. But the policy of persecution was
reversed by succeeding emperors. In the thirteenth century there were in
China nearly fifty thousand Buddhist temples and two hundred and
thirteen thousand monks; and these represented but a fraction of the
professed adherents of the religion. Under the present dynasty the
Buddhists are proscribed, but still they flourish.

Now, what has given to the religion of Buddha such an extraordinary
attraction for the people of Eastern Asia?

Buddhism has a twofold aspect,--_practical_ and _speculative_. In its
most definite form it was a moral and philanthropic movement,--the
reaction against Brahmanism, which had no humanity, and which was as
repulsive and oppressive as Roman Catholicism was when loaded down with
ritualism and sacerdotal rites, when Europe was governed by priests,
when churches were damp, gloomy crypts, before the tall cathedrals arose
in their artistic beauty.

From a religious and philosophical point of view, Buddhism at first did
not materially differ from Brahmanism. The same dreamy pietism, the same
belief in the transmigration of souls, the same pantheistic ideas of God
and Nature, the same desire for rest and final absorption in the divine
essence characterized both. In both there was a certain principle of
faith, which was a feeling of reverence rather than the recognition of
the unity and personality and providence of God. The prayer of the
Buddhist was a yearning for deliverance from sorrow, a hope of final
rest; but this was not to be attained until desires and passions were
utterly suppressed in the soul, which could be effected only by prayer,
devout meditations, and a rigorous self-discipline. In order to be
purified and fitted for Nirvana the soul, it was supposed, must pass
through successive stages of existence in mortal forms, without
conscious recollection,--innumerable births and deaths, with sorrow and
disease. And the final state of supreme blessedness, the ending of the
long and weary transmigration, would be attained only with the
extinction of all desires, even the instinctive desire for existence.

Buddha had no definite ideas of the deity, and the worship of a personal
God is nowhere to be found in his teachings, which exposed him to the
charge of atheism. He even supposed that gods were subject to death, and
must return to other forms of life before they obtained final rest in
Nirvana. Nirvana means that state which admits of neither birth nor
death, where there is no sorrow or disease,--an impassive state of
existence, absorption in the Spirit of the Universe. In the Buddhist
catechism Nirvana is defined as the "total cessation of changes; a
perfect rest; the absence of desire, illusion, and sorrow; the total
obliteration of everything that goes to make up the physical man." This
theory of re-births, or transmigration of souls, is very strange and
unnatural to our less imaginative and subtile Occidental minds; but to
the speculative Orientals it is an attractive and reasonable belief.
They make the "spirit" the immortal part of man, the "soul" being its
emotional embodiment, its "spiritual body," whose unsatisfied desires
cause its birth and re-birth into the fleshly form of the physical
"body,"--a very brief and temporary incarnation. When by the progressive
enlightenment of the spirit its longings and desires have been gradually
conquered, it no longer needs or has embodiment either of soul or of
body; so that, to quote Elliott Coues in Olcott's "Buddhist Catechism,"
"a spirit in a state of conscious formlessness, subject to no further
modification by embodiment, yet in full knowledge of its experiences
[during its various incarnations], is Nirvanic."

Buddhism, however, viewed in any aspect, must be regarded as a gloomy
religion. It is hard enough to crucify all natural desires and lead a
life of self-abnegation; but for the spirit, in order to be purified, to
be obliged to enter into body after body, each subject to disease,
misery, and death, and then after a long series of migrations to be
virtually annihilated as the highest consummation of happiness, gives
one but a poor conception of the efforts of the proudest unaided
intellect to arrive at a knowledge of God and immortal bliss. It would
thus seem that the true idea of God, or even that of immortality, is not
an innate conception revealed by consciousness; for why should good and
intellectual men, trained to study and reflection all their lives, gain
no clearer or more inspiring notions of the Being of infinite love and
power, or of the happiness which He is able and willing to impart? What
a feeble conception of God is a being without the oversight of the
worlds that he created, without volition or purpose or benevolence, or
anything corresponding to our notion of personality! What a poor
conception of supernal bliss, without love or action or thought or holy
companionship,--only rest, unthinking repose, and absence from disease,
misery, and death, a state of endless impassiveness! What is Nirvana but
an escape from death and deliverance from mortal desires, where there
are neither ideas nor the absence of ideas; no changes or hopes or
fears, it is true, but also no joy, no aspiration, no growth, no
life,--a state of nonentity, where even consciousness is practically
extinguished, and individuality merged into absolute stillness and a
dreamless rest? What a poor reward for ages of struggle and the final
achievement of exalted virtue!

But if Buddhism failed to arrive at what we believe to be a true
knowledge of God and the destiny of the soul,--the forgiveness and
remission, or doing-away, of sin, and a joyful and active immortality,
all which I take to be revelations rather than intuitions,--yet there
were some great certitudes in its teachings which did appeal to
consciousness,--certitudes recognized by the noblest teachers of all
ages and nations. These were such realities as truthfulness, sincerity,
purity, justice, mercy, benevolence, unselfishness, love. The human mind
arrives at ethical truths, even when all speculation about God and
immortality has failed. The idea of God may be lost, but not that of
moral obligation,--the mutual social duties of mankind. There is a sense
of duty even among savages; in the lowest civilization there is true
admiration of virtue. No sage that I ever read of enjoined immorality.
No ignorance can prevent the sense of shame, of honor, or of duty.
Everybody detests a liar and despises a thief. Thou shalt not bear false
witness; thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not kill,--these are
laws written in human consciousness as well as in the code of Moses.
Obedience and respect to parents are instincts as well as obligations.

Hence the prince Siddârtha, as soon as he had found the wisdom of inward
motive and the folly of outward rite, shook off the yoke of the priests,
and denounced caste and austerities and penances and sacrifices as of
no avail in securing the welfare and peace of the soul or the favor of
deity. In all this he showed an enlightened mind, governed by wisdom and
truth, and even a bold and original genius,--like Abraham when he
disowned the gods of his fathers. Having thus himself gained the
security of the heights, Buddha longed to help others up, and turned his
attention to the moral instruction of the people of India. He was
emphatically a missionary of ethics, an apostle of righteousness, a
reformer of abuses, as well as a tender and compassionate man, moved to
tears in view of human sorrows and sufferings. He gave up metaphysical
speculations for practical philanthropy. He wandered from city to city
and village to village to relieve misery and teach duties rather than
theological philosophies. He did not know that God is love, but he did
know that peace and rest are the result of virtuous thoughts and acts.

"Let us then," said he, "live happily, not hating those who hate us;
free from greed among the greedy.... Proclaim mercy freely to all men;
it is as large as the spaces of heaven.... Whoever loves will feel the
longing to save not himself alone, but all others." He compares himself
to a father who rescues his children from a burning house, to a
physician who cures the blind. He teaches the equality of the sexes as
well as the injustice of castes. He enjoins kindness to servants and
emancipation of slaves. "As a mother, as long as she lives, watches over
her child, so among all beings," said Gautama, "let boundless good-will
prevail.... Overcome evil with good, the avaricious with generosity, the
false with truth.... Never forget thy own duty for the sake of
another's.... If a man speaks or acts with evil thoughts pain follows,
as the wheel the foot of him who draws the carriage.... He who lives
seeking pleasure, and uncontrolled, the tempter will overcome.... The
true sage dwells on earth, as the bee gathers sweetness with his mouth
and wings.... One may conquer a thousand men in battle, but he who
conquers himself alone is the greatest victor.... Let no man think
lightly of sin, saying in his heart, 'It cannot overtake me.'... Let a
man make himself what he preaches to others.... He who holds back rising
anger as one might a rolling chariot, him, indeed, I call a driver;
others may hold the reins.... A man who foolishly does me wrong, I will
return to him the protection of my ungrudging love; the more evil comes
from him, the more good shall go from me."

These are some of the sayings of the Indian reformer, which I quote from
extracts of his writings as translated by Sanskrit scholars. Some of
these sayings rise to a height of moral beauty surpassed only by the
precepts of the great Teacher, whom many are too fond of likening to
Buddha himself. The religion of Buddha is founded on a correct and
virtuous life, as the only way to avoid sorrow and reach Nirvana. Its
essence, theologically, is "Quietism," without firm belief in anything
reached by metaphysic speculation; yet morally and practically it
inculcates ennobling, active duties.

Among the rules that Buddha laid down for his disciples were--to keep
the body pure; not to enter upon affairs of trade; to have no lands and
cattle, or houses, or money; to abhor all hypocrisy and dissimulation;
to be kind to everything that lives; never to take the life of any
living being; to control the passions; to eat food only to satisfy
hunger; not to feel resentment from injuries; to be patient and
forgiving; to avoid covetousness, and never to tire of self-reflection.
His fundamental principles are purity of mind, chastity of life,
truthfulness, temperance, abstention from the wanton destruction of
animal life, from vain pleasures, from envy, hatred, and malice. He does
not enjoin sacrifices, for he knows no god to whom they can be offered;
but "he proclaimed the brotherhood of man, if he did not reveal the
fatherhood of God." He insisted on the natural equality of all
men,--thus giving to caste a mortal wound, which offended the Brahmans,
and finally led to the expulsion of his followers from India. He
protested against all absolute authority, even that of the Vedas. Nor
did he claim, any more than Confucius, originality of doctrines, only
the revival of forgotten or neglected truths. He taught that Nirvana was
not attained by Brahmanical rites, but by individual virtues; and that
punishment is the inevitable result of evil deeds by the inexorable law
of cause and effect.

Buddhism is essentially rationalistic and ethical, while Brahmanism is a
pantheistic tendency to polytheism, and ritualistic even to the most
offensive sacerdotalism. The Brahman reminds me of a Dunstan,--the
Buddhist of a Benedict; the former of the gloomy, spiritual despotism of
the Middle Ages,--the latter of self-denying monasticism in its best
ages. The Brahman is like Thomas Aquinas with his dogmas and
metaphysics; the Buddhist is more like a mediaeval freethinker,
stigmatized as an atheist. The Brahman was so absorbed with his
theological speculation that he took no account of the sufferings of
humanity; the Buddhist was so absorbed with the miseries of man that the
greatest blessing seemed to be entire and endless rest, the cessation of
existence itself,--since existence brought desire, desire sin, and sin
misery. As a religion Buddhism is an absurdity; in fact, it is no
religion at all, only a system of moral philosophy. Its weak points,
practically, are the abuse of philanthropy, its system of organized
idleness and mendicancy, the indifference to thrift and industry, the
multiplication of lazy fraternities and useless retreats, reminding us
of monastic institutions in the days of Chaucer and Luther. The Buddhist
priest is a mendicant and a pauper, clothed in rags, begging his living
from door to door, in which he sees no disgrace and no impropriety.
Buddhism failed to ennoble the daily occupations of life, and produced
drones and idlers and religious vagabonds. In its corruption it lent
itself to idolatry, for the Buddhist temples are filled with hideous
images of all sorts of repulsive deities, although Buddha himself did
not hold to idol worship any more than to the belief in a personal God.

"Buddhism," says the author of its accepted catechism, "teaches goodness
without a God, existence without a soul, immortality without life,
happiness without a heaven, salvation without a saviour, redemption
without a redeemer, and worship without rites." The failure of Buddhism,
both as a philosophy and a religion, is a confirmation of the great
historical fact, that in the ancient Pagan world no efforts of reason
enabled man unaided to arrive at a true--that is, a helpful and
practically elevating--knowledge of deity. Even Buddha, one of the most
gifted and excellent of all the sages who have enlightened the world,
despaired of solving the great mysteries of existence, and turned his
attention to those practical duties of life which seemed to promise a
way of escaping its miseries. He appealed to human consciousness; but
lacking the inspiration and aid which come from a sense of personal
divine influence, Buddhism has failed, on the large scale, to raise its
votaries to higher planes of ethical accomplishment. And hence the
necessity of that new revelation which Jesus declared amid the moral
ruins of a crumbling world, by which alone can the debasing
superstitions of India and the godless materialism of China be replaced
with a vital spirituality,--even as the elaborate mythology of Greece
and Rome gave way before the fervent earnestness of Christian apostles
and martyrs.

It does not belong to my subject to present the condition of Buddhism as
it exists to-day in Thibet, in Siam, in China, in Japan, in Burmah, in
Ceylon, and in various other Eastern countries. It spread by reason of
its sympathy with the poor and miserable, by virtue of its being a great
system of philanthropy and morals which appealed to the consciousness of
the lower classes. Though a proselyting religion it was never a
persecuting one, and is still distinguished, in all its corruption, for
its toleration.


The chief authorities that I would recommend for this chapter are Max
Müller's History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature; Rev. S. Seal's Buddhism
in China; Buddhism, by T. W. Rhys-Davids; Monier Williams's Sákoontalá;
I. Muir's Sanskrit Texts; Burnouf's Essai sur la Vêda; Sir William
Jones's Works; Colebrook's Miscellaneous Essays; Joseph Muller's
Religious Aspects of Hindu Philosophy; Manual of Buddhism, by R. Spence
Hardy; Dr. H. Clay Trumbull's The Blood Covenant; Orthodox Buddhist
Catechism, by H. S. Olcott, edited by Prof. Elliott C. Coues. I have
derived some instruction from Samuel Johnson's bulky and diffuse books,
but more from James Freeman Clarke's Ten Great Religions^ and
Rawlinson's Religions of the Ancient World.



Religion among the lively and imaginative Greeks took a different form
from that of the Aryan race in India or Persia. However the ideas of
their divinities originated in their relations to the thought and life
of the people, their gods were neither abstractions nor symbols. They
were simply men and women, immortal, yet having a beginning, with
passions and appetites like ordinary mortals. They love, they hate, they
eat, they drink, they have adventures and misfortunes like men,--only
differing from men in the superiority of their gifts, in their
miraculous endowments, in their stupendous feats, in their more than
gigantic size, in their supernal beauty, in their intensified pleasures.
It was not their aim "to raise mortals to the skies," but to enjoy
themselves in feasting and love-making; not even to govern the world,
but to protect their particular worshippers,--taking part and interest
in human quarrels, without reference to justice or right, and without
communicating any great truths for the guidance of mankind.

The religion of Greece consisted of a series of myths,--creations for
the most part of the poets,--and therefore properly called a mythology.
Yet in some respects the gods of Greece resembled those of Phoenicia and
Egypt, being the powers of Nature, and named after the sun, moon, and
planets. Their priests did not form a sacerdotal caste, as in India and
Egypt; they were more like officers of the state, to perform certain
functions or duties pertaining to rites, ceremonies, and sacrifices.
They taught no moral or spiritual truths to the people, nor were they
held in extraordinary reverence. They were not ascetics or enthusiasts;
among them were no great reformers or prophets, as among the sacerdotal
class of the Jews or the Hindus. They had even no sacred books, and
claimed no esoteric knowledge. Nor was their office hereditary. They
were appointed by the rulers of the state, or elected by the people
themselves; they imposed no restraints on the conscience, and apparently
cared little for morals, leaving the people to an unbounded freedom to
act and think for themselves, so far as they did not interfere with
prescribed usages and laws. The real objects of Greek worship were
beauty, grace, and heroic strength. The people worshipped no supreme
creator, no providential governor, no ultimate judge of human actions.
They had no aspirations for heaven and no fear of hell. They did not
feel accountable for their deeds or thoughts or words to an irresistible
Power working for righteousness or truth. They had no religious sense,
apart from wonder or admiration of the glories of Nature, or the good or
evil which might result from the favor or hatred of the divinities
they accepted.

These divinities, moreover, were not manifestations of supreme power and
intelligence, but were creations of the fancy, as they came from popular
legends, or the brains of poets, or the hands of artists, or the
speculations of philosophers. And as everything in Greece was beautiful
and radiant,--the sea, the sky, the mountains, and the valleys,--so was
religion cheerful, seen in all the festivals which took the place of the
Sabbaths and holy-days of more spiritually minded peoples. The
worshippers of the gods danced and played and sported to the sounds of
musical instruments, and revelled in joyous libations, in feasts and
imposing processions,--in whatever would amuse the mind or intoxicate
the senses. The gods were rather unseen companions in pleasures, in
sports, in athletic contests and warlike enterprises, than beings to be
adored for moral excellence or supernal knowledge. "Heaven was so near
at hand that their own heroes climbed to it and became demigods." Every
grove, every fountain, every river, every beautiful spot, had its
presiding deity; while every wonder of Nature,--the sun, the moon, the
stars, the tempest, the thunder, the lightning,--was impersonated as an
awful power for good or evil. To them temples were erected, within which
were their shrines and images in human shape, glistening with gold and
gems, and wrought in every form of grace or strength or beauty, and by
artists of marvellous excellence.

This polytheism of Greece was exceedingly complicated, but was not so
degrading as that of Egypt, since the gods were not represented by the
forms of hideous animals, and the worship of them was not attended by
revolting ceremonies; and yet it was divested of all spiritual
aspirations, and had but little effect on personal struggles for truth
or holiness. It was human and worldly, not lofty nor even reverential,
except among the few who had deep religious wants. One of its
characteristic features was the acknowledged impotence of the gods to
secure future happiness. In fact, the future was generally ignored, and
even immortality was but a dream of philosophers. Men lived not in view
of future rewards and punishments, or future existence at all, but for
the enjoyment of the present; and the gods themselves set the example of
an immoral life. Even Zeus, "the Father of gods and men," to whom
absolute supremacy was ascribed, the work of creation, and all majesty
and serenity, took but little interest in human affairs, and lived on
Olympian heights like a sovereign surrounded with the instruments of his
will, freely indulging in those pleasures which all lofty moral codes
have forbidden, and taking part in the quarrels, jealousies, and
enmities of his divine associates.

Greek mythology had its source in the legends of a remote
antiquity,--probably among the Pelasgians, the early inhabitants of
Greece, which they brought with them in their migration from their
original settlement, or perhaps from Egypt and Phoenicia. Herodotus--and
he is not often wrong--ascribes a great part of the mythology which the
Greek poets elaborated to a Phoenician or Egyptian source. The legends
have also some similarity to the poetic creations of the ancient
Persians, who delighted in fairies and genii and extravagant exploits,
like the labors of Hercules The faults and foibles of deified mortals
were transmitted to posterity and incorporated with the attributes of
the supreme divinity, and hence the mixture of the mighty and the mean
which marks the characters of the Iliad and Odyssey. The Greeks adopted
Oriental fables, and accommodated them to those heroes who figured in
their own country in the earliest times. "The labors of Hercules
originated in Egypt, and relate to the annual progress of the sun in
the zodiac. The rape of Proserpine, the wanderings of Ceres, the
Eleusinian mysteries, and the orgies of Bacchus were all imported from
Egypt or Phoenicia, while the wars between the gods and the giants were
celebrated in the romantic annals of Persia. The oracle of Dodona was
copied from that of Ammon in Thebes, and the oracle of Apollo at Delphos
has a similar source."

Behind the Oriental legends which form the basis of Grecian mythology
there was, in all probability, in those ancient times before the
Pelasgians were known as Ionians and the Hellenes as Dorians, a mystical
and indefinite idea of supreme power,--as among the Persians, the
Hindus, and the esoteric priests of Egypt. In all the ancient religions
the farther back we go the purer and loftier do we find the popular
religion. Belief in supreme deity underlies all the Eastern theogonies,
which belief, however, was soon perverted or lost sight of. There is
great difference of opinion among philosophers as to the origin of
myths,--whether they began in fable and came to be regarded as history,
or began as human history and were poetized into fable. My belief is
that in the earliest ages of the world there were no mythologies. Fables
were the creations of those who sought to amuse or control the people,
who have ever delighted in the marvellous. As the magnificent, the
vast, the sublime, which was seen in Nature, impressed itself on the
imagination of the Orientals and ended in legends, so did allegory in
process of time multiply fictions and fables to an indefinite extent;
and what were symbols among Eastern nations became impersonations in the
poetry of Greece. Grecian mythology was a vast system of impersonated
forces, beginning with the legends of heroes and ending with the
personification of the faculties of the mind and the manifestations of
Nature, in deities who presided over festivals, cities, groves, and
mountains, with all the infirmities of human nature, and without calling
out exalted sentiments of love or reverence. They are all creations of
the imagination, invested with human traits and adapted to the genius of
the people, who were far from being religious in the sense that the
Hindus and Egyptians were. It was the natural and not the supernatural
that filled their souls. It was art they worshipped, and not the God who
created the heavens and the earth, and who exacts of his creatures
obedience and faith.

In regard to the gods and goddesses of the Grecian Pantheon, we observe
that most of them were immoral; at least they had the usual infirmities
of men. They are thus represented by the poets, probably to please the
people, who like all other peoples had to make their own conceptions of
God; for even a miraculous revelation of deity must be interpreted by
those who receive it, according to their own understanding of the
qualities revealed. The ancient Romans, themselves stern, earnest,
practical, had an almost Oriental reverence for their gods, so that
their Jupiter (Father of Heaven) was a majestic, powerful, all-seeing,
severely just national deity, regarded by them much as the Jehovah of
the Hebrews was by that nation. When in later times the conquest of
Eastern countries and of Macedon and Greece brought in luxury, works of
art, foreign literature, and all the delightful but enervating
influences of aestheticism, the Romans became corrupted, and gradually
began to identify their own more noble deities with the beautiful but
unprincipled, self-indulgent, and tricky set of gods and goddesses of
the Greek mythology.

The Greek Zeus, with whom were associated majesty and dominion, and who
reigned supreme in the celestial hierarchy,--who as the chief god of the
skies, the god of storms, ruler of the atmosphere, was the favorite
deity of the Aryan race, the Indra of the Hindus, the Jupiter of the
Romans,--was in his Grecian presentment a rebellious son, a faithless
husband, and sometimes an unkind father. His character was a combination
of weakness and strength,--anything but a pattern to be imitated, or
even to be reverenced. He was the impersonation of power and dignity,
represented by the poets as having such immense strength that if he had
hold of one end of a chain, and all the gods held the other, with the
earth fastened to it, he would be able to move them all.

Poseidon (Roman Neptune), the brother of Zeus, was represented as the
god of the ocean, and was worshipped chiefly in maritime States. His
morality was no higher than that of Zeus; moreover, he was rough,
boisterous, and vindictive. He was hostile to Troy, and yet
persecuted Ulysses.

Apollo, the next great personage of the Olympian divinities, was more
respectable morally than his father. He was the sun-god of the Greeks,
and was the embodiment of divine prescience, of healing skill, of
musical and poetical productiveness, and hence the favorite of the
poets. He had a form of ideal beauty, grace, and vigor, inspired by
unerring wisdom and insight into futurity. He was obedient to the will
of Zeus, to whom he was not much inferior in power. Temples were erected
to this favorite deity in every part of Greece, and he was supposed to
deliver oracular responses in several cities, especially at Delphos.

Hephaestus (Roman Vulcan), the god of fire, was a sort of jester at the
Olympian court, and provoked perpetual laughter from his awkwardness and
lameness. He forged the thunderbolts for Zeus, and was the armorer of
heaven. It accorded with the grim humor of the poets to make this clumsy
blacksmith the husband of Aphrodite, the queen of beauty and of love.

Ares (Roman Mars), the god of war, was represented as cruel, lawless,
and greedy of blood, and as occupying a subordinate position, receiving
orders from Apollo and Athene.

Hermes (Roman Mercury) was the impersonation of commercial dealings, and
of course was full of tricks and thievery,--the Olympian man of
business, industrious, inventive, untruthful, and dishonest. He was also
the god of eloquence.

Besides these six great male divinities there were six goddesses, the
most important of whom was Hera (Roman Juno), wife of Zeus, and hence
the Queen of Heaven. She exercised her husband's prerogatives, and
thundered and shook Olympus; but she was proud, vindictive, jealous,
unscrupulous, and cruel,--a poor model for women to imitate. The Greek
poets, however, had a poor opinion of the female sex, and hence
represent this deity without those elements of character which we most
admire in woman,--gentleness, softness, tenderness, and patience. She
scolded her august husband so perpetually that he gave way to complaints
before the assembled deities, and that too with a bitterness hardly to
be reconciled with our notions of dignity. The Roman Juno, before the
identification of the two goddesses, was a nobler character, being the
queen of heaven, the protectress of virgins and of matrons, and was also
the celestial housewife of the nation, watching over its revenues and
its expenses. She was the especial goddess of chastity, and loose women
were forbidden to touch her altars.

Athene (Roman Minerva) however, the goddess of wisdom, had a character
without a flaw, and ranked with Apollo in wisdom. She even expostulated
with Zeus himself when he was wrong. But on the other hand she had few
attractive feminine qualities, and no amiable weaknesses.

Artemis (Roman Diana) was "a shadowy divinity, a pale reflection of her
brother Apollo." She presided over the pleasures of the chase, in which
the Greeks delighted,--a masculine female who took but little interest
in anything intellectual.

Aphrodite (Roman Venus) was the impersonation of all that was weak and
erring in the nature of woman,--the goddess of sensual desire, of mere
physical beauty, silly, childish, and vain, utterly odious in a moral
point of view, and mentally contemptible. This goddess was represented
as exerting a great influence even when despised, fascinating yet
revolting, admired and yet corrupting. She was not of much importance
among the Romans,--who were far from being sentimental or
passionate,--until the growth of the legend of their Trojan origin.
Then, as mother of Aeneas, their progenitor, she took a high rank, and
the Greek poets furnished her character.

Hestia (Roman Vesta) presided over the private hearths and homesteads of
the Greeks, and imparted to them a sacred character. Her personality was
vague, but she represented the purity which among both Greeks and Romans
is attached to home and domestic life.

Demeter (Roman Ceres) represented Mother Earth, and thus was closely
associated with agriculture and all operations of tillage and
bread-making. As agriculture is the primitive and most important of all
human vocations, this deity presided over civilization and law-giving,
and occupied an important position in the Eleusinian mysteries.

These were the twelve Olympian divinities, or greater gods; but they
represent only a small part of the Grecian Pantheon. There was Dionysus
(Roman Bacchus), the god of drunkenness. This deity presided over
vineyards, and his worship was attended with disgraceful orgies,--with
wild dances, noisy revels, exciting music, and frenzied demonstrations.

Leto (Roman Latona), another wife of Zeus, and mother of Apollo and
Diana, was a very different personage from Hera, being the impersonation
of all those womanly qualities which are valued in woman,--silent,
unobtrusive, condescending, chaste, kindly, ready to help and tend, and
subordinating herself to her children.

Persephone (Roman Proserpina) was the queen of the dead, ruling the
infernal realm even more distinctly than her husband Pluto, severely
pure as she was awful and terrible; but there were no temples erected to
her, as the Greeks did not trouble themselves much about the
future state.

The minor deities of the Greeks were innumerable, and were identified
with every separate thing which occupied their thoughts,--with
mountains, rivers, capes, towns, fountains, rocks; with domestic
animals, with monsters of the deep, with demons and departed heroes,
with water-nymphs and wood-nymphs, with the qualities of mind and
attributes of the body; with sleep and death, old age and pain, strife
and victory; with hunger, grief, ridicule, wisdom, deceit, grace; with
night and day, the hours, the thunder the rainbow,---in short, all the
wonders of Nature, all the affections of the soul, and all the qualities
of the mind; everything they saw, everything they talked about,
everything they felt. All these wonders and sentiments they
impersonated; and these impersonations were supposed to preside over the
things they represented, and to a certain extent were worshipped. If a
man wished the winds to be propitious, he prayed to Zeus; if he wished
to be prospered in his bargains, he invoked Hermes; if he wished to be
successful in war, he prayed to Ares.

He never prayed to a supreme and eternal deity, but to some special
manifestation of deity, fancied or real; and hence his religion was
essentially pantheistic, though outwardly polytheistic. The divinities
whom he invoked he celebrated with rites corresponding with those traits
which they represented. Thus, Aphrodite was celebrated with lascivious
dances, and Dionysus with drunken revels. Each deity represented the
Grecian ideal,--of majesty or grace or beauty or strength or virtue or
wisdom or madness or folly. The character of Hera was what the poets
supposed should be the attributes of the Queen of heaven; that of Leto,
what should distinguish a disinterested housewife; that of Hestia, what
should mark the guardian of the fireside; that of Demeter, what should
show supreme benevolence and thrift; that of Athene, what would
naturally be associated with wisdom, and that of Aphrodite, what would
be expected from a sensual beauty. In the main, Zeus was serene,
majestic, and benignant, as became the king of the gods, although he was
occasionally faithless to his wife; Poseidon was boisterous, as became
the monarch of the seas; Apollo was a devoted son and a bright
companion, which one would expect in a gifted poet and wise prophet,
beautiful and graceful as a sun-god should be; Hephaestus, the god of
fire and smiths, showed naturally the awkwardness to which manual labor
leads; Ares was cruel and bloodthirsty, as the god of war should be;
Hermes, as the god of trade and business, would of course be sharp and
tricky; and Dionysus, the father of the vine, would naturally become
noisy and rollicking in his intoxication.

Thus, whatever defects are associated with the principal deities, these
are all natural and consistent with the characters they represent, or
the duties and business in which they engage. Drunkenness is not
associated with Zeus, or unchastity with Hera or Athene. The poets make
each deity consistent with himself, and in harmony with the interests he
represents. Hence the mythology of the poets is elaborate and
interesting. Who has not devoured the classical dictionary before he has
learned to scan the lines of Homer or of Virgil? As varied and romantic
as the "Arabian Nights," it shines in the beauty of nature. In the
Grecian creations of gods and goddesses there is no insult to the
understanding, because these creations are in harmony with Nature, are
consistent with humanity. There is no hatred and no love, no jealousy
and no fear, which has not a natural cause. The poets proved themselves
to be great artists in the very characters they gave to their
divinities. They did not aim to excite reverence or stimulate to duty or
point out the higher life, but to amuse a worldly, pleasure-seeking,
good-natured, joyous, art-loving, poetic people, who lived in the
present and for themselves alone.

As a future state of rewards and punishments seldom entered into the
minds of the Greeks, so the gods are never represented as conferring
future salvation. The welfare of the soul was rarely thought of where
there was no settled belief in immortality. The gods themselves were fed
on nectar and ambrosia, that they might not die like ordinary mortals.
They might prolong their own existence indefinitely, but they were
impotent to confer eternal life upon their worshippers; and as eternal
life is essential to perfect happiness, they could not confer even
happiness in its highest sense.

On this fact Saint Augustine erected the grand fabric of his theological
system. In his most celebrated work, "The City of God," he holds up to
derision the gods of antiquity, and with blended logic and irony makes
them contemptible as objects of worship, since they were impotent to
save the soul. In his view the grand and distinguishing feature of
Christianity, in contrast with Paganism, is the gift of eternal life and
happiness. It is not the morality which Christ and his Apostles taught,
which gave to Christianity its immeasurable superiority over all other
religions, but the promise of a future felicity in heaven. And it was
this promise which gave such comfort to the miserable people of the old
Pagan world, ground down by oppression, injustice, cruelty, and poverty.
It was this promise which filled the converts to Christianity with joy,
enthusiasm, and hope,--yea, more than this, even boundless love that
salvation was the gift of God through the self-sacrifice of Christ.
Immortality was brought to light by the gospel alone, and to miserable
people the idea of eternal bliss after the trials of mortal life were
passed was the source of immeasurable joy. No sooner was this sublime
expectation of happiness planted firmly in the minds of pagans, than
they threw their idols to the moles and the bats.

But even in regard to morality, Augustine showed that the gods were no
examples to follow. He ridicules their morals and their offices as
severely as he points out their impotency to bestow happiness. He shows
the absurdity and inconsistency of tolerating players in their
delineation of the vices and follies of deities for the amusement of the
people in the theatre, while the priests performed the same obscenities
as religious rites in the temples which were upheld by the State; so
that philosophers like Varro could pour contempt on players with
impunity, while he dared not ridicule priests for doing in the temples
the same things. No wonder that the popular religion at last was held in
contempt by philosophers, since it was not only impotent to save, but
did not stimulate to ordinary morality, to virtue, or to lofty
sentiments. A religion which was held sacred in one place and ridiculed
in another, before the eyes of the same people, could not in the end but
yield to what was better.

If we ascribe to the poets the creation of the elaborate mythology of
the Greeks,--that is, a system of gods made by men, rather than men made
by gods,--whether as symbols or objects of worship, whether the religion
was pantheistic or idolatrous, we find that artists even surpassed the
poets in their conceptions of divine power, goodness, and beauty, and
thus riveted the chains which the poets forged.

The temple of Zeus at Olympia in Elis, where the intellect and the
culture of Greece assembled every four years to witness the games
instituted in honor of the Father of the gods, was itself calculated to
impose on the senses of the worshippers by its grandeur and beauty. The
image of the god himself, sixty feet high, made of ivory, gold, and gems
by the greatest of all the sculptors of antiquity, must have impressed
spectators with ideas of strength and majesty even more than any
poetical descriptions could do. If it was art which the Greeks
worshipped rather than an unseen deity who controlled their destinies,
and to whom supreme homage was due, how nobly did the image before them
represent the highest conceptions of the attributes to be ascribed to
the King of Heaven! Seated on his throne, with the emblems of
sovereignty in his hands and attendant deities around him, his head,
neck, breast, and arms in massive proportions, and his face expressive
of majesty and sweetness, power in repose, benevolence blended with
strength,--the image of the Olympian deity conveyed to the minds of his
worshippers everything that could inspire awe, wonder, and goodness, as
well as power. No fear was blended with admiration, since his favor
could be won by the magnificent rites and ceremonies which were
instituted in his honor.

Clarke alludes to the sculptured Apollo Belvedere as giving a still more
elevated idea of the sun-god than the poets themselves,--a figure
expressive of the highest thoughts of the Hellenic mind,--and quotes
Milman in support of his admiration:--

     "All, all divine! no struggling muscle glows,
     Through heaving vein no mantling life-blood flows;
     But, animate with deity alone,
     In deathless glory lives the breathing stone."

If a Christian poet can see divinity in the chiselled stone, why should
we wonder at the worship of art by the pagan Greeks? The same could be
said of the statues of Artemis, of Pallas-Athene, of Aphrodite, and
other "divine" productions of Grecian artists, since they represented
the highest ideal the world has seen of beauty, grace, loveliness, and
majesty, which the Greeks adored. Hence, though the statues of the gods
are in human shape, it was not men that the Greeks worshipped, but those
qualities of mind and those forms of beauty to which the cultivated
intellect instinctively gave the highest praise. No one can object to
this boundless admiration which the Greeks had for art in its highest
forms, in so far as that admiration became worship. It was the divorce
of art from morals which called out the indignation and censure of the
Christian fathers, and even undermined the religion of philosophers so
far as it had been directed to the worship of the popular deities, which
were simply creations of poets and artists.

It is difficult to conceive how the worship of the gods could have been
kept up for so long a time, had it not been for the festivals. This wise
provision for providing interest and recreation for the people was also
availed of by the Mosaic ritual among the Hebrews, and has been a part
of most well-organized religious systems. The festivals were celebrated
in honor not merely of deities, but of useful inventions, of the seasons
of the year, of great national victories,--all which were religious in
the pagan sense, and constituted the highest pleasures of Grecian life.
They were observed with great pomp and splendor in the open air in front
of temples, in sacred groves, wherever the people could conveniently
assemble to join in jocund dances, in athletic sports, and whatever
could animate the soul with festivity and joy. Hence the religious
worship of the Greeks was cheerful, and adapted itself to the tastes and
pleasures of the people; it was, however, essentially worldly, and
sometimes degrading. It was similar in its effects to the rural sports
of the yeomanry of the Middle Ages, and to the theatrical
representations sometimes held in mediaeval churches,--certainly to the
processions and pomps which the Catholic clergy instituted for the
amusement of the people. Hence the sneering but acute remark of Gibbon,
that all religions were equally true to the people, equally false to
philosophers, and equally useful to rulers. The State encouraged and
paid for sacrifices, rites, processions, and scenic dances on the same
principle that they gave corn to the people to make them contented in
their miseries, and severely punished those who ridiculed the popular
religion when it was performed in temples, even though it winked at the
ridicule of the same performances in the theatres.

Among the Greeks there were no sacred books like the Hindu Vedas or
Hebrew Scriptures, in which the people could learn duties and religious
truths. The priests taught nothing; they merely officiated at rites and
ceremonies. It is difficult to find out what were the means and forms of
religious instruction, so far as pertained to the heart and conscience.
Duties were certainly not learned from the ministers of religion. From
what source did the people learn the necessity of obedience to parents,
of conjugal fidelity, of truthfulness, of chastity, of honesty? It is
difficult to tell. The poets and artists taught ideas of beauty, of
grace, of strength; and Nature in her grandeur and loveliness taught the
same things. Hence a severe taste was cultivated, which excluded
vulgarity and grossness in the intercourse of life. It was the rule to
be courteous, affable, gentlemanly, for all this was in harmony with the
severity of art. The comic poets ridiculed pretension, arrogance,
quackery, and lies. Patriotism, which was learned from the dangers of
the State, amid warlike and unscrupulous neighbors, called out many
manly virtues, like courage, fortitude, heroism, and self-sacrifice. A
hard and rocky soil necessitated industry, thrift, and severe punishment
on those who stole the fruits of labor, even as miners in the Rocky
Mountains sacredly abstain from appropriating the gold of their
fellow-laborers. Self-interest and self-preservation dictated many laws
which secured the welfare of society. The natural sacredness of home
guarded the virtue of wives and children; the natural sense of justice
raised indignation against cheating and tricks in trade. Men and women
cannot live together in peace and safety without observing certain
conditions, which may be ranked with virtues even among savages and
barbarians,--much more so in cultivated and refined communities.

The graces and amenities of life can exist without reference to future
rewards and punishments. The ultimate law of self-preservation will
protect men in ordinary times against murder and violence, and will lead
to public and social enactments which bad men fear to violate. A
traveller ordinarily feels as safe in a highly-civilized pagan community
as in a Christian city. The "heathen Chinee" fears the officers of the
law as much as does a citizen of London.

The great difference between a Pagan and a Christian people is in the
power of conscience, in the sense of a moral accountability to a
spiritual Deity, in the hopes or fears of a future state,--motives which
have a powerful influence on the elevation of individual character and
the development of higher types of social organization. But whatever
laws are necessary for the maintenance of order, the repression of
violence, of crimes against person and the State and the general
material welfare of society, are found in Pagan as well as in Christian
States; and the natural affections,--of paternal and filial love,
friendship, patriotism, generosity, etc.,--while strengthened by
Christianity, are also an inalienable part of the God-given heritage of
all mankind. We see many heroic traits, many manly virtues, many
domestic amenities, and many exalted sentiments in pagan Greece, even if
these were not taught by priests or sages. Every man instinctively
clings to life, to property, to home, to parents, to wife and children;
and hence these are guarded in every community, and the violation of
these rights is ever punished with greater or less severity for the sake
of general security and public welfare, even if there be no belief in
God. Religion, loftily considered, has but little to do with the
temporal interests of men. Governments and laws take these under their
protection, and it is men who make governments and laws. They are made
from the instinct of self-preservation, from patriotic aspirations, from
the necessities of civilization. Religion, from the Christian
standpoint, is unworldly, having reference to the life which is to come,
to the enlightenment of the conscience, to restraint from sins not
punishable by the laws, and to the inspiration of virtues which have no
worldly reward.

This kind of religion was not taught by Grecian priests or poets or
artists, and did not exist in Greece, with all its refinements and
glories, until partially communicated by those philosophers who
meditated on the secrets of Nature, the mighty mysteries of life, and
the duties which reason and reflection reveal. And it may be noticed
that the philosophers themselves, who began with speculations on the
origin of the universe, the nature of the gods, the operations of the
mind, and the laws of matter, ended at last with ethical inquiries and
injunctions. We see this illustrated in Socrates and Zeno. They seemed
to despair of finding out God, of explaining the wonders of his
universe, and came down to practical life in its sad realities,--like
Solomon himself when he said, "Fear God and keep his commandments, for
this is the whole duty of man." In ethical teachings and inquiries some
of these philosophers reached a height almost equal to that which
Christian sages aspired to climb; and had the world practised the
virtues which they taught, there would scarcely have been need of a new
revelation, so far as the observance of rules to promote happiness on
earth is concerned. But these Pagan sages did not hold out hopes beyond
the grave. They even doubted whether the soul was mortal or immortal.
They did teach many ennobling and lofty truths for the enlightenment of
thinkers; but they held out no divine help, nor any hope of completing
in a future life the failures of this one; and hence they failed in
saving society from a persistent degradation, and in elevating ordinary
men to those glorious heights reached by the Christian converts.

That was the point to which Augustine directed his vast genius and his
unrivalled logic. He admitted that arts might civilize, and that the
elaborate mythology which he ridiculed was interesting to the people,
and was, as a creation of the poets, ingenious and beautiful; but he
showed that it did not reveal a future state, that it did not promise
eternal happiness, that it did not restrain men from those sins which
human laws could not punish, and that it did not exalt the soul to lofty
communion with the Deity, or kindle a truly spiritual life, and
therefore was worthless as a religion, imbecile to save, and only to be
classed with those myths which delight an ignorant or sensuous people,
and with those rites which are shrouded in mystery and gloom. Nor did
he, in his matchless argument against the gods of Greece and Rome, take
for his attack those deities whose rites were most degrading and
senseless, and which the thinking world despised, but the most lofty
forms of pagan religion, such as were accepted by moralists and
philosophers like Seneca and Plato. And thus he reached the intelligence
of the age, and gave a final blow to all the gods of antiquity.

It would be instructive to show that the religion of Greece, as embraced
by the people, did not prevent or even condemn those social evils that
are the greatest blot on enlightened civilization. It did not
discourage slavery, the direst evil which ever afflicted humanity; it
did not elevate woman to her true position at home or in public; it
ridiculed those passive virtues that are declared and commended in the
Sermon on the Mount; it did not pronounce against the wickedness of war,
or the vanity of military glory; it did not dignify home, or the virtues
of the family circle; it did not declare the folly of riches, or show
that the love of money is a root of all evil. It made sensual pleasure
and outward prosperity the great aims of successful ambition, and hid
with an impenetrable screen from the eyes of men the fatal results of a
worldly life, so that suicide itself came to be viewed as a justifiable
way to avoid evils that are hard to be borne; in short, it was a
religion which, though joyous, was without hope, and with innumerable
deities was without God in the world,--which was no religion at all, but
a fable, a delusion, and a superstition, as Paul argued before the
assembled intellect of the most fastidious and cultivated city of
the world.

And yet we see among those who worshipped the gods of Greece a sense of
dependence on supernatural power; and this dependence stands out, both
in the Iliad and the Odyssey, among the boldest heroes. They seem to be
reverential to the powers above them, however indefinite their views. In
the best ages of Greece the worship of the various deities was sincere
and universal, and was attended with sacrifices to propitiate favor or
avert their displeasure.

It does not appear that these sacrifices were always offered by priests.
Warriors, kings, and heroes themselves sacrificed oxen, sheep, and
goats, and poured out libations to the gods. Homer's heroes were very
strenuous in the exercise of these duties; and they generally traced
their calamities and misfortunes to the neglect of sacrifices, which was
a great offence to the deities, from Zeus down to inferior gods. We
read, too, that the gods were supplicated in fervent prayer. There was
universally felt, in earlier times, a need of divine protection. If the
gods did not confer eternal life, they conferred, it was supposed,
temporal and worldly good. People prayed for the same blessings that the
ancient Jews sought from Jehovah. In this sense the early Greeks were
religious. Irreverence toward the gods was extremely rare. The people,
however, did not pray for divine guidance in the discharge of duty, but
for the blessings which would give them health and prosperity. We seldom
see a proud self-reliance even among the heroes of the Iliad, but great
solicitude to secure aid from the deities they worshipped.

       *       *       *       *       *

The religion of the Romans differed in some respects from that of the
Greeks, inasmuch as it was emphatically a state religion. It was more of
a ritual and a ceremony. It included most of the deities of the Greek
Pantheon, but was more comprehensive. It accepted the gods of all the
nations that composed the empire, and placed them in the Pantheon,--even
Mithra, the Persian sun-god, and the Isis and Osiris of the Egyptians,
to whom sacrifices were made by those who worshipped them at home. It
was also a purer mythology, and rejected many of the blasphemous myths
concerning the loves and quarrels of the Grecian deities. It was more
practical and less poetical. Every Roman god had something to do, some
useful office to perform. Several divinities presided over the birth and
nursing of an infant, and they were worshipped for some fancied good,
for the benefits which they were supposed to bestow. There was an
elaborate "division of labor" among them. A divinity presided over
bakers, another over ovens,--every vocation and every household
transaction had its presiding deities.

There were more superstitious rites practised by the Romans than by the
Greeks,--such as examining the entrails of beasts and birds for good or
bad omens. Great attention was given to dreams and rites of divination.
The Roman household gods were of great account, since there was a more
defined and general worship of ancestors than among the Greeks. These
were the _Penates_, or familiar household gods, the guardians of the
home, whose fire on the sacred hearth was perpetually burning, and to
whom every meal was esteemed a sacrifice. These included a _Lar_, or
ancestral family divinity, in each house. There were Vestal virgins to
guard the most sacred places. There was a college of pontiffs to
regulate worship and perform the higher ceremonies, which were
complicated and minute. The pontiffs were presided over by one called
Pontifex Maximus,--a title shrewdly assumed by Caesar to gain control of
the popular worship, and still surviving in the title of the Pope of
Rome with his college of cardinals. There were augurs and haruspices to
discover the will of the gods, according to entrails and the flight
of birds.

The festivals were more numerous in Rome than in Greece, and perhaps
were more piously observed. About one day in four was set apart for the
worship of particular gods, celebrated by feasts and games and
sacrifices. The principal feast days were in honor of Janus, the great
god of the Sabines, the god of beginnings, celebrated on the first of
January, to which month he gave his name; also the feasts in honor of
the Penates, of Mars, of Vesta, of Minerva, of Venus, of Ceres, of Juno,
of Jupiter, and of Saturn. The Saturnalia, December 19, in honor of
Saturn, the annual Thanksgiving, lasted seven days, when the rich kept
open house and slaves had their liberty,--the most joyous of the
festivals. The feast of Minerva lasted five days, when offerings were
made by all mechanics, artists, and scholars. The feast of Cybele,
analogous to that of Ceres in Greece and Isis in Egypt, lasted six days.
These various feasts imposed great contributions on the people, and were
managed by the pontiffs with the most minute observances and legalities.

The principal Roman divinities were the Olympic gods under Latin names,
like Jupiter, Juno, Mars, Minerva, Neptune, Vesta, Apollo, Venus, Ceres,
and Diana; but the secondary deities were almost innumerable. Some of
the deities were of Etruscan, some of Sabine, and some of Latin origin;
but most of them were imported from Greece or corresponded with those of
the Greek mythology. Many were manufactured by the pontiffs for
utilitarian purposes, and were mere abstractions, like Hope, Fear,
Concord, Justice, Clemency, etc., to which temples were erected. The
powers of Nature were also worshipped, like the sun, the moon, and
stars. The best side of Roman life was represented in the worship of
Vesta, who presided over the household fire and home, and was associated
with the Lares and Penates. Of these household gods the head of the
family was the officiating minister who offered prayers and sacrifices.
The Vestal virgins received especial honor, and were appointed by the
Pontifex Maximus.

Thus the Romans accounted themselves very religious, and doubtless are
to be so accounted, certainly in the same sense as were the Athenians by
the Apostle Paul, since altars, statues, and temples in honor of gods
were everywhere present to the eye, and rites and ceremonies were most
systematically and mechanically observed according to strict rules laid
down by the pontiffs. They were grave and decorous in their devotions,
and seemed anxious to learn from their augurs and haruspices the will of
the gods; and their funeral ceremonies were held with great pomp and
ceremony. As faith in the gods declined, ceremonies and pomps were
multiplied, and the ice of ritualism accumulated on the banks of piety.
Superstition and unbelief went hand in hand. Worship in the temples was
most imposing when the amours and follies of the gods were most
ridiculed in the theatres; and as the State was rigorous in its
religious observances, hypocrisy became the vice of the most prominent
and influential citizens. What sincerity was there in Julius Caesar when
he discharged the duties of high-priest of the Republic? It was
impossible for an educated Roman who read Plato and Zeno to believe in
Janus and Juno. It was all very well for the people so to believe, he
said, who must be kept in order; but scepticism increased in the higher
classes until the prevailing atheism culminated in the poetry of
Lucretius, who had the boldness to declare that faith in the gods had
been the curse of the human race.

If the Romans were more devoted to mere external and ritualistic
services than the Greeks,--more outwardly religious,--they were also
more hypocritical. If they were not professed freethinkers,--for the
State did not tolerate opposition or ridicule of those things which it
instituted or patronized,--religion had but little practical effect on
their lives. The Romans were more immoral yet more observant of
religious ceremonies than the Greeks, who acted and thought as they
pleased. Intellectual independence was not one of the characteristics of
the Roman citizen. He professed to think as the State prescribed, for
the masters of the world were the slaves of the State in religion as in
war. The Romans were more gross in their vices as they were more
pharisaical in their profession than the Greeks, whom they conquered and
imitated. Neither the sincere worship of ancestors, nor the ceremonies
and rites which they observed in honor of their innumerable divinities,
softened the severity of their character, or weakened their passion for
war and bloody sports. Their hard and rigid wills were rarely moved by
the cries of agony or the shrieks of despair. Their slavery was more
cruel than among any nation of antiquity. Butchery and legalized murder
were the delight of Romans in their conquering days, as were inhuman
sports in the days of their political decline. Where was the spirit of
religion, as it was even in India and Egypt, when women were debased;
when every man and woman held a human being in cruel bondage; when home
was abandoned for the circus and the amphitheatre; when the cry of the
mourner was unheard in shouts of victory; when women sold themselves as
wives to those who would pay the highest price, and men abstained from
marriage unless they could fatten on rich dowries; when utility was the
spring of every action, and demoralizing pleasure was the universal
pursuit; when feastings and banquets were riotous and expensive, and
violence and rapine were restrained only by the strong arm of law
dictated by instincts of self-preservation? Where was the ennobling
influence of the gods, when nobody of any position finally believed in
them? How powerless the gods, when the general depravity was so glaring
as to call out the terrible invective of Paul, the cosmopolitan
traveller, the shrewd observer, the pure-hearted Christian missionary,
indicting not a few, but a whole people: "Who exchanged the truth of God
for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the
Creator, ... being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication,
wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife,
deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, insolent,
haughty, boastful, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affections,
unmerciful." An awful picture, but sustained by the evidence of the
Roman writers of that day as certainly no worse than the
hideous reality.

If this was the outcome of the most exquisitely poetical and
art-inspiring mythology the world has ever known, what wonder that the
pure spirituality of Jesus the Christ, shining into that blackness of
darkness, should have been hailed by perishing millions as the "light of
the world"!

       *       *       *       *       *


Rawlinson's Religions of the Ancient World; Grote's History of Greece;
Thirlwall's History of Greece; Homer's Iliad and Odyssey; Max Müller's
Chips from a German Workshop; Curtius's History of Greece; Mr.
Gladstone's Homer and the Homeric Age; Rawlinson's Herodotus;
Döllinger's Jew and Gentile; Fenton's Lectures on Ancient and Modern
Greece; Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Mythology; Clarke's Ten
Great Religions; Dwight's Mythology; Saint Augustine's City of God.



550-478 B.C.

About one hundred years after the great religious movement in India
under Buddha, a man was born in China who inaugurated a somewhat similar
movement there, and who impressed his character and principles on three
hundred millions of people. It cannot be said that he was the founder of
a new religion, since he aimed only to revive what was ancient. To quote
his own words, he was "a transmitter, and not a maker." But he was,
nevertheless, a very extraordinary character; and if greatness is to be
measured by results, I know of no heathen teacher whose work has been so
permanent. In genius, in creative power, he was inferior to many; but in
influence he has had no equal among the sages of the world.

"Confucius" is a Latin name given him by Jesuit missionaries in China;
his real name was K'ung-foo-tseu. He was born about 550 B.C., in the
province of Loo, and was the contemporary of Belshazzar, of Cyrus, of
Croesus, and of Pisistratus. It is claimed that Confucius was a
descendant of one of the early emperors of China, of the Chow dynasty,
1121 B.C.; but he was simply of an upper-class family of the State of
Loo, one of the provinces of the empire,--his father and grandfather
having been prime ministers to the reigning princes or dukes of Loo,
which State resembled a feudal province of France in the Middle Ages,
acknowledging only a nominal fealty to the Emperor.

We know but little of the early condition of China. The earliest record
of events which can be called history takes us back to about 2350 B.C.,
when Yaou was emperor,--an intelligent and benignant prince, uniting
under his sway the different States of China, which had even then
reached a considerable civilization, for the legendary or mythical
history of the country dates back about five thousand years. Yaou's son
Shun was an equally remarkable man, wise and accomplished, who lived
only to advance the happiness of his subjects. At that period the
religion of China was probably monotheistic. The supreme being was
called Shang-te, to whom sacrifices were made, a deity who exercised a
superintending care of the universe; but corruptions rapidly crept in,
and a worship of the powers of Nature and of the spirits of departed
ancestors, who were supposed to guard the welfare of their descendants,
became the prevailing religion. During the reigns of these good emperors
the standard of morality was high throughout the empire.

But morals declined,--the old story in all the States of the ancient
world. In addition to the decline in morals, there were political
discords and endless wars between the petty princes of the empire.

To remedy the political and moral evils of his time was the great desire
and endeavor of Confucius. The most marked feature in the religion of
the Chinese, before his time, was the worship of ancestors, and this
worship he did not seek to change. "Confucius taught three thousand
disciples, of whom the more eminent became influential authors. Like
Plato and Xenophon, they recorded the sayings of their master, and his
maxims and arguments preserved in their works were afterward added to
the national collection of the sacred books called the 'Nim Classes.'"

Confucius was a mere boy when his father died, and we know next to
nothing of his early years. At fifteen years of age, however, we are
told that he devoted himself to learning, pursuing his studies under
considerable difficulties, his family being poor. He married when he was
nineteen years of age; and in the following year was born his son Le,
his only child, of whose descendants eleven thousand males were living
one hundred and fifty years ago, constituting the only hereditary
nobility of China,--a class who for seventy generations were the
recipients of the highest honors and privileges. On the birth of Le, the
duke Ch'aou of Loo sent Confucius a present of a carp, which seems to
indicate that he was already distinguished for his attainments.

At twenty years of age Confucius entered upon political duties, being
the superintendent of cattle, from which, for his fidelity and ability,
he was promoted to the higher office of distributer of grain, having
attracted the attention of his sovereign. At twenty-two he began his
labors as a public teacher, and his house became the resort of
enthusiastic youth who wished to learn the doctrines of antiquity. These
were all that the sage undertook to teach,--not new and original
doctrines of morality or political economy, but only such as were
established from a remote antiquity, going back two thousand years
before he was born. There is no improbability in this alleged antiquity
of the Chinese Empire, for Egypt at this time was a flourishing State.

At twenty-nine years of age Confucius gave his attention to music, which
he studied under a famous master; and to this art he devoted no small
part of his life, writing books and treatises upon it. Six years
afterward, at thirty-five, he had a great desire to travel; and the
reigning duke, in whose service he was as a high officer of state, put
at his disposal a carriage and two horses, to visit the court of the
Emperor, whose sovereignty, however, was only nominal. It does not
appear that Confucius was received with much distinction, nor did he
have much intercourse with the court or the ministers. He was a mere
seeker of knowledge, an inquirer about the ceremonies and maxims of the
founder of the dynasty of Chow, an observer of customs, like Herodotus.
He wandered for eight years among the various provinces of China,
teaching as he went, but without making a great impression. Moreover, he
was regarded with jealousy by the different ministers of princes; one of
them, however, struck with his wisdom and knowledge, wished to retain
him in his service.

On the return of Confucius to Loo, he remained fifteen years without
official employment, his native province being in a state of anarchy.
But he was better employed than in serving princes, prosecuting his
researches into poetry, history, ceremonies, and music,--a born scholar,
with insatiable desire of knowledge. His great gifts and learning,
however, did not allow him to remain without public employment. He was
made governor of an important city. As chief magistrate of this city, he
made a marvellous change in the manners of the people. The duke,
surprised at what he saw, asked if his rules could be employed to
govern a whole State; and Confucius told him that they could be applied
to the government of the Empire. On this the duke appointed him
assistant superintendent of Public Works,--a great office, held only by
members of the ducal family. So many improvements did Confucius make in
agriculture that he was made minister of Justice; and so wonderful was
his management, that soon there was no necessity to put the penal laws
in execution, since no offenders could be found. Confucius held his high
office as minister of Justice for two years longer, and some suppose he
was made prime minister. His authority certainly continued to increase.
He exalted the sovereign, depressed the ministers, and weakened private
families,--just as Richelieu did in France, strengthening the throne at
the expense of the nobility. It would thus seem that his political
reforms were in the direction of absolute monarchy, a needed force in
times of anarchy and demoralization. So great was his fame as a
statesman that strangers came from other States to see him.

These reforms in the state of Loo gave annoyance to the neighboring
princes; and to undermine the influence of Confucius with the duke,
these princes sent the duke a present of eighty beautiful girls,
possessing musical and dancing accomplishments, and also one hundred and
twenty splendid horses. As the duke soon came to think more of his
girls and horses than of his reforms, Confucius became disgusted,
resigned his office, and retired to private life. Then followed thirteen
years of homeless wandering. He was now fifty-six years of age,
depressed and melancholy in view of his failure with princes. He was
accompanied in his travels by some of his favorite disciples, to whom he
communicated his wisdom.

But his fame preceded him wherever he journeyed, and such was the
respect for his character and teachings that he was loaded with presents
by the people, and was left unmolested to do as he pleased. The
dissoluteness of courts filled him with indignation and disgust; and he
was heard to exclaim on one occasion, "I have not seen one who loves
virtue as he loves beauty,"--meaning the beauty of women. The love of
the beautiful, in an artistic sense, is a Greek and not an
Oriental idea.

In the meantime Confucius continued his wanderings from city to city and
State to State, with a chosen band of disciples, all of whom became
famous. He travelled for the pursuit of knowledge, and to impress the
people with his doctrines. A certain one of his followers was questioned
by a prince as to the merits and peculiarities of his master, but was
afraid to give a true answer. The sage hearing of it, said, "You should
have told him, He is simply a man who in his eager pursuit of knowledge
forgets his food, who in the joy of his attainments forgets his sorrows,
and who does not perceive that old age is coming on." How seldom is it
that any man reaches such a height! In a single sentence the philosopher
describes himself truly and impressively.

At last, in the year 491 B.C., a new sovereign reigned in Loo, and with
costly presents invited Confucius to return to his native State. The
philosopher was now sixty-nine years of age, and notwithstanding the
respect in which he was held, the world cannot be said to have dealt
kindly with him. It is the fate of prophets and sages to be rejected.
The world will not bear rebukes. Even a friend, if discreet, will rarely
venture to tell another friend his faults. Confucius told the truth when
pressed, but he does not seem to have courted martyrdom; and his manners
and speech were too bland, too proper, too unobtrusive to give much
offence. Luther was aided in his reforms by his very roughness and
boldness, but he was surrounded by a different class of people from
those whom Confucius sought to influence. Conventional, polite,
considerate, and a great respecter of persons in authority was the
Chinese sage. A rude, abrupt, and fierce reformer would have had no
weight with the most courteous and polite people of whom history speaks;
whose manners twenty-five hundred years ago were substantially the same
as they are at the present day,--a people governed by the laws of
propriety alone.

The few remaining years of Confucius' life were spent in revising his
writings; but his latter days were made melancholy by dwelling on the
evils of the world that he could not remove. Disappointment also had
made him cynical and bitter, like Solomon of old, although from
different causes. He survived his son and his most beloved disciples. As
he approached the dark valley he uttered no prayer, and betrayed no
apprehension. Death to him was a rest. He died at the age of

In the tenth book of his Analects we get a glimpse of the habits of the
philosopher. He was a man of rule and ceremony.-He was particular about
his dress and appearance. He was no ascetic, but moderate and temperate.
He lived chiefly on rice, like the rest of his countrymen, but required
to have his rice cooked nicely, and his meat cut properly. He drank wine
freely, but was never known to have obscured his faculties by this
indulgence. I do not read that tea was then in use. He was charitable
and hospitable, but not ostentatious. He generally travelled in a
carriage with two horses, driven by one of his disciples; but a carriage
in those days was like one of our carts. In his village, it is said, he
looked simple and sincere, as if he were one not able to speak; when
waiting at court, or speaking with officers of an inferior grade, he
spoke freely, but in a straightforward manner; with officers of a
higher, grade he spoke blandly, but precisely; with the prince he was
grave, but self-possessed. When eating he did not converse; when in bed
he did not speak. If his mat were not straight he did not sit on it.
When a friend sent him a present he did not bow; the only present for
which he bowed was that of the flesh of sacrifice. He was capable of
excessive grief, with all his placidity. When his favorite pupil died,
he exclaimed, "Heaven is destroying me!" His disciples on this said,
"Sir, your grief is excessive." "It is excessive," he replied. "If I am
not to mourn bitterly for this man, for whom should I mourn?"

The reigning prince of Loo caused a temple to be erected over the
remains of Confucius, and the number of his disciples continually
increased. The emperors of the falling dynasty of Chow had neither the
intelligence nor the will to do honor to the departed philosopher, but
the emperors of the succeeding dynasties did all they could to
perpetuate his memory. During his life Confucius found ready acceptance
for his doctrines, and was everywhere revered among the people, though
not uniformly appreciated by the rulers, nor able permanently to
establish the reforms he inaugurated. After his death, however, no honor
was too great to be rendered him. The most splendid temple in China was
built over his grave, and he received a homage little removed from
worship. His writings became a sacred rule of faith and practice;
schools were based upon them, and scholars devoted themselves to their
interpretation. For two thousand years Confucius has reigned
supreme,--the undisputed teacher of a population of three or four
hundred millions.

Confucius must be regarded as a man of great humility, conscious of
infirmities and faults, but striving after virtue and perfection. He
said of himself, "I have striven to become a man of perfect virtue, and
to teach others without weariness; but the character of the superior
man, carrying out in his conduct what he professes, is what I have not
attained to. I am not one born in the possession of knowledge, but I am
one who is fond of antiquity, and earnest in seeking it there. I am a
transmitter, and not a maker." If he did not lay claim to divine
illumination, he felt that he was born into the world for a special
purpose; not to declare new truths, not to initiate any new ceremony,
but to confirm what he felt was in danger of being lost,--the most
conservative of all known reformers.

Confucius left behind voluminous writings, of which his Analects, his
book of Poetry, his book of History, and his Rules of Propriety are the
most important. It is these which are now taught, and have been taught
for two thousand years, in the schools and colleges of China. The
Chinese think that no man so great and perfect as he has ever lived. His
writings are held in the same veneration that Christians attach to their
own sacred literature. There is this one fundamental difference between
the authors of the Bible and the Chinese sage,--that he did not like to
talk of spiritual things; indeed, of them he was ignorant, professing no
interest in relation to the working out of abstruse questions, either of
philosophy or theology. He had no taste or capacity for such inquiries.
Hence, he did not aspire to throw any new light on the great problems of
human condition and destiny; nor did he speculate, like the Ionian
philosophers, on the creation or end of things. He was not troubled
about the origin or destiny of man. He meddled neither with physics nor
metaphysics, but he earnestly and consistently strove to bring to light
and to enforce those principles which had made remote generations wise
and virtuous. He confined his attention to outward phenomena,--to the
world of sense and matter; to forms, precedents, ceremonies,
proprieties, rules of conduct, filial duties, and duties to the State;
enjoining temperance, honesty, and sincerity as the cardinal and
fundamental laws of private and national prosperity. He was no prophet
of wrath, though living in a corrupt age. He utters no anathemas on
princes, and no woes on peoples. Nor does he glow with exalted hopes of
a millennium of bliss, or of the beatitudes of a future state. He was
not stern and indignant like Elijah, but more like the courtier and
counsellor Elisha. He was a man of the world, and all his teachings have
reference to respectability in the world's regard. He doubted more than
he believed.

And yet in many of his sayings Confucius rises to an exalted height,
considering his age and circumstances. Some of them remind us of some of
the best Proverbs of Solomon. In general, we should say that to his mind
filial piety and fraternal submission were the foundation of all
virtuous practices, and absolute obedience to rulers the primal
principle of government. He was eminently a peace man, discouraging wars
and violence. He was liberal and tolerant in his views. He said that the
"superior man is catholic and no partisan." Duke Gae asked, "What should
be done to secure the submission of the people?" The sage replied,
"Advance the upright, and set aside the crooked; then the people will
submit. But advance the crooked, and set aside the upright, and the
people will not submit." Again he said, "It is virtuous manners which
constitute the excellence of a neighborhood; therefore fix your
residence where virtuous manners prevail." The following sayings remind
me of Epictetus: "A scholar whose mind is set on truth, and who is
ashamed of bad clothes and bad food, is not fit to be discoursed with. A
man should say, 'I am not concerned that I have no place,--I am
concerned how I may fit myself for one. I am not concerned that I am not
known; I seek to be worthy to be known.'" Here Confucius looks to the
essence of things, not to popular desires. In the following, on the
other hand, he shows his prudence and policy: "In serving a prince,
frequent remonstrances lead to disgrace; between friends, frequent
reproofs make the friendship distant." Thus he talks like Solomon.
"Tsae-yu, one of his disciples, being asleep in the day-time, the master
said, 'Rotten wood cannot be carved. This Yu--what is the use of my
reproving him?'" Of a virtuous prince, he said: "In his conduct of
himself, he was humble; in serving his superiors, he was respectful; in
nourishing the people, he was kind; in ordering the people, he
was just."

It was discussed among his followers what it is to be distinguished. One
said: "It is to be heard of through the family and State." The master
replied: "That is notoriety, not distinction." Again he said: "Though a
man may be able to recite three hundred odes, yet if when intrusted with
office he does not know how to act, of what practical use is his
poetical knowledge?" Again, "If a minister cannot rectify himself, what
has he to do with rectifying others?" There is great force in this
saying: "The superior man is easy to serve and difficult to please,
since you cannot please him in any way which is not accordant with
right; but the mean man is difficult to serve and easy to please. The
superior man has a dignified ease without pride; the mean man has pride
without a dignified ease." A disciple asked him what qualities a man
must possess to entitle him to be called a scholar. The master said: "He
must be earnest, urgent, and bland,--among his friends earnest and
urgent, among his brethren bland." And, "The scholar who cherishes a
love of comfort is not fit to be deemed a scholar." "If a man," he said,
"take no thought about what is distant, he will find sorrow near at
hand." And again, "He who requires much from himself and little from
others, he will keep himself from being an object of resentment." These
proverbs remind us of Bacon: "Specious words confound virtue." "Want of
forbearance in small matters confound great plans." "Virtue," the master
said, "is more to man than either fire or water. I have seen men die
from treading on water or fire, but I have never seen a man die from
treading the course of virtue." This is a lofty sentiment, but I think
it is not in accordance with the records of martyrdom. "There are three
things," he continued, "which the superior man guards against: In youth
he guards against his passions, in manhood against quarrelsomeness, and
in old age against covetousness."

I do not find anything in the sayings of Confucius that can be called
cynical, such as we find in some of the Proverbs of Solomon, even in
reference to women, where women were, as in most Oriental countries,
despised. The most that approaches cynicism is in such a remark as this:
"I have not yet seen one who could perceive his faults and inwardly
accuse himself." His definition of perfect virtue is above that of
Paley: "The man of virtue makes the difficulty to be overcome his first
business, and success only a secondary consideration." Throughout his
writings there is no praise of success without virtue, and no
disparagement of want of success with virtue. Nor have I found in his
sayings a sentiment which may be called demoralizing. He always takes
the higher ground, and with all his ceremony ever exalts inward purity
above all external appearances. There is a quaint common-sense in some
of his writings which reminds one of the sayings of Abraham Lincoln. For
instance: One of his disciples asked, "If you had the conduct of
armies, whom would you have to act with you?" The master replied: "I
would not have him to act with me who will unarmed attack a tiger, or
cross a river without a boat." Here something like wit and irony break
out: "A man of the village said, 'Great is K'ung the philosopher; his
learning is extensive, and yet he does not render his name famous by any
particular thing.' The master heard this observation, and said to his
disciples: 'What shall I practise, charioteering or archery? I will
practise charioteering.'"

When the Duke of Loo asked about government, the master said: "Good
government exists when those who are near are made happy, and when those
who are far off are attracted." When the Duke questioned him again on
the same subject, he replied: "Go before the people with your example,
and be laborious in their affairs.... Pardon small faults, and raise to
office men of virtue and talents." "But how shall I know the men of
virtue?" asked the duke. "Raise to office those whom you do know," The
key to his political philosophy seems to be this: "A man who knows how
to govern himself, knows how to govern others; and he who knows how to
govern other men, knows how to govern an empire." "The art of
government," he said, "is to keep its affairs before the mind without
weariness, and to practise them with undeviating constancy.... To
govern means to rectify. If you lead on the people with correctness,
who will not dare to be correct?" This is one of his favorite
principles; namely, the force of a good example,--as when the reigning
prince asked him how to do away with thieves, he replied: "If you, Sir,
were not covetous, although you should reward them to do it, they would
not steal." This was not intended as a rebuke to the prince, but an
illustration of the force of a great example. Confucius rarely openly
rebuked any one, especially a prince, whom it was his duty to venerate
for his office. He contented himself with enforcing principles. Here his
moderation and great courtesy are seen.

Confucius sometimes soared to the highest morality known to the Pagan
world. Chung-kung asked about perfect virtue. The master said: "It is
when you go abroad, to behave to every one as if you were receiving a
great guest, to have no murmuring against you in the country and family,
and not to do to others as you would not wish done to yourself.... The
superior man has neither anxiety nor fear. Let him never fail
reverentially to order his own conduct, and let him be respectful to
others and observant of propriety; then all within the four seas will be
brothers.... Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles, and be
moving continually to what is right." Fan-Chi asked about benevolence;
the master said: "It is to love all men." Another asked about
friendship. Confucius replied: "Faithfully admonish your friend, and
kindly try to lead him. If you find him impracticable, stop. Do not
disgrace yourself." This saying reminds us of that of our great Master:
"Cast not your pearls before swine." There is no greater folly than in
making oneself disagreeable without any probability of reformation. Some
one asked: "What do you say about the treatment of injuries?" The master
answered: "Recompense injury with justice, and recompense kindness with
kindness." Here again he was not far from the greater Teacher on the
Mount "When a man's knowledge is sufficient to attain and his virtue is
not sufficient to hold, whatever he may have gained he will lose again."
One of the favorite doctrines of Confucius was the superiority of the
ancients to the men of his day. Said he: "The high-mindedness of
antiquity showed itself in a disregard of small things; that of the
present day shows itself in license. The stern dignity of antiquity
showed itself in grave reserve; that of the present shows itself in
quarrelsome perverseness. The policy of antiquity showed itself in
straightforwardness; that of the present in deceit." The following is a
saying worthy of Montaigne: "Of all people, girls and servants are the
most difficult to behave to. If you are familiar with them, they lose
their humility; if you maintain reserve to them, they are discontented."

Such are some of the sayings of Confucius, on account of which he was
regarded as the wisest of his countrymen; and as his conduct was in
harmony with his principles, he was justly revered as a pattern of
morality. The greatest virtues which he enjoined were sincerity,
truthfulness, and obedience to duty whatever may be the sacrifice; to do
right because it is right and not because it is expedient; filial piety
extending to absolute reverence; and an equal reverence for rulers. He
had no theology; he confounded God with heaven and earth. He says
nothing about divine providence; he believed in nothing supernatural. He
thought little and said less about a future state of rewards and
punishments. His morality was elevated, but not supernal. We infer from
his writings that his age was degenerate and corrupt, but, as we have
already said, his reproofs were gentle. Blandness of speech and manners
was his distinguishing outward peculiarity; and this seems to
characterize his nation,--whether learned from him, or whether an inborn
national peculiarity, I do not know. He went through great trials most
creditably, but he was no martyr. He constantly complained that his
teachings fell on listless ears, which made him sad and discouraged; but
he never flagged in his labors to improve his generation. He had no
egotism, but great self-respect, reminding us of Michael Angelo. He was
humble but full of dignity, serene though distressed, cheerful but not
hilarious. Were he to live among us now, we should call him a perfect
gentleman, with aristocratic sympathies, but more autocratic in his
views of government and society than aristocratic. He seems to have
loved the people, and was kind, even respectful, to everybody. When he
visited a school, it is said that he arose in quiet deference to speak
to the children, since some of the boys, he thought, would probably be
distinguished and powerful at no distant day. He was also remarkably
charitable, and put a greater value on virtues and abilities than upon
riches and honors. Though courted by princes he would not serve them in
violation of his self-respect, asked no favors, and returned their
presents. If he did not live above the world, he adorned the world. We
cannot compare his teachings with those of Christ; they are immeasurably
inferior in loftiness and spirituality; but they are worldly wise and
decorous, and are on an equality with those of Solomon in moral wisdom.
They are wonderfully adapted to a people who are conservative of their
institutions, and who have more respect for tradition than for progress.

The worship of ancestors is closely connected with veneration for
parental authority; and with absolute obedience to parents is allied
absolute obedience to the Emperor as head of the State. Hence, the
writings of Confucius have tended to cement the Chinese imperial
power,--in which fact we may perhaps find the secret of his
extraordinary posthumous influence. No wonder that emperors and rulers
have revered and honored his memory, and used the power of the State to
establish his doctrines. Moreover, his exaltation of learning as a
necessity for rulers has tended to put all the offices of the realm into
the hands of scholars. There never was a country where scholars have
been and still are so generally employed by Government. And as men of
learning are conservative in their sympathies, so they generally are
fond of peace and detest war. Hence, under the influence of scholars the
policy of the Chinese Government has always been mild and pacific. It is
even paternal. It has more similarity to the governments of a remote
antiquity than that of any existing nation. Thus is the influence of
Confucius seen in the stability of government and of conservative
institutions, as well as in decency in the affairs of life, and
gentleness and courtesy of manners. Above all is his influence seen in
the employment of men of learning and character in the affairs of state
and in all the offices of government, as the truest guardians of
whatever tends to exalt a State and make it respectable and stable, if
not powerful for war or daring in deeds of violence.

Confucius was essentially a statesman as well as a moralist; but his
political career was an apparent failure, since few princes listened to
his instructions. Yet if he was lost to his contemporaries, he has been
preserved by posterity. Perhaps there never lived a man so worshipped by
posterity who had so slight a following by the men of his own
time,--unless we liken him to that greatest of all Prophets, who, being
despised and rejected, is, and is to be, the "headstone of the corner"
in the rebuilding of humanity. Confucius says so little about the
subjects that interested the people of China that some suppose he had no
religion at all. Nor did he mention but once in his writings Shang-te,
the supreme deity of his remote ancestors; and he deduced nothing from
the worship of him. And yet there are expressions in his sayings which
seem to show that he believed in a supreme power. He often spoke of
Heaven, and loved to walk in the heavenly way. Heaven to him was
Destiny, by the power of which the world was created. By Heaven the
virtuous are rewarded, and the guilty are punished. Out of love for the
people, Heaven appoints rulers to protect and instruct them. Prayer is
unnecessary, because Heaven does not actively interfere with the soul
of man.

Confucius was philosophical and consistent in the all-pervading
principle by which he insisted upon the common source of power in
government,--of the State, of the family, and of one's self.
Self-knowledge and self-control he maintained to be the fountain of all
personal virtue and attainment in performance of the moral duties owed
to others, whether above or below in social standing. He supposed that
all men are born equally good, but that the temptations of the world at
length destroy the original rectitude. The "superior man," who next to
the "sage" holds the highest place in the Confucian humanity, conquers
the evil in the world, though subject to infirmities; his acts are
guided by the laws of propriety, and are marked by strict sincerity.
Confucius admitted that he himself had failed to reach the level of the
superior man. This admission may have been the result of his
extraordinary humility and modesty.

In "The Great Learning" Confucius lays down the rules to enable one to
become a superior man. The foundation of his rules is in the
investigation of things, or _knowledge_, with which virtue is
indissolubly connected,--as in the ethics of Socrates. He maintained
that no attainment can be made, and no virtue can remain untainted,
without learning. "Without this, benevolence becomes folly, sincerity
recklessness, straightforwardness rudeness, and firmness foolishness."
But mere accumulation of facts was not knowledge, for "learning without
thought is labor lost; and thought without learning is perilous."
Complete wisdom was to be found only among the ancient sages; by no
mental endeavor could any man hope to equal the supreme wisdom of Yaou
and of Shun. The object of learning, he said, should be truth; and the
combination of learning with a firm will, will surely lead a man to
virtue. Virtue must be free from all hypocrisy and guile.

The next step towards perfection is the _cultivation of the
person_,--which must begin with introspection, and ends in harmonious
outward expression. Every man must guard his thoughts, words, and
actions; and conduct must agree with words. By words the superior man
directs others; but in order to do this his words must be sincere. It by
no means follows, however, that virtue is the invariable concomitant of
plausible speech.

The height of virtue is _filial piety_; for this is connected
indissolubly with loyalty to the sovereign, who is the father of his
people and the preserver of the State. Loyalty to the sovereign is
synonymous with duty, and is outwardly shown by obedience. Next to
parents, all superiors should be the object of reverence. This
reverence, it is true, should be reciprocal; a sovereign forfeits all
right to reverence and obedience when he ceases to be a minister of
good. But then, only the man who has developed virtues in himself is
considered competent to rule a family or a State; for the same virtues
which enable a man to rule the one, will enable him to rule the other.
No man can teach others who cannot teach his own family. The greatest
stress, as we have seen, is laid by Confucius on filial piety, which
consists in obedience to authority,--in serving parents according to
propriety, that is, with the deepest affection, and the father of the
State with loyalty. But while it is incumbent on a son to obey the
wishes of his parents, it is also a part of his duty to remonstrate with
them should they act contrary to the rules of propriety. All
remonstrances, however, must be made humbly. Should these remonstrances
fail, the son must mourn in silence the obduracy of the parents. He
carried the obligations of filial piety so far as to teach that a son
should conceal the immorality of a father, forgetting the distinction of
right and wrong. Brotherly love is the sequel of filial piety. "Happy,"
says he, "is the union with wife and children; it is like the music of
lutes and harps. The love which binds brother to brother is second only
to that which is due from children to parents. It consists in mutual
friendship, joyful harmony, and dutiful obedience on the part of the
younger to the elder brothers."

While obedience is exacted to an elder brother and to parents, Confucius
said but little respecting the ties which should bind husband and wife.
He had but little respect for woman, and was divorced from his wife
after living with her for a year. He looked on women as every way
inferior to men, and only to be endured as necessary evils. It was not
until a woman became a mother, that she was treated with respect in
China. Hence, according to Confucius, the great object of marriage is to
increase the family, especially to give birth to sons. Women could be
lawfully and properly divorced who had no children,--which put women
completely in the power of men, and reduced them to the condition of
slaves. The failure to recognize the sanctity of marriage is the great
blot on the system of Confucius as a scheme of morals.

But the sage exalts friendship. Everybody, from the Emperor downward,
must have friends; and the best friends are those allied by ties of
blood. "Friends," said he, "are wealth to the poor, strength to the
weak, and medicine to the sick." One of the strongest bonds to
friendship is literature and literary exertion. Men are enjoined by
Confucius to make friends among the most virtuous of scholars, even as
they are enjoined to take service under the most worthy of great
officers. In the intercourse of friends, the most unbounded sincerity
and frankness is imperatively enjoined. "He who is not trusted by his
friends will not gain the confidence of the sovereign, and he who is not
obedient to parents will not be trusted by friends."

Everything is subordinated to the State; but, on the other hand, the
family, friends, culture, virtue,--the good of the people,--is the main
object of good government. "No virtue," said Emperor Kuh, 2435 B.C.,
"is higher than love to all men, and there is no loftier aim in
government than to profit all men." When he was asked what should be
done for the people, he replied, "Enrich them;" and when asked what more
should be done, he replied, "Teach them." On these two principles the
whole philosophy of the sage rested,--the temporal welfare of the
people, and their education. He laid great stress on knowledge, as
leading to virtue; and on virtue, as leading to prosperity. He made the
profession of a teacher the most honorable calling to which a citizen
could aspire. He himself was a teacher. All sages are teachers, though
all teachers are not sages.

Confucius enlarged upon the necessity of having good men in office. The
officials of his day excited his contempt, and reciprocally scorned his
teachings. It was in contrast to these officials that he painted the
ideal times of Kings Wan and Woo. The two motive-powers of government,
according to Confucius, are righteousness and the observance of
ceremonies. Righteousness is the law of the world, as ceremonies form a
rule to the heart. What he meant by ceremonies was rules of propriety,
intended to keep all unruly passions in check, and produce a
reverential manner among all classes. Doubtless he over-estimated the
force of example, since there are men in every country and community who
will be lawless and reckless, in spite of the best models of character
and conduct.

The ruling desire of Confucius was to make the whole empire peaceful and
happy. The welfare of the people, the right government of the State, and
the prosperity of the empire were the main objects of his solicitude. As
conducive to these, he touched on many other things incidentally,--such
as the encouragement of music, of which he was very fond. He himself
summed up the outcome of his rules for conduct in this prohibitive form:
"Do not unto others that which you would not have them do to you." Here
we have the negative side of the positive "golden rule." Reciprocity,
and that alone, was his law of life. He does not inculcate forgiveness
of injuries, but exacts a tooth for a tooth, and an eye for an eye.

As to his own personal character, it was nearly faultless. His humility
and patience were alike remarkable, and his sincerity and candor were as
marked as his humility. He was the most learned man in the empire, yet
lamented the deficiency of his knowledge. He even disclaimed the
qualities of the superior man, much more those of the sage. "I am,"
said he, "not virtuous enough to be free from cares, nor wise enough to
be free from anxieties, nor bold enough to be free from fear." He was
always ready to serve his sovereign or the State; but he neither grasped
office, nor put forward his own merits, nor sought to advance his own
interests. He was grave, generous, tolerant, and sincere. He carried
into practice all the rules he taught. Poverty was his lot in life, but
he never repined at the absence of wealth, or lost the severe dignity
which is ever to be associated with wisdom and the force of personal
character. Indeed, his greatness was in his character rather than in his
genius; and yet I think his genius has been underrated. His greatness is
seen in the profound devotion of his followers to him, however lofty
their merits or exalted their rank. No one ever disputed his influence
and fame; and his moral excellence shines all the brighter in view of
the troublous times in which he lived, when warriors occupied the stage,
and men of letters were driven behind the scenes.

The literary labors of Confucius were very great, since he made the
whole classical literature of China accessible to his countrymen. The
fame of all preceding writers is merged in his own renown. His works
have had the highest authority for more than two thousand years. They
have been regarded as the exponents of supreme wisdom, and adopted as
text-books by all scholars and in all schools in that vast empire,
which includes one-fourth of the human race. To all educated men the
"Book of Changes" (Yin-King), the "Book of Poetry" (She-King), the "Book
of History" (Shoo-King), the "Book of Rites" (Le-King), the "Great
Learning" (Ta-heo), showing the parental essence of all government, the
"Doctrine of the Mean" (Chung-yung), teaching the "golden mean" of
conduct, and the "Confucian Analects" (Lun-yu), recording his
conversations, are supreme authorities; to which must be added the Works
of Mencius, the greatest of his disciples. There is no record of any
books that have exacted such supreme reverence in any nation as the
Works of Confucius, except the Koran of the Mohammedans, the Book of the
Law among the Hebrews, and the Bible among the Christians. What an
influence for one man to have exerted on subsequent ages, who laid no
claim to divinity or even originality,--recognized as a man,
worshipped as a god!

No sooner had the sun of Confucius set under a cloud (since sovereigns
and princes had neglected if they had not scorned his precepts), than
his memory and principles were duly honored. But it was not until the
accession of the Han dynasty, 206 B.C., that the reigning emperor
collected the scattered writings of the sage, and exerted his vast power
to secure the study of them throughout the schools of China. It must be
borne in mind that a hostile emperor of the preceding dynasty had
ordered the books of Confucius to be burned; but they were secreted by
his faithful admirers in the walls of houses and beneath the ground.
Succeeding emperors heaped additional honors on the memory of the sage,
and in the early part of the sixteenth century an emperor of the Ming
dynasty gave him the title which he at present bears in China,--"The
perfect sage, the ancient teacher, Confucius." No higher title could be
conferred upon him in a land where to be "ancient" is to be revered. For
more than twelve hundred years temples have been erected to his honor,
and his worship has been universal throughout the empire. His maxims of
morality have appealed to human consciousness in every succeeding
generation, and carry as much weight to-day as they did when the Han
dynasty made them the standard of human wisdom. They were especially
adapted to the Chinese intellect, which although shrewd and ingenious is
phlegmatic, unspeculative, matter-of-fact, and unspiritual. Moreover, as
we have said, it was to the interest of rulers to support his doctrines,
from the constant exhortations to loyalty which Confucius enjoined. And
yet there is in his precepts a democratic influence also, since he
recognized no other titles or ranks but such as are won by personal
merit,--thus opening every office in the State to the learned, whatever
their original social rank. The great political truth that the welfare
of the people is the first duty and highest aim of rulers, has endeared
the memory of the sage to the unnumbered millions who toil upon the
scantiest means of subsistence that have been known in any
nation's history.

This essay on the religion of the Chinese would be incomplete without
some allusion to one of the contemporaries of Confucius, who spiritually
and intellectually was probably his superior, and to whom even Confucius
paid extraordinary deference. This man was called Lao-tse, a recluse and
philosopher, who was already an old man when Confucius began his
travels. He was the founder of Tao-tze, a kind of rationalism, which at
present has millions of adherents in China. This old philosopher did not
receive Confucius very graciously, since the younger man declared
nothing new, only wishing to revive the teachings of ancient sages,
while he himself was a great awakener of thought. He was, like
Confucius, a politico-ethical teacher, but unlike him sought to lead
people back to a state of primitive society before forms and regulations
existed. He held that man's nature was good, and that primitive
pleasures and virtues were better than worldly wisdom. He maintained
that spiritual weapons cannot be formed by laws and regulations, and
that prohibiting enactments tended to increase the evils they were
meant to avert. While this great and profound man was in some respects
superior to Confucius, his influence has been most seen on the inferior
people of China. Taoism rivals Buddhism as the religion of the lower
classes, and Taoism combined with Buddhism has more adherents than
Confucianism. But the wise, the mighty, and the noble still cling to
Confucius as the greatest man whom China has produced.

Of spiritual religion, indeed, the lower millions of Chinese have now
but little conception; their nearest approach to any supernaturalism is
the worship of deceased ancestors, and their religious observances are
the grossest formalism. But as a practical system of morals in the days
of its early establishment, the religion of Confucius ranks very high
among the best developments of Paganism. Certainly no man ever had a
deeper knowledge of his countrymen than he, or adapted his doctrines to
the peculiar needs of their social organism with such amazing tact.

It is a remarkable thing that all the religions of antiquity have
practically passed away, with their cities and empires, except among the
Hindus and Chinese; and it is doubtful if these religions can withstand
the changes which foreign conquest and Christian missionary enterprise
and civilization are producing. In the East the old religions gave place
to Mohamedanism, as in the West they disappeared before the power of
Christianity. And these conquering religions retain and extend their
hold upon the human mind and human affections by reason of their
fundamental principles,--the fatherhood of a personal God, and the
brotherhood of universal man. With the ideas prevalent among all sects
that God is not only supreme in power, but benevolent in his providence,
and that every man has claims and rights which cannot be set aside by
kings or rulers or priests,--nations must indefinitely advance in virtue
and happiness, as they receive and live by the inspiration of this
elevating faith.

       *       *       *       *       *


Religion in China, by Joseph Edkins, D.D.; Rawlinson's Religions of the
Ancient World; Freeman Clarke's Ten Great Religions; Johnson's Oriental
Religions; Davis's Chinese; Nevins's China and the Chinese; Giles's
Chinese Sketches; Lenormant's Ancient History of the East; Hue's
Christianity in China; Legge's Prolegomena to the Shoo-King; Lecomte's
China; Dr. S. Wells Williams's Middle Kingdom; China, by Professor
Douglas; The Religions of China, by James Legge.



Whatever may be said of the inferiority of the ancients to the moderns
in natural and mechanical science, which no one is disposed to question,
or even in the realm of literature, which may be questioned, there was
one department of knowledge to which we have added nothing of
consequence. In the realm of art they were our equals, and probably our
superiors; in philosophy, they carried logical deduction to its utmost
limit. They advanced from a few crude speculations on material phenomena
to an analysis of all the powers of the mind, and finally to the
establishment of ethical principles which even Christianity did not

The progress of philosophy from Thales to Plato is the most stupendous
triumph of the human intellect. The reason of man soared to the loftiest
flights that it has ever attained. It cast its searching eye into the
most abstruse inquiries which ever tasked the famous minds of the
world. It exhausted all the subjects which dialectical subtlety ever
raised. It originated and carried out the boldest speculations
respecting the nature of the soul and its future existence. It
established important psychological truths and created a method for the
solution of abstruse questions. It went on from point to point, until
all the faculties of the mind were severely analyzed, and all its
operations were subjected to a rigid method. The Romans never added a
single principle to the philosophy which the Greeks elaborated; the
ingenious scholastics of the Middle Ages merely reproduced Greek ideas;
and even the profound and patient Germans have gone round in the same
circles that Plato and Aristotle marked out more than two thousand years
ago. Only the Brahmans of India have equalled them in intellectual
subtilty and acumen. It was Greek philosophy in which noble Roman youths
were educated; and hence, as it was expounded by a Cicero, a Marcus
Aurelius, and an Epictetus, it was as much the inheritance of the Romans
as it was of the Greeks themselves, after Grecian liberties were swept
away and Greek cities became a part of the Roman empire. The Romans
learned what the Greeks created and taught; and philosophy, as well as
art, became identified with the civilization which extended from the
Rhine and the Po to the Nile and the Tigris.

Greek philosophy was one of the distinctive features of ancient
civilization long after the Greeks had ceased to speculate on the laws
of mind or the nature of the soul, on the existence of God or future
rewards and punishments. Although it was purely Grecian in its origin
and development, it became one of the grand ornaments of the Roman
schools. The Romans did not originate medicine, but Galen was one of its
greatest lights; they did not invent the hexameter verse, but Virgil
sang to its measure; they did not create Ionic capitals, but their
cities were ornamented with marble temples on the same principles as
those which called out the admiration of Pericles. So, if they did not
originate philosophy, and generally had but little taste for it, still
its truths were systematized and explained by Cicero, and formed no
small accession to the treasures with which cultivated intellects sought
everywhere to be enriched. It formed an essential part of the
intellectual wealth of the civilized world, when civilization could not
prevent the world from falling into decay and ruin. And as it was the
noblest triumph which the human mind, under Pagan influences, ever
achieved, so it was followed by the most degrading imbecility into which
man, in civilized countries, was ever allowed to fall. Philosophy, like
art, like literature, like science, arose, shone, grew dim, and passed
away, leaving the world in night. Why was so bright a glory followed by
so dismal a shame? What a comment is this on the greatness and
littleness of man!

In all probability the development of Greek philosophy originated with
the Ionian Sophoi, though many suppose it was derived from the East. It
is questionable whether the Oriental nations had any philosophy distinct
from religion. The Germans are fond of tracing resemblances in the early
speculations of the Greeks to the systems which prevailed in Asia from a
very remote antiquity. Gladish sees in the Pythagorean system an
adoption of Chinese doctrines; in the Heraclitic system, the influence
of Persia; in the Empedoclean, Egyptian speculations; and in the
Anaxagorean, the Jewish creeds. But the Orientals had theogonies, not
philosophies. The Indian speculations aim at an exposition of ancient
revelation. They profess to liberate the soul from the evils of mortal
life,--to arrive at eternal beatitudes. But the state of perfectibility
could be reached only by religious ceremonial observances and devout
contemplation. The Indian systems do not disdain logical discussions, or
a search after the principles of which the universe is composed; and
hence we find great refinements in sophistry, and a wonderful subtilty
of logical discussion, though these are directed to unattainable
ends,--to the connection of good with evil, and the union of the Supreme
with Nature. Nothing seemed to come out of these speculations but an
occasional elevation of mind among the learned, and a profound
conviction of the misery of man and the obstacles to his perfection. The
Greeks, starting from physical phenomena, went on in successive series
of inquiries, elevating themselves above matter, above experience, even
to the loftiest abstractions, until they classified the laws of thought.
It is curious how speculation led to demonstration, and how inquiries
into the world of matter prepared the way for the solution of
intellectual phenomena. Philosophy kept pace with geometry, and those
who observed Nature also gloried in abstruse calculations. Philosophy
and mathematics seem to have been allied with the worship of art among
the same men, and it is difficult to say which more distinguished
them,--aesthetic culture or power of abstruse reasoning.

We do not read of any remarkable philosophical inquirer until Thales
arose, the first of the Ionian school. He was born at Miletus, a Greek
colony in Asia Minor, about the year 636 B.C., when Ancus Martius was
king of Rome, and Josiah reigned at Jerusalem. He has left no writings
behind him, but was numbered as one of the seven wise men of Greece on
account of his political sagacity and wisdom in public affairs. I do not
here speak of his astronomical and geometrical labors, which were great,
and which have left their mark even upon our own daily life,--as, for
instance, in the fact that he was the first to have divided the year
into three hundred and sixty-five days.

     "And he, 'tis said, did first compute the stars
     Which beam in Charles's wain, and guide the bark
     Of the Phoenecian sailor o'er the sea."

He is celebrated also for practical wisdom. "Know thyself," is one of
his remarkable sayings. The chief claim of Thales to a lofty rank among
sages, however, is that he was the first who attempted a logical
solution of material phenomena, without resorting to mythical
representations. Thales felt that there was a grand question to be
answered relative to the _beginning of things._ "Philosophy," it has
been well said, "maybe a history of _errors_^ but not of _follies_". It
was not a folly, in a rude age, to speculate on the first or fundamental
principle of things. Thales looked around him upon Nature, upon the sea
and earth and sky, and concluded that water or moisture was the vital
principle. He felt it in the air, he saw it in the clouds above and in
the ground beneath his feet. He saw that plants were sustained by rain
and by the dew, that neither animal nor man could live without water,
and that to fishes it was the native element. What more important or
vital than water? It was the _prima materia_, the [Greek: archae] the
beginning of all things,--the origin of the world. How so crude a
speculation could have been maintained by so wise a man it is difficult
to conjecture. It is not, however, the cause which he assigns for the
beginning of things which is noteworthy, so much as the fact that his
mind was directed to any solution of questions pertaining to the origin
of the universe. It was these questions, and the solution of them, which
marked the Ionian philosophers, and which showed the inquiring nature of
their minds. What is the great first cause of all things? Thales saw it
in one of the four elements of Nature as the ancients divided them; and
this is the earliest recorded theory among the Greeks of the origin of
the world. It is an induction from one of the phenomena of animated
Nature,--the nutrition and production of a seed. He regarded the entire
world in the light of a living being gradually maturing and forming
itself from an imperfect seed-state, which was of a moist nature. This
moisture endues the universe with vitality. The world, he thought, was
full of gods, but they had their origin in water. He had no conception
of God as _intelligence_, or as a _creative_ power. He had a great and
inquiring mind, but it gave him no knowledge of a spiritual,
controlling, and personal deity.

Anaximenes, the disciple of Thales, pursued his master's inquiries and
adopted his method. He also was born in Miletus, but at what time is
unknown,--probably 500 B.C. Like Thales, he held to the eternity of
matter. Like him, he disbelieved in the existence of anything
immaterial, for even a human soul is formed out of matter. He, too,
speculated on the origin of the universe, but thought that _air_, not
water, was the primal cause. This element seems to be universal. We
breathe it; all things are sustained by it. It is Life,--that is,
pregnant with vital energy, and capable of infinite transmutations. All
things are produced by it; all is again resolved into it; it supports
all things; it surrounds the world; it has infinitude; it has eternal
motion. Thus did this philosopher reason, comparing the world with our
own living existence,--which he took to be air,--an imperishable
principle of life. He thus advanced a step beyond Thales, since he
regarded the world not after the analogy of an imperfect seed-state, but
after that of the highest condition of life,--the human soul. And he
attempted to refer to one general law all the transformations of the
first simple substance into its successive states, in that the cause of
change is the eternal motion of the air.

Diogenes of Apollonia, in Crete, one of the disciples of Anaximenes,
born 500 B.C., also believed that air was the principle of the
universe, but he imputed to it an intellectual energy, yet without
recognizing any distinction between mind and matter. He made air and
the soul identical. "For," says he, "man and all other animals breathe
and live by means of the air, and therein consists their soul." And as
it is the primary being from which all is derived, it is necessarily an
eternal and imperishable body; but as _soul_ it is also endued with
consciousness. Diogenes thus refers the origin of the world to an
intelligent being,--to a soul which knows and vivifies. Anaximenes
regarded air as having life; Diogenes saw in it also intelligence. Thus
philosophy advanced step by step, though still groping in the dark; for
the origin of all things, according to Diogenes, must exist in
_intelligence_. According to Diogenes Laertius, he said: "It appears to
me that he who begins any treatise ought to lay down principles about
which there can be no dispute."

Heraclitus of Ephesus, classed by Ritter among the Ionian philosophers,
was born 503 B.C. Like others of his school, he sought a physical ground
for all phenomena. The elemental principle he regarded as _fire_, since
all things are convertible into it. In one of its modifications this
fire, or fluid, self-kindled, permeating everything as the soul or
principle of life, is endowed with intelligence and powers of ceaseless
activity. "If Anaximenes," says Maurice, not very clearly, "discovered
that he had within him a power and principle which ruled over all the
acts and functions of his bodily frame, Heraclitus found that there was
life within him which he could not call his own, and yet it was, in the
very highest sense, _himself_, so that without it he would have been a
poor, helpless, isolated creature,--a universal life which connected him
with his fellow-men, with the absolute source and original fountain of
life.... He proclaimed the absolute vitality of Nature, the endless
change of matter, the mutability and perishability of all individual
things in contrast with the eternal Being,--the supreme harmony which
rules over all." To trace the divine energy of life in all things was
the general problem of the philosophy of Heraclitus, and this spirit was
akin to the pantheism of the East. But he was one of the greatest
speculative intellects that preceded Plato, and of all the physical
theorists arrived nearest to spiritual truth. He taught the germs of
what was afterward more completely developed. "From his theory of
perpetual fluxion," says Archer Butler, "Plato derived the necessity of
seeking a stable basis for the universal system in his world of ideas."
Heraclitus was, however, an obscure writer, and moreover cynical
and arrogant.

Anaxagoras, the most famous of the Ionian philosophers, was born 500
B.C., and belonged to a rich and noble family. Regarding philosophy as
the noblest pursuit of earth, he abandoned his inheritance for the study
of Nature. He went to Athens in the most brilliant period of her history,
and had Pericles, Euripides, and Socrates for pupils. He taught that the
great moving force of Nature was intellect ([Greek: nous]). Intelligence
was the cause of the world and of order, and mind was the principle of
motion; yet this intelligence was not a moral intelligence, but simply
the _primum mobile_,--the all-knowing motive force by which the order of
Nature is effected. He thus laid the foundation of a new system, under
which the Attic philosophers sought to explain Nature, by regarding as
the cause of all things, not _matter_ in its different elements, but
rather _mind_, thought, intelligence, which both knows and acts,--a
grand conception, unrivalled in ancient speculation. This explanation of
material phenomena by intellectual causes was the peculiar merit of
Anaxagoras, and places him in a very high rank among the thinkers of the
world. Moreover, he recognized the reason as the only faculty by which
we become cognizant of truth, the senses being too weak to discover the
real component particles of things. Like all the great inquirers, he was
impressed with the limited degree of positive knowledge compared with
what there is to be learned. "Nothing," says he, "can be known; nothing
is certain; sense is limited, intellect is weak, life is short,"--the
complaint, not of a sceptic, but of a man overwhelmed with the sense of
his incapacity to solve the problems which arose before his active mind.
Anaxagoras thought that this spirit ([Greek: nous]) gave to all those
material atoms which in the beginning of the world lay in disorder the
impulse by which they took the forms of individual things, and that this
impulse was given in a circular direction. Hence that the sun, moon, and
stars, and even the air, are constantly moving in a circle.

In the mean time another sect of philosophers had arisen, who, like the
Ionians, sought to explain Nature, but by a different method.
Anaximander, born 610 B.C., was one of the original mathematicians of
Greece, yet, like Pythagoras and Thales, speculated on the beginning of
things. His principle was that _The Infinite_ is the origin of all
things. He used the word _[Greek: archae] (beginning)_ to denote the
material out of which all things were formed, as the Everlasting, the
Divine. The idea of elevating an abstraction into a great first cause
was certainly a long stride in philosophic generalization to be taken at
that age of the world, following as it did so immediately upon such
partial and childish ideas as that any single one of the familiar
"elements" could be the primal cause of all things. It seems almost like
the speculations of our own time, when philosophers seek to find the
first cause in impersonal Force, or infinite Energy. Yet it is not
really easy to understand Anaximander's meaning, other than that the
abstract has a higher significance than the concrete. The speculations
of Thales had tended toward discovering the material constitution of the
universe upon an _induction_ from observed facts, and thus made water to
be the origin of all things. Anaximander, accustomed to view things in
the abstract, could not accept so concrete a thing as water; his
speculations tended toward mathematics, to the science of pure
_deduction_. The primary Being is a unity, one in all, comprising within
itself the multiplicity of elements from which all mundane things are
composed. It is only in infinity that the perpetual changes of things
can take place. Thus Anaximander, an original but vague thinker,
prepared the way for Pythagoras.

This later philosopher and mathematician, born about the year 600 B.C.,
stands as one of the great names of antiquity; but his life is shrouded
in dim magnificence. The old historians paint him as "clothed in robes
of white, his head covered with gold, his aspect grave and majestic,
rapt in the contemplation of the mysteries of existence, listening to
the music of Homer and Hesiod, or to the harmony of the spheres."

Pythagoras was supposed to be a native of Samos. When quite young, being
devoted to learning, he quitted his country and went to Egypt, where he
learned its language and all the secret mysteries of the priests. He
then returned to Samos, but finding the island under the dominion of a
tyrant he fled to Crotona, in Italy, where he gained great reputation
for wisdom, and made laws for the Italians. His pupils were about three
hundred in number. He wrote three books, which were extant in the time
of Diogenes Laertius,--one on Education, one on Politics, and one on
Natural Philosophy. He also wrote an epic poem on the universe, to which
he gave the name of _Kosmos_.

Among the ethical principles which Pythagoras taught was that men ought
not to pray for anything in particular, since they do not know what is
good for them; that drunkenness was identical with ruin; that no one
should exceed the proper quantity of meat and drink; that the property
of friends is common; that men should never say or do anything in anger.
He forbade his disciples to offer victims to the gods, ordering them to
worship only at those altars which were unstained with blood.

Pythagoras was the first person who introduced measures and weights
among the Greeks. But it is his philosophy which chiefly claims our
attention. His main principle was that _number_ is the essence of
things,--probably meaning by number order and harmony and conformity to
law. The order of the universe, he taught, is only a harmonical
development of the first principle of all things to virtue and wisdom.
He attached much value to music, as an art which has great influence on
the affections; hence his doctrine of the music of the spheres. Assuming
that number is the essence of the world, he deduced the idea that the
world is regulated by numerical proportions, or by a system of laws
which are regular and harmonious in their operations. Hence the
necessity for an intelligent creator of the universe. The Infinite of
Anaximander became the One of Pythagoras. He believed that the soul is
incorporeal, and is put into the body subject to numerical and
harmonical relation, and thus to divine regulation. Hence the tendency
of his speculations was to raise the soul to the contemplation of law
and order,--of a supreme Intelligence reigning in justice and truth.
Justice and truth became thus paramount virtues, to be practised and
sought as the end of life. "It is impossible not to see in these lofty
speculations the effect of the Greek mind, according to its own genius,
seeking after God, if haply it might find Him."

We now approach the second stage of Greek philosophy. The Ionic
philosophers had sought to find the first principle of all things in the
elements, and the Pythagoreans in number, or harmony and law, implying
an intelligent creator. The Eleatics, who now arose, went beyond the
realm of physics to pure metaphysical inquiries, to an idealistic
pantheism, which disregarded the sensible, maintaining that the source
of truth is independent of the senses. Here they were forestalled by the
Hindu sages.

The founder of this school was Xenophanes, born in Colophon, an Ionian
city of Asia Minor, from which being expelled he wandered over Sicily as
a rhapsodist, or minstrel, reciting his elegiac poetry on the loftiest
truths, and at last, about the year 536 B.C., came to Elea, where he
settled. The principal subject of his inquiries was deity itself,--the
great First Cause, the supreme Intelligence of the universe. From the
principle _ex nihilo nihil fit_ he concluded that nothing could pass
from non-existence to existence. All things that exist are created by
supreme Intelligence, who is eternal and immutable. From this truth that
God must be from all eternity, he advances to deny all multiplicity. A
plurality of gods is impossible. With these sublime views,--the unity
and eternity and omnipotence of God,--Xenophanes boldly attacked the
popular errors of his day. He denounced the transference to the deity of
the human form; he inveighed against Homer and Hesiod; he ridiculed the
doctrine of migration of souls. Thus he sings,--

     "Such things of the gods are related by Homer and Hesiod
     As would be shame and abiding disgrace to mankind,--
     Promises broken, and thefts, and the one deceiving the other."

And again, respecting anthropomorphic representations of the deity,--

     "But men foolishly think that gods are born like as men are,
     And have too a dress like their own, and their voice and their figure;
     But there's but one God alone, the greatest of gods and of mortals,
     Neither in body to mankind resembling, neither in ideas."

Such were the sublime meditations of Xenophanes. He believed in the
_One_, which is God; but this all-pervading, unmoved, undivided being
was not a personal God, nor a moral governor, but deity pervading all
space. He could not separate God from the world, nor could he admit the
existence of world which is not God. He was a monotheist, but his
monotheism was pantheism. He saw God in all the manifestations of
Nature. This did not satisfy him nor resolve his doubts, and he
therefore confessed that reason could not compass the exalted aims of
philosophy. But there was no cynicism in his doubt. It was the
soul-sickening consciousness that reason was incapable of solving the
mighty questions that he burned to know. There was no way to arrive at
the truth, "for," said he, "error is spread over all things." It was not
disdain of knowledge, it was the combat of contradictory opinions that
oppressed him. He could not solve the questions pertaining to God. What
uninstructed reason can? "Canst thou by searching find out God? canst
thou know the Almighty unto perfection?" What was impossible to Job was
not possible to Xenophanes. But he had attained a recognition of the
unity and perfections of God; and this conviction he would spread
abroad, and tear down the superstitions which hid the face of truth. I
have great admiration for this philosopher, so sad, so earnest, so
enthusiastic, wandering from city to city, indifferent to money,
comfort, friends, fame, that he might kindle the knowledge of God. This
was a lofty aim indeed for philosophy in that age. It was a higher
mission than that of Homer, great as his was, though not so successful.

Parmenides of Elea, born about the year 530 B.C., followed out the
system of Xenophanes, the central idea of which was the existence of
God. With Parmenides the main thought was the notion of _being_. Being
is uncreated and unchangeable; the fulness of all being is _thought_;
the _All_ is thought and intelligence. He maintained the uncertainty of
knowledge, meaning the knowledge derived through the senses. He did not
deny the certainty of reason. He was the first who drew a distinction
between knowledge obtained by the senses and that obtained through the
reason; and thus he anticipated the doctrine of innate ideas. From the
uncertainty of knowledge derived through the senses, he deduced the
twofold system of true and apparent knowledge.

Zeno of Elea, the friend and pupil of Parmenides, born 500 B.C.,
brought nothing new to the system, but invented _Dialectics_, the art of
disputation,--that department of logic which afterward became so
powerful in the hands of Plato and Aristotle, and so generally admired
among the schoolmen. It seeks to establish truth by refuting error
through the _reductio ad absurdum_. While Parmenides sought to establish
the doctrine of the _One_, Zeno proved the non-existence of the _Many_.
He did not deny existences, but denied that appearances were real
existences. It was the mission of Zeno to establish the doctrines of his
master. But in order to convince his listeners, he was obliged to use a
new method of argument. So he carried on his argumentation by question
and answer, and was therefore the first who used dialogue, which he
called dialectics, as a medium of philosophical communication.

Empedocles, born 444 B.C., like others of the Eleatics, complained of
the imperfection of the senses, and looked for truth only in reason. He
regarded truth as a perfect unity, ruled by love,--the only true force,
the one moving cause of all things,--the first creative power by which
or whom the world was formed. Thus "God is love" is a sublime doctrine
which philosophy revealed to the Greeks, and the emphatic and continuous
and assured declaration of which was the central theme of the revelation
made by Jesus, the Christ, who resolved all the Law and the Gospel into
the element of Love,--fatherly on the part of God, filial and fraternal
on the part of men.

Thus did the Eleatic philosophers speculate almost contemporaneously
with the Ionians on the beginning of things and the origin of knowledge,
taking different grounds, and attempting to correct the representations
of sense by the notions of reason. But both schools, although they did
not establish many truths, raised an inquisitive spirit, and awakened
freedom of thought and inquiry. They raised up workmen for more
enlightened times, even as scholastic inquirers in the Middle Ages
prepared the way for the revival of philosophy on sounder principles.
They were all men of remarkable elevation of character as well as
genius. They hated superstitions, and attacked the anthropomorphism of
their day. They handled gods and goddesses with allegorizing boldness,
and hence were often persecuted by the people. They did not establish
moral truths by scientific processes, but they set examples of lofty
disdain of wealth and factitious advantages, and devoted themselves with
holy enthusiasm to the solution of the great questions which pertain to
God and Nature. Thales won the respect of his countrymen by devotion to
studies. Pythagoras spent twenty-two years in Egypt to learn its
science. Xenophanes wandered over Sicily as a rhapsodist of truth.
Parmenides, born to wealth and splendor, forsook the feverish pursuit of
sensual enjoyments that he might "behold the bright countenance of truth
in the quiet and still air of delightful studies." Zeno declined all
worldly honors in order that he might diffuse the doctrines of his
master. Heraclitus refused the chief magistracy of Ephesus that he might
have leisure to explore the depths of his own nature. Anaxagoras allowed
his patrimony to run to waste in order to solve problems. "To
philosophy," said he, "I owe my worldly ruin, and my soul's prosperity."
All these men were, without exception, the greatest and best men of
their times. They laid the foundation of the beautiful temple which was
constructed after they were dead, in which both physics and psychology
reached the dignity of science. They too were prophets, although
unconscious of their divine mission,--prophets of that day when the
science which explores and illustrates the works of God shall enlarge,
enrich, and beautify man's conceptions of the great creative Father.

Nevertheless, these great men, lofty as were their inquiries and
blameless their lives, had not established any system, nor any theories
which were incontrovertible. They had simply speculated, and the world
ridiculed their speculations. Their ideas were one-sided, and when
pushed out to their extreme logical sequence were antagonistic to one
another; which had a tendency to produce doubt and scepticism. Men
denied the existence of the gods, and the grounds of certainty fell away
from the human mind.

This spirit of scepticism was favored by the tide of worldliness and
prosperity which followed the Persian War. Athens became a great centre
of art, of taste, of elegance, and of wealth. Politics absorbed the
minds of the people. Glory and splendor were followed by corruption of
morals and the pursuit of material pleasures. Philosophy went out of
fashion, since it brought no outward and tangible good. More scientific
studies were pursued,--those which could be applied to purposes of
utility and material gains; even as in our day geology, chemistry,
mechanics, engineering, having reference to the practical wants of men,
command talent, and lead to certain reward. In Athens, rhetoric,
mathematics, and natural history supplanted rhapsodies and speculations
on God and Providence. Renown and wealth could be secured only by
readiness and felicity of speech, and that was most valued which brought
immediate recompense, like eloquence. Men began to practise eloquence as
an art, and to employ it in furthering their interests. They made
special pleadings, since it was their object to gain their point at any
expense of law and justice. Hence they taught that nothing was immutably
right, but only so by convention. They undermined all confidence in
truth and religion by teaching its uncertainty. They denied to men even
the capability of arriving at truth. They practically affirmed the cold
and cynical doctrine that there is nothing better for a man than that he
should eat and drink. _Cui bono?_ this, the cry of most men in periods
of great outward prosperity, was the popular inquiry. Who will show us
any good?--how can we become rich, strong, honorable?--this was the
spirit of that class of public teachers who arose in Athens when art and
eloquence and wealth and splendor were at their height in the fifth
century before Christ, and when the elegant Pericles was the leader of
fashion and of political power.

These men were the Sophists,--rhetorical men, who taught the children of
the rich; worldly men, who sought honor and power; frivolous men,
trifling with philosophical ideas; sceptical men, denying all certainty
in truth; men who as teachers added nothing to the realm of science, but
who yet established certain dialectical rules useful to later
philosophers. They were a wealthy, powerful, honored class, not much
esteemed by men of thought, but sought out as very successful teachers
of rhetoric, and also generally selected as ambassadors on difficult
missions. They were full of logical tricks, and contrived to throw
ridicule upon profound inquiries. They taught also mathematics,
astronomy, philology, and natural history with success. They were
polished men of society; not profound nor religious, but very brilliant
as talkers, and very ready in wit and sophistry. And some of them were
men of great learning and talent, like Democritus, Leucippus, and
Gorgias. They were not pretenders and quacks; they were sceptics who
denied subjective truths, and labored for outward advantage. They taught
the art of disputation, and sought systematic methods of proof. They
thus prepared the way for a more perfect philosophy than that taught by
the Ionians, the Pythagoreans, or the Eleatics, since they showed the
vagueness of such inquiries, conjectural rather than scientific. They
had no doctrines in common. They were the barristers of their age,
_paid_ to make the "worse appear the better reason;" yet not teachers of
immorality any more than the lawyers of our day,--men of talents, the
intellectual leaders of society. If they did not advance positive
truths, they were useful in the method they created. They had no
hostility to truth, as such; they only doubted whether it could be
reached in the realm of psychological inquiries, and sought to apply
knowledge to their own purposes, or rather to distort it in order to
gain a case. They are not a class of men whom I admire, as I do the old
sages they ridiculed, but they were not without their use in the
development of philosophy. The Sophists also rendered a service to
literature by giving definiteness to language, and creating style in
prose writing. Protagoras investigated the principles of accurate
composition; Prodicus busied himself with inquiries into the
significance of words; Gorgias, like Voltaire, gloried in a captivating
style, and gave symmetry to the structure of sentences.

The ridicule and scepticism of the Sophists brought out the great powers
of Socrates, to whom philosophy is probably more indebted than to any
man who ever lived, not so much for a perfect system as for the impulse
he gave to philosophical inquiries, and for his successful exposure of
error. He inaugurated a new era. Born in Athens in the year 470 B.C.,
the son of a poor sculptor, he devoted his life to the search after
truth for its own sake, and sought to base it on immutable foundations.
He was the mortal enemy of the Sophists, whom he encountered, as Pascal
did the Jesuits, with wit, irony, puzzling questions, and remorseless
logic. It is true that Socrates and his great successors Plato and
Aristotle were called "Sophists," but only as all philosophers or wise
men were so called. The Sophists as a class had incurred the odium of
being the first teachers who received pay for the instruction they
imparted. The philosophers generally taught for the love of truth. The
Sophists were a natural and necessary and very useful development of
their time, but they were distinctly on a lower level than the
Philosophers, or _lovers_ of wisdom.

Like the earlier philosophers, Socrates disdained wealth, ease, and
comfort,--but with greater devotion than they, since he lived in a more
corrupt age, when poverty was a disgrace and misfortune a crime, when
success was the standard of merit, and every man was supposed to be the
arbiter of his own fortune, ignoring that Providence who so often
refuses the race to the swift, and the battle to the strong. He was what
in our time would be called eccentric. He walked barefooted, meanly
clad, and withal not over cleanly, seeking public places, disputing with
everybody willing to talk with him, making everybody ridiculous,
especially if one assumed airs of wisdom or knowledge,--an exasperating
opponent, since he wove a web around a man from which he could not be
extricated, and then exposed him to ridicule in the wittiest city of the
world. He attacked everybody, and yet was generally respected, since it
was _errors_ rather than persons, _opinions_ rather than vices, that he
attacked; and this he did with bewitching eloquence and irresistible
fascination, so that though he was poor and barefooted, a Silenus in
appearance, with thick lips, upturned nose, projecting eyes, unwieldy
belly, he was sought by Alcibiades and admired by Aspasia. Even
Xanthippe, a beautiful young woman, very much younger than he, a woman
fond of the comforts and pleasures of life, was willing to marry him,
although it is said that she turned out a "scolding wife" after the _res
angusta domi_ had disenchanted her from the music of his voice and the
divinity of his nature. "I have heard Pericles," said the most
dissipated and voluptuous man in Athens, "and other excellent orators,
but was not moved by them; while this Marsyas--this Satyr--so affects me
that the life I lead is hardly worth living, and I stop my ears as from
the Sirens, and flee as fast as possible, that I may not sit down and
grow old in listening to his talk."

Socrates learned his philosophy from no one, and struck out an entirely
new path. He declared his own ignorance, and sought to convince other
people of theirs. He did not seek to reveal truth so much as to expose
error. And yet it was his object to attain correct ideas as to moral
obligations. He proclaimed the sovereignty of virtue and the
immutability of justice. He sought to delineate and enforce the
practical duties of life. His great object was the elucidation of
morals; and he was the first to teach ethics systematically from the
immutable principles of moral obligation. Moral certitude was the lofty
platform from which he surveyed the world, and upon which, as a rock,
he rested in the storms of life. Thus he was a reformer and a moralist.
It was his ethical doctrines which were most antagonistic to the age and
the least appreciated. He was a profoundly religious man, recognized
Providence, and believed in the immortality of the soul. He did not
presume to inquire into the Divine essence, yet he believed that the
gods were omniscient and omnipresent, that they ruled by the law of
goodness, and that in spite of their multiplicity there was unity,--a
supreme Intelligence that governed the world. Hence he was hated by the
Sophists, who denied the certainty of arriving at any knowledge of God.
From the comparative worthlessness of the body he deduced the
immortality of the soul. With him the end of life was reason and
intelligence. He deduced the existence of God from the order and harmony
of Nature, belief in which was irresistible. He endeavored to connect
the moral with the religious consciousness, and thus to promote the
practical welfare of society. In this light Socrates stands out the
grandest personage of Pagan antiquity,--as a moralist, as a teacher of
ethics, as a man who recognized the Divine.

So far as he was concerned in the development of Greek philosophy
proper, he was inferior to some of his disciples, Yet he gave a
turning-point to a new period when he awakened the _idea_ of knowledge,
and was the founder of the method of scientific inquiry, since he
pointed out the legitimate bounds of inquiry, and was thus the precursor
of Bacon and Pascal. He did not attempt to make physics explain
metaphysics, nor metaphysics the phenomena of the natural world; and he
reasoned only from what was generally assumed to be true and invariable.
He was a great pioneer of philosophy, since he resorted to inductive
methods of proof, and gave general definiteness to ideas. Although he
employed induction, it was his aim to withdraw the mind from the
contemplation of Nature, and to fix it on its own phenomena,--to look
inward rather than outward; a method carried out admirably by his pupil
Plato. The previous philosophers had given their attention to external
nature; Socrates gave up speculations about material phenomena, and
directed his inquiries solely to the nature of knowledge. And as he
considered knowledge to be identical with virtue, he speculated on
ethical questions mainly, and the method which he taught was that by
which alone man could become better and wiser. To know one's self,--in
other words, that "the proper study of mankind is man,"--he proclaimed
with Thales. Cicero said of him, "Socrates brought down philosophy from
the heavens to the earth." He did not disdain the subjects which chiefly
interested the Sophists,--astronomy, rhetoric, physics,--but he chiefly
discussed moral questions, such as, What is piety? What is the just and
the unjust? What is temperance? What is courage? What is the character
fit for a citizen?--and other ethical points, involving practical human

These questions were discussed by Socrates in a striking manner, and by
a method peculiarly his own. "Professing ignorance, he put perhaps this
question: What is law? It was familiar, and was answered offhand.
Socrates, having got the answer, then put fresh questions applicable to
specific cases, to which the respondent was compelled to give an answer
inconsistent with the first, thus showing that the definition was too
narrow or too wide, or defective in some essential condition. The
respondent then amended his answer; but this was a prelude to other
questions, which could only be answered in ways inconsistent with the
amendment; and the respondent, after many attempts to disentangle
himself, was obliged to plead guilty to his inconsistencies, with an
admission that he could make no satisfactory answer to the original
inquiry which had at first appeared so easy." Thus, by this system of
cross-examination, he showed the intimate connection between the
dialectic method and the logical distribution of particulars into
species and genera. The discussion first turns upon the meaning of some
generic term; the queries bring the answers into collision with various
particulars which it ought not to comprehend, or which it ought to
comprehend, but does not. Socrates broke up the one into many by his
analytical string of questions, which was a mode of argument by which he
separated _real_ knowledge from the _conceit_ of knowledge, and led to
precision in the use of definitions. It was thus that he exposed the
false, without aiming even to teach the true; for he generally professed
ignorance on his part, and put himself in the attitude of a learner,
while by his cross-examinations he made the man from whom he apparently
sought knowledge to appear as ignorant as himself, or, still worse,
absolutely ridiculous.

Thus Socrates pulled away all the foundations on which a false science
had been erected, and indicated the mode by which alone the true could
be established. Here he was not unlike Bacon, who pointed out the way
whereby science could be advanced, without founding any school or
advocating any system; but the Athenian was unlike Bacon in the object
of his inquiries. Bacon was disgusted with ineffective _logical_
speculations, and Socrates with ineffective _physical_ researches. He
never suffered a general term to remain undetermined, but applied it at
once to particulars, and by questions the purport of which was not
comprehended. It was not by positive teaching, but by exciting
scientific impulse in the minds of others, or stirring up the analytical
faculties, that Socrates manifested originality. It was his aim to force
the seekers after truth into the path of inductive generalization,
whereby alone trustworthy conclusions could be formed. He thus struck
out from his own and other minds that fire which sets light to original
thought and stimulates analytical inquiry. He was a religious and
intellectual missionary, preparing the way for the Platos and Aristotles
of the succeeding age by his severe dialectics. This was his mission,
and he declared it by talking. He did not lecture; he conversed. For
more than thirty years he discoursed on the principles of morality,
until he arrayed against himself enemies who caused him to be put to
death, for his teachings had undermined the popular system which the
Sophists accepted and practised. He probably might have been acquitted
if he had chosen to be, but he did not wish to live after his powers of
usefulness had passed away.

The services which Socrates rendered to philosophy, as enumerated by
Tennemann, "are twofold,--negative and positive. _Negative_, inasmuch as
he avoided all vain discussions; combated mere speculative reasoning on
substantial grounds; and had the wisdom to acknowledge ignorance when
necessary, but without attempting to determine accurately what is
capable and what is not of being accurately known. _Positive_, inasmuch
as he examined with great ability the ground directly submitted to our
understanding, and of which man is the centre."

Socrates cannot be said to have founded a school, like Xenophanes. He
did not bequeath a system of doctrines. He had however his disciples,
who followed in the path which he suggested. Among these were
Aristippus, Antisthenes, Euclid of Megara, Phaedo of Elis, and Plato,
all of whom were pupils of Socrates and founders of schools. Some only
partially adopted his method, and each differed from the other. Nor can
it be said that all of them advanced science. Aristippus, the founder of
the Cyreniac school, was a sort of philosophic voluptuary, teaching that
pleasure is the end of life. Antisthenes, the founder of the Cynics, was
both virtuous and arrogant, placing the supreme good in virtue, but
despising speculative science, and maintaining that no man can refute
the opinions of another. He made it a virtue to be ragged, hungry, and
cold, like the ancient monks; an austere, stern, bitter, reproachful
man, who affected to despise all pleasures,--like his own disciple
Diogenes, who lived in a tub, and carried on a war between the mind and
body, brutal, scornful, proud. To men who maintained that science was
impossible, philosophy is not much indebted, although they were
disciples of Socrates. Euclid--not the mathematician, who was about a
century later--merely gave a new edition of the Eleatic doctrines, and
Phaedo speculated on the oneness of "the good."

It was not till Plato arose that a more complete system of philosophy
was founded. He was born of noble Athenian parents, 429 B.C., the year
that Pericles died, and the second year of the Peloponnesian War,--the
most active period of Grecian thought. He had a severe education,
studying mathematics, poetry, music, rhetoric, and blending these with
philosophy. He was only twenty when he found out Socrates, with whom he
remained ten years, and from whom he was separated only by death. He
then went on his travels, visiting everything worth seeing in his day,
especially in Egypt. When he returned he began to teach the doctrines of
his master, which he did, like him, gratuitously, in a garden near
Athens, planted with lofty plane-trees and adorned with temples and
statues. This was called the Academy, and gave a name to his system of
philosophy. It is this only with which we have to do. It is not the
calm, serious, meditative, isolated man that I would present, but _his
contribution_ to the developments of philosophy on the principles of his
master. Surely no man ever made a richer contribution to this department
of human inquiry than Plato. He may not have had the originality or
keenness of Socrates, but he was more profound. He was pre-eminently a
great thinker, a great logician, skilled in dialectics; and his
"Dialogues" are such perfect exercises of dialectical method that the
ancients were divided as to whether he was a sceptic or a dogmatist. He
adopted the Socratic method and enlarged it. Says Lewes:--

"Analysis, as insisted on by Plato, is the decomposition of the whole
into its separate parts,--is seeing the one in many.... The individual
thing was transitory; the abstract idea was eternal. Only concerning the
latter could philosophy occupy itself. Socrates, insisting on proper
definitions, had no conception of the classification of those
definitions which must constitute philosophy. Plato, by the introduction
of this process, shifted philosophy from the ground of inquiries into
man and society, which exclusively occupied Socrates, to that of

Plato was also distinguished for skill in composition. Dionysius of
Halicarnassus classes him with Herodotus and Demosthenes in the
perfection of his style, which is characterized by great harmony and
rhythm, as well as by a rich variety of elegant metaphors.

Plato made philosophy to consist in the discussion of general terms, or
abstract ideas. General terms were synonymous with real existences, and
these were the only objects of philosophy. These were called _Ideas_;
and ideas are the basis of his system, or rather the subject-matter of
dialectics. He maintained that every general term, or abstract idea, has
a real and independent existence; nay, that the mental power of
conceiving and combining ideas, as contrasted with the mere impressions
received from matter and external phenomena, is the only real and
permanent existence. Hence his writings became the great fountain-head
of the Ideal philosophy. In his assertion of the real existence of so
abstract and supersensuous a thing as an idea, he probably was indebted
to Pythagoras, for Plato was a master of the whole realm of
philosophical speculation; but his conception of _ideas_ as the essence
of being is a great advance on that philosopher's conception of
_numbers_. He was taught by Socrates that beyond this world of sense
there is the world of eternal truth, and that there are certain
principles concerning which there can be no dispute. The soul apprehends
the idea of goodness, greatness, etc. It is in the celestial world that
we are to find the realm of ideas. Now, God is the supreme idea. To know
God, then, should be the great aim of life. We know him through the
desire which like feels for like. The divinity within feels its affinity
with the divinity revealed in beauty, or any other abstract idea. The
longing of the soul for beauty is _love_. Love, then, is the bond which
unites the human with the divine. Beauty is not revealed by harmonious
outlines that appeal to the senses, but is _truth_; it is divinity.
Beauty, truth, love, these are God, whom it is the supreme desire of the
soul to comprehend, and by the contemplation of whom the mortal soul
sustains itself. Knowledge of God is the great end of life; and this
knowledge is effected by dialectics, for only out of dialectics can
correct knowledge come. But man, immersed in the flux of sensualities,
can never fully attain this knowledge of God, the object of all rational
inquiry. Hence the imperfection of all human knowledge. The supreme good
is attainable; it is not attained. God is the immutable good, and
justice the rule of the universe. "The vital principle of Plato's
philosophy," says Ritter, "is to show that true science is the knowledge
of the good, is the eternal contemplation of truth, or ideas; and though
man may not be able to apprehend it in its unity, because he is subject
to the restraints of the body, he is nevertheless permitted to recognize
it imperfectly by calling to mind the eternal measure of existence by
which he is in his origin connected." To quote from Ritter again:--

"When we review the doctrines of Plato, it is impossible to deny that
they are pervaded with a grand view of life and the universe. This is
the noble thought which inspired him to say that God is the constant and
immutable good; the world is good in a state of becoming, and the human
soul that in and through which the good in the world is to be
consummated. In his sublimer conception he shows himself the worthy
disciple of Socrates.... While he adopted many of the opinions of his
predecessors, and gave due consideration to the results of the earlier
philosophy, he did not allow himself to be disturbed by the mass of
conflicting theories, but breathed into them the life-giving breath of
unity. He may have erred in his attempts to determine the nature of
good; still he pointed out to all who aspire to a knowledge of the
divine nature an excellent road by which they may arrive at it."

That Plato was one of the greatest lights of the ancient world there can
be no reasonable doubt. Nor is it probable that as a dialectician he has
ever been surpassed, while his purity of life and his lofty inquiries
and his belief in God and immortality make him, in an ethical point of
view, the most worthy of the disciples of Socrates. He was to the Greeks
what Kant was to the Germans; and these two great thinkers resemble each
other in the structure of their minds and their relations to society.

The ablest part of the lectures of Archer Butler, of Dublin, is devoted
to the Platonic philosophy. It is at once a criticism and a eulogium. No
modern writer has written more enthusiastically of what he considers the
crowning excellence of the Greek philosophy. The dialectics of Plato,
his ideal theory, his physics, his psychology, and his ethics are most
ably discussed, and in the spirit of a loving and eloquent disciple.
Butler represents the philosophy which he so much admires as a
contemplation of, and a tendency to, the absolute and eternal good. As
the admirers of Ralph Waldo Emerson claim that he, more than any other
man of our times, entered into the spirit of the Platonic philosophy, I
introduce some of his most striking paragraphs of subdued but earnest
admiration of the greatest intellect of the ancient Pagan world, hoping
that they may be clearer to others than they are to me:--

These sentences [of Plato] contain the culture of nations; these are
the corner-stone of schools; these are the fountain-head of literatures.
A discipline it is in logic, arithmetic, taste, symmetry, poetry,
language, rhetoric, ontology, morals, or practical wisdom. There never
was such a range of speculation. Out of Plato come all things that are
still written and debated among men of thought. Great havoc makes he
among our originalities. We have reached the mountain from which all
these drift-bowlders were detached.... Plato, in Egypt and in Eastern
pilgrimages, imbibed the idea of one Deity, in which all things are
absorbed. The unity of Asia and the detail of Europe, the infinitude of
the Asiatic soul and the defining, result-loving, machine-making,
surface-seeking, opera-going Europe Plato came to join, and by contact
to enhance the energy of each. The excellence of Europe and Asia is in
his brain. Metaphysics and natural philosophy expressed the genius of
Europe; he substricts the religion of Asia as the base. In short, a
balanced soul was born, perceptive of the two elements.... The physical
philosophers had sketched each his theory of the world; the theory of
atoms, of fire, of flux, of spirit,--theories mechanical and chemical in
their genius. Plato, a master of mathematics, studious of all natural
laws and causes, feels these, as second causes, to be no theories of the
world, but bare inventories and lists. To the study of Nature he
therefore prefixes the dogma,--'Let us declare the cause which led the
Supreme Ordainer to produce and compose the universe. He was good; ...
he wished that all things should be as much as possible like

Plato ... represents the privilege of the intellect,--the power,
namely, of carrying up every fact to successive platforms, and so
disclosing in every fact a germ of expansion.... These expansions, or
extensions, consist in continuing the spiritual sight where the horizon
falls on our natural vision, and by this second sight discovering the
long lines of law which shoot in every direction.... His definition of
ideas as what is simple, permanent, uniform, and self-existent, forever
discriminating them from the notions of the understanding, marks an era
in the world.

The great disciple of Plato was Aristotle, and he carried on the
philosophical movement which Socrates had started to the highest limit
that it ever reached in the ancient world. He was born at Stagira, 384
B.C., and early evinced an insatiable thirst for knowledge. When Plato
returned from Sicily Aristotle joined his disciples at Athens, and was
his pupil for seventeen years. On the death of Plato, he went on his
travels and became the tutor of Alexander the Great, and in 335 B.C.
returned to Athens after an absence of twelve years, and set up a school
in the Lyceum. He taught while walking up and down the shady paths which
surrounded it, from which habit he obtained the name of the Peripatetic,
which has clung to his name and philosophy. His school had a great
celebrity, and from it proceeded illustrious philosophers, statesmen,
historians, and orators. Aristotle taught for thirteen years, during
which time he composed most of his greater works. He not only wrote on
dialectics and logic, but also on physics in its various departments.
His work on "The History of Animals" was deemed so important that his
royal pupil Alexander presented him with eight hundred talents--an
enormous sum--for the collection of materials. He also wrote on ethics
and politics, history and rhetoric,--pouring out letters, poems, and
speeches, three-fourths of which are lost. He was one of the most
voluminous writers of antiquity, and probably is the most learned man
whose writings have come down to us. Nor has any one of the ancients
exercised upon the thinking of succeeding ages so wide an influence. He
was an oracle until the revival of learning. Hegel says:--

"Aristotle penetrated into the whole mass, into every department of the
universe of things, and subjected to the comprehension its scattered
wealth; and the greater number of the philosophical sciences owe to him
their separation and commencement."

He is also the father of the history of philosophy, since he gives an
historical review of the way in which the subject has been hitherto
treated by the earlier philosophers. Says Adolph Stahr:--

"Plato made the external world the region of the incomplete and bad, of
the contradictory and the false, and recognized absolute truth only in
the eternal immutable ideas. Aristotle laid down the proposition that
the idea, which cannot of itself fashion itself into reality, is
powerless, and has only a potential existence; and that it becomes a
living reality only by realizing itself in a creative manner by means of
its own energy."

There can be no doubt as to Aristotle's marvellous power of
systematizing. Collecting together all the results of ancient
speculation, he so combined them into a co-ordinate system that for a
thousand years he reigned supreme in the schools. From a literary point
of view, Plato was doubtless his superior; but Plato was a poet, making
philosophy divine and musical, while Aristotle's investigations spread
over a far wider range. He differed from Plato chiefly in relation to
the doctrine of ideas, without however resolving the difficulty which
divided them. As he made matter to be the eternal ground of phenomena,
he reduced the notion of it to a precision it never before enjoyed, and
established thereby a necessary element in human science. But being
bound to matter, he did not soar, as Plato did, into the higher regions
of speculation; nor did he entertain as lofty views of God or of
immortality. Neither did he have as high an ideal of human life; his
definition of the highest good was a perfect practical activity in a
perfect life.

With Aristotle closed the great Socratic movement in the history of
speculation. When Socrates appeared there was a general prevalence of
scepticism, arising from the unsatisfactory speculations respecting
Nature. He removed this scepticism by inventing a new method of
investigation, and by withdrawing the mind from the contemplation of
Nature to the study of man himself. He bade men to look inward. Plato
accepted his method, but applied it more universally. Like Socrates,
however, ethics were the great subject of his inquiries, to which
physics were only subordinate. The problem he sought to solve was the
way to live like the Deity; he would contemplate truth as the great aim
of life. With Aristotle, ethics formed only one branch of attention; his
main inquiries were in reference to physics and metaphysics. He thus, by
bringing these into the region of inquiry, paved the way for a new epoch
of scepticism.

Both Plato and Aristotle taught that reason alone can form science; but,
as we have said, Aristotle differed from his master respecting the
theory of ideas. He did not deny to ideas a _subjective_ existence, but
he did deny that they have an objective existence. He maintained that
individual things alone _exist_; and if individuals alone exist, they
can be known only by _sensation_. Sensation thus becomes the basis of
knowledge. Plato made _reason_ the basis of knowledge, but Aristotle
made _experience_ that basis. Plato directed man to the contemplation of
Ideas; Aristotle, to the observation of Nature. Instead of proceeding
synthetically and dialectically like Plato, he pursues an analytic
course. His method is hence inductive,--the derivation of certain
principles from a sum of given facts and phenomena. It would seem that
positive science began with Aristotle, since he maintained that
experience furnishes the principles of every science; but while his
conception was just, there was not at that time a sufficient amount of
experience from which to generalize with effect. It is only a most
extensive and exhaustive examination of the accuracy of a proposition
which will warrant secure reasoning upon it. Aristotle reasoned without
sufficient certainty of the major premise of his syllogisms.

Aristotle was the father of logic, and Hegel and Kant think there has
been no improvement upon it since his day. This became to him the real
organon of science. "He supposed it was not merely the instrument of
thought, but the instrument of investigation." Hence it was futile for
purposes of discovery, although important to aid processes of thought.
Induction and syllogism are the two great features of his system of
logic. The one sets out from particulars already known to arrive at a
conclusion; the other sets out from some general principle to arrive at
particulars. The latter more particularly characterized his logic, which
he presented in sixteen forms, the whole evincing much ingenuity and
skill in construction, and presenting at the same time a useful
dialectical exercise. This syllogistic process of reasoning would be
incontrovertible, if the _general_ were better known than the
_particular_; but it is only by induction, which proceeds from the world
of experience, that we reach the higher world of cognition. Thus
Aristotle made speculation subordinate to logical distinctions, and his
system, when carried out by the mediaeval Schoolmen, led to a spirit of
useless quibbling. Instead of interrogating Nature they interrogated
their own minds, and no great discoveries were made. From want of proper
knowledge of the conditions of scientific inquiry, the method of
Aristotle became fruitless for him; but it was the key by which future
investigators were enabled to classify and utilize their vastly greater
collection of facts and materials.

Though Aristotle wrote in a methodical manner, his writings exhibit
great parsimony of language. There is no fascination in his style. It is
without ornament, and very condensed. His merit consisted in great
logical precision and scrupulous exactness in the employment of terms.

Philosophy, as a great system of dialectics, as an analysis of the power
and faculties of the mind, as a method to pursue inquiries, culminated
in Aristotle. He completed the great fabric of which Thales laid the
foundation. The subsequent schools of philosophy directed attention to
ethical and practical questions, rather than to intellectual phenomena.
The Sceptics, like Pyrrho, had only negative doctrines, and held in
disdain those inquiries which sought to penetrate the mysteries of
existence. They did not believe that absolute truth was attainable by
man; and they attacked the prevailing systems with great plausibility.
They pointed out the uncertainty of things, and the folly of striving to
comprehend them.

The Epicureans despised the investigations of philosophy, since in their
view these did not contribute to happiness. The subject of their
inquiries was happiness, not truth. What will promote this? was the
subject of their speculation. Epicurus, born 342 B.C., contended that
pleasure was happiness; that pleasure should be sought not for its own
sake, but with a view to the happiness of life obtained by it. He taught
that happiness was inseparable from virtue, and that its enjoyments
should be limited. He was averse to costly pleasures, and regarded
contentedness with a little to be a great good. He placed wealth not in
great possessions, but in few wants. He sought to widen the domain of
pleasure and narrow that of pain, and regarded a passionless state of
life as the highest. Nor did he dread death, which was deliverance from
misery, as the Buddhists think. Epicurus has been much misunderstood,
and his doctrines were subsequently perverted, especially when the arts
of life were brought into the service of luxury, and a gross materialism
was the great feature of society. Epicurus had much of the spirit of a
practical philosopher, although very little of the earnest cravings of a
religious man. He himself led a virtuous life, because he thought it
was wiser and better and more productive of happiness to be virtuous,
not because it was his duty. His writings were very voluminous, and in
his tranquil garden he led a peaceful life of study and enjoyment. His
followers, and they were numerous, were led into luxury and
effeminacy,--as was to be expected from a sceptical and irreligious
philosophy, the great principle of which was that whatever is pleasant
should be the object of existence. Sir James Mackintosh says:--

"To Epicurus we owe the general concurrence of reflecting men in
succeeding times in the important truth that men cannot be happy without
a virtuous frame of mind and course of life,--a truth of inestimable
value, not peculiar to the Epicureans, but placed by their exaggerations
in a stronger light; a truth, it must be added, of less importance as a
motive to right conduct than to the completeness of moral theory, which,
however, it is very far from solely constituting. With that truth the
Epicureans blended another position,--that because virtue promotes
happiness, every act of virtue must be done in order to promote the
happiness of the agent. Although, therefore, he has the merit of having
more strongly inculcated the connection of virtue with happiness, yet
his doctrine is justly charged with indisposing the mind to those
exalted and generous sentiments without which no pure, elevated, bold,
or tender virtues can exist."

The Stoics were a large and celebrated sect of philosophers; but they
added nothing to the domain of thought,--they created no system, they
invented no new method, they were led into no new psychological
inquiries. Their inquiries were chiefly ethical; and since ethics are a
great part of the system of Greek philosophy, the Stoics are well worthy
of attention. Some of the greatest men of antiquity are numbered among
them,--like Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius. The philosophy they
taught was morality, and this was eminently practical and also elevated.

The founder of this sect, Zeno, was born, it is supposed, on the island
of Cyprus, about the year 350 B.C. He was the son of wealthy parents,
but was reduced to poverty by misfortune. He was so good a man, and so
profoundly revered by the Athenians, that they intrusted to him the keys
of their citadel. He lived in a degenerate age, when scepticism and
sensuality were eating out the life and vigor of Grecian society, when
Greek civilization was rapidly passing away, when ancient creeds had
lost their majesty, and general levity and folly overspread the land.
Deeply impressed with the prevailing laxity of morals and the absence of
religion, he lifted up his voice more as a reformer than as an inquirer
after truth, and taught for more than fifty years in a place called the
_Stoa_, "the Porch," which had once been the resort of the poets. Hence
the name of his school. He was chiefly absorbed with ethical questions,
although he studied profoundly the systems of the old philosophers. "The
Sceptics had attacked both perception and reason. They had shown that
perception is after all based upon appearance, and appearance is not a
certainty; and they showed that reason is unable to distinguish between
appearance and certainty, since it had nothing but phenomena to build
upon, and since there is no criterion to apply to reason itself." Then
they proclaimed philosophy a failure, and without foundation. But Zeno,
taking a stand on common-sense, fought for morality, as did Buddha
before him, and long after him Reid and Beattie, when they combated the
scepticism of Hume.

Philosophy, according to Zeno and other Stoics, was intimately connected
with the duties of practical life. The contemplation, meditation, and
thought recommended by Plato and Aristotle seemed only a covert
recommendation of selfish enjoyment. The wisdom which it should be the
aim of life to attain is virtue; and virtue is to live harmoniously with
Nature. To live harmoniously with Nature is to exclude all personal
ends; hence pleasure is to be disregarded, and pain is to be despised.
And as all moral action must be in harmony with Nature the law of
destiny is supreme, and all things move according to immutable fate.
With the predominant tendency to the universal which characterized their
system, the Stoics taught that the sage ought to regard himself as a
citizen of the world rather than of any particular city or state. They
made four things to be indispensable to virtue,--a knowledge of _good_
and _evil_, which is the province of the reason; _temperance_, a
knowledge of the due regulation of the sensual passions; _fortitude_, a
conviction that it is good to suffer what is necessary; and _justice_,
or acquaintance with what ought to be to every individual. They made
_perfection_ necessary to virtue; hence the severity of their system.
The perfect sage, according to them, is raised above all influence of
external events; he submits to the law of destiny; he is exempt from
desire and fear, joy or sorrow; he is not governed even by what he is
exposed to necessarily, like sorrow and pain; he is free from the
restraints of passion; he is like a god in his mental placidity. Nor
must the sage live only for himself, but for others also; he is a member
of the whole body of mankind. He ought to marry, and to take part in
public affairs; but he is to attack error and vice with uncompromising
sternness, and will never weakly give way to compassion or forgiveness.
Yet with this ideal the Stoics were forced to admit that virtue, like
true knowledge, although theoretically attainable is practically beyond
the reach of man. They were discontented with themselves and with all
around them, and looked upon all institutions as corrupt. They had a
profound contempt for their age, and for what modern society calls
"success in life;" but it cannot be denied that they practised a lofty
and stern virtue in their degenerate times. Their God was made subject
to Fate; and he was a material god, synonymous with Nature. Thus their
system was pantheistic. But they maintained the dignity of reason, and
sought to attain to virtues which it is not in the power of man fully
to reach.

Zeno lived to the extreme old age of ninety-eight, although his
constitution was not strong. He retained his powers by great
abstemiousness, living chiefly on figs, honey, and bread. He was a
modest and retiring man, seldom mingling with a crowd, or admitting the
society of more than two or three friends at a time. He was as plain in
his dress as he was frugal in his habits,--a man of great decorum and
propriety of manners, resembling noticeably in his life and doctrines
the Chinese sage Confucius. And yet this good man, a pattern to the
loftiest characters of his age, strangled himself. Suicide was not
deemed a crime by his followers, among whom were some of the most
faultless men of antiquity, especially among the Romans. The doctrines
of Zeno were never popular, and were confined to a small though
influential party.

With the Stoics ended among the Greeks all inquiry of a philosophical
nature worthy of especial mention, until centuries later, when
philosophy was revived in the Christian schools of Alexandria, where the
Hebrew element of faith was united with the Greek ideal of reason. The
struggles of so many great thinkers, from Thales to Aristotle, all ended
in doubt and in despair. It was discovered that all of them were wrong,
or rather partial; and their error was without a remedy, until "the
fulness of time" should reveal more clearly the plan of the great temple
of Truth, in which they were laying foundation stones.

The bright and glorious period of Greek philosophy was from Socrates to
Aristotle. Philosophical inquiries began about the origin of things, and
ended with an elaborate systematization of the forms of thought, which
was the most magnificent triumph that the unaided intellect of man ever
achieved. Socrates does not found a school, nor elaborate a system. He
reveals most precious truths, and stimulates the youth who listen to his
instructions by the doctrine that it is the duty of man to pursue a
knowledge of himself, which is to be sought in that divine reason which
dwells within him, and which also rules the world. He believes in
science; he loves truth for its own sake; he loves virtue, which
consists in the knowledge of the good.

Plato seizes the weapons of his great master, and is imbued with his
spirit. He is full of hope for science and humanity. With soaring
boldness he directs his inquiries to futurity, dissatisfied with the
present, and cherishing a fond hope of a better existence. He speculates
on God and the soul. He is not much interested in physical phenomena; he
does not, like Thales, strive to find out the beginning of all things,
but the highest good, by which his immortal soul may be refreshed and
prepared for the future life, in which he firmly believes. The sensible
is an impenetrable empire; but ideas are certitudes, and upon these he
dwells with rapt and mystical enthusiasm,--a great poetical rhapsodist,
severe dialectician as he is, believing in truth and beauty
and goodness.

Then Aristotle, following out the method of his teachers, attempts to
exhaust experience, and directs his inquiries into the outward world of
sense and observation, but all with the view of discovering from
phenomena the unconditional truth, in which he too believes. But
everything in this world is fleeting and transitory, and therefore it is
not easy to arrive at truth. A cold doubt creeps into the experimental
mind of Aristotle, with all his learning and his logic.

The Epicureans arise. Misreading or corrupting the purer teaching of
their founder, they place their hopes in sensual enjoyment. They
despair of truth.

But the world will not be abandoned to despair. The Stoics rebuke the
impiety which is blended with sensualism, and place their hopes on
virtue. Yet it is unattainable virtue, while their God is not a moral
governor, but subject to necessity.

Thus did those old giants grope about, for they did not know the God who
was revealed unto the more spiritual sense of Abraham, Moses, David, and
Isaiah. And yet with all their errors they were the greatest benefactors
of the ancient world. They gave dignity to intellectual inquiries, while
by their lives they set examples of a pure morality.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Romans added absolutely nothing to the philosophy of the Greeks. Nor
were they much interested in any speculative inquiries. It was only the
ethical views of the old sages which had attraction or force to them.
They were too material to love pure subjective inquiries. They had
conquered the land; they disdained the empire of the air.

There were doubtless students of the Greek philosophy among the Romans,
perhaps as early as Cato the Censor. But there were only two persons of
note in Rome who wrote philosophy, till the time of Cicero,--Aurafanius
and Rubinus,--and these were Epicureans.

Cicero was the first to systematize the philosophy which contributed so
greatly to his intellectual culture, But even he added nothing; he was
only a commentator and expositor. Nor did he seek to found a system or a
school, but merely to influence and instruct men of his own rank. Those
subjects which had the greatest attraction for the Grecian schools
Cicero regarded as beyond the power of human cognition, and therefore
looked upon the practical as the proper domain of human inquiry. Yet he
held logic in great esteem, as furnishing rules for methodical
investigation. He adopted the doctrine of Socrates as to the pursuit of
moral good, and regarded the duties which grow out of the relations of
human society as preferable to those of pursuing scientific researches.
He had a great contempt for knowledge which could lead neither to the
clear apprehension of certitude nor to practical applications. He
thought it impossible to arrive at a knowledge of God, or the nature of
the soul, or the origin of the world; and thus he was led to look upon
the sensible and the present as of more importance than inconclusive
inductions, or deductions from a truth not satisfactorily established.

Cicero was an eclectic, seizing on what was true and clear in the
ancient systems, and disregarding what was simply a matter of
speculation. This is especially seen in his treatise "De Finibus Bonorum
et Malorum," in which the opinions of all the Grecian schools
concerning the supreme good are expounded and compared. Nor does he
hesitate to declare that the highest happiness consists in the knowledge
of Nature and science, which is the true source of pleasure both to gods
and men. Yet these are but hopes, in which it does not become us to
indulge. It is the actual, the real, the practical, which pre-eminently
claims attention,--in other words, the knowledge which will furnish man
with a guide and rule of life. Even in the consideration of moral
questions Cicero is pursued by the conflict of opinions, although in
this department he is most at home. The points he is most anxious to
establish are the doctrines of God and the soul. These are most fully
treated in his essay "De Natura Deorum," in which he submits the
doctrines of the Epicureans and the Stoics to the objections of the
Academy. He admits that man is unable to form true conceptions of God,
but acknowledges the necessity of assuming one supreme God as the
creator and ruler of all things, moving all things, remote from all
mortal mixture, and endued with eternal motion in himself. He seems to
believe in a divine providence ordering good to man, in the soul's
immortality, in free-will, in the dignity of human nature, in the
dominion of reason, in the restraint of the passions as necessary to
virtue, in a life of public utility, in an immutable morality, in the
imitation of the divine.

Thus there is little of original thought in the moral theories of
Cicero, which are the result of observation rather than of any
philosophical principle. We might enumerate his various opinions, and
show what an enlightened mind he possessed; but this would not be the
development of philosophy. His views, interesting as they are, and
generally wise and lofty, do not indicate any progress of the science.
He merely repeats earlier doctrines. These were not without their
utility, since they had great influence on the Latin fathers of the
Christian Church. He was esteemed for his general enlightenment. He
softened down the extreme views of the great thinkers before his day,
and clearly unfolded what had become obscured. He was a critic of
philosophy, an expositor whom we can scarcely spare.

If anybody advanced philosophy among the Romans it was Epictetus, and
even he only in the realm of ethics. Quintius Sextius, in the time of
Augustus, had revived the Pythagorean doctrines. Seneca had recommended
the severe morality of the Stoics, but added nothing that was not
previously known.

The greatest light among the Romans was the Phrygian slave Epictetus,
who was born about fifty years after the birth of Jesus Christ, and
taught in the time of the Emperor Domitian. Though he did not leave any
written treatises, his doctrines were preserved and handed down by his
disciple Arrian, who had for him the reverence that Plato had for
Socrates. The loftiness of his recorded views has made some to think
that he must have been indebted to Christianity, for no one before him
revealed precepts so much in accordance with its spirit. He was a Stoic,
but he held in the highest estimation Socrates and Plato. It is not for
the solution of metaphysical questions that he was remarkable. He was
not a dialectician, but a moralist, and as such takes the highest ground
of all the old inquirers after truth. With him, as to Cicero and Seneca,
philosophy is the wisdom of life. He sets no value on logic, nor much on
physics; but he reveals sentiments of great simplicity and grandeur. His
great idea is the purification of the soul. He believes in the severest
self-denial; he would guard against the siren spells of pleasure; he
would make men feel that in order to be good they must first feel that
they are evil. He condemns suicide, although it had been defended by the
Stoics. He would complain of no one, not even as to injustice; he would
not injure his enemies; he would pardon all offences; he would feel
universal compassion, since men sin from ignorance; he would not easily
blame, since we have none to condemn but ourselves. He would not strive
after honor or office, since we put ourselves in subjection to that we
seek or prize; he would constantly bear in mind that all things are
transitory, and that they are not our own. He would bear evils with
patience, even as he would practise self-denial of pleasure. He would,
in short, be calm, free, keep in subjection his passions, avoid
self-indulgence, and practise a broad charity and benevolence. He felt
that he owed all to God,--that all was his gift, and that we should thus
live in accordance with his will; that we should be grateful not only
for our bodies, but for our souls and reason, by which we attain to
greatness. And if God has given us such a priceless gift, we should be
contented, and not even seek to alter our external relations, which are
doubtless for the best. We should wish, indeed, for only what God wills
and sends, and we should avoid pride and haughtiness as well as
discontent, and seek to fulfil our allotted part.

Such were the moral precepts of Epictetus, in which we see the nearest
approach to Christianity that had been made in the ancient world,
although there is no proof or probability that he knew anything of
Christ or the Christians. And these sublime truths had a great
influence, especially on the mind of the most lofty and pure of all the
Roman emperors, Marcus Aurelius, who _lived_ the principles he had
learned from the slave, and whose "Thoughts" are still held in

Thus did the philosophic speculations about the beginning of things
lead to elaborate systems of thought, and end in practical rules of
life, until in spirit they had, with Epictetus, harmonized with many of
the revealed truths which Christ and his Apostles laid down for the
regeneration of the world. Who cannot see in the inquiries of the old
Philosopher,--whether into Nature, or the operations of mind, or the
existence of God, or the immortality of the soul, or the way to
happiness and virtue,--a magnificent triumph of human genius, such as
has been exhibited in no other department of human science? Nay, who
does not rejoice to see in this slow but ever-advancing development of
man's comprehension of the truth the inspiration of that Divine Teacher,
that Holy Spirit, which shall at last lead man into all truth?

We regret that our limits preclude a more extended view of the various
systems which the old sages propounded,--systems full of errors yet also
marked by important gains, but, whether false or true, showing a
marvellous reach of the human understanding. Modern researches have
discarded many opinions that were highly valued in their day, yet
philosophy in its methods of reasoning is scarcely advanced since the
time of Aristotle, while the subjects which agitated the Grecian schools
have been from time to time revived and rediscussed, and are still
unsettled. If any intellectual pursuit has gone round in perpetual
circles, incapable apparently of progression or rest, it is that
glorious study of philosophy which has tasked more than any other the
mightiest intellects of this world, and which, progressive or not, will
never be relinquished without the loss of what is most valuable in
human culture.

       *       *       *       *       *


For original authorities in reference to the matter of this chapter,
read Diogenes Laertius's Lives of the Philosophers; the Writings of
Plato and Aristotle; Cicero, De Natura Deorum, De Oratore, De Officiis,
De Divinatione, De Finibus, Tusculanae Disputationes; Xenophon,
Memorabilia; Boethius, De Consolatione Philosophiae; Lucretius.

The great modern authorities are the Germans, and these are very
numerous. Among the most famous writers on the history of philosophy are
Brucker, Hegel, Brandis, I.G. Buhle, Tennemann, Hitter, Plessing,
Schwegler, Hermann, Meiners, Stallbaum, and Spiegel. The History of
Ritter is well translated, and is always learned and suggestive.
Tennemann, translated by Morell, is a good manual, brief but clear. In
connection with the writings of the Germans, the great work of the
French Cousin should be consulted.

The English historians of ancient philosophy are not so numerous as the
Germans. The work of Enfield is based on Brucker, or is rather an
abridgment. Archer Butler's Lectures are suggestive and able, but
discursive and vague. Grote has written learnedly on Socrates and the
other great lights. Lewes's Biographical History of Philosophy has the
merit of clearness, and is very interesting, but rather superficial. See
also Thomas Stanley's History of Philosophy, and the articles in Smith's
Dictionary on the leading ancient philosophers. J. W. Donaldson's
continuation of K. O. Müller's History of the Literature of Ancient
Greece is learned, and should be consulted with Thompson's Notes on
Archer Butler. Schleiermacher, on Socrates, translated by Bishop
Thirlwall, is well worth attention. There are also fine articles in the
Encyclopaedias Britannica and Metropolitana.


470-399 B.C.


To Socrates the world owes a new method in philosophy and a great
example in morals; and it would be difficult to settle whether his
influence has been greater as a sage or as a moralist. In either light
he is one of the august names of history. He has been venerated for more
than two thousand years as a teacher of wisdom, and as a martyr for the
truths he taught. He did not commit his precious thoughts to writing;
that work was done by his disciples, even as his exalted worth has been
published by them, especially by Plato and Xenophon. And if the Greek
philosophy did not culminate in him, yet he laid down those principles
by which only it could be advanced. As a system-maker, both Plato and
Aristotle were greater than he; yet for original genius he was probably
their superior, and in important respects he was their master. As a good
man, battling with infirmities and temptations and coming off
triumphantly, the ancient world has furnished no prouder example.

He was born about 470 or 469 years B.C., and therefore may be said to
belong to that brilliant age of Grecian literature and art when Prodicus
was teaching rhetoric, and Democritus was speculating about the doctrine
of atoms, and Phidias was ornamenting temples, and Alcibiades was giving
banquets, and Aristophanes was writing comedies, and Euripides was
composing tragedies, and Aspasia was setting fashions, and Cimon was
fighting battles, and Pericles was making Athens the centre of Grecian
civilization. But he died thirty years after Pericles; so that what is
most interesting in his great career took place during and after the
Peloponnesian war,--an age still interesting, but not so brilliant as
the one which immediately preceded it. It was the age of the
Sophists,--those popular but superficial teachers who claimed to be the
most advanced of their generation; men who were doubtless accomplished,
but were cynical, sceptical, and utilitarian, placing a high estimate on
popular favor and an outside life, but very little on pure subjective
truth or the wants of the soul. They were paid teachers, and sought
pupils from the sons of the rich,--the more eminent of them being
Protagoras, Gorgias, Hippias, and Prodicus; men who travelled from city
to city, exciting great admiration for their rhetorical skill, and
really improving the public speaking of popular orators. They also
taught science to a limited extent, and it was through them that
Athenian youth mainly acquired what little knowledge they had of
arithmetic and geometry. In loftiness of character they were not equal
to those Ionian philosophers, who, prior to Socrates, in the fifth
century B.C., speculated on the great problems of the material
universe,--the origin of the world, the nature of matter, and the source
of power,--and who, if they did not make discoveries, yet evinced great
intellectual force.

It was in this sceptical and irreligious age, when all classes were
devoted to pleasure and money-making, but when there was great
cultivation, especially in arts, that Socrates arose, whose
"appearance," says Grote, "was a moral phenomenon."

He was the son of a poor sculptor, and his mother was a midwife. His
family was unimportant, although it belonged to an ancient Attic _gens_.
Socrates was rescued from his father's workshop by a wealthy citizen who
perceived his genius, and who educated him at his own expense. He was
twenty when he conversed with Parmenides and Zeno; he was twenty-eight
when Phidias adorned the Parthenon; he was forty when he fought at
Potidaea and rescued Alcibiades. At this period he was most
distinguished for his physical strength and endurance,--a brave and
patriotic soldier, insensible to heat and cold, and, though temperate in
his habits, capable of drinking more wine, without becoming
intoxicated, than anybody in Athens. His powerful physique and sensual
nature inclined him to self-indulgence, but he early learned to restrain
both appetites and passions. His physiognomy was ugly and his person
repulsive; he was awkward, obese, and ungainly; his nose was flat, his
lips were thick, and his neck large; he rolled his eyes, went
barefooted, and wore a dirty old cloak. He spent his time chiefly in the
market-place, talking with everybody, old or young, rich or
poor,--soldiers, politicians, artisans, or students; visiting even
Aspasia, the cultivated, wealthy courtesan, with whom he formed a
friendship; so that, although he was very poor,--his whole property
being only five minae (about fifty dollars) a year,--it would seem he
lived in "good society."

The ancient Pagans were not so exclusive and aristocratic as the
Christians of our day, who are ambitious of social position. Socrates
never seemed to think about his social position at all, and uniformly
acted as if he were well known and prominent. He was listened to because
he was eloquent. His conversation is said to have been charming, and
even fascinating. He was an original and ingenious man, different from
everybody else, and was therefore what we call "a character."

But there was nothing austere or gloomy about him. Though lofty in his
inquiries, and serious in his mind, he resembled neither a Jewish
prophet nor a mediaeval sage in his appearance. He looked rather like a
Silenus,--very witty, cheerful, good-natured, jocose, and disposed to
make people laugh. He enjoined no austerities or penances. He was very
attractive to the young, and tolerant of human infirmities, even when he
gave the best advice. He was the most human of teachers. Alcibiades was
completely fascinated by his talk, and made good resolutions.

His great peculiarity in conversation was to ask questions,--sometimes
to gain information, but oftener to puzzle and raise a laugh. He sought
to expose ignorance, when it was pretentious; he made all the quacks and
shams appear ridiculous. His irony was tremendous; nobody could stand
before his searching and unexpected questions, and he made nearly every
one with whom he conversed appear either as a fool or an ignoramus. He
asked his questions with great apparent modesty, and thus drew a mesh
over his opponents from which they could not extricate themselves. His
process was the _reductio ad absurdum_. Hence he drew upon himself the
wrath of the Sophists. He had no intellectual arrogance, since he
professed to know nothing himself, although he was conscious of his own
intellectual superiority. He was contented to show that others knew no
more than he. He had no passion for admiration, no political ambition,
no desire for social distinction; and he associated with men not for
what they could do for him, but for what he could do for them. Although
poor, he charged nothing for his teachings. He seemed to despise riches,
since riches could only adorn or pamper the body. He did not live in a
cell or a cave or a tub, but among the people, as an apostle. He must
have accepted gifts, since his means of living were exceedingly small,
even for Athens.

He was very practical, even while he lived above the world, absorbed in
lofty contemplations. He was always talking with such as the
skin-dressers and leather-dealers, using homely language for his
illustrations, and uttering plain truths. Yet he was equally at home
with poets and philosophers and statesmen. He did not take much interest
in that knowledge which was applied merely to rising in the world.
Though plain, practical, and even homely in his conversation, he was not
utilitarian. Science had no charm to him, since it was directed to
utilitarian ends and was uncertain. His sayings had such a lofty, hidden
wisdom that very few people understood him: his utterances seemed either
paradoxical, or unintelligible, or sophistical. "To the mentally proud
and mentally feeble he was equally a bore." Most people probably thought
him a nuisance, since he was always about with his questions, puzzling
some, confuting others, and reproving all,--careless of love or hatred,
and contemptuous of all conventionalities. So severely dialectical was
he that he seemed to be a hair-splitter. The very Sophists, whose
ignorance and pretension he exposed, looked upon him as a quibbler;
although there were some--so severely trained was the Grecian mind--who
saw the drift of his questions, and admired his skill. Probably there
are few educated people in these times who could have understood him any
more easily than a modern audience, even of scholars, could take in one
of the orations of Demosthenes, although they might laugh at the jokes
of the sage, and be impressed with the invectives of the orator.

And yet there were defects in Socrates. He was most provokingly
sarcastic; he turned everything to ridicule; he remorselessly punctured
every gas-bag he met; he heaped contempt on every snob; he threw stones
at every glass house,--and everybody lived in one. He was not quite just
to the Sophists, for they did not pretend to teach the higher life, but
chiefly rhetoric, which is useful in its way. And if they loved applause
and riches, and attached themselves to those whom they could utilize,
they were not different from most fashionable teachers in any age. And
then Socrates was not very delicate in his tastes. He was too much
carried away by the fascinations of Aspasia, when he knew that she was
not virtuous,--although it was doubtless her remarkable intellect which
most attracted him, not her physical beauty; since in the "Menexenus"
(by many ascribed to Plato) he is made to recite at length one of her
long orations, and in the "Symposium" he is made to appear absolutely
indelicate in his conduct with Alcibiades, and to make what would be
abhorrent to us a matter of irony, although there was the severest
control of the passions.

To me it has always seemed a strange thing that such an ugly, satirical,
provoking man could have won and retained the love of Xanthippe,
especially since he was so careless of his dress, and did so little to
provide for the wants of the household. I do not wonder that she scolded
him, or became very violent in her temper; since, in her worst tirades,
he only provokingly laughed at her. A modern Christian woman of society
would have left him. But perhaps in Pagan Athens she could not have got
a divorce. It is only in these enlightened and progressive times that
women desert their husbands when they are tantalizing, or when they do
not properly support the family, or spend their time at the clubs or in
society,--into which it would seem that Socrates was received, even the
best, barefooted and dirty as he was, and for his intellectual gifts
alone. Think of such a man being the oracle of a modern salon, either in
Paris, London, or New York, with his repulsive appearance, and
tantalizing and provoking irony. But in artistic Athens, at one time, he
was all the fashion. Everybody liked to hear him talk. Everybody was
both amused and instructed. He provoked no envy, since he affected
modesty and ignorance, apparently asking his questions for information,
and was so meanly clad, and lived in such a poor way. Though he provoked
animosities, he had many friends. If his language was sarcastic, his
affections were kind. He was always surrounded by the most gifted men of
his time. The wealthy Crito constantly attended him; Plato and Xenophon
were enthusiastic pupils; even Alcibiades was charmed by his
conversation; Apollodorus and Antisthenes rarely quitted his side; Cebes
and Simonides came from Thebes to hear him; Isocrates and Aristippus
followed in his train; Euclid of Megara sought his society, at the risk
of his life; the tyrant Critias, and even the Sophist Protagoras,
acknowledged his marvellous power.

But I cannot linger longer on the man, with his gifts and peculiarities.
More important things demand our attention. I propose briefly to show
his contributions to philosophy and ethics.

In regard to the first, I will not dwell on his method, which is both
subtle and dialectical. We are not Greeks. Yet it was his method which
revolutionized philosophy. That was original. He saw this,--that the
theories of his day were mere opinions; even the lofty speculations of
the Ionian philosophers were dreams, and the teachings of the Sophists
were mere words. He despised both dreams and words. Speculations ended
in the indefinite and insoluble; words ended in rhetoric. Neither dreams
nor words revealed the true, the beautiful, and the good,--which, to his
mind, were the only realities, the only sure foundation for a
philosophical system.

So he propounded certain questions, which, when answered, produced
glaring contradictions, from which disputants shrank. Their conclusions
broke down their assumptions. They stood convicted of ignorance, to
which all his artful and subtle questions tended, and which it was his
aim to prove. He showed that they did not know what they affirmed. He
proved that their definitions were wrong or incomplete, since they
logically led to contradictions; and he showed that for purposes of
disputation the same meaning must always attach to the same word, since
in ordinary language terms have different meanings, partly true and
partly false, which produce confusion in argument. He would be precise
and definite, and use the utmost rigor of language, without which
inquirers and disputants would not understand each other. Every
definition should include the whole thing, and nothing else; otherwise,
people would not know what they were talking about, and would be forced
into absurdities.

Thus arose the celebrated "definitions,"--the first step in Greek
philosophy,--intending to show what _is_, and what _is not_. After
demonstrating what is not, Socrates advanced to the demonstration of
what is, and thus laid a foundation for certain knowledge: thus he
arrived at clear conceptions of justice, friendship, patriotism,
courage, and other certitudes, on which truth is based. He wanted only
positive truth,--something to build upon,--like Bacon and all great
inquirers. Having reached the certain, he would apply it to all the
relations of life, and to all kinds of knowledge. Unless knowledge is
certain, it is worthless,--there is no foundation to build upon.
Uncertain or indefinite knowledge is no knowledge at all; it may be very
pretty, or amusing, or ingenious, but no more valuable for philosophical
research than poetry or dreams or speculations.

How far the "definitions" of Socrates led to the solution of the great
problems of philosophy, in the hands of such dialecticians as Plato and
Aristotle, I will not attempt to enter upon here; but this I think I am
warranted in saying, that the main object and aim of Socrates, as a
teacher of philosophy, were to establish certain elemental truths,
concerning which there could be no dispute, and then to reason from
them,--since they were not mere assumptions, but certitudes, and
certitudes also which appealed to human consciousness, and therefore
could not be overthrown. If I were teaching metaphysics, it would be
necessary for me to make clear this method,--the questions and
definitions by which Socrates is thought to have laid the foundation of
true knowledge, and therefore of all healthful advance in philosophy.
But for my present purpose I do not care so much what his _method_ was
as what his _aim_ was.

The aim of Socrates, then, being to find out and teach what is definite
and certain, as a foundation of knowledge,--having cleared away the
rubbish of ignorance,--he attached very little importance to what is
called physical science. And no wonder, since science in his day was
very imperfect. There were not facts enough known on which to base sound
inductions: better, deductions from established principles. What is
deemed most certain in this age was the most uncertain of all knowledge
in his day. Scientific knowledge, truly speaking, there was none. It was
all speculation. Democritus might resolve the material universe--the
earth, the sun, and the stars--into combinations produced by the motion
of atoms. But whence the original atoms, and what force gave to them
motion? The proudest philosopher, speculating on the origin of the
universe, is convicted of ignorance.

Much, has been said in praise of the Ionian philosophers; and justly,
so far as their genius and loftiness of character are considered. But
what did they discover? What truths did they arrive at to serve as
foundation-stones of science? They were among the greatest intellects of
antiquity. But their method was a wrong one. Their philosophy was based
on assumptions and speculations, and therefore was worthless, since they
settled nothing. Their science was based on inductions which were not
reliable, because of a lack of facts. They drew conclusions as to the
origin of the universe from material phenomena. Thales, seeing that
plants are sustained by dew and rain, concluded that water was the first
beginning of things. Anaximenes, seeing that animals die without air,
thought that air was the great primal cause. Then Diogenes of Crete,
making a fanciful speculation, imparted to air an intellectual energy.
Heraclitus of Ephesus substituted fire for air. None of the illustrious
Ionians reached anything higher, than that the first cause of all things
must be intelligent. The speculations of succeeding philosophers, living
in a more material age, all pertained to the world of matter which they
could see with their eyes. And in close connection with speculations
about matter, the cause of which they could not settle, was indifference
to the spiritual nature of man, which they could not see, and all the
wants of the soul, and the existence of the future state, where the
soul alone was of any account. So atheism, and the disbelief of the
existence of the soul after death, characterized that materialism.
Without God and without a future, there was no stimulus to virtue and no
foundation for anything. They said, "Let us eat and drink, for
to-morrow we die,"--the essence and spirit of all paganism.

Socrates, seeing how unsatisfactory were all physical inquiries, and
what evils materialism introduced into society, making the body
everything and the soul nothing, turned his attention to the world
within, and "for physics substituted morals." He knew the uncertainty of
physical speculation, but believed in the certainty of moral truths. He
knew that there was a reality in justice, in friendship, in courage.
Like Job, he reposed on consciousness. He turned his attention to what
afterwards gave immortality to Descartes. To the scepticism of the
Sophists he opposed self-evident truths. He proclaimed the sovereignty
of virtue, the universality of moral obligation. "Moral certitude was
the platform from which he would survey the universe." It was the ladder
by which he would ascend to the loftiest regions of knowledge and of
happiness. "Though he was negative in his means, he was positive in his
ends." He was the first who had glimpses of the true mission of
philosophy,--even to sit in judgment on all knowledge, whether it
pertains to art, or politics, or science; eliminating the false and
retaining the true. It was his mission to separate truth from error. He
taught the world how to weigh evidence. He would discard any doctrine
which, logically carried out, led to absurdity. Instead of turning his
attention to outward phenomena, he dwelt on the truths which either God
or consciousness reveals. Instead of the creation, he dwelt on the
Creator. It was not the body he cared for so much as the soul. Not
wealth, not power, not the appetites were the true source of pleasure,
but the peace and harmony of the soul. The inquiry should be, not what
we shall eat, but how shall we resist temptation; how shall we keep the
soul pure; how shall we arrive at virtue; how shall we best serve our
country; how shall we best educate our children; how shall we expel
worldliness and deceit and lies; how shall we walk with God?--for there
is a God, and there is immortality and eternal justice: these are the
great certitudes of human life, and it is only by these that the soul
will expand and be happy forever.

Thus there was a close connection between his philosophy and his ethics.
But it was as a moral teacher that he won his most enduring fame. The
teacher of wisdom became subordinate to the man who lived it. As a
living Christian is nobler than merely an acute theologian, so he who
practises virtue is greater than the one who preaches it. The dissection
of the passions is not so difficult as the regulation of the passions.
The moral force of the soul is superior to the utmost grasp of the
intellect. The "Thoughts" of Pascal are all the more read because the
religious life of Pascal is known to have been lofty. Augustine was the
oracle of the Middle Ages, from the radiance of his character as much as
from the brilliancy and originality of his intellect. Bernard swayed
society more by his sanctity than by his learning. The useful life of
Socrates was devoted not merely to establish the grounds of moral
obligation, in opposition to the false and worldly teaching of his day,
but to the practice of temperance, disinterestedness, and patriotism. He
found that the ideas of his contemporaries centred in the pleasure of
the body: he would make his body subservient to the welfare of the soul.
No writer of antiquity says so much of the soul as Plato, his chosen
disciple, and no other one placed so much value on pure subjective
knowledge. His longings after love were scarcely exceeded by Augustine
or St. Theresa,--not for a divine Spouse, but for the harmony of the
soul. With longings after love were, united longings after immortality,
when the mind would revel forever in the contemplation of eternal ideas
and the solution of mysteries,--a sort of Dantean heaven. Virtue became
the foundation of happiness, and almost a synonym for knowledge. He
discoursed on knowledge in its connection with virtue, after the
fashion of Solomon in his Proverbs. Happiness, virtue, knowledge: this
was the Socratic trinity, the three indissolubly connected together, and
forming the life of the soul,--the only precious thing a man has, since
it is immortal, and therefore to be guarded beyond all bodily and
mundane interests. But human nature is frail. The soul is fettered and
bewildered; hence the need of some outside influence, some illumination,
to guard, or to restrain, or guide. "This inspiration, he was persuaded,
was imparted to him from time to time, as he had need, by the monitions
of an internal voice which he called [Greek: daimonion], or daemon,--not
a personification, like an angel or devil, but a divine sign or
supernatural voice." From youth he was accustomed to obey this
prohibitory voice, and to speak of it,--a voice "which forbade him to
enter on public life," or to take any thought for a prepared defence on
his trial. The Fathers of the Church regarded this daemon as a devil,
probably from the name; but it is not far, in its real meaning, from the
"divine grace" of St. Augustine and of all men famed for Christian
experience,--that restraining grace which keeps good men from folly
or sin.

Socrates, again, divorced happiness from pleasure,--identical things,
with most pagans. Happiness is the peace and harmony of the soul;
pleasure comes from animal sensations, or the gratification of worldly
and ambitious desires, and therefore is often demoralizing. Happiness
is an elevated joy,--a beatitude, existing with pain and disease, when
the soul is triumphant over the body; while pleasure is transient, and
comes from what is perishable. Hence but little account should be made
of pain and suffering, or even of death. The life is more than meat, and
virtue is its own reward. There is no reward of virtue in mere outward
and worldly prosperity; and, with virtue, there is no evil in adversity.
One must do right because it is right, not because it is expedient: he
must do right, whatever advantages may appear by not doing it. A good
citizen must obey the laws, because they are laws: he may not violate
them because temporal and immediate advantages are promised. A wise man,
and therefore a good man, will be temperate. He must neither eat nor
drink to excess. But temperance is not abstinence. Socrates not only
enjoined temperance as a great virtue, but he practised it. He was a
model of sobriety, and yet he drank wine at feasts,--at those glorious
symposia where he discoursed with his friends on the highest themes.
While he controlled both appetites and passions, in order to promote
true happiness,--that is, the welfare of the soul,--he was not
solicitous, as others were, for outward prosperity, which could not
extend beyond mortal life. He would show, by teaching and example, that
he valued future good beyond any transient joy. Hence he accepted
poverty and physical discomfort as very trifling evils. He did not
lacerate the body, like Brahmans and monks, to make the soul independent
of it. He was a Greek, and a practical man,--anything but
visionary,--and regarded the body as a sacred temple of the soul, to be
kept beautiful; for beauty is as much an eternal idea as friendship or
love. Hence he threw no contempt on art, since art is based on beauty.
He approved of athletic exercises, which strengthened and beautified the
body; but he would not defile the body or weaken it, either by lusts or
austerities. Passions were not to be exterminated but controlled; and
controlled by reason, the light within us,--that which guides to true
knowledge, and hence to virtue, and hence to happiness. The law of
temperance, therefore, is self-control.

Courage was another of his certitudes,--that which animated the soldier
on the battlefield with patriotic glow and lofty self-sacrifice. Life is
subordinate to patriotism. It was of but little consequence whether a
man died or not, in the discharge of duty. To do right was the main
thing, because it was right. "Like George Fox, he would do right if the
world were blotted out."

The weak point, to my mind, in the Socratic philosophy, considered in
its ethical bearings, was the confounding of virtue with knowledge, and
making them identical. Socrates could probably have explained this
difficulty away, for no one more than he appreciated the tyranny of
passion and appetite, which thus fettered the will; according to St.
Paul, "The evil that I would not, that I do." Men often commit sin when
the consequences of it and the nature of it press upon the mind. The
knowledge of good and evil does not always restrain a man from doing
what he knows will end in grief and shame. The restraint comes, not from
knowledge, but from divine aid, which was probably what Socrates meant
by his daemon,--a warning and a constraining power.

     "Est Deus in nobis, agitante calescimus illo."

But this is not exactly the knowledge which Socrates meant, or Solomon.
Alcibiades was taught to see the loveliness of virtue and to admire it;
but _he_ had not the divine and restraining power, which Socrates called
an "inspiration," and others would call "grace." Yet Socrates himself,
with passions and appetites as great as Alcibiades, restrained
them,--was assisted to do so by that divine Power which he recognized,
and probably adored. How far he felt his personal responsibility to this
Power I do not know. The sense of personal responsibility to God is one
of the highest manifestations of Christian life, and implies a
recognition of God as a personality, as a moral governor whose eye is
everywhere, and whose commands are absolute. Many have a vague idea of
Providence as pervading and ruling the universe, without a sense of
personal responsibility to Him; in other words, without a "fear" of Him,
such as Moses taught, and which is represented by David as "the
beginning of wisdom,"--the fear to do wrong, not only because it is
wrong, but also because it is displeasing to Him who can both punish and
reward. I do not believe that Socrates had this idea of God; but I do
believe that he recognized His existence and providence. Most people in
Greece and Rome had religious instincts, and believed in supernatural
forces, who exercised an influence over their destiny,--although they
called them "gods," or divinities, and not _the_ "God Almighty" whom
Moses taught. The existence of temples, the offices of priests, and the
consultation of oracles and soothsayers, all point to this. And the
people not only believed in the existence of these supernatural powers,
to whom they erected temples and statues, but many of them believed in a
future state of rewards and punishments,--otherwise the names of Minos
and Rhadamanthus and other judges of the dead are unintelligible.
Paganism and mythology did not deny the existence and power of
gods,--yea, the immortal gods; they only multiplied their number,
representing them as avenging deities with human passions and frailties,
and offering to them gross and superstitious rites of worship. They had
imperfect and even degrading ideas of the gods, but acknowledged their
existence and their power. Socrates emancipated himself from these
degrading superstitions, and had a loftier idea of God than the people,
or he would not have been accused of impiety,--that is, a dissent from
the popular belief; although there is one thing which I cannot
understand in his life, and cannot harmonize with his general
teachings,--that in his last hours his last act was to command the
sacrifice of a cock to Aesculapius.

But whatever may have been his precise and definite ideas of God and
immortality, it is clear that he soared beyond his contemporaries in his
conceptions of Providence and of duty. He was a reformer and a
missionary, preaching a higher morality and revealing loftier truths
than any other person that we know of in pagan antiquity; although there
lived in India, about two hundred years before his day, a sage whom they
called Buddha, whom some modern scholars think approached nearer to
Christ than did Socrates or Marcus Aurelius. Very possibly. Have we any
reason to adduce that God has ever been without his witnesses on earth,
or ever will be? Why could he not have imparted wisdom both to Buddha
and Socrates, as he did to Abraham, Moses, and Paul? I look upon
Socrates as one of the witnesses and agents of Almighty power on this
earth to proclaim exalted truth and turn people from wickedness. He
himself--not indistinctly--claimed this mission.

Think what a man he was: truly was he a "moral phenomenon." You see a
man of strong animal propensities, but with a lofty soul, appearing in a
wicked and materialistic--and possibly atheistic--age, overturning all
previous systems of philosophy, and inculcating a new and higher law of
morals. You see him spending his whole life,--and a long life,--in
disinterested teachings and labors; teaching without pay, attaching
himself to youth, working in poverty and discomfort, indifferent to
wealth and honor, and even power, inculcating incessantly the worth and
dignity of the soul, and its amazing and incalculable superiority to all
the pleasures of the body and all the rewards of a worldly life. Who
gave to him this wisdom and this almost superhuman virtue? Who gave to
him this insight into the fundamental principles of morality? Who, in
this respect, made him a greater light and a clearer expounder than the
Christian Paley? Who made him, in all spiritual discernment, a wiser man
than the gifted John Stuart Mill, who seems to have been a candid
searcher after truth? In the wisdom of Socrates you see some higher
force than intellectual hardihood or intellectual clearness. How much
this pagan did to emancipate and elevate the soul! How much he did to
present the vanities and pursuits of worldly men in their true light!
What a rebuke were his life and doctrines to the Epicureanism which was
pervading all classes of society, and preparing the way for ruin! Who
cannot see in him a forerunner of that greater Teacher who was the
friend of publicans and sinners; who rejected the leaven of the
Pharisees and the speculations of the Sadducees; who scorned the riches
and glories of the world; who rebuked everything pretentious and
arrogant; who enjoined humility and self-abnegation; who exposed the
ignorance and sophistries of ordinary teachers; and who propounded to
_his_ disciples no such "miserable interrogatory" as "Who shall show us
any good?" but a higher question for their solution and that of all
pleasure-seeking and money-hunting people to the end of time,--"What
shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"

It very rarely happens that a great benefactor escapes persecution,
especially if he is persistent in denouncing false opinions which are
popular, or prevailing follies and sins. As the Scribes and Pharisees,
who had been so severely and openly exposed in all their hypocrisies by
our Lord, took the lead in causing his crucifixion, so the Sophists and
tyrants of Athens headed the fanatical persecution of Socrates because
he exposed their shallowness and worldliness, and stung them to the
quick by his sarcasms and ridicule. His elevated morality and lofty
spiritual life do not alone account for the persecution. If he had let
persons alone, and had not ridiculed their opinions and pretensions,
they would probably have let him alone. Galileo aroused the wrath of
the Inquisition not for his scientific discoveries, but because he
ridiculed the Dominican and Jesuit guardians of the philosophy of the
Middle Ages, and because he seemed to undermine the authority of the
Scriptures and of the Church: his boldness, his sarcasms, and his
mocking spirit were more offensive than his doctrines. The Church did
not persecute Kepler or Pascal. The Athenians may have condemned
Xenophanes and Anaxagoras, yet not the other Ionian philosophers, nor
the lofty speculations of Plato; but they murdered Socrates because they
hated him. It was not pleasant to the gay leaders of Athenian society to
hear the utter vanity of their worldly lives painted with such unsparing
severity, nor was it pleasant to the Sophists and rhetoricians to see
their idols overthrown, and they themselves exposed as false teachers
and shallow pretenders. No one likes to see himself held up to scorn and
mockery; nobody is willing to be shown up as ignorant and conceited. The
people of Athens did not like to see their gods ridiculed, for the
logical sequence of the teachings of Socrates was to undermine the
popular religion. It was very offensive to rich and worldly people to be
told that their riches and pleasures were transient and worthless. It
was impossible that those rhetoricians who gloried in words, those
Sophists who covered up the truth, those pedants who prided themselves
on their technicalities, those politicians who lived by corruption,
those worldly fathers who thought only of pushing the fortunes of their
children, should not see in Socrates their uncompromising foe; and when
he added mockery and ridicule to contempt, and piqued their vanity, and
offended their pride, they bitterly hated him and wished him out of the
way. My wonder is that he should have been tolerated until he was
seventy years of age. Men less offensive than he have been burned alive,
and stoned to death, and tortured on the rack, and devoured by lions in
the amphitheatre. It is the fate of prophets to be exiled, or slandered,
or jeered at, or stigmatized, or banished from society,--to be subjected
to some sort of persecution; but when prophets denounce woes, and utter
invectives, and provoke by stinging sarcasms, they have generally been
killed. No matter how enlightened society is, or tolerant the age, he
who utters offensive truths will be disliked, and in some way punished.

So Socrates must meet the fate of all benefactors who make themselves
disliked and hated. First the great comic poet Aristophanes, in his
comedy called the "Clouds," held him up to ridicule and reproach, and
thus prepared the way for his arraignment and trial. He is made to utter
a thousand impieties and impertinences. He is made to talk like a man
of the greatest vanity and conceit, and to throw contempt and scorn on
everybody else. It is not probable that the poet entered into any formal
conspiracy against him, but found him a good subject of raillery and
mockery, since Socrates was then very unpopular, aside from his moral
teachings, for being declared by the oracle of Delphi the wisest man in
the world, and for having been intimate with the two men whom the
Athenians above all men justly execrated,--Critias, the chief of the
Thirty Tyrants whom Lysander had imposed, or at least consented to,
after the Peloponnesian war; and Alcibiades, whose evil counsels had led
to an unfortunate expedition, and who in addition had proved himself a
traitor to his country.

Public opinion being now against him, on various grounds he is brought
to trial before the Dikastery,--a board of some five hundred judges,
leading citizens of Athens. One of his chief accusers was Anytus,--a
rich tradesman, of very narrow mind, personally hostile to Socrates
because of the influence the philosopher had exerted over his son, yet
who then had considerable influence from the active part he had taken in
the expulsion of the Thirty Tyrants. The more formidable accuser was
Meletus,--a poet and a rhetorician, who had been irritated by Socrates'
terrible cross-examinations. The principal charges against him were,
that he did not admit the gods acknowledged by the republic, and that he
corrupted the youth of Athens.

In regard to the first charge, it could not be technically proved that
he had assailed the gods, for he was exact in his legal worship; but
really and virtually there was some foundation for the accusation, since
Socrates was a religious innovator if ever there was one. His lofty
realism _was_ subversive of popular superstitions, when logically
carried out. As to the second charge, of corrupting youth, this was
utterly groundless; for he had uniformly enjoined courage, and
temperance, and obedience to the laws, and patriotism, and the control
of the passions, and all the higher sentiments of the soul But the
tendency of his teachings was to create in young men contempt for all
institutions based on falsehood or superstition or tyranny, and he
openly disapproved some of the existing laws,--such as choosing
magistrates by lot,--and freely expressed his opinions. In a narrow and
technical sense there was some reason for this charge; for if a young
man came to combat his father's business or habits of life or general
opinions, in consequence of his own superior enlightenment, it might be
made out that he had not sufficient respect for his father, and thus was
failing in the virtues of reverence and filial obedience.

Considering the genius and innocence of the accused, he did not make an
able defence; he might have done better. It appeared as if he did not
wish to be acquitted. He took no thought of what he should say; he made
no preparation for so great an occasion. He made no appeal to the
passions and feelings of his judges. He refused the assistance of
Lysias, the greatest orator of the day. He brought neither his wife nor
children to incline the judges in his favor by their sighs and tears.
His discourse was manly, bold, noble, dignified, but without passion and
without art. His unpremeditated replies seemed to scorn an elaborate
defence. He even seemed to rebuke his judges, rather than to conciliate
them. On the culprit's bench he assumed the manners of a teacher. He
might easily have saved himself, for there was but a small majority
(only five or six at the first vote) for his condemnation. And then he
irritated his judges unnecessarily. According to the laws he had the
privilege of proposing a substitution for his punishment, which would
have been accepted,--exile for instance; but, with a provoking and yet
amusing irony, he asked to be supported at the public expense in the
Prytaneum: that is, he asked for the highest honor of the republic. For
a condemned criminal to ask this was audacity and defiance.

We cannot otherwise suppose than that he did not wish to be acquitted.
He wished to die. The time had come; he had fulfilled his mission; he
was old and poor; his condemnation would bring his truths before the
world in a more impressive form. He knew the moral greatness of a
martyr's death. He reposed in the calm consciousness of having rendered
great services, of having made important revelations. He never had an
ignoble love of life; death had no terrors to him at any time. So he was
perfectly resigned to his fate. Most willingly he accepted the penalty
of plain speaking, and presented no serious remonstrances and no
indignant denials. Had he pleaded eloquently for his life, he would not
have fulfilled his mission. He acted with amazing foresight; he took the
only course which would secure a lasting influence. He knew that his
death would evoke a new spirit of inquiry, which would spread over the
civilized world. It was a public disappointment that he did not defend
himself with more earnestness. But he was not seeking applause for his
genius,--simply the final triumph of his cause, best secured by

So he received his sentence with evident satisfaction; and in the
interval between it and his execution he spent his time in cheerful but
lofty conversations with his disciples. He unhesitatingly refused to
escape from his prison when the means would have been provided. His last
hours were of immortal beauty. His friends were dissolved in tears, but
he was calm, composed, triumphant; and when he lay down to die he
prayed that his migration to the unknown land might be propitious. He
died without pain, as the hemlock produced only torpor.

His death, as may well be supposed, created a profound impression. It
was one of the most memorable events of the pagan world, whose greatest
light was extinguished,--no, not extinguished, since it has been shining
ever since in the "Memorabilia" of Xenophon and the "Dialogues" of
Plato. Too late the Athenians repented of their injustice and cruelty.
They erected to his memory a brazen statue, executed by Lysippus. His
character and his ideas are alike immortal. The schools of Athens
properly date from his death, about the year 400 B.C., and these schools
redeemed the shame of her loss of political power. The Socratic
philosophy, as expounded by Plato, survived the wrecks of material
greatness. It entered even into the Christian schools, especially at
Alexandria; it has ever assisted and animated the earnest searchers
after the certitudes of life; it has permeated the intellectual world,
and found admirers and expounders in all the universities of Europe and
America. "No man has ever been found," says Grote, "strong enough to
bend the bow of Socrates, the father of philosophy, the most original
thinker of antiquity." His teachings gave an immense impulse to
civilization, but they could not reform or save the world; it was too
deeply sunk in the infamies and immoralities of an Epicurean life. Nor
was his philosophy ever popular in any age of our world. It never will
be popular until the light which men hate shall expel the darkness which
they love. But it has been the comfort and the joy of an esoteric
few,--the witnesses of truth whom God chooses, to keep alive the virtues
and the ideas which shall ultimately triumph over all the forces
of evil.

       *       *       *       *       *


The direct sources are chiefly Plato (Jowett's translation) and
Xenophon. Indirect sources: chiefly Aristotle, Metaphysics; Diogenes
Laertius's Lives of Philosophers; Grote's History of Greece; Brandis's
Plato, in Smith's Dictionary; Ralph Waldo Emerson's Representative Men;
Cicero on Immortality; J. Martineau, Essay on Plato; Thirlwall's History
of Greece. See also the late work of Curtius; Ritter's History of
Philosophy; F.D. Maurice's History of Moral Philosophy; G. H. Lewes'
Biographical History of Philosophy; Hampden's Fathers of Greek
Philosophy; J.S. Blackie's Wise Men of Greece; Starr King's Lecture on
Socrates; Smith's Biographical Dictionary; Ueberweg's History of
Philosophy; W.A. Butler's History of Ancient Philosophy; Grote's


500-430 B.C.


I suppose there is no subject, at this time, which interests cultivated
people in favored circumstances more than Art. They travel in Europe,
they visit galleries, they survey cathedrals, they buy pictures, they
collect old china, they learn to draw and paint, they go into ecstasies
over statues and bronzes, they fill their houses with bric-á-brac, they
assume a cynical criticism, or gossip pedantically, whether they know
what they are talking about or not. In short, the contemplation of Art
is a fashion, concerning which it is not well to be ignorant, and about
which there is an amazing amount of cant, pretension, and borrowed
opinions. Artists themselves differ in their judgments, and many who
patronize them have no severity of discrimination. We see bad pictures
on the walls of private palaces, as well as in public galleries, for
which fabulous prices are paid because they are, or are supposed to be,
the creation of great masters, or because they are rare like old books
in an antiquarian library, or because fashion has given them a
fictitious value, even when these pictures fail to create pleasure or
emotion in those who view them. And yet there is great enjoyment, to
some people, in the contemplation of a beautiful building or statue or
painting,--as of a beautiful landscape or of a glorious sky. The ideas
of beauty, of grace, of grandeur, which are eternal, are suggested to
the mind and soul; and these cultivate and refine in proportion as the
mind and soul are enlarged, especially among the rich, the learned, and
the favored classes. So, in high civilizations, especially material, Art
is not only a fashion but a great enjoyment, a lofty study, and a theme
of general criticism and constant conversation.

It is my object, of course, to present the subject historically, rather
than critically. My criticisms would be mere opinions, worth no more
than those of thousands of other people. As a public teacher to those
who may derive some instruction from my labors and studies, I presume to
offer only reflections on Art as it existed among the Greeks, and to
show its developments in an historical point of view.

The reader may be surprised that I should venture to present Phidias as
one of the benefactors of the world, when so little is known about him,
or can be known about him. So far as the man is concerned, I might as
well lecture on Melchizedek, or Pharaoh, or one of the dukes of Edom.
There are no materials to construct a personal history which would be
interesting, such as abound in reference to Michael Angelo or Raphael.
Thus he must be made the mere text of a great subject. The development
of Art is an important part of the history of civilization. The
influence of Art on human culture and happiness is prodigious. Ancient
Grecian art marks one of the stepping-stones of the race. Any man who
largely contributed to its development was a world-benefactor.

Now, history says this much of Phidias: that he lived in the time of
Pericles,--in the culminating period of Grecian glory,--and ornamented
the Parthenon with his unrivalled statues; which Parthenon was to Athens
what Solomon's Temple was to Jerusalem,--a wonder, a pride, and a glory.
His great contribution to that matchless edifice was the statue of
Minerva, made of gold and ivory, forty feet in height, the gold of which
alone was worth forty-four talents,--about fifty-thousand dollars,--an
immense sum when gold was probably worth more than twenty times its
present value. All antiquity was unanimous in its praise of this statue,
and the exactness and finish of its details were as remarkable as the
grandeur and majesty of its proportions. Another of the famous works of
Phidias was the bronze statue of Minerva, which was the glory of the
Acropolis, This was sixty feet in height. But even this yielded to the
colossal statue of Zeus or Jupiter in his great temple at Olympia,
representing the figure in a sitting posture, forty feet high, on a
throne made of gold, ebony, ivory, and precious stones. In this statue
the immortal artist sought to represent power in repose, as Michael
Angelo did in his statue of Moses. So famous was this majestic statue,
that it was considered a calamity to die without seeing it; and it
served as a model for all subsequent representations of majesty and
repose among the ancients. This statue, removed to Constantinople by
Theodosius the Great, remained undestroyed until the year 475 A.D.

Phidias also executed various other works,--all famous in his
day,--which have, however, perished; but many executed under his
superintendence still remain, and are universally admired for their
grace and majesty of form. The great master himself was probably vastly
superior to any of his disciples, and impressed his genius on the age,
having, so far as we know, no rival among his contemporaries, as he has
had no successor among the moderns of equal originality and power,
unless it be Michael Angelo. His distinguished excellence was simplicity
and grandeur; and he was to sculpture what Aeschylus was to tragic
poetry,--sublime and grand, representing ideal excellence, Though his
works have perished, the ideas he represented still live. His fame is
immortal, though we know so little about him. It is based on the
admiration of antiquity, on the universal praise which his creations
extorted even from the severest critics in an age of Art, when the best
energies of an ingenious people were directed to it with the absorbing
devotion now given to mechanical inventions and those pursuits which
make men rich and comfortable. It would be interesting to know the
private life of this great artist, his ardent loves and fierce
resentments, his social habits, his public honors and triumphs,--but
this is mere speculation. We may presume that he was rich, flattered,
and admired,--the companion of great statesmen, rulers, and generals;
not a persecuted man like Dante, but honored like Raphael; one of the
fortunate of earth, since he was a master of what was most valued in
his day.

But it is the work which he represents--and still more comprehensively
Art itself in the ancient world--to which I would call your attention,
especially the expression of Art in buildings, in statues, and
in pictures.

"Art" is itself a very great word, and means many things; it is applied
to style in writing, to musical compositions, and even to effective
eloquence, as well as to architecture, sculpture, and painting. We
speak of music as artistic,--and not foolishly; of an artistic poet, or
an artistic writer like Voltaire or Macaulay; of an artistic
preacher,--by which we mean that each and all move the sensibilities and
souls and minds of men by adherence to certain harmonies which accord
with fixed ideas of grace, beauty, and dignity. Eternal ideas which the
mind conceives are the foundation of Art, as they are of Philosophy. Art
claims to be creative, and is in a certain sense inspired, like the
genius of a poet. However material the creation, the spirit which gives
beauty to it is of the mind and soul. Imagination is tasked to its
utmost stretch to portray sentiments and passions in the way that makes
the deepest impression. The marble bust becomes animated, and even the
temple consecrated to the deity becomes religious, in proportion as
these suggest the ideas and sentiments which kindle the soul to
admiration and awe. These feelings belong to every one by nature, and
are most powerful when most felicitously called out by the magic of the
master, who requires time and labor to perfect his skill. Art is
therefore popular, and appeals to every one, but to those most who live
in the great ideas on which it is based. The peasant stands awe-struck
before the majestic magnitude of a cathedral; the man of culture is
roused to enthusiasm by the contemplation of its grand proportions, or
graceful outlines, or bewitching details, because he sees in them the
realization of his ideas of beauty, grace, and majesty, which shine
forever in unutterable glory,--indestructible ideas which survive all
thrones and empires, and even civilizations. They are as imperishable as
stars and suns and rainbows and landscapes, since these unfold new
beauties as the mind and soul rest upon them. Whenever, then, man
creates an image or a picture which reveals these eternal but
indescribable beauties, and calls forth wonder or enthusiasm, and
excites refined pleasures, he is an artist. He impresses, to a greater
or less degree, every order and class of men. He becomes a benefactor,
since he stimulates exalted sentiments, which, after all, are the real
glory and pride of life, and the cause of all happiness and virtue,--in
cottage or in palace, amid hard toils as well as in luxurious leisure.
He is a self-sustained man, since he revels in ideas rather than in
praises and honors. Like the man of virtue, he finds in the adoration of
the deity he worships his highest reward. Michael Angelo worked
preoccupied and rapt, without even the stimulus of praise, to advanced
old age, even as Dante lived in the visions to which his imagination
gave form and reality. Art is therefore not only self-sustained, but
lofty and unselfish. It is indeed the exalted soul going forth
triumphant over external difficulties, jubilant and melodious even in
poverty and neglect, rising above all the evils of life, revelling in
the glories which are impenetrable, and living--for the time--in the
realm of deities and angels. The accidents-of earth are no more to the
true artist striving to reach and impersonate his ideal of beauty and
grace, than furniture and tapestries are to a true woman seeking the
beatitudes of love. And it is only when there is this soul longing to
reach the excellence conceived, for itself alone, that great works have
been produced. When Art has been prostituted to pander to perverted
tastes, or has been stimulated by thirst for gain, then inferior works
only have been created. Fra Angelico lived secluded in a convent when he
painted his exquisite Madonnas. It was the exhaustion of the nervous
energies consequent on superhuman toils, rather than the luxuries and
pleasures which his position and means afforded, which killed Raphael at

The artists of Greece did not live for utilities any more than did the
Ionian philosophers, but in those glorious thoughts and creations which
were their chosen joy. Whatever can be reached by the unaided powers of
man was attained by them. They represented all that the mind can
conceive of the beauty of the human form, and the harmony of
architectural proportions, In the realm of beauty and grace modern
civilization has no prouder triumphs than those achieved by the artists
of Pagan antiquity. Grecian artists have been the teachers of all
nations and all ages in architecture, sculpture, and painting. How far
they were themselves original we cannot tell. We do not know how much
they were indebted to Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Assyrians, but in real
excellence they have never been surpassed. In some respects, their works
still remain objects of hopeless imitation: in the realization of ideas
of beauty and form, they reached absolute perfection. Hence we have a
right to infer that Art can flourish under Pagan as well as Christian
influences. It was a comparatively Pagan age in Italy when the great
artists arose who succeeded Da Vinci, especially under the patronage of
the Medici and the Medicean popes. Christianity has only modified Art by
purifying it from sensual attractions. Christianity added very little to
Art, until cathedrals arose in their grand proportions and infinite
details, and until artists sought to portray in the faces of their
Saints and Madonnas the seraphic sentiments of Christian love and
angelic purity. Art even declined in the Roman world from the second
century after Christ, in spite of all the efforts of Christian emperors.
In fact neither Christianity nor Paganism creates it; it seems to be
independent of both, and arises from the peculiar genius and
circumstances of an age. Make Art a fashion, honor and reward it, crown
its great masters with Olympic leaves, direct the energies of an age or
race upon it, and we probably shall have great creations, whether the
people are Christian or Pagan. So that Art seems to be a human creation,
rather than a divine inspiration. It is the result of genius, stimulated
by circumstances and directed to the contemplation of ideal excellence.

Much has been written on those principles upon which Art is supposed to
be founded, but not very satisfactorily, although great learning and
ingenuity have been displayed. It is difficult to conceive of beauty or
grace by definitions,---as difficult as it is to define love or any
other ultimate sentiment of the soul. "Metaphysics, mathematics, music,
and philosophy," says Cleghorn, "have been called in to analyze, define,
demonstrate, or generalize," Great critics, like Burke, Alison, and
Stewart, have written interesting treatises on beauty and taste. "Plato
represents beauty as the contemplation of the mind. Leibnitz maintained
that it consists in perfection. Diderot referred beauty to the idea of
relation. Blondel asserted that it was in harmonic proportions. Leigh
speaks of it as the music of the age." These definitions do not much
assist us. We fall back on our own conceptions or intuitions, as
probably did Phidias, although Art in Greece could hardly have attained
such perfection without the aid which poetry and history and philosophy
alike afforded. Art can flourish only as the taste of the people
becomes cultivated, and by the assistance of many kinds of knowledge.
The mere contemplation of Nature is not enough. Savages have no art at
all, even when they live amid grand mountains and beside the
ever-changing sea. When Phidias was asked how he conceived his Olympian
Jove, he referred to Homer's poems. Michael Angelo was enabled to paint
the saints and sibyls of the Sistine Chapel from familiarity with the
writings of the Jewish prophets. Isaiah inspired him as truly as Homer
inspired Phidias. The artists of the age of Phidias were encouraged and
assisted by the great poets, historians, and philosophers who basked in
the sunshine of Pericles, even as the great men in the Court of
Elizabeth derived no small share of their renown from her glorious
appreciation. Great artists appear in clusters, and amid the other
constellations that illuminate the intellectual heavens. They all
mutually assist each other. When Rome lost her great men, Art declined.
When the egotism of Louis XIV. extinguished genius, the great lights in
all departments disappeared. So Art is indebted not merely to the
contemplation of ideal beauty, but to the influence of great ideas
permeating society,--such as when the age of Phidias was kindled with
the great thoughts of Socrates, Democritus, Thucydides, Euripides,
Aristophanes, and others, whether contemporaries or not; a sort of
Augustan or Elizabethan age, never to appear but once among the
same people.

Now, in reference to the history or development of ancient Art, until it
culminated in the age of Pericles, we observe that its first expression
was in architecture, and was probably the result of religious
sentiments, when nations were governed by priests, and not distinguished
for intellectual life. Then arose the temples of Egypt, of Assyria, of
India. They are grand, massive, imposing, but not graceful or beautiful.
They arose from blended superstition and piety, and were probably
erected before the palaces of kings, and in Egypt by the dynasty that
builded the older pyramids. Even those ambitious and prodigious
monuments, which have survived every thing contemporaneous, indicate the
reign of sacerdotal monarchs and artists who had no idea of beauty, but
only of permanence. They do not indicate civilization, but
despotism,--unless it be that they were erected for astronomical
purposes, as some maintain, rather than as sepulchres for kings. But
this supposition involves great mathematical attainments. It is
difficult to conceive of such a waste of labor by enlightened princes,
acquainted with astronomical and mathematical knowledge and mechanical
forces, for Herodotus tells us that one hundred thousand men toiled on
the Great Pyramid during forty years. What for? Surely it is hard to
suppose that such a pile was necessary for the observation of the polar
star; and still less probably was it built as a sepulchre for a king,
since no covered sarcophagus has ever been found in it, nor have even
any hieroglyphics. The mystery seems impenetrable.

But the temples are not mysteries. They were built also by sacerdotal
monarchs, in honor of the deity. They must have been enormous, perhaps
the most imposing ever built by man: witness the ruins of Karnac--a
temple designated by the Greeks as that of Jupiter Ammon---with its
large blocks of stone seventy feet in length, on a platform one thousand
feet long and three hundred wide, its alleys over a mile in length lined
with colossal sphinxes, and all adorned with obelisks and columns, and
surrounded with courts and colonnades, like Solomon's temple, to
accommodate the crowds of worshippers as well as priests. But these
enormous structures were not marked by beauty of proportion or fitness
of ornament; they show the power of kings, not the genius of a nation.
They may have compelled awe; they did not kindle admiration. The emotion
they called out was such as is produced now by great engineering
exploits, involving labor and mechanical skill, not suggestive of grace
or harmony, which require both taste and genius. The same is probably
true of Solomon's temple, built at a much later period, when Art had
been advanced somewhat by the Phoenicians, to whose assistance it seems
he was much indebted. We cannot conceive how that famous structure
should have employed one hundred and fifty thousand men for eleven
years, and have cost what would now be equal to $200,000,000, from any
description which has come down to us, or any ruins which remain, unless
it were surrounded by vast courts and colonnades, and ornamented by a
profuse expenditure of golden plates,--which also evince both power and
money rather than architectural genius.

After the erection of temples came the building of palaces for kings,
equally distinguished for vast magnitude and mechanical skill, but
deficient in taste and beauty, showing the infancy of Art. Yet even
these were in imitation of the temples. And as kings became proud and
secular, probably their palaces became grander and larger,--like the
palaces of Nebuchadnezzar and Rameses the Great and the Persian monarchs
at Susa, combining labor, skill, expenditure, dazzling the eye by the
number of columns and statues and vast apartments, yet still deficient
in beauty and grace.

It was not until the Greeks applied their wonderful genius to
architecture that it became the expression of a higher civilization.
And, as among Egyptians, Art in Greece is first seen in temples; for the
earlier Greeks were religious, although they worshipped the deity under
various names, and in the forms which their own hands did make.

The Dorians, who descended from the mountains of northern Greece, eighty
years after the fall of Troy, were the first who added substantially to
the architectural art of Asiatic nations, by giving simplicity and
harmony to their temples. We see great thickness of columns, a fitting
proportion to the capitals, and a beautiful entablature. The horizontal
lines of the architrave and cornice predominate over the vertical lines
of the columns. The temple arises in the severity of geometrical forms.
The Doric column was not entirely a new creation, but was an improvement
on the Egyptian model,--less massive, more elegant, fluted, increasing
gradually towards the base, with a slight convexed swelling downward,
about six diameters in height, superimposed by capitals. "So regular was
the plan of the temple, that if the dimensions of a single column and
the proportion the entablature should bear to it were given to two
individuals acquainted with this style, with directions to compose a
temple, they would produce designs exactly similar in size, arrangement,
and general proportions." And yet while the style of all the Doric
temples is the same, there are hardly two temples alike, being varied by
the different proportions of the _column_, which is the peculiar mark of
Grecian architecture, even as the _arch_ is the feature of Gothic
architecture. The later Doric was less massive than the earlier, but
more rich in sculptured ornaments. The pedestal was from two thirds to a
whole diameter of a column in height, built in three courses, forming as
it were steps to the platform on which the pillar rested. The pillar had
twenty flutes, with a capital of half a diameter, supporting the
entablature. This again, two diameters in height, was divided into
architrave, frieze, and cornice. But the great beauty of the temple was
the portico in front,--a forest of columns, supporting the pediment
above, which had at the base an angle of about fourteen degrees. From
the pediment the beautiful cornice projects with various mouldings,
while at the base and at the apex are sculptured monuments representing
both men and animals. The graceful outline of the columns, and the
variety of light and shade arising from the arrangement of mouldings and
capitals, produced an effect exceedingly beautiful. All the glories of
this order of architecture culminated in the Parthenon,--built of
Pentelic marble, resting on a basement of limestone, surrounded with
forty-eight fluted columns of six feet and two inches diameter at the
base and thirty-four feet in height, the frieze and pediment elaborately
ornamented with reliefs and statues, while within the cella or interior
was the statue of Minerva, forty feet high, built of gold and ivory. The
walls were decorated with the rarest paintings, and the cella itself
contained countless treasures. This unrivalled temple was not so large
as some of the cathedrals of the Middle Ages, but it covered twelve
times the ground of the temple of Solomon, and from the summit of the
Acropolis it shone as a wonder and a glory. The marbles have crumbled
and its ornaments have been removed, but it has formed the model of the
most beautiful buildings of the world, from the Quirinus at Rome to the
Madeleine at Paris, stimulating alike the genius of Michael Angelo and
Christopher Wren, immortal in the ideas it has perpetuated, and
immeasurable in the influence it has exerted. Who has copied the Flavian
amphitheatre except as a convenient form for exhibitors on the stage, or
for the rostrum of an orator? Who has not copied the Parthenon as the
severest in its proportions for public buildings for civic purposes?

The Ionic architecture is only a modification of the Doric,--its columns
more slender and with a greater number of flutes, and capitals more
elaborate, formed with volutes or spiral scrolls, while its pediment,
the triangular facing of the portico, is formed with a less angle from
the base,--the whole being more suggestive of grace than strength.
Vitruvius, the greatest authority among the ancients, says that "the
Greeks, in inventing these two kinds of columns, imitated in the one the
naked simplicity and aspects of a man, and in the other the delicacy
and ornaments of a woman, whose ringlets appear in the volutes of
the capital."

The Corinthian order, which was the most copied by the Romans, was still
more ornamented, with foliated capitals, greater height, and a more
decorated entablature.

But the principles of all these three orders are substantially the
same,--their beauty consisting in the column and horizontal lines, even
as vertical lines marked the Gothic. We see the lintel and not the arch;
huge blocks of stone perfectly squared, and not small stones irregularly
laid; external rather than internal pillars, the cella receiving light
from the open roof above, rather than from windows; a simple outline
uninterrupted,--generally in the form of a parallelogram,--rather than
broken by projections. There is no great variety; but the harmony, the
severity, and beauty of proportion will eternally be admired, and can
never be improved,--a temple of humanity, cheerful, useful, complete,
not aspiring to reach what on earth can never be obtained, with no
gloomy vaults speaking of maceration and grief, no lofty towers and
spires soaring to the sky, no emblems typical of consecrated sentiments
and of immortality beyond the grave, but rich in ornaments drawn from
the living world,--of plants and animals, of man in the perfection of
physical strength, of woman in the unapproachable loveliness of grace
of form. As the world becomes pagan, intellectual, thrifty, we see the
architecture of the Greeks in palaces, banks, halls, theatres, stores,
libraries; when it is emotional, poetic, religious, fervent, aspiring,
we see the restoration of the Gothic in churches, cathedrals,
schools,--for Philosophy and Art did all they could to civilize the
world before Christianity was sent to redeem it and prepare mankind for
the life above. Such was the temple of the Greeks, reappearing in all
the architectures of nations, from the Romans to our own times,--so
perfect that no improvements have subsequently been made, no new
principles discovered which were not known to Vitruvius. What a
creation, to last in its simple beauty for more than two thousand years,
and forever to remain a perfect model of its kind! Ah, that was a
triumph of Art, the praises of which have been sung for more than sixty
generations, and will be sung for hundreds yet to come. But how hidden
and forgotten the great artists who invented all this, showing the
littleness of man and the greatness of Art itself. How true that old
Greek saying, "Life is short, but Art is long."

But the genius displayed in sculpture was equally remarkable, and was
carried to the same perfection. The Greeks did not originate sculpture.
We read of sculptured images from remotest antiquity. Assyria, Egypt,
and India are full of relics. But these are rude, unformed, without
grace, without expression, though often colossal and grand. There are
but few traces of emotion, or passion, or intellectual force. Everything
which has come down from the ancient monarchies is calm, impassive,
imperturbable. Nor is there a severe beauty of form. There is no grace,
no loveliness, that we should desire them. Nature was not severely
studied. We see no aspiration after what is ideal. Sometimes the
sculptures are grotesque, unnatural, and impure. They are emblematic of
strange deities, or are rude monuments of heroes and kings. They are
curious, but they do not inspire us. We do not copy them; we turn away
from them. They do not live, and they are not reproduced. Art could
spare them all, except as illustrations of its progress. They are merely
historical monuments, to show despotism and superstition, and the
degradation of the people.

But this cannot be said of the statues which the Greeks created, or
improved from ancient models. In the sculptures of the Greeks we see the
utmost perfection of the human form, both of man and woman, learned by
the constant study of anatomy and of nude figures of the greatest
beauty. A famous statue represented the combined excellences of perhaps
one hundred different persons. The study of the human figure became a
noble object of ambition, and led to conceptions of ideal grace and
loveliness such as no one human being perhaps ever possessed in all
respects. And not merely grace and beauty were thus represented in
marble or bronze, but dignity, repose, majesty. We see in those figures
which have survived the ravages of time suggestions of motion, rest,
grace, grandeur,--every attitude, every posture, every variety of form.
We see also every passion which moves the human soul,--grief, rage,
agony, shame, joy, peace. But it is the perfection of form which is most
wonderful and striking. Nor did the artists work to please the vulgar
rich, but to realize their own highest conceptions, and to represent
sentiments in which the whole nation shared. They sought to instruct;
they appealed to the highest intelligence. "Some sought to represent
tender beauty, others daring power, and others again heroic grandeur."
Grecian statuary began with ideal representations of deities; then it
produced the figures of gods and goddesses in mortal forms; then the
portrait-statues of distinguished men. This art was later in its
development than architecture, since it was directed to ornamenting what
had already nearly reached perfection. Thus Phidias ornamented the
Parthenon in the time of Pericles, when sculpture was purest and most
ideal In some points of view it declined after Phidias, but in other
respects it continued to improve until it culminated in Lysippus, who
was contemporaneous with Alexander. He is said to have executed fifteen
hundred statues, and to have displayed great energy of execution. He
idealized human beauty, and imitated Nature to the minutest details. He
alone was selected to make the statue of Alexander, which is lost. None
of his works, which were chiefly in bronze, are extant; but it is
supposed that the famous _Hercules_ and the _Torso Belvedere_ are copies
from his works, since his favorite subject was Hercules. We only can
judge of his great merits from his transcendent reputation and the
criticism of classic writers, and also from the works that have come
down to us which are supposed to be imitations of his masterpieces. It
was his scholars who sculptured the _Colossus of Rhodes_, the _Laocoön_,
and the _Dying Gladiator_. After him plastic art rapidly degenerated,
since it appealed to passion, especially under Praxiteles, who was
famous for his undraped Venuses and the expression of sensual charms.
The decline of Art was rapid as men became rich, and Epicurean life was
sought as the highest good. Skill of execution did not decline, but
ideal beauty was lost sight of, until the art itself was prostituted--as
among the Romans--to please perverted tastes or to flatter
senatorial pride.

But our present theme is not the history of decline, but of the
original creations of genius, which have been copied in every succeeding
age, and which probably will never be surpassed, except in some inferior
respects,--in mere mechanical skill. The _Olympian Jove_ of Phidias
lives perhaps in the _Moses_ of Michael Angelo, great as was his
original genius, even as the _Venus_ of Praxiteles may have been
reproduced in Powers's _Greek Slave_. The great masters had innumerable
imitators, not merely in the representation of man but of animals. What
a study did these artists excite, especially in their own age, and how
honorable did they make their noble profession even in degenerate times!
They were the school-masters of thousands and tens of thousands,
perpetuating their ideas to remotest generations. Their instructions
were not lost, and never can be lost in a realm which constitutes one of
the proudest features of our own civilization. It is true that
Christianity does not teach aesthetic culture, but it teaches the duties
which prevent the eclipse of Art. In this way it comes to the rescue of
Art when in danger of being perverted. Grecian Art was consecrated to
Paganism,--but, revived, it may indirectly be made tributary to
Christianity, like music and eloquence. It will not conserve
Christianity, but may be purified by it, even if able to flourish
without it.

I can now only glance at the third development of Grecian Art, as seen
in painting.

It is not probable that such perfection was reached in this art as in
sculpture and architecture. We have no means of forming incontrovertible
opinions. Most of the ancient pictures have perished; and those that
remain, while they show correctness of drawing and brilliant coloring,
do not give us as high conceptions of ideal beauties as do the pictures
of the great masters of modern times. But we have the testimony of the
ancients themselves, who were as enthusiastic in their admiration of
pictures as they were of statues. And since their taste was severe, and
their sensibility as to beauty unquestioned, we have a right to infer
that even painting was carried to considerable perfection among the
Greeks. We read of celebrated schools,--like the modern schools of
Florence, Rome, Bologna, Venice, and Naples. The schools of Sicyon,
Corinth, Athens, and Rhodes were as famous in their day as the modern
schools to which I have alluded.

Painting, being strictly a decoration, did not reach a high degree of
art, like sculpture, until architecture was perfected. But painting is
very ancient. The walls of Babylon, it is asserted by the ancient
historians, were covered with paintings. Many survive amid the ruins of
Egypt and on the chests of mummies; though these are comparatively rude,
without regard to light and shade, like Chinese pictures. Nor do they
represent passions and emotions. They aimed to perpetuate historical
events, not ideas. The first paintings of the Greeks simply marked out
the outline of figures. Next appeared the inner markings, as we see in
ancient vases, on a white ground. The effects of light and shade were
then introduced; and then the application of colors in accordance with
Nature. Cimon of Cleonae, in the eightieth Olympiad, invented the art of
"fore-shortening," and hence was the first painter of perspective.
Polygnotus, a contemporary of Phidias, was nearly as famous for painting
as he was for sculpture. He was the first who painted woman with
brilliant drapery and variegated head-dresses. He gave to the cheek the
blush and to his draperies gracefulness. He is said to have been a great
epic painter, as Phidias was an epic sculptor and Homer an epic poet. He
expressed, like them, ideal beauty. But his pictures had no elaborate
grouping, which is one of the excellences of modern art. His figures
were all in regular lines, like the bas-reliefs on a frieze. He took his
subjects from epic poetry. He is celebrated for his accurate drawing,
and for the charm and grace of his female figures. He also gave great
grandeur to his figures, like Michael Angelo. Contemporary with him was
Dionysius, who was remarkable for expression, and Micon, who was skilled
in painting horses.

With Apollodorus of Athens, who flourished toward the close of the fifth
century before Christ, there was a new development,--that of dramatic
effect. His aim was to deceive the eye of the spectator by the
appearance of reality. He painted men and things as they appeared. He
also improved coloring, invented _chiaroscuro_ (or the art of relief by
a proper distribution of the lights and shadows), and thus obtained what
is called "tone." He prepared the way for Zeuxis, who surpassed him in
the power to give beauty to forms. The _Helen_ of Zeuxis was painted
from five of the most beautiful women of Croton. He aimed at complete
illusion of the senses, as in the instance recorded of his grape
picture. His style was modified by the contemplation of the sculptures
of Phidias, and he taught the true method of grouping. His marked
excellence was in the contrast of light and shade. He did not paint
ideal excellence; he was not sufficiently elevated in his own moral
sentiments to elevate the feelings of others: he painted sensuous beauty
as it appeared in the models which he used. But he was greatly extolled,
and accumulated a great fortune, like Rubens, and lived ostentatiously,
as rich and fortunate men ever have lived who do not possess elevation
of sentiment. His headquarters were not at Athens, but at Ephesus,--a
city which also produced Parrhasins, to whom Zeuxis himself gave the
palm, since he deceived the painter by his curtain, while Zeuxis only
deceived birds by his grapes. Parrhasius established the rule of
proportions, which was followed by succeeding artists. He was a very
luxurious and arrogant man, and fancied he had reached the perfection
of his art.

But if that was ever reached among the ancients it was by Apelles,--the
Titian of that day,--who united the rich coloring of the Ionian school
with the scientific severity of the school of Sicyonia. He alone was
permitted to paint the figure of Alexander, as Lysippus only was allowed
to represent him in bronze. He invented ivory black, and was the first
to cover his pictures with a coating of varnish, to bring out the colors
and preserve them. His distinguishing excellency was grace,--"that
artless balance of motion and repose," says Fuseli, "springing from
character and founded on propriety." Others may have equalled him in
perspective, accuracy, and finish, but he added a refinement of taste
which placed him on the throne which is now given to Raphael. No artists
could complete his unfinished pictures. He courted the severest
criticism, and, like Michael Angelo, had no jealousy of the
fame of other artists; he reposed in the greatness of his own
self-consciousness. He must have made enormous sums of money, since one
of his pictures--a Venus rising out of the sea, painted for a temple in
Cos, and afterwards removed by Augustus to Rome--cost one hundred
talents (equal to about one hundred thousand dollars),--a greater sum,
I apprehend, than was ever paid to a modern artist for a single picture,
certainly in view of the relative value of gold. In this picture female
grace was impersonated.

After Apelles the art declined, although there were distinguished
artists for several centuries. They generally flocked to Rome, where
there was the greatest luxury and extravagance, and they, pandered to
vanity and a vitiated taste. The masterpieces of the old artists brought
enormous sums, as the works of the old masters do now; and they were
brought to Rome by the conquerors, as the masterpieces of Italy and
Spain and Flanders were brought to Paris by Napoleon. So Rome gradually
possessed the best pictures of the world, without stimulating the art or
making new creations; it could appreciate genius, but creative genius
expired with Grecian liberties and glories. Rome multiplied and rewarded
painters, but none of them were famous. Pictures were as common as
statues. Even Varro, a learned writer, had a gallery of seven hundred
portraits. Pictures were placed in all the baths, theatres, temples, and
palaces, as were statues.

We are forced, therefore, to believe that the Greeks carried painting to
the same perfection that they did sculpture, not only from the praises
of critics like Cicero and Pliny, but from the universal enthusiasm
which the painters created and the enormous prices they received.
Whether Polygnotus was equal to Michael Angelo, Zeuxis to Titian, and
Apelles to Raphael, we cannot tell. Their works have perished. What
remains to us, in the mural decorations of Pompeii and the designs on
vases, seem to confirm the criticisms of the ancients. We cannot
conceive how the Greek painters could have equalled the great Italian
masters, since they had fewer colors, and did not make use of oil, but
of gums mixed with the white of eggs, and resin and wax, which mixture
we call "encaustic." Yet it is not the perfection of colors or of
design, or mechanical aids, or exact imitations, or perspective skill,
which constitute the highest excellence of the painter, but his power of
creation,--the power of giving ideal beauty and grandeur and grace,
inspired by the contemplation of eternal ideas, an excellence which
appears in all the masterworks of the Greeks, and such as has not been
surpassed by the moderns.

But Art was not confined to architecture, sculpture, and painting alone.
It equally appears in all the literature of Greece. The Greek poets were
artists, as also the orators and historians, in the highest sense. They
were the creators of _style_ in writing, which we do not see in the
literature of the Jews or other Oriental nations, marvellous and
profound as were their thoughts. The Greeks had the power of putting
things so as to make the greatest impression on the mind. This
especially appears among such poets as Sophocles and Euripides, such
orators as Pericles and Demosthenes, such historians as Xenophon and
Thucydides, such philosophers as Plato and Aristotle. We see in their
finished productions no repetitions, no useless expressions, no
superfluity or redundancy, no careless arrangement, no words even in bad
taste, save in the abusive epithets in which the orators indulged. All
is as harmonious in their literary style as in plastic art; while we
read, unexpected pleasures arise in the mind, based on beauty and
harmony, somewhat similar to the enjoyment of artistic music, or as when
we read Voltaire, Rousseau, or Macaulay. We perceive art in the
arrangement of sentences, in the rhythm, in the symmetry of
construction. We see means adapted to an end. The Latin races are most
marked for artistic writing, especially the French, who seem to be
copyists of Greek and Roman models. We see very little of this artistic
writing among the Germans, who seem to disdain it as much as an English
lawyer or statesman does rhetoric. It is in rhetoric and poetry that Art
most strikingly appears in the writings of the Greeks, and this was
perfected by the Athenian Sophists. But all the Greeks, and after them
the Romans, especially in the time of Cicero, sought the graces and
fascinations of style. Style is an art, and all art is eternal.

It is probable also that Art was manifested to a high degree in the
conversation of the Greeks, as they were brilliant talkers,--like
Brougham, Mackintosh, Madame de Staël, and Macaulay, in our times.

But I may not follow out, as I could wish, this department of
Art,--generally overlooked, certainly not dwelt upon like pictures and
statues. An interesting and captivating writer or speaker is as much an
artist as a sculptor or musician; and unless authors possess art their
works are apt to perish, like those of Varro, the most learned of the
Romans. It is the exquisite art seen in all the writings of Cicero which
makes them classic; it is the style rather than the ideas. The same may
be said of Horace: it is his elegance of style and language which makes
him immortal. It is this singular fascination of language and style
which keeps Hume on the list of standard and classic writers, like
Pascal, Goldsmith, Voltaire, and Fénelon. It is on account of these
excellences that the classical writers of antiquity will never lose
their popularity, and for which they will be imitated, and by which they
have exerted their vast influence.

Art, therefore, in every department, was carried to high excellence by
the Greeks, and they thus became the teachers of all succeeding races
and ages. Artists are great exponents of civilization. They are
generally learned men, appreciated by the cultivated classes, and
usually associating with the rich and proud. The Popes rewarded artists
while they crushed reformers. I never read of an artist who was
persecuted. Men do not turn with disdain or anger in disputing with
them, as they do from great moral teachers; artists provoke no
opposition and stir up no hostile passions. It is the men who propound
agitating ideas and who revolutionize the character of nations, that are
persecuted. Artists create no revolutions, not even of thought.
Savonarola kindled a greater fire in Florence than all the artists whom
the Medici ever patronized. But if the artists cannot wear the crown of
apostles and reformers and sages,--the men who save nations, men like
Socrates, Luther, Bacon, Descartes, Burke,--yet they have fewer evils to
contend with in their progress, and they still leave a mighty impression
behind them, not like that of Moses and Paul, but still an influence;
they kindle the enthusiasm of a class that cannot be kindled by ideas,
and furnish inexhaustible themes of conversation to cultivated people
and make life itself graceful and beautiful, enriching our houses and
adorning our consecrated temples and elevating our better sentiments.
The great artist is himself immortal, even if he contributes very little
to save the world. Art seeks only the perfection of outward form; it is
mundane in its labors; it does not aspire to those beatitudes which
shine beyond the grave. And yet it is a great and invaluable assistance
to those who would communicate great truths, since it puts them in
attractive forms and increases the impression of the truths themselves.
To the orator, the historian, the philosopher, and the poet, a knowledge
of the principles of Art is as important as to the architect, the
sculptor, and the painter; and these principles are learned only by
study and labor, while they cannot be even conceived of by ordinary men.

Thus it would appear that in all departments and in all the developments
of Art the Greeks were the teachers of the modern European nations, as
well of the ancient Romans; and their teachings will be invaluable to
all the nations which are yet to arise, since no great improvement has
been made on the models which have come down to us, and no new
principles have been discovered which were not known to them. In
everything which pertains to Art they were benefactors of the human
race, and gave a great impulse to civilization.


Müller's De Phidias Vita, Vitruvius, Aristotle. Pliny, Ovid, Martial,
Lucian, and Cicero have made criticisms on ancient Art. The modern
writers are very numerous, especially among the Germans and the French.
From these may be selected Winckelmann's History of Ancient Art;
Müller's Remains of Ancient Art; Donaldson's Antiquities of Athens; Sir
W. Gill's Pompeiana; Montfançon's Antiquité Expliquée en Figures;
Ancient Marbles of the British Museum, by Taylor Combe; Mayer's
Kunstgechicte; Cleghorn's Ancient and Modern Art; Wilkinson's Topography
of Thebes; Dodwell's Classical Tour; Wilkinson's Ancient Egyptians;
Flaxman's Lectures on Sculpture; Fuseli's Lectures; Sir Joshua
Reynolds's Lectures; also see five articles on Painting, Sculpture, and
Architecture, in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and in Smith's



We know but little of the literature of antiquity until the Greeks
applied to it the principles of art. The Sanskrit language has revealed
the ancient literature of the Hindus, which is chiefly confined to
mystical religious poetry, and which has already been mentioned in the
chapter on "Ancient Religions." There was no history worthy the name in
India. The Egyptians and Babylonians recorded the triumphs of warriors
and domestic events, but those were mere annals without literary value.
It is true that the literary remains of Egypt show a reading and writing
people as early as three thousand years before Christ, and in their
various styles of pen-language reveal a remarkable variety of
departments and topics treated,--books of religion, of theology, of
ethics, of medicine, of astronomy, of magic, of mythic poetry, of
fiction, of personal correspondence, etc. The difficulties of
deciphering them, however, and their many peculiarities and formalisms
of style, render them rather of curious historical and archaeological
than of literary interest. The Chinese annals also extend back to a
remote period, for Confucius wrote history as well as ethics; but
Chinese literature has comparatively little interest for us, as also
that of all Oriental nations, except the Hindu Vedas and the Persian
Zend-Avesta, and a few other poems showing great fertility of the
imagination, with a peculiar tenderness and pathos.

Accordingly, as I wish to show chiefly the triumphs of ancient genius
when directed to literature generally, and especially such as has had a
direct influence upon our modern literature, I confine myself to that of
Greece and Rome. Even our present civilization delights in the
masterpieces of the classical poets, historians, orators, and essayists,
and seeks to rival them. Long before Christianity became a power the
great literary artists of Greece had reached perfection in style and
language, especially in Athens, to which city youths were sent to be
educated, as to a sort of university town where the highest culture was
known. Educated Romans were as familiar with the Greek classics as they
were with those of their own country, and could talk Greek as the modern
cultivated Germans talk French. Without the aid of Greece, Rome could
never have reached the civilization to which she attained.

How rich in poetry was classical antiquity, whether sung in the Greek
or Latin language! In all those qualities which give immortality
classical poetry has never been surpassed, whether in simplicity, in
passion, in fervor, in fidelity to nature, in wit, or in imagination. It
existed from the early times of Greek civilization, and continued to
within a brief period of the fall of the Roman empire. With the rich
accumulation of ages the Romans were familiar. They knew nothing indeed
of the solitary grandeur of the Jewish muse, or the Nature-myths of the
ante-Homeric singers; but they possessed the Iliad and the Odyssey, with
their wonderful truthfulness, their clear portraiture of character,
their absence of all affectation, their serenity and cheerfulness, their
good sense and healthful sentiments, withal so original that the germ of
almost every character which has since figured in epic poetry can be
found in them.

We see in Homer a poet of the first class, holding the same place in
literature that Plato holds in philosophy or Newton in science, and
exercising a mighty influence on all the ages which have succeeded him.
He was born, probably, at Smyrna, an Ionian city; the dates attributed
to him range from the seventh to the twelfth century before Christ.
Herodotus puts him at 850 B.C. For nearly three thousand years his
immortal creations have been the delight and the inspiration of men of
genius; and they are as marvellous to us as they were to the Athenians,
since they are exponents of the learning as well as of the consecrated
sentiments of the heroic ages. We find in them no pomp of words, no
far-fetched thoughts, no theatrical turgidity, no ambitious
speculations, no indefinite longings; but we see the manners and customs
of the primitive nations, the sights and wonders of the external world,
the marvellously interesting traits of human nature as it was and is;
and with these we have lessons of moral wisdom,--all recorded with
singular simplicity yet astonishing artistic skill. We find in the
Homeric narrative accuracy, delicacy, naturalness, with grandeur,
sentiment, and beauty, such as Phidias represented in his statues of
Zeus. No poems have ever been more popular, and none have extorted
greater admiration from critics. Like Shakspeare, Homer is a kind of
Bible to both the learned and unlearned among all peoples and ages,
--one of the prodigies of the world. His poems form the basis of Greek
literature, and are the best understood and the most widely popular of
all Grecian compositions. The unconscious simplicity of the Homeric
narrative, its high moral tone, its vivid pictures, its graphic details,
and its religious spirit create an enthusiasm such as few works of
genius can claim. Moreover it presents a painting of society, with its
simplicity and ferocity, its good and evil passions, its tenderness and
its fierceness, such as no other poem affords. Its influence on the
popular mythology of the Greeks has been already alluded to. If Homer
did not create the Grecian theogony, he gave form and fascination to it.
Nor is it necessary to speak of any other Grecian epic, when the Iliad
and the Odyssey attest the perfection which was attained one hundred and
twenty years before Hesiod was born. Grote thinks that the Iliad and the
Odyssey were produced at some period between 850 B.C. and 776 B.C.

In lyrical poetry the Greeks were no less remarkable; indeed they
attained to what may be called absolute perfection, owing to the
intimate connection between poetry and music, and the wonderful
elasticity and adaptiveness of their language. Who has surpassed Pindar
in artistic skill? His triumphal odes are paeans, in which piety breaks
out in expressions of the deepest awe and the most elevated sentiments
of moral wisdom. They alone of all his writings have descended to us,
but these, made up as they are of odic fragments, songs, dirges, and
panegyrics, show the great excellence to which he attained. He was so
celebrated that he was employed by the different States and princes of
Greece to compose choral songs for special occasions, especially for the
public games. Although a Theban, he was held in the highest estimation
by the Athenians, and was courted by kings and princes. Born in Thebes
522 B.C., he died probably in his eightieth year, being contemporary
with Aeschylus and the battle of Marathon. We possess also fragments of
Sappho, Simonides, Anacreon, and others, enough to show that could the
lyrical poetry of Greece be recovered, we should probably possess the
richest collection that the world has produced.

Greek dramatic poetry was still more varied and remarkable. Even the
great masterpieces of Sophocles and Euripides now extant were regarded
by their contemporaries as inferior to many other Greek tragedies
utterly unknown to us. The great creator of the Greek drama was
Aeschylus, born at Eleusis 525 B.C. It was not till the age of forty-one
that he gained his first prize. Sixteen years afterward, defeated by
Sophocles, he quitted Athens in disgust and went to the court of Hiero,
king of Syracuse. But he was always held, even at Athens, in the highest
honor, and his pieces were frequently reproduced upon the stage. It was
not so much the object of Aeschylus to amuse an audience as to instruct
and elevate it. He combined religious feeling with lofty moral
sentiment, and had unrivalled power over the realm of astonishment and
terror. "At his summons," says Sir Walter Scott, "the mysterious and
tremendous volume of destiny, in which is inscribed the doom of gods
and men, seemed to display its leaves of iron before the appalled
spectators; the more than mortal voices of Deities, Titans, and departed
heroes were heard in awful conference; heaven bowed, and its divinities
descended; earth yawned, and gave up the pale spectres of the dead and
yet more undefined and ghastly forms of those infernal deities who
struck horror into the gods themselves." His imagination dwells in the
loftiest regions of the old mythology of Greece; his tone is always pure
and moral, though stern and harsh; he appeals to the most violent
passions, and is full of the boldest metaphors. In sublimity Aeschylus
has never been surpassed. He was in poetry what Phidias and Michael
Angelo were in art. The critics say that his sublimity of diction is
sometimes carried to an extreme, so that his language becomes inflated.
His characters, like his sentiments, were sublime,--they were gods and
heroes of colossal magnitude. His religious views were Homeric, and he
sought to animate his countrymen to deeds of glory, as it became one of
the generals who fought at Marathon to do. He was an unconscious genius,
and worked like Homer without a knowledge of artistic laws. He was proud
and impatient, and his poetry was religious rather than moral. He wrote
seventy plays, of which only seven are extant; but these are immortal,
among the greatest creations of human genius, like the dramas of
Shakspeare. He died in Sicily, in the sixty-ninth year of his age.

The fame of Sophocles is scarcely less than that of Aeschylus. He was
twenty-seven years of age when he publicly appeared as a poet. He was
born in Colonus, in the suburbs of Athens, 495 B.C., and was the
contemporary of Herodotus, of Pericles, of Pindar, of Phidias, of
Socrates, of Cimon, of Euripides,--the era of great men, the period of
the Peloponnesian War, when everything that was elegant and intellectual
culminated at Athens. Sophocles had every element of character and
person to fascinate the Greeks,--beauty of face, symmetry of form,
skill in gymnastics, calmness and dignity of manner, a cheerful and
amiable temper, a ready wit, a meditative piety, a spontaneity of
genius, an affectionate admiration for talent, and patriotic devotion to
his country. His tragedies, by the universal consent of the best
critics, are the perfection of the Greek drama; and they moreover
maintain that he has no rival, Aeschylus and Shakspeare alone excepted,
in the whole realm of dramatic poetry. It was the peculiarity of
Sophocles to excite emotions of sorrow and compassion. He loved to paint
forlorn heroes. He was human in all his sympathies, perhaps not so
religious as Aeschylus, but as severely ethical; not so sublime, but
more perfect in art. His sufferers are not the victims of an inexorable
destiny, but of their own follies. Nor does he even excite emotion apart
from a moral end. He lived to be ninety years old, and produced the most
beautiful of his tragedies in his eightieth year, the "Oedipus at
Colonus." Sophocles wrote the astonishing number of one hundred and
thirty plays, and carried off the first prize twenty-four times. His
"Antigone" was written when he was forty-five, and when Euripides had
already gained a prize. Only seven of his tragedies have survived, but
these are priceless treasures.

Euripides, the last of the great triumvirate of the Greek tragic poets,
was born at Athens, 485 B.C. He had not the sublimity of Aeschylus, nor
the touching pathos of Sophocles, nor the stern simplicity of either,
but in seductive beauty and successful appeal to passion was superior to
both. In his tragedies the passion of love predominates, but it does not
breathe the purity of sentiment which marked the tragedies of Aeschylus
and Sophocles; it approaches rather to the tone of the modern drama. He
paints the weakness and corruptions of society, and brings his subjects
to the level of common life. He was the pet of the Sophists, and was
pantheistic in his views. He does not attempt to show ideal excellence,
and his characters represent men not as they ought to be, but as they
are, especially in corrupt states of society. Euripides wrote
ninety-five plays, of which eighteen are extant. Whatever objection may
be urged to his dramas on the score of morality, nobody can question
their transcendent art or their great originality.

With the exception of Shakspeare, all succeeding dramatists have copied
the three great Greek tragic poets whom we have just named,--especially
Racine, who took Sophocles for his model,--even as the great epic poets
of all ages have been indebted to Homer.

The Greeks were no less distinguished for comedy than for tragedy. Both
tragedy and comedy sprang from feasts in honor of Bacchus; and as the
jests and frolics were found misplaced when introduced into grave
scenes, a separate province of the drama was formed, and comedy arose.
At first it did not derogate from the religious purposes which were at
the foundation of the Greek drama; it turned upon parodies in which the
adventures of the gods were introduced by way of sport,--as in
describing the appetite of Hercules or the cowardice of Bacchus. The
comic authors entertained spectators by fantastic and gross displays, by
the exhibition of buffoonery and pantomime. But the taste of the
Athenians was too severe to relish such entertainments, and comedy
passed into ridicule of public men and measures and the fashions of the
day. The people loved to see their great men brought down to their own
level. Comedy, however, did not flourish until the morals of society
were degenerated, and ridicule had become the most effective weapon
wherewith to assail prevailing follies. In modern times, comedy reached
its culminating point when society was both the most corrupt and the
most intellectual,--as in France, when Molière pointed his envenomed
shafts against popular vices. In Greece it flourished in the age of
Socrates and the Sophists, when there was great bitterness in political
parties and an irrepressible desire for novelties. Comedy first made
itself felt as a great power in Cratinus, who espoused the side of Cimon
against Pericles with great bitterness and vehemence.

Many were the comic writers of that age of wickedness and genius, but
all yielded precedence to Aristophanes, of whose writings only his plays
have reached us. Never were libels on persons of authority and influence
uttered with such terrible license. He attacked the gods, the
politicians, the philosophers, and the poets of Athens; even private
citizens did not escape from his shafts, and women were the subjects of
his irony. Socrates was made the butt of his ridicule when most revered,
Cleon in the height of his power, and Euripides when he had gained the
highest prizes. Aristophanes has furnished jests for Rabelais, hints to
Swift, and humor for Molière. In satire, in derision, in invective, and
bitter scorn he has never been surpassed. No modern capital would
tolerate such unbounded license; yet no plays in their day were ever
more popular, or more fully exposed follies which could not otherwise be
reached. Aristophanes is called the Father of Comedy, and his comedies
are of great historical importance, although his descriptions are
doubtless caricatures. He was patriotic in his intentions, even setting
up as a reformer. His peculiar genius shines out in his "Clouds," the
greatest of his pieces, in which he attacks the Sophists. He wrote
fifty-four plays. He was born 444 B.C., and died 380 B.C.

Thus it would appear that in the three great departments of poetry,--the
epic, the lyric, and the dramatic,--the old Greeks were great masters,
and have been the teachers of all subsequent nations and ages.

The Romans in these departments were not the equals of the Greeks, but
they were very successful copyists, and will bear comparison with modern
nations. If the Romans did not produce a Homer, they can boast of a
Virgil; if they had no Pindar, they furnished a Horace; and in satire
they transcended the Greeks.

The Romans produced no poetry worthy of notice until the Greek language
and literature were introduced among them. It was not till the fall of
Tarentum that we read of a Roman poet. Livius Andronicus, a Greek
slave, 240 B.C., rudely translated the Odyssey into Latin, and was the
author of various plays, all of which have perished, and none of which,
according to Cicero, were worth a second perusal. Still, Andronicus was
the first to substitute the Greek drama for the old lyrical stage
poetry. One year after the first Punic War, he exhibited the first Roman
play. As the creator of the drama he deserves historical notice, though
he has no claim to originality, but, like a schoolmaster as he was,
pedantically labored to imitate the culture of the Greeks. His plays
formed the commencement of Roman translation-literature, and naturalized
the Greek metres in Latium, even though they were curiosities rather
than works of art.

Naevius, 235 B.C., produced a play at Rome, and wrote both epic and
dramatic poetry, but so little has survived that no judgment can be
formed of his merits. He was banished for his invectives against the
aristocracy, who did not relish severity of comedy. Mommsen regards
Naevius as the first of the Romans who deserves to be ranked among the
poets. His language was free from stiffness and affectation, and his
verses had a graceful flow. In metres he closely adhered to Andronicus.

Plautus was perhaps the first great dramatic poet whom the Romans
produced, and his comedies are still admired by critics as both original
and fresh. He was born in Umbria, 257 B.C., and was contemporaneous
with Publius and Cneius Scipio. He died 184 B.C. The first development
of Roman genius in the field of poetry seems to have been the dramatic,
in which still the Greek authors were copied. Plautus might be mistaken
for a Greek, were it not for the painting of Roman manners, for his garb
is essentially Greek. Plautus wrote one hundred and thirty plays, not
always for the stage, but for the reading public. He lived about the
time of the second Punic War, before the theatre was fairly established
at Rome. His characters, although founded on Greek models, act, speak,
and joke like Romans. He enjoyed great popularity down to the latest
times of the empire, while the purity of his language, as well as the
felicity of his wit, was celebrated by the ancient critics. Cicero
places his wit on a par with the old Attic comedy; while Jerome spent
much time in reading his comedies, even though they afterward cost him
tears of bitter regret. Modern dramatists owe much to Plautus. Molière
has imitated him in his "Avare," and Shakspeare in his "Comedy of
Errors." Lessing pronounces the "Captivi" to be the finest comedy ever
brought upon the stage; he translated this play into German, and it has
also been admirably translated into English. The great excellence of
Plautus was the masterly handling of language, and the adjusting the
parts for dramatic effect. His humor, broad and fresh, produced
irresistible comic effects. No one ever surpassed him in his vocabulary
of nicknames and his happy jokes. Hence he maintained his popularity in
spite of his vulgarity.

Terence shares with Plautus the throne of Roman comedy. He was a
Carthaginian slave, born 185 B.C., but was educated by a wealthy Roman
into whose hands he fell, and ever after associated with the best
society and travelled extensively in Greece. He was greatly inferior to
Plautus in originality, and has not exerted a like lasting influence;
but he wrote comedies characterized by great purity of diction, which
have been translated into all modern languages. Terence, whom Mommsen
regards as the most polished, elegant, and chaste of all the poets of
the newer comedy, closely copied the Greek Menander. Unlike Plautus, he
drew his characters from good society, and his comedies, if not moral,
were decent. Plautus wrote for the multitude, Terence for the few;
Plautus delighted in noisy dialogue and slang expressions; Terence
confined himself to quiet conversation and elegant expressions, for
which he was admired by Cicero and Quintilian and other great critics.
He aspired to the approval of the cultivated, rather than the applause
of the vulgar; and it is a remarkable fact that his comedies supplanted
the more original productions of Plautus in the later years of the
republic, showing that the literature of the aristocracy was more
prized than that of the people, even in a degenerate age.

The "Thyestes" of Varius was regarded in its day as equal to Greek
tragedies. Ennius composed tragedies in a vigorous style, and was
regarded by the Romans as the parent of their literature, although most
of his works have perished. Virgil borrowed many of his thoughts, and
was regarded as the prince of Roman song in the time of Cicero. The
Latin language is greatly indebted to him. Pacuvius imitated Aeschylus
in the loftiness of his style. From the times before the Augustan age no
tragic production has reached us, although Quintilian speaks highly of
Accius, especially of the vigor of his style; but he merely imitated the
Greeks. The only tragedy of the Romans which has reached us was written
by Seneca the philosopher.

In epic poetry the Romans accomplished more, though even here they are
still inferior to the Greeks. The Aeneid of Virgil has certainly
survived the material glories of Rome. It may not have come up to the
exalted ideal of its author; it may be defaced by political flatteries;
it may not have the force and originality of the Iliad,--but it is
superior in art, and delineates the passion of love with more delicacy
than can be found in any Greek author. In soundness of judgment, in
tenderness of feeling, in chastened fancy, in picturesque description,
in delineation of character, in matchless beauty of diction, and in
splendor of versification, it has never been surpassed by any poem in
any language, and proudly takes its place among the imperishable works
of genius. Henry Thompson, in his "History of Roman Literature," says:--

"Availing himself of the pride and superstition of the Roman people, the
poet traces the origin and establishment of the 'Eternal City' to those
heroes and actions which had enough in them of what was human and
ordinary to excite the sympathies of his countrymen, intermingled with
persons and circumstances of an extraordinary and superhuman character
to awaken their admiration and awe. No subject could have been more
happily chosen. It has been admired also for its perfect unity of
action; for while the episodes command the richest variety of
description, they are always subordinate to the main object of the poem,
which is to impress the divine authority under which Aeneas first
settled in Italy. The wrath of Juno, upon which the whole fate of Aeneas
seems to turn, is at once that of a woman and a goddess; the passion of
Dido and her general character bring us nearer to the present
world,--but the poet is continually introducing higher and more
effectual influences, until, by the intervention of gods and men, the
Trojan name is to be continued in the Roman, and thus heaven and earth
are appeased."

Probably no one work of man has had such a wide and profound influence
as this poem of Virgil,--a textbook in all schools since the revival of
learning, the model of the Carlovingian poets, the guide of Dante, the
oracle of Tasso. Virgil was born seventy years before Christ, and was
seven years older than Augustus. His parentage was humble, but his
facilities of education were great. He was a most fortunate man,
enjoying the friendship of Augustus and Maecenas, fame in his own
lifetime, leisure to prosecute his studies, and ample rewards for his
labors. He died at Brundusium at the age of fifty.

In lyrical poetry, the Romans can boast of one of the greatest masters
of any age or nation. The Odes of Horace have never been transcended,
and will probably remain through all ages the delight of scholars. They
may not have the deep religious sentiment and unity of imagination and
passion which belong to the Greek lyrical poets, but as works of art, of
exquisite felicity of expression, of agreeable images, they are
unrivalled. Even in the time of Juvenal his poems were the common
school-books of Roman youth. Horace, born 65 B.C., like Virgil was also
a favored man, enjoying the friendship of the great, and possessing
ease, fame, and fortune; but his longings for retirement and his disgust
at the frivolities around him are a sad commentary on satisfied desires.
His Odes composed but a small part of his writings. His Epistles are the
most perfect of his productions, and rank with the "Georgics" of Virgil
and the "Satires" of Juvenal as the most perfect form of Roman verse.
His satires are also admirable, but without the fierce vehemence and
lofty indignation that characterized those of Juvenal. It is the folly
rather than the wickedness of vice which Horace describes with such
playful skill and such keenness of observation. He was the first to
mould the Latin tongue to the Greek lyric measures. Quintilian's
criticism is indorsed by all scholars,--_Lyricorum Horatius fere solus
legi dignus, in verbis felicissime audax_. No poetry was ever more
severely elaborated than that of Horace, and the melody of the language
imparts to it a peculiar fascination. If inferior to Pindar in passion
and loftiness, it glows with a more genial humanity and with purer wit.
It cannot be enjoyed fully except by those versed in the experiences of
life, who perceive in it a calm wisdom, a penetrating sagacity, a sober
enthusiasm, and a refined taste, which are unusual even among the
masters of human thought.

It is the fashion to depreciate the original merits of this poet, as
well as those of Virgil, Plautus, and Terence, because they derived so
much assistance from the Greeks. But the Greeks also borrowed from one
another. Pure originality is impossible. It is the mission of art to add
to its stores, without hoping to monopolize the whole realm. Even
Shakspeare, the most original of modern poets, was vastly indebted to
those who went before him, and he has not escaped the hypercriticism of
minute observers.

In this mention of lyrical poetry I have not spoken of Catullus,
unrivalled in tender lyric, the greatest poet before the Augustan era.
He was born 87 B.C., and enjoyed the friendship of the most celebrated
characters. One hundred and sixteen of his poems have come down to us,
most of which are short, and many of them defiled by great coarseness
and sensuality. Critics say, however, that whatever he touched he
adorned; that his vigorous simplicity, pungent wit, startling invective,
and felicity of expression make him one of the great poets of the
Latin language.

In didactic poetry Lucretius was pre-eminent, and is regarded by
Schlegel as the first of Roman poets in native genius. He was born 95
B.C., and died at the age of forty-two by his own hand. His principal
poem "De Rerum Natura" is a delineation of the Epicurean philosophy, and
treats of all the great subjects of thought with which his age was
conversant. Somewhat resembling Pope's "Essay on Man" in style and
subject, it is immeasurably superior in poetical genius. It is a
lengthened disquisition, in seven thousand four hundred lines, upon the
great phenomena of the outward world. As a painter and worshipper of
Nature, Lucretius was superior to all the poets of antiquity. His skill
in presenting abstruse speculations is marvellous, and his outbursts of
poetic genius are matchless in power and beauty. Into all subjects he
casts a fearless eye, and writes with sustained enthusiasm. But he was
not fully appreciated by his countrymen, although no other poet has so
fully brought out the power of the Latin language. Professor Ramsay,
while alluding to the melancholy tenderness of Tibullus, the exquisite
ingenuity of Ovid, the inimitable felicity and taste of Horace, the
gentleness and splendor of Virgil, and the vehement declamation of
Juvenal, thinks that had the verse of Lucretius perished we should never
have known that the Latin could give utterance to the grandest
conceptions, with all that self-sustained majesty and harmonious swell
in which the Grecian muse rolls forth her loftiest outpourings. The
eulogium of Ovid is--

     "Carmina sublimis tunc sunt peritura Lucretî,
      Exitio terras quum dabit una dies."

Elegiac poetry has an honorable place in Roman literature. To this
school belongs Ovid, born 43 B.C., died 18 A.D., whose "Tristia," a
doleful description of the evils of exile, were much admired by the
Romans. His most famous work was his "Metamorphoses," mythologic legends
involving transformations,--a most poetical and imaginative production.
He, with that self-conscious genius common to poets, declares that his
poem would be proof against sword, fire, thunder, and time,--a
prediction, says Bayle, which has not yet proved false. Niebuhr thinks
that Ovid next to Catullus was the most poetical of his countrymen.
Milton thinks he might have surpassed Virgil, had he attempted epic
poetry. He was nearest to the romantic school of all the classical
authors; and Chaucer, Ariosto, and Spenser owe to him great obligations.
Like Pope, his verses flowed spontaneously. His "Tristia" were more
highly praised than his "Amores" or his "Metamorphoses," a fact which
shows that contemporaries are not always the best judges of real merit.
His poems, great as was their genius, are deficient in the severe taste
which marked the Greeks, and are immoral in their tendency. He had great
advantages, but was banished by Augustus for his description of
licentious love. Nor did he support exile with dignity; he languished
like Cicero when doomed to a similar fate, and died of a broken heart.
But few intellectual men have ever been able to live at a distance from
the scene of their glories, and without the stimulus of high society.
Chrysostom is one of the few exceptions. Ovid, as an immoral writer, was
justly punished.

Tibullus, also a famous elegiac poet, was born the same year as Ovid,
and was the friend of the poet Horace. He lived in retirement, and was
both gentle and amiable. At his beautiful country-seat he soothed his
soul with the charms of literature and the simple pleasures of the
country. Niebuhr pronounces the elegies of Tibullus to be doleful, but
Merivale thinks that "the tone of tender melancholy in which he sung his
unprosperous loves had a deeper and purer source than the caprices of
three inconstant paramours.... His spirit is eminently religious, though
it bids him fold his hands in resignation rather than open them in hope.
He alone of all the great poets of his day remained undazzled by the
glitter of the Caesarian usurpation, and pined away in unavailing
despondency while beholding the subjugation of his country."

Propertius, the contemporary of Tibullus, born 51 B.C., was on the
contrary the most eager of all the flatterers of Augustus,--a man of wit
and pleasure, whose object of idolatry was Cynthia, a poetess and a
courtesan. He was an imitator of the Greeks, but had a great
contemporary fame. He showed much warmth of passion, but never soared
into the sublime heights of poetry, like his rival.

Such were among the great elegiac poets of Rome, who were generally
devoted to the delineation of the passion of love. The older English
poets resembled them in this respect, but none of them have risen to
such lofty heights as the later ones,--for instance, Wordsworth and
Tennyson. It is in lyric poetry that the moderns have chiefly excelled
the ancients, in variety, in elevation of sentiment, and in
imagination. The grandeur and originality of the ancients were displayed
rather in epic and dramatic poetry.

In satire the Romans transcended both the Greeks and the moderns. Satire
arose with Lucilius, 148 B.C., in the time of Marius, an age when
freedom of speech was tolerated. Horace was the first to gain
immortality in this department. Next Persius comes, born 34 A.D., the
friend of Lucian and Seneca in the time of Nero, who painted the vices
of his age as it was passing to that degradation which marked the reign
of Domitian, when Juvenal appeared. The latter, disdaining fear, boldly
set forth the abominations of the times, and struck without distinction
all who departed from duty and conscience. There is nothing in any
language which equals the fire, the intensity, and the bitterness of
Juvenal, not even the invectives of Swift and Pope. But he flourished
during the decline of literature, and had neither the taste nor the
elegance of the Augustan writers. He was born 60 A.D., the son of a
freedman, and was the contemporary of Martial. He was banished by
Domitian on account of a lampoon against a favorite dancer, but under
the reign of Nerva he returned to Rome, and the imperial tyranny was the
subject of his bitterest denunciation next to the degradation of public
morals. His great rival in satire was Horace, who laughed at follies;
but Juvenal, more austere, exaggerated and denounced them. His sarcasms
on women have never been equalled in severity, and we cannot but hope
that they were unjust. From an historical point of view, as a
delineation of the manners of his age, his satires are priceless, even
like the epigrams of Martial. This uncompromising poet, not pliant and
easy like Horace, animadverted like an incorruptible censor on the vices
which were undermining the moral health and preparing the way for
violence; on the hypocrisy of philosophers and the cruelty of tyrants;
on the frivolity of women and the debauchery of men. He discoursed on
the vanity of human wishes with the moral wisdom of Dr. Johnson, and
urged self-improvement like Socrates and Epictetus.

I might speak of other celebrated poets,--of Lucan, of Martial, of
Petronius; but I only wish to show that the great poets of antiquity,
both Greek and Roman, have never been surpassed in genius, in taste, and
in art, and that few were ever more honored in their lifetime by
appreciating admirers,--showing the advanced state of civilization which
was reached in those classic countries in everything pertaining to the
realm of thought and art.

The genius of the ancients was displayed in prose composition as well as
in poetry, although perfection was not so soon attained. The poets were
the great creators of the languages of antiquity. It was not until they
had produced their immortal works that the languages were sufficiently
softened and refined to admit of great beauty in prose. But prose
requires art as well as poetry. There is an artistic rhythm in the
writings of the classical authors--like those of Cicero, Herodotus, and
Thucydides--as marked as in the beautiful measure of Homer and Virgil.
Plato did not write poetry, but his prose is as "musical as Apollo's
lyre." Burke and Macaulay are as great artists in style as Tennyson
himself. And it is seldom that men, either in ancient or modern times,
have been distinguished for both kinds of composition, although
Voltaire, Schiller, Milton, Swift, and Scott are among the exceptions.
Cicero, the greatest prose writer of antiquity, produced in poetry only
a single inferior work, which was laughed at by his contemporaries.
Bacon, with all his affluence of thought, vigor of imagination, and
command of language, could not write poetry any easier than Pope could
write prose,--although it is asserted by some modern writers, of no
great reputation, that Bacon wrote Shakspeare's plays.

All sorts of prose compositions were carried to perfection by both
Greeks and Romans, in history, in criticism, in philosophy, in oratory,
in epistles.

The earliest great prose writer among the Greeks was Herodotus, 484
B.C., from which we may infer that History was the first form of prose
composition to attain development. But Herodotus was not born until
Aeschylus had gained a prize for tragedy, nor for more than two hundred
years after Simonides the lyric poet nourished, and probably five or six
hundred years after Homer sang his immortal epics; yet though two
thousand years and more have passed since he wrote, the style of this
great "Father of History" is admired by every critic, while his history
as a work of art is still a study and a marvel. It is difficult to
understand why no work in prose anterior to Herodotus is worthy of note,
since the Greeks had attained a high civilization two hundred years
before he appeared, and the language had reached a high point of
development under Homer for more than five hundred years. The History of
Herodotus was probably written in the decline of life, when his mind was
enriched with great attainments in all the varied learning of his age,
and when he had conversed with most of the celebrated men of the various
countries he had visited. It pertains chiefly to the wars of the Greeks
with the Persians; but in his frequent episodes, which do not impair the
unity of the work, he is led to speak of the manners and customs of the
Oriental nations. It was once the fashion to speak of Herodotus as a
credulous man, who embodied the most improbable though interesting
stories. But now it is believed that no historian was ever more
profound, conscientious, and careful; and all modern investigations
confirm his sagacity and impartiality. He was one of the most
accomplished men of antiquity, or of any age,--an enlightened and
curious traveller, a profound thinker; a man of universal knowledge,
familiar with the whole range of literature, art, and science in his
day; acquainted with all the great men of Greece and at the courts of
Asiatic princes; the friend of Sophocles, of Pericles, of Thucydides, of
Aspasia, of Socrates, of Damon, of Zeno, of Phidias, of Protagoras, of
Euripides, of Polygnotus, of Anaxagoras, of Xenophon, of Alcibiades, of
Lysias, of Aristophanes,--the most brilliant constellation of men of
genius who were ever found together within the walls of a Grecian
city,--respected and admired by these great lights, all of whom were
inferior to him in knowledge. Thus was he fitted for his task by travel,
by study, and by intercourse with the great, to say nothing of his
original genius. The greatest prose work which had yet appeared in
Greece was produced by Herodotus,--a prose epic, severe in taste,
perfect in unity, rich in moral wisdom, charming in style, religious in
spirit, grand in subject, without a coarse passage; simple, unaffected,
and beautiful, like the narratives of the Bible, amusing yet
instructive, easy to understand, yet extending to the utmost boundaries
of human research,--a model for all subsequent historians. So highly was
this historic composition valued by the Athenians when their city was at
the height of its splendor that they decreed to its author ten talents
(about twelve thousand dollars) for reciting it. He even went from city
to city, a sort of prose rhapsodist, or like a modern lecturer, reciting
his history,--an honored and extraordinary man, a sort of Humboldt,
having mastered everything. And he wrote, not for fame, but to
communicate the results of inquiries made to satisfy his craving for
knowledge, which he obtained by personal investigation at Dodona, at
Delphi, at Samos, at Athens, at Corinth, at Thebes, at Tyre; he even
travelled into Egypt, Scythia, Asia Minor, Palestine, Babylonia, Italy,
and the islands of the sea. His episode on Egypt is worth more, from an
historical point of view, than all things combined which have descended
to us from antiquity. Herodotus was the first to give dignity to
history; nor in truthfulness, candor, and impartiality has he ever been
surpassed. His very simplicity of style is a proof of his transcendent
art, even as it is the evidence of his severity of taste. The
translation of this great history by Rawlinson, with notes, is

To Thucydides, as an historian, the modern world also assigns a proud
pre-eminence. He was born 471 B.C., and lived twenty years in exile on
account of a military failure. He treated only of a short period, during
the Peloponnesian War; but the various facts connected with that great
event could be known only by the most minute and careful inquiries. He
devoted twenty-seven years to the composition of his narrative, and
weighed his evidence with the most scrupulous care. His style has not
the fascination of Herodotus, but it is more concise. In a single volume
Thucydides relates what could scarcely be compressed into eight volumes
of a modern history. As a work of art, of its kind it is unrivalled. In
his description of the plague of Athens this writer is as minute as he
is simple. He abounds with rich moral reflections, and has a keen
perception of human character. His pictures are striking and tragic. He
is vigorous and intense, and every word he uses has a meaning, but some
of his sentences are not always easily understood. One of the greatest
tributes which can be paid to him is the estimate of an able critic,
George Long, that we have a more exact history of a protracted and
eventful period by Thucydides than we have of any period in modern
history equally extended and eventful; and all this is compressed into
a volume.

Xenophon is the last of the trio of the Greek historians whose writings
are classic and inimitable. He was born probably about 444 B.C. He is
characterized by great simplicity and absence of affectation. His
"Anabasis," in which he describes the expedition of the younger Cyrus
and the retreat of the ten thousand Greeks, is his most famous book. But
his "Cyropaedia," in which the history of Cyrus is the subject, although
still used as a classic in colleges for the beauty of its style, has no
value as a history, since the author merely adopted the current stories
of his hero without sufficient investigation. Xenophon wrote a variety
of treatises and dialogues, but his "Memorabilia" of Socrates is the
most valuable. All antiquity and all modern writers unite in ascribing
to Xenophon great merit as a writer and great moral elevation as a man.

If we pass from the Greek to the Latin historians,--to those who were as
famous as the Greek, and whose merit has scarcely been transcended in
our modern times, if indeed it has been equalled,--the great names of
Sallust, of Caesar, of Livy, of Tacitus rise up before us, together with
a host of other names we have not room or disposition to present, since
we only aim to show that the ancients were at least our equals in this
great department of prose composition. The first great masters of the
Greek language in prose were the historians, so far as we can judge by
the writings that have descended to us, although it is probable that
the orators may have shaped the language before them, and given it
flexibility and refinement The first great prose writers of Rome were
the orators; nor was the Latin language fully developed and polished
until Cicero appeared. But we do not here write a history of the
language; we speak only of those who wrote immortal works in the various
departments of learning.

As Herodotus did not arise until the Greek language had been already
formed by the poets, so no great prose writer appeared among the Romans
for a considerable time after Plautus, Terence, Ennius, and Lucretius
flourished. The first great historian was Sallust, the contemporary of
Cicero, born 86 B.C., the year that Marius died. Q. Fabius Pictor, M.
Portius Cato, and L. Cal. Piso had already written works which are
mentioned with respect by Latin authors, but they were mere annalists or
antiquarians, like the chroniclers of the Middle Ages, and had no claim
as artists. Sallust made Thucydides his model, but fell below him in
genius and elevated sentiment. He was born a plebeian, and rose to
distinction by his talents, but was ejected from the senate for his
profligacy. Afterward he made a great fortune as praetor and governor of
Numidia, and lived in magnificence on the Quirinal,--one of the most
profligate of the literary men of antiquity. We possess but a small
portion of his works, but the fragments which have come down to us show
peculiar merit. He sought to penetrate the human heart, and to reveal
the secret motives which actuate the conduct of men. The style of
Sallust is brilliant, but his art is always apparent; he is clear and
lively, but rhetorical. Like Voltaire, who inaugurated modern history,
Sallust thought more of style than of accuracy as to facts. He was a
party man, and never soared beyond his party. He aped the moralist, but
exalted egoism and love of pleasure into proper springs of action, and
honored talent disconnected with virtue. Like Carlyle, Sallust exalted
_strong_ men, and _because_ they were strong. He was not comprehensive
like Cicero, or philosophical like Thucydides, although he affected
philosophy as he did morality. He was the first who deviated from the
strict narratives of events, and also introduced much rhetorical
declamation, which he puts into the mouths of his heroes. He wrote
for _éclat_.

Julius Caesar, born 100 or 102 B.C., as an historian ranks higher than
Sallust, and no Roman ever wrote purer Latin. Yet his historical works,
however great their merit, but feebly represent the transcendent genius
of the most august name of antiquity. He was mathematician, architect,
poet, philologist, orator, jurist, general, statesman, and imperator. In
eloquence he was second only to Cicero. The great value of Caesar's
history is in the sketches of the productions, the manners, the
customs, and the political conditions of Gaul, Britain, and Germany. His
observations on military science, on the operation of sieges and the
construction of bridges and military engines are valuable; but the
description of his military career is only a studied apology for his
crimes,--even as the bulletins of Napoleon were set forth to show his
victories in the most favorable light. Caesar's fame rests on his
victories and successes as a statesman rather than on his merits as an
historian,--even as Louis Napoleon will live in history for his deeds
rather than as the apologist of his great usurping prototype. Caesar's
"Commentaries" resemble the history of Herodotus more than any other
Latin production, at least in style; they are simple and unaffected,
precise and elegant, plain and without pretension.

The Augustan age which followed, though it produced a constellation of
poets who shed glory upon the throne before which they prostrated
themselves in abject homage, like the courtiers of Louis XIV., still was
unfavorable to prose composition,--to history as well as eloquence. Of
the historians of that age, Livy, born 59 B.C., is the only one whose
writings are known to us, in the shape of some fragments of his history.
He was a man of distinction at court, and had a great literary
reputation,--so great that a Spaniard travelled from Cadiz on purpose to
see him. Most of the great historians of the world have occupied places
of honor and rank, which were given to them not as prizes for literary
successes, but for the experience, knowledge, and culture which high
social position and ample means secure. Herodotus lived in courts;
Thucydides was a great general, as also was Xenophon; Caesar was the
first man of his times; Sallust was praetor and governor; Livy was tutor
to Claudius; Tacitus was praetor and consul; Eusebius was bishop and
favorite of Constantine; Ammianus was the friend of the Emperor Julian;
Gregory of Tours was one of the leading prelates of the West; Froissart
attended in person, as a man of rank, the military expeditions of his
day; Clarendon was Lord Chancellor; Burnet was a bishop and favorite of
William III.; Thiers and Guizot both were prime ministers; while Gibbon,
Hume, Robertson, Macaulay, Grote, Milman, Froude, Neander, Niebuhr,
Müller, Dahlman, Buckle, Prescott, Irving, Bancroft, Motley, have all
been men of wealth or position. Nor do I remember a single illustrious
historian who has been poor and neglected.

The ancients regarded Livy as the greatest of historians,--an opinion
not indorsed by modern critics, on account of his inaccuracies. But his
narrative is always interesting, and his language pure. He did not sift
evidence like Grote, nor generalize like Gibbon; but like Voltaire and
Macaulay, he was an artist in style, and possessed undoubted genius. His
Annals are comprised in one hundred and forty-two books, extending from
the foundation of the city to the death of Drusus, 9 B.C., of which only
thirty-five have come down to us,--an impressive commentary on the
vandalism of the Middle Ages and the ignorance of the monks who could
not preserve so great a treasure. "His story flows in a calm, clear,
sparkling current, with every charm which simplicity and ease can give."
He delineates character with great clearness and power; his speeches are
noble rhetorical compositions; his sentences are rhythmical cadences.
Livy was not a critical historian like Herodotus, for he took his
materials second-hand, and was ignorant of geography, nor did he write
with the exalted ideal of Thucydides; but as a painter of beautiful
forms, which only a rich imagination could conjure, he is unrivalled in
the history of literature. Moreover, he was honest and sound in heart,
and was just and impartial in reference to those facts with which he was

In the estimation of modern critics the highest rank as an historian is
assigned to Tacitus, and it would indeed be difficult to find his
superior in any age or country. He was born 57 A.D., about forty-three
years after the death of Augustus. He belonged to the equestrian rank,
and was a man of consular dignity. He had every facility for literary
labors that leisure, wealth, friends, and social position could give,
and lived under a reign when truth might be told. The extant works of
this great writer are the "Life of Agricola," his father-in-law; his
"Annales," which begin with the death of Augustus, 14 A.D., and close
with the death of Nero, 68 A.D.; the "Historiae," which comprise the
period from the second consulate of Galba, 68 A.D., to the death of
Domitian; and a treatise on the Germans. His histories describe Rome in
the fulness of imperial glory, when the will of one man was the supreme
law of the empire. He also wrote of events that occurred when liberty
had fled, and the yoke of despotism was nearly insupportable. He
describes a period of great moral degradation, nor does he hesitate to
lift the veil of hypocrisy in which his generation had wrapped itself.
He fearlessly exposes the cruelties and iniquities of the early
emperors, and writes with judicial impartiality respecting all the great
characters he describes. No ancient writer shows greater moral dignity
and integrity of purpose than Tacitus. In point of artistic unity he is
superior to Livy and equal to Thucydides, whom he resembles in
conciseness of style. His distinguishing excellence as an historian is
his sagacity and impartiality. Nothing escapes his penetrating eye; and
he inflicts merited chastisement on the tyrants who revelled in the
prostrated liberties of his country, while he immortalizes those few who
were faithful to duty and conscience in a degenerate age. But the
writings of Tacitus were not so popular as those of Livy, since neither
princes nor people relished his intellectual independence and moral
elevation. He does not satisfy Dr. Arnold, who thinks he ought to have
been better versed in the history of the Jews, and who dislikes his
speeches because they were fictitious.

Neither the Latin nor Greek historians are admired by those dry critics
who seek to give to rare antiquarian matter a disproportionate
importance, and to make this matter as fixed and certain as the truths
of natural science. History can never be other than an approximation to
the truth, even when it relates to the events and characters of its own
age. History does not give positive, indisputable knowledge. We know
that Caesar was ambitious; but we do not know whether he was more or
less so than Pompey, nor do we know how far he was justified in his
usurpation. A great history must have other merits besides accuracy,
antiquarian research, and presentation of authorities and notes. It must
be a work of art; and art has reference to style and language, to
grouping of details and richness of illustration, to eloquence and
poetry and beauty. A dry history, however learned, will never be read;
it will only be consulted, like a law-book, or Mosheim's "Commentaries."
We require _life_ in history, and it is for their vividness that the
writings of Livy and Tacitus will be perpetuated. Voltaire and Schiller
have no great merit as historians in a technical sense, but the "Life of
Charles XII." and the "Thirty Years' War" are still classics. Neander
has written one of the most searching and recondite histories of modern
times; but it is too dry, too deficient in art, to be cherished, and may
pass away like the voluminous writings of Varro, the most learned of the
Romans. It is the _art_ which is immortal in a book,--not the knowledge,
nor even the thoughts. What keeps alive the "Provincial Letters" of
Pascal? It is the style, the irony, the elegance that characterize them.
The exquisite delineation of character, the moral wisdom, the purity and
force of language, the artistic arrangement, and the lively and
interesting narrative appealing to all minds, like the "Arabian Nights"
or Froissart's "Chronicles," are the elements which give immortality to
the classic authors. We will not let them perish, because they amuse and
interest and inspire us.

A remarkable example is that of Plutarch, who, although born a Greek and
writing in the Greek language, was a contemporary of Tacitus, lived long
in Rome, and was one of the "immortals" of the imperial age. A teacher
of philosophy during his early manhood, he spent his last years as
archon and priest of Apollo in his native town. His most famous work is
his "Parallel Lives" of forty-six historic Greeks and Romans, arranged
in pairs, depicted with marvellous art and all the fascination of
anecdote and social wit, while presenting such clear conceptions of
characters and careers, and the whole so restrained within the bounds of
good taste and harmonious proportion, as to have been even to this day
regarded as forming a model for the ideal biography.

But it is taking a narrow view of history to make all writers after the
same pattern, even as it would be bigoted to make all Christians belong
to the same sect. Some will be remarkable for style, others for
learning, and others again for moral and philosophical wisdom; some will
be minute, and others generalizing; some will dig out a multiplicity of
facts without apparent object, and others induce from those facts; some
will make essays, and others chronicles. We have need of all styles and
all kinds of excellence. A great and original thinker may not have the
time or opportunity or taste for a minute and searching criticism of
original authorities; but he may be able to generalize previously
established facts so as to draw most valuable moral instruction from
them for the benefit of his readers. History is a boundless field of
inquiry; no man can master it in all its departments and periods. It
will not do to lay great emphasis on minute details, and neglect the art
of generalization. If an historian attempts to embody too much learning,
he is likely to be deficient in originality; if he would say everything,
he is apt to be dry; if he elaborates too much, he loses animation.
Moreover, different classes of readers require different kinds and
styles of histories; there must be histories for students, histories for
old men, histories for young men, histories to amuse, and histories to
instruct. If all men were to write history according to Dr. Arnold's
views, we should have histories of interest only to classical scholars.
The ancient historians never quoted their sources of knowledge, but were
valued for their richness of thoughts and artistic beauty of style. The
ages in which they flourished attached no value to pedantic displays of
learning paraded in foot-notes.

Thus the great historians whom I have mentioned, both Greek and Latin,
have few equals and no superiors in our own times in those things that
are most to be admired. They were not pedants, but men of immense genius
and genuine learning, who blended the profoundest principles of moral
wisdom with the most fascinating narrative,--men universally popular
among learned and unlearned, great artists in style, and masters of the
language in which they wrote.

Rome can boast of no great historian after Tacitus, who should have
belonged to the Ciceronian epoch. Suetonius, born about the year 70
A.D., shortly after Nero's death, was rather a biographer than an
historian; nor as a biographer does he take a high rank. His "Lives of
the Caesars," like Diogenes Laertius's "Lives of the Philosophers," are
rather anecdotical than historical. L. Anneus Florus, who flourished
during the reign of Trajan, has left a series of sketches of the
different wars from the days of Romulus to those of Augustus. Frontinus
epitomized the large histories of Pompeius. Ammianus Marcellinus wrote a
history from Nerva to Valens, and is often quoted by Gibbon. But none
wrote who should be adduced as examples of the triumph of genius, except
Sallust, Caesar, Livy, Plutarch, and Tacitus.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is another field of prose composition in which the Greeks and
Romans gained great distinction, and proved themselves equal to any
nation of modern times,--that of eloquence. It is true, we have not a
rich collection of ancient speeches; but we have every reason to believe
that both Greeks and Romans were most severely trained in the art of
public speaking, and that forensic eloquence was highly prized and
munificently rewarded. It began with democratic institutions, and
flourished as long as the People were a great power in the State; it
declined whenever and wherever tyrants bore rule. Eloquence and liberty
flourish together; nor can there be eloquence where there is not freedom
of debate. In the fifth century before Christ--the first century of
democracy--great orators arose, for without the power and the
opportunity of defending himself against accusation no man could hold an
ascendent position. Socrates insisted upon the gift of oratory for a
general in the army as well as for a leader in political life. In Athens
the courts of justice were numerous, and those who could not defend
themselves were obliged to secure the services of those who were trained
in the use of public speaking. Thus arose the lawyers, among whom
eloquence was more in demand and more richly paid than in any other
class. Rhetoric became connected with dialectics, and in Greece, Sicily,
and Italy both were extensively cultivated. Empedocles was distinguished
as much for rhetoric as for philosophy. It was not, however, in the
courts of law that eloquence displayed the greatest fire and passion,
but in political assemblies. These could only coexist with liberty; for
a democracy is more favorable than an aristocracy to large assemblies of
citizens. In the Grecian republics eloquence as an art may be said to
have been born. It was nursed and fed by political agitation, by the
strife of parties. It arose from appeals to the people as a source of
power: when the people were not cultivated, it addressed chiefly
popular passions and prejudices; when they were enlightened, it
addressed interests.

It was in Athens, where there existed the purest form of democratic
institutions, that eloquence rose to the loftiest heights in the ancient
world, so far as eloquence appeals to popular passions. Pericles, the
greatest statesman of Greece, 495 B.C., was celebrated for his
eloquence, although no specimens remain to us. It was conceded by the
ancient authors that his oratory was of the highest kind, and the
epithet of "Olympian" was given him, as carrying the weapons of Zeus
upon his tongue. His voice was sweet, and his utterance distinct and
rapid. Peisistratus was also famous for his eloquence, although he was a
usurper and a tyrant. Isocrates, 436 B.C., was a professed rhetorician,
and endeavored to base his art upon sound moral principles, and rescue
it from the influence of the Sophists. He was the great teacher of the
most eminent statesmen of his day. Twenty-one of his orations have come
down to us, and they are excessively polished and elaborated; but they
were written to be read, they were not extemporary. His language is the
purest and most refined Attic dialect. Lysias, 458 B.C., was a fertile
writer of orations also, and he is reputed to have produced as many as
four hundred and twenty-five; of these only thirty-five are extant.
They are characterized by peculiar gracefulness and elegance, which did
not interfere with strength. So able were these orations that only two
were unsuccessful. They were so pure that they were regarded as the best
canon of the Attic idiom.

But all the orators of Greece--and Greece was the land of orators--gave
way to Demosthenes, born 385 B.C. He received a good education, and is
said to have been instructed in philosophy by Plato and in eloquence by
Isocrates; but it is more probable that he privately prepared himself
for his brilliant career. As soon as he attained his majority, he
brought suits against the men whom his father had appointed his
guardians, for their waste of property, and after two years was
successful, conducting the prosecution himself. It was not until the age
of thirty that he appeared as a speaker in the public assembly on
political matters, where he rapidly attained universal respect, and
became one of the leading statesmen of Athens. Henceforth he took an
active part in every question that concerned the State. He especially
distinguished himself in his speeches against Macedonian
aggrandizements, and his Philippics are perhaps the most brilliant of
his orations. But the cause which he advocated was unfortunate; the
battle of Cheronaea, 338 B.C., put an end to the independence of Greece,
and Philip of Macedon was all-powerful. For this catastrophe
Demosthenes was somewhat responsible, but as his motives were conceded
to be pure and his patriotism lofty, he retained the confidence of his
countrymen. Accused by Aeschines, he delivered his famous Oration on the
Crown. Afterward, during the supremacy of Alexander, Demosthenes was
again accused, and suffered exile. Recalled from exile on the death of
Alexander, he roused himself for the deliverance of Greece, without
success; and hunted by his enemies he took poison in the sixty-third
year of his age, having vainly contended for the freedom of his
country,---one of the noblest spirits of antiquity, and lofty in his
private life.

As an orator Demosthenes has not probably been equalled by any man of
any country. By his contemporaries he was regarded as faultless in this
respect; and when it is remembered that he struggled against physical
difficulties which in the early part of his career would have utterly
discouraged any ordinary man, we feel that he deserves the highest
commendation. He never spoke without preparation, and most of his
orations were severely elaborated. He never trusted to the impulse of
the occasion; he did not believe in extemporary eloquence any more than
Daniel Webster, who said there is no such thing. All the orations of
Demosthenes exhibit him as a pure and noble patriot, and are full of the
loftiest sentiments. He was a great artist, and his oratorical
successes were greatly owing to the arrangement of his speeches and the
application of the strongest arguments in their proper places. Added to
this moral and intellectual superiority was the "magic power of his
language, majestic and simple at the same time, rich yet not bombastic,
strange and yet familiar, solemn and not too ornate, grave and yet
pleasing, concise and yet fluent, sweet and yet impressive, which
altogether carried away the minds of his hearers." His orations were
most highly prized by the ancients, who wrote innumerable commentaries
on them, most of which are lost. Sixty of the great productions of his
genius have come down to us.

Demosthenes, like other orators, first became known as the composer of
speeches for litigants; but his fame was based on the orations he
pronounced in great political emergencies. His rival was Aeschines, who
was vastly inferior to Demosthenes, although bold, vigorous, and
brilliant. Indeed, the opinions of mankind for two thousand years have
been unanimous in ascribing to Demosthenes the highest position as an
orator among all the men of ancient and modern times. David Hume says of
him that "could his manner be copied, its success would be infallible
over a modern audience." Says Lord Brougham, "It is rapid harmony
exactly adjusted to the sense. It is vehement reasoning, without any
appearance of art. It is disdain, anger, boldness, freedom involved in a
continual stream of argument; so that of all human productions his
orations present to us the models which approach the nearest to

It is probable that the Romans were behind the Athenians in all the arts
of rhetoric; yet in the days of the republic celebrated orators arose
among the lawyers and politicians. It was in forensic eloquence that
Latin prose first appeared as a cultivated language; for the forum was
to the Romans what libraries are to us. The art of public speaking in
Rome was early developed. Cato, Laelius, Carbo, and the Gracchi are said
to have been majestic and harmonious in speech, yet excelled by
Antonius, Crassus, Cotta, Sulpitius, and Hortensius. The last had a very
brilliant career as an orator, though his orations were too florid to be
read. Caesar was also distinguished for his eloquence, its
characteristics being force and purity. "Coelius was noted for lofty
sentiment, Brutus for philosophical wisdom, Calidius for a delicate and
harmonious style, and Calvus for sententious force."

But all the Roman orators yielded to Cicero, as the Greeks did to
Demosthenes. These two men are always coupled together when allusion is
made to eloquence. They were pre-eminent in the ancient world, and have
never been equalled in the modern.

Cicero, 106 B.C., was probably not equal to his great Grecian rival in
vehemence, in force, in fiery argument which swept everything away
before him, nor generally in original genius; but he was his superior in
learning, in culture, and in breadth. Cicero distinguished himself very
early as an advocate, but his first great public effort was made in the
prosecution of Verres for corruption. Although Verres was defended by
Hortensius and backed by the whole influence of the Metelli and other
powerful families, Cicero gained his cause,--more fortunate than Burke
in his prosecution of Warren Hastings, who also was sustained by
powerful interests and families. The speech on the Manilian Law, when
Cicero appeared as a political orator, greatly contributed to his
popularity. I need not describe his memorable career,--his successive
elections to all the highest offices of state, his detection of
Catiline's conspiracy, his opposition to turbulent and ambitious
partisans, his alienations and friendships, his brilliant career as a
statesman, his misfortunes and sorrows, his exile and recall, his
splendid services to the State, his greatness and his defects, his
virtues and weaknesses, his triumphs and martyrdom. These are foreign to
my purpose. No man of heathen antiquity is better known to us, and no
man by pure genius ever won more glorious laurels. His life and labors
are immortal. His virtues and services are embalmed in the heart of the
world. Few men ever performed greater literary labors, and in so many of
its departments. Next to Aristotle and Varro, Cicero was the most
learned man of antiquity, but performed more varied labors than either,
since he was not only great as a writer and speaker, but also as a
statesman, being the most conspicuous man in Rome after Pompey and
Caesar. He may not have had the moral greatness of Socrates, nor the
philosophical genius of Plato, nor the overpowering eloquence of
Demosthenes, but he was a master of all the wisdom of antiquity. Even
civil law, the great science of the Romans, became interesting in his
hands, and was divested of its dryness and technicality. He popularized
history, and paid honor to all art, even to the stage; he made the
Romans conversant with the philosophy of Greece, and systematized the
various speculations. He may not have added to philosophy, but no Roman
after him understood so well the practical bearing of all its various
systems. His glory is purely intellectual, and it was by sheer genius
that he rose to his exalted position and influence.

But it was in forensic eloquence that Cicero was pre-eminent, in which
he had but one equal in ancient times. Roman eloquence culminated in
him. He composed about eighty orations, of which fifty-nine are
preserved. Some were delivered from the rostrum to the people, and some
in the senate; some were mere philippics, as severe in denunciation as
those of Demosthenes; some were laudatory; some were judicial; but all
were severely logical, full of historical allusion, profound in
philosophical wisdom, and pervaded with the spirit of patriotism.
Francis W. Newman, in his "Regal Rome," thus describes Cicero's

"He goes round and round his object, surveys it in every light, examines
it in all its parts, retires and then advances, compares and contrasts
it, illustrates, confirms, and enforces it, till the hearer feels
ashamed of doubting a position which seems built on a foundation so
strictly argumentative. And having established his case, he opens upon
his opponent a discharge of raillery so delicate and good-natured that
it is impossible for the latter to maintain his ground against it; or,
when the subject is too grave, he colors his exaggerations with all the
bitterness of irony and vehemence of passion."

Critics have uniformly admired Cicero's style as peculiarly suited to
the Latin language, which, being scanty and unmusical, requires more
redundancy than the Greek. The simplicity of the Attic writers would
make Latin composition bald and tame. To be perspicuous, the Latin must
be full. Thus Arnold thinks that what Tacitus gained in energy he lost
in elegance and perspicuity. But Cicero, dealing with a barren and
unphilosophical language, enriched it with circumlocutions and
metaphors, while he freed it of harsh and uncouth expressions, and thus
became the greatest master of composition the world has seen. He was a
great artist, making use of his scanty materials to the best effect; he
had absolute control over the resources of his vernacular tongue, and
not only unrivalled skill in composition, but tact and judgment. Thus he
was generally successful, in spite of the venality and corruption of the
times. The courts of justice were the scenes of his earliest triumphs;
nor until he was praetor did he speak from the rostrum on mere political
questions, as in reference to the Manilian and Agrarian laws. It is in
his political discourses that Cicero rises to the highest ranks. In his
speeches against Verres, Catiline, and Antony he kindles in his
countrymen lofty feelings for the honor of his country, and abhorrence
of tyranny and corruption. Indeed, he hated bloodshed, injustice, and
strife, and beheld the downfall of liberty with indescribable sorrow.

Thus in oratory as in history the ancients can boast of most illustrious
examples, never even equalled. Still, we cannot tell the comparative
merits of the great classical orators of antiquity with the more
distinguished of our times; indeed only Mirabeau, Pitt, Fox, Burke,
Brougham, Webster, and Clay can even be compared with them. In power of
moving the people, some of our modern reformers and agitators may be
mentioned favorably; but their harangues are comparatively tame
when read.

In philosophy the Greeks and Romans distinguished themselves more even
than in poetry, or history, or eloquence. Their speculations pertained
to the loftiest subjects that ever tasked the intellect of man. But this
great department has already been presented. There were respectable
writers in various other departments of literature, but no very great
names whose writings have descended to us. Contemporaries had an exalted
opinion of Varro, who was considered the most learned of the Romans, as
well as their most voluminous author. He was born ten years before
Cicero, and is highly commended by Augustine. He was entirely devoted to
literature, took no interest in passing events, and lived to a good old
age. Saint Augustine says of him that "he wrote so much that one wonders
how he had time to read; and he read so much, we are astonished how he
found time to write." He composed four hundred and ninety books. Of
these only one has descended to us entire,--"De Re Rustica," written at
the age of eighty; but it is the best treatise which has come down from
antiquity on ancient agriculture. We have parts of his other books, and
we know of still others that have entirely perished which for their
information would be invaluable, especially his "Divine Antiquities," in
sixteen books,--his great work, from which Saint Augustine drew
materials for his "City of God." Varro wrote treatises on language, on
the poets, on philosophy, on geography, and on various other subjects;
he also wrote satire and criticism. But although his writings were
learned, his style was so bad that the ages have failed to preserve him.
The truly immortal books are most valued for their artistic excellences.
No man, however great his genius, can afford to be dull. Style is to
written composition what delivery is to a public speaker. The multitude
do not go to hear the man of thoughts, but to hear the man of words,
being repelled or attracted by _manner_.

Seneca was another great writer among the Romans, but he belongs to the
domain of philosophy, although it is his ethical works which have given
him immortality,--as may be truly said of Socrates and Epictetus,
although they are usually classed among the philosophers. Seneca was a
Spaniard, born but a few years before the Christian era; he was a lawyer
and a rhetorician, also a teacher and minister of Nero. It was his
misfortune to know one of the most detestable princes that ever
scandalized humanity, and it is not to his credit to have accumulated in
four years one of the largest fortunes in Rome while serving such a
master; but since he lived to experience Nero's ingratitude, Seneca is
more commonly regarded as a martyr. Had he lived in the republican
period, he would have been a great orator. He wrote voluminously, on
many subjects, and was devoted to a literary life. He rejected the
superstitions of his country, and looked upon the ritualism of religion
as a mere fashion. In his own belief he was a deist; but though he wrote
fine ethical treatises, he dishonored his own virtues by a compliance
with the vices of others. He saw much of life, and died at fifty-three.
What is remarkable in Seneca's writings, which are clear but labored, is
that under Pagan influences and imperial tyranny he should have
presented such lofty moral truth; and it is a mark of almost
transcendent talent that he should, unaided by Christianity, have soared
so high in the realm of ethical inquiry. Nor is it easy to find any
modern author who has treated great questions in so attractive a way.

Quintilian is a Latin classic, and belongs to the class of rhetoricians.
He should have been mentioned among the orators, yet, like Lysias the
Greek, Quintilian was a teacher of eloquence rather than an orator. He
was born 40 A.D., and taught the younger Pliny, also two nephews of
Domitian, receiving a regular salary from the imperial treasury. His
great work is a complete system of rhetoric. "Institutiones Oratoriae"
is one of the clearest and fullest of all rhetorical manuals ever
written in any language, although, as a literary production, it is
inferior to the "De Oratore" of Cicero. It is very practical and
sensible, and a complete compendium of every topic likely to be useful
in the education of an aspirant for the honors of eloquence. In
systematic arrangement it falls short of a similar work by Aristotle;
but it is celebrated for its sound judgment and keen discrimination,
showing great reading and reflection. Quintilian should be viewed as a
critic rather than as a rhetorician, since he entered into the merits
and defects of the great masters of Greek and Roman literature. In his
peculiar province he has had no superior. Like Cicero or Demosthenes or
Plato or Thucydides or Tacitus, Quintilian would be a great man if he
lived in our times, and could proudly challenge the modern world to
produce a better teacher than he in the art of public speaking.

There were other classical writers of immense fame, but they do not
represent any particular class in the field of literature which can be
compared with the modern. I can only draw attention to Lucian,--a witty
and voluminous Greek author, who lived in the reign of Commodus, and who
wrote rhetorical, critical, and biographical works, and even romances
which have given hints to modern authors. His fame rests on his
"Dialogues," intended to ridicule the heathen philosophy and religion,
and which show him to have been one of the great masters of ancient
satire and mockery. His style of dialogue--a combination of Plato and
Aristophanes--is not much used by modern writers, and his peculiar kind
of ridicule is reserved now for the stage. Yet he cannot be called a
writer of comedy, like Molière. He resembles Rabelais and Swift more
than any other modern writers, having their indignant wit, indecent
jokes, and pungent sarcasms. Like Juvenal, Lucian paints the vices and
follies of his time, and exposes the hypocrisy that reigns in the high
places of fashion and power. His dialogues have been imitated by
Fontanelle and Lord Lyttleton, but these authors do not possess his
humor or pungency. Lucian does not grapple with great truths, but
contents himself with ridiculing those who have proclaimed them, and in
his cold cynicism depreciates human knowledge and all the great moral
teachers of mankind. He is even shallow and flippant upon Socrates; but
he was well read in human nature, and superficially acquainted with all
the learning of antiquity. In wit and sarcasm he may be compared with
Voltaire, and his object was the same,--to demolish and pull down
without substituting anything instead. His scepticism was universal, and
extended to religion, to philosophy, and to everything venerated and
ancient. His purity of style was admired by Erasmus, and his works have
been translated into most European languages. In strong contrast to the
"Dialogues" of Lucian is the "City of God" by Saint Augustine, in which
he demolishes with keener ridicule all the gods of antiquity, but
substitutes instead the knowledge of the true God.

Thus the Romans, as well as Greeks, produced works in all departments of
literature that will bear comparison with the masterpieces of modern
times. And where would have been the literature of the early Church, or
of the age of the Reformation, or of modern nations, had not the great
original writers of Athens and Rome been our school-masters? When we
further remember that their glorious literature was created by native
genius, without the aid of Christianity, we are filled with amazement,
and may almost be excused if we deify the reason of man. Nor, indeed,
have greater triumphs of intellect been witnessed in these our Christian
times than are produced among that class which is the least influenced
by Christian ideas. Some of the proudest trophies of genius have been
won by infidels, or by men stigmatized as such. Witness Voltaire,
Rousseau, Diderot, Hegel, Fichte, Gibbon, Hume, Buckle. May there not be
the greatest practical infidelity with the most artistic beauty and
native reach of thought? Milton ascribes the most sublime intelligence
to Satan and his angels on the point of rebellion against the majesty
of Heaven. A great genius may be kindled even by the fires of
discontent and ambition, which may quicken the intellectual faculties
while consuming the soul, and spread their devastating influence on the
homes and hopes of man.

Since, then, we are assured that literature as well as art may flourish
under Pagan influences, it seems certain that Christianity has a higher
mission than the culture of the mind. Religious scepticism cannot be
disarmed if we appeal to Christianity as the test of intellectual
culture. The realm of reason has no fairer fields than those that are
adorned by Pagan achievements.

       *       *       *       *       *


There are no better authorities than the classical authors themselves,
and their works must be studied in order to comprehend the spirit of
ancient literature. Modern historians of Roman literature are merely
critics, like Dalhmann, Schlegel, Niebuhr, Muller, Mommsen, Mure,
Arnold, Dunlap, and Thompson. Nor do I know of an exhaustive history of
Roman literature in the English language; yet nearly every great writer
has occasional criticisms upon the subject which are entitled to
respect. The Germans, in this department, have no equals.

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